Friday, June 5, 2009

Are we picking on the DI too much?

The Washington Post reached a new low and published a diatribe by John G. West, one of the Senior Fellows over at the Discovery Institute. Now before looking at the article, I have one tiny, little point to make. How many years has the Di claimed not to be a religious point of view? How many times have we heard that intelligent Design is not religion? How unfair we are being by drawing such a connection? Well guess which section was Johnnie's little missive in? Well he was the 'Guest Voice" in the "On Faith" column. yes, you heard it here first, On Faith!

yes, the DI's carefully crafted attempts to keep from being properly identified with religion seem to be a thing of the past.

OK, now on to the article. Why I asked if we might be picking on the DI too much is because of one of the things he had to say:

"Dawkins and Collins are often put forward as the two alternatives in discussions over faith and evolution, but since they both embrace Darwin's theory, they represent only a thin slice of the overall debate. Largely shut out from current media coverage are the growing number of scientists, as well as the vast majority of Americans, who view Darwin's theory with skepticism."
OK, so the Pope didn't invite them to the Vatican to discuss Religion and Evolution. OK, so the Templeton Foundation now considers them pariah. OK, so their 'Strengths and Weaknesses" has failed in every State except Jindal's playground of Louisiana. But have we really shut them out? I wish! Look. Johnnie is in the Washington Post. Behe has his own blog over on Amazon. Wild Bill still dabbles over on Uncommon Descent, which bills itself as 'Serving the Intelligent Design Community' which is fairly hilarious to me. In fact one of his contributors posted a fairly innocuous definition of Poe's Law:

Note: Poe’s law states that some people or situations just cannot be parodied because you couldn’t make up stuff that is further along the continuum. (here)

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing. (here)
Of course the second definition isn't nearly as flattering toward Dembski and his friends as the first, since it specifically targets Fundamentalism.

OK, but back to Johnnie and his article. I have a question for him, who are all these scientists he, and others, keeps talking about? When pressed the Di simply waved their little petition and the 700 signatures of scientists that it took them over 9 years to collect. Wow, just looked at the list and they haven't published an update in nearly a year. But then we also know a few things about the list and how most are not biologists, many are not PhD's, some aren't even scientists, and how the clear majority dissent for evangelical reasons and how the Di misrepresented the list here in Ohio and even on their own website. So who are all these scientists that dissent from Darwin? No one seems to know.

He also repeats the standard DI mantra on how life
"developed through a blind and undirected process of natural selection acting on random variations. "
How many times does someone have to tell they that Natural Selection is not an unguided process. He only seems to believe that guidance must and can only be based on intelligence. Why can't a natural process provide guidance? Why can only intelligence produce a result that succeeds? Well it can and it does every day. No intelligence required. But he can't accept that as an answer.

Next he goes off the deep end and over sells himself and the DI.
"Experiments with bacteria, where evolution can be tested in real time, are showing just how little undirected processes like natural selection can actually accomplish."
I have to think he is talking about Lenski's experiments and I think a bacteria that can metabolize a new food source is a pretty big accomplishment, and it happened with no guidance in sight. Then he tries to tease us by making us this that there is some evidence supporting fine-tuning of protein sequences.

All in all, nothing new to offer. Vague comments, no support, just the usual DI fair. So are we being to hard on them? Nope, I think they deserve every set-back, even derisive comment, every laugh at how untenable they make their own position.


  1. Now, don't exaggerate. You forgot to note that some on the DI's big list of "scientists" are dead.

  2. LOL, I didn't have room for all their sins . . . like the original list misrepresenting the positions of some of the signers:

    If a signatory was previously the head of a department or the president of an institute, their past and most prestigious position will be listed, not their current position. For example, Ferenc Jeszenszky is a physicist in Budapest who handles the "Hungarian Creation Research" videos, but appears instead on the list as "Former Head of the Center of Research Groups, Hungarian Academy of Sciences".

    Visitors at prestigious institutions will have that affiliation listed, not their more humble home institutions. For example, Bernard d'Abrera, a writer and publisher of books on butterflies, appears on the list as "Visiting Scholar, Department of Entomology British Museum (Natural History)", in spite of the fact that this museum had become independent of the British Museum three decades previously and had formally changed its name to the Natural History Museum almost a decade before the petition. d'Abrera's primary affiliation is with his publishing company, Hill House Publishers. d'Abrera does not have a PhD either, nor any formal scientific qualification (his undergraduate degree was a double major in History & Philosophy of Science, and History), although creationists often call him "Dr. d'Abrera". It is not clear how many other signatories of the list do not have a PhD either, although the Discovery Institute currently recruits people with PhDs to sign the Dissent petition. (

  3. And don't forget that in some cases they also just listed where someone got their PhD if that institution was more prominent than where they worked now.