Sunday, February 13, 2005

What to do when Intelligent Design comes to town.

And what exactly
do you do when the scientific inanity that is Intelligent Design comes to your town? When the local newspaper publishes an editorial suggesting that, hey, why not allow "balanced treatment" in high school science classes? When letter writers start clamoring for it? When local church groups begin advocating for it? When the school board actually puts it on the agenda for their next open forum? Well, even if you don't understand a whole lot about ID or biological evolution, there is one thing you definitely can do.

First, you have to get a copy of Michael Behe's recent NY Times opinion piece on ID. (If you can't get it there, you can find it at the Discovery Institute's site here.) Behe is the closest thing to a godfather for the entire ID movement there is, so there's no conceivable way ID proponents can give you a hard time for quoting anything he says. (In fact, Behe's work has been slammed pretty thoroughly by a number of people, and a summary of some of that criticism can be found here, if you're feeling ambitious. But (and this is important), for what follows, there is absolutely no need to criticize Behe's work itself. In fact, quite the opposite, as you'll see.)

And now, read Behe's paper, at least as far as the following passage:

Intelligent design proponents do question whether random mutation and natural selection completely explain the deep structure of life. But they do not doubt that evolution occurred.

And that's your money quote. Have it handy, and be prepared to use it as follows. Whenever the topic of ID comes up, it will be your job to say (ever so sweetly now):

"Well, yes, I've heard of this Intelligent Design stuff, and it sure sounds interesting but, as I understand it (pulling out copy of Behe's article here with an ever so subtle smirk), they don't doubt at all that evolution actually occurred."

Then watch the consternation on the faces of those who weren't aware of that little detail.

You see, the basic strategy of the pro-ID movement is to use ID as a wedge to start chipping away at evolution's credibility, and to eventually replace it in the school system with ID and, more generally, scientific creationism, and this is typically done at a local level, using letter writers, church congregations, bogus "concerned parents" coalitions and stealth, creationist school board members. However, the instant these people start getting revved up, all you need to do is produce Behe's quote and the whole conga line comes screeching to a halt, since that's not exactly what they wanted to hear.

You need to be prepared to produce Behe's quote in conversations, letters to the editor, school board meetings and any other open forums. And it doesn't even have to be in a confrontational way. As I've already mentioned, you can be the epitome of sweetness, saying something like, "Sure, I think it might be interesting to check into this ID thing, as long as everyone understands that, according to one of its own developers, there's no doubt that evolution occurred, right? So that's not part of the debate, right? Right?"

And how can they argue? You'll be amazed at just how quickly the air leaves the balloon.


mynym said...

"But they do not doubt that evolution occurred."

Yes, things are born, reproduce, and then they die.

Evolution occurs...

mynym said...

"And how can they argue?"

You might want to try actually reading a whole book on intelligent design such as the Design Revolution by Dembski before trying to comment on a complex subject. How can they argue?

How can you argue, if your arguments are just your brain events? Am I writing to the biochemical state of your brain at the moment? How did you pick up these silly memes that you write here? There does not seem to be much intelligence or design to them. Hey, don't worry, what I just said are naturalistic explanations and that's downright scientific!

CC said...

Quoth the commenter:

"You might want to try actually reading a whole book on intelligent design such as the Design Revolution by Dembski before trying to comment on a complex subject."Ooooh. Early morning snark. And pompous, pretentious, condescending, patronizing and utterly irrelevant snark at that. What ever did I do to deserve this? :-)

In the first place, it's a really bad idea to assume what you think I've read and not read on the subjects of biological evolution, scientific creationism and Intelligent [sic] Design. You'll almost certainly be wrong.

More to the point, though, as most readers will have appreciated, the whole point of my post was to emphasize that you don't have to be an expert in any of these fields to be able to quote Behe's article, specifically where he explicitly admits that ID proponents "do not doubt that evolution occurred."

In other words, what one thinks of [William] Dembski's work is totally, completely and utterly irrelevant to the subject of my article. However, I am grateful to the commenter for providing a perfect example of how pro-IDers operate.

Note again how I never even got into the substance of ID. I simply pointed out how one of its most high-profile proponents, Michael Behe, openly admits that ID is totally compatible with biological evolution.

The commenter, though, responds almost immediately with the attitude of, "Oh, yeah? Well, what about Dembski? I'll bet you haven't read Dembski."

The commenter is trying to goad you into an intellectual discussion of ID, and drag you into obscure ideas to demonstrate your lack of knowledge regarding ID. Do not take the bait.

If all you're doing is pointing out Behe's attitude toward biological evolution, there is no reason for you to get into discussing Dembski's work, but that's the commenter's strategy. Don't be suckered by this. We'll get around to Dembski eventually, but there's no need to deal with that here. What one thinks of Dembski has absolutely nothing to do with being able to quote Behe, and you should be careful not to get sucked into that trap.

(For the scientifically adventurous, if you really want to know how seriously to take Dembski (that is, not very), I recommend this piece over at TalkOrigins. That was going to be the subject of a future post but, what the hell, go wild. Have fun. Try not to break any of the furniture.)

mynym said...

"Note again how I never even got into the substance of ID."

My point exactly, yet you make the inane claim, "How can they [IDers] argue?" How can they argue against your lack of substance? Easily enough.

"The commenter is trying to goad you into an intellectual discussion of ID..."

Exactly, but you seem to have some trouble with intelligence. Maybe you can't think through your brain, some of your memes seem ignorant.

"Oh, yeah? Well, what about Dembski? I'll bet you haven't read Dembski."

I'm not saying read anyone as a personal issue. I'm saying to deal with things in an intelligent way. Logically, it all must be a personal issue for you though. For supposedly you are looking at Dembski's physical brain events if you read his text, given the ignorant and stupid philosophy of naturalism that you seem to want to adhere to. Therefore, it really is all just a personal issue.

"... I recommend this piece over at TalkOrigins."

I've already discussed things with the halfwits. Can you write for yourself or do you lack the intelligence to write some intelligent design in your symbols and signs?

What are you doing here and now, looking at pixels on a screen? Is that what the words are? Can you recognize signs of intelligence?

I think the explanation that your words are just a random artifact of the biochemical state of your brain and its events at the moment is probably close to the truth. After all, that naturalistic explanation is downright scientific! Is it not?

I'm sure you know the science of things. Science, and all that...

mynym said...

"And pompous, pretentious, condescending, patronizing..."

Actually, it is more of a condescending sort of contempt and disdain for Naturalism.

As to condescension, it is not as if it is my fault that I must descend to your level.