Monday, October 24, 2016

A Discovery Institute Post that Makes Less Sense Than Normal

My mail beeped and I had a Google Alert for this: "Darwinists and the Fossil Record: Missing a Few Marbles" and instead of making me laugh, it had me scratching my head.  Not because it was something making me think, but more just trying to figure out what they were trying to get across.  Here's a small quote:

"Neo-Darwinism leads us to expect more than just change over time in the fossil record. It anticipates a fossil pattern of very, very gradual evolution of new forms -- evolution by tiny steps. On Darwinian grounds we should expect to find this pattern even given our highly incomplete fossil record."
But . . . isn't that a lot of what we see?  For example, take a look at this:
Paleontologists take the fossils that are found and build a picture.  Yes the fossil record is incomplete, and as we find more and more fossils, the picture changes.  But none of that is unexpected.  What was also discovered was that Evolution isn't always tiny incremental changes, but larger scale changes over a shorter period of time.  The author of the Discovery Institute's (DI) silly piece is Jonathan Witt, he mentions this (Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge's Theory of Punctuated Equilibrium) but Witt dismisses it.  Which is one of the strange things, but pretty typical of the DI and their talking heads.  They take a valid and well supported scientific theory and dismiss it, offering nothing in return.

Well that's not exactly true, Witt offers the usual "Intelligence did it" argument the DI has been making for 20 years.  But Witt makes the same mistake the rest of the DI makes, he fails to support it.  It's nothing but conjecture.  Where is the evidence, where is the support, where is any sort of validation for an intelligent agent?  What mechanism did this 'intelligence' use?  These and many other questions are ignored because the intelligence Witt and the DI are talking about is their religious belief in a deity.  They keep claiming 'intelligence' to try and make people forget they are talking about the Christian God.

Don't believe me, well how about this definitely not DI review of Douglas Axe's "Undeniable".  Axe runs the DI's pet lab, the Biologics Institute and periodically writes and posts various Intelligent Design (ID) missives.  His latest, "Undeniable" is . . . well let me not put words in Jason Rosenhouse's review:
"For one thing, the book is openly evangelistic. The creator is the Christian God. Period. No subterfuge about the possibility of intelligent aliens or anything like that."
It does make me wonder how long Doug will be associated with the DI.  You might remember that Doug is the second director at Biologics.  The original one, George Weber, was interviewed by the New Scientist, and shortly thereafter left the Board.  Weber stated:
"We are the first ones doing what we might call lab science in intelligent design" and "The objective is to challenge the scientific community on naturalism." (New Scientist)
Axe was the one who explained Weber's departure in an email to New Scientist as
 [Weber] "was found to have seriously misunderstood the purpose of Biologic and to have misrepresented it."(Wikipedia: Biologics Institute)
So Weber is pretty clear on the purpose the DI opened their pet lab and ends up leaving.  After years of denying the religion base of Intelligent Design, Doug publishes a book that is opening evangelistic. My guess is if Doug's book doesn't do well and start helping the fund raising, he might find himself leaving as well. 

The majority of Witt's post is a long attempt at an analogy, but in reality it's more of a strawman.  I mean where are the mechanisms analogous to natural selection?  It reminds me of a restatement of another common analogy, a monkey and a typewrite will eventually write a Shakespearean play.  We discuss how inadequate that analogy is back in 2008 (Arguments XIII - The 747 or a Shakespearean monkey).

Well I guess I can close with wishing Witt wouldn't take the DI and their writings so seriously, but seeing as he's a 'Senior Fellow', whatever that now means, my guess is he'll keep peddling the party line until he either gets bored or the funding dries up.  As an English Major, he might try a bit harder to make a bit more sense.  This post isn't going to help him land his next writing job.  Johnny, you have to keep an eye out for the future, isn't ID's time limited?  You don't think so?  I might caution you with a reminder about 'Creationism" and "Creation Science" and what happened to them after losing court cases.  Yes, they were replaced and the DI and their version of religion, ID, hasn't been doing too well.  Here's one last thought for you, from Jason Rosenhouse again:
"How does ID makes sense of the fossil record, which shows a clear progression from simpler, ancient organisms to more complex, modern organisms? Why did God do His creating over billions of years, and why did He do so in the one sequence that would later suggest evolution to so many? Why did he just watch the unicellular organisms for a billion years or whatever before getting on with the show? What was the point of the millions of years of bloodsport taking place among creatures with enough brainpower to know they were suffering and miserable, but not enough to enter into a relationship with God? What are mass extinctions all about? How is this consistent with the idea that life was designed for a purpose?"
You might do a little critical thinking  . . . not the DI variety, but actual critical thinking before your next post.  You won't, but I can always hope.

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