Of Wiker and Witt: The silliest thing I've read all week

In my very unusual line of work, I read silly stuff all the time. Some weeks, it is difficult to tell what is most silly: most creationist arguments are not new and you stop being surprised by them after awhile.

For example, just this week on the blog of the Discovery Institute Media Complaints Judge Jones Complaints Division, Logan Gage gave us some revisionist history of the now-famous demolition of Michael Behe during cross-examination of the Kitzmiller trial. In that post, as Ed Brayton points out, the DI rep complains about the immune system cross, asserting that the articles didn’t prove anything, but completely ignoring Ken Miller’s testimony about some of the key articles, let alone the Nature Immunology article that three of us PT posters wrote just in case any doubts remained about the science that Behe said didn’t exist. We’re still waiting for the DI to acknowledge the existence of the NI article, let alone produce a rebuttal. So that was pretty silly.

On the other hand, this week we saw one of DIMCJJCD operative Casey Luskin’s famous insta-mega-rebuttals posted in response to Chris Mooney’s widely acclaimed book The Republican War on Science. (The book just came out in a revised paperback edition with substantial new post-_Kitzmiller_ material, so now is the time to pick up a copy). The rebuttal is essentially a rehash of all of the desperate propaganda the DI has been putting out since Kitzmiller. This bit is particularly precious: “The early drafts of Pandas actually rejected ‘creationism’ as defined by the courts.” Hmm, that’s funny. As Ed Brayton posted months ago, the earliest draft of Pandas, the 1983 draft entitled Creation Biology, (Plaintiffs’ exhibit P-563 from the Kitzmiller case) in fact used the word “creationism” repeatedly.

Luskin also writes, “Yet pre-publication drafts of Pandas juxtaposed the word “creation” with statements to the exact opposite effect, noting that science cannot scientifically detect a supernatural creator.” Hmm. Have a look at page 1-28 from Creation Biology:

V. Scientific Evidence for Creation

Recall the possible ways in which life might have originated. If we eliminate the chemical evolution theory, we are left with only two viable options: extraterrestrial origin, or creation. For the purposes of this chapter we define the latter as the bringing into being of living matter by an intelligent agency outside of nature (that is, outside of matter, energy, and time).

(Chapter 1, p. 28 of Creation Biology, 1983 draft of Of Pandas and People. Plaintiffs’ exhibit P-563 from the Kitzmiller case. Bold added.)

Pretty clear what “creation” means there, I would say.

But even with the above, the claims of the DI bloggers are not the silliest that I have read this week. They are fairly silly, oft-repeated, and prosaic forms of ID silliness. The claims are wrong, badly wrong, but one can sort of see how hardcore ID fans would think such things – if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be ID fans.

Now for some really remarkable and highly unnecessary silliness.

I was recently perusing a review copy of the new DI book, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, by Jonathan Witt (an English PhD who is a senior fellow at the DI) and Benjamin Wiker (a DI senior fellow who not only doesn’t like evolution, but is still fighting the evil materialists about atomism as well). Most of the book is taken up with blaming “Darwinism” for a “loss of meaning” in all areas of life, particularly literature, but also chemistry, mathematics, etc. All in all it conforms remarkably well to the longer-term goals of the Wedge Strategy, which was all about defeating “Darwinism” and then moving on to convert all other fields of academia to the fundamentalist view of the world.

Not too surprising, really, but then I came across this remarkable passage. Witt and Wiker are discussing Darwin’s views on the term “species” and in what sense “species” are, or are not, “real” (an aside: someone call Wilkins to see if they even got Darwin’s view on species right). Their conclusion about the implication of Darwin’s views is somewhat surprising, especially since it comes near the end of the book and appears to be the heart of the argument tying evolution to all of the aforementioned evils. Read it carefully:

Strange though it may seem to neo-Darwinists, Darwin’s assumption that the terms species and variety are merely given for convenience’s sake is part of a larger materialist and reductionist program that undercuts the natural foundation of counting and distorts the natural origin of mathematics. To put it more bluntly, in assuming that “species” are not real, Darwinism and the larger reductionist program burn away the original ties that bound the meaning of mathematics to the world and instead leave it stranded on a solipsistic island of the human imagination.

(Wiker and Witt, 2006, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature, Intervarsity Press, Downer’s Grove, IL, pp. 236-237. Bolds added.)

You heard that right – Darwin spent a lifetime studying organisms in captivity and in the wild, and came to the view that “species” are not absolute, unchanging categories – and in doing so, he undermined counting and mathematics.

There is not much more for me to say here because every time I read this passage, I just splutter at the absurdity of what is on the page, and my brain, in an effort to protect its overloaded logic circuits, automatically assumes that Douglas Adams returned from the dead to ghost-write this part of the book in an highly successful effort to make ID look even sillier than it already looks.

Thus, this is the silliest thing I have read this week.