Friday, January 18, 2008

Knee Jerk II - More on DI reaction to NAS book

The Discovery Institute is blanketing the news with their press release "The Facts about Intelligent Design: A Response to the National Academy of Sciences’ Science, Evolution, and Creationism" They [The DI] have published a new pamphlet about the subject. OK, you know when someone lies to you, as the DI is known to do, how many people are willing to listen to them a second time? Do they get more truthful with time? Not to my knowledge. Let's see how they do, shall we?

They are off to their usual start, only this time they do agree with part of how the NAS defined irreducible complexity:

"The NAS accurately defines irreducible complexity — “If one component is missing or changed, the device will fail to operate properly”—but then promotes a false test of irreducible complexity, wrongly claiming that if one part of the flagellum can perform some other function, then irreducible complexity is refuted."

But they are in denial over the evidence. Do they offer more than than just their own explanation? No, but they are perfectly happy to demand a full and complete accounting from Science. They want the complete evolutionary path, but are unwilling to describe the complete path on how the 'designer' did it. " . . .some sub-components of the flagellum can perform other functions is not sufficient to demonstrate a Darwinian explanation for the origin of the flagellum . . ." I like their new pet phrase "indirect Darwinian evolution" I wonder how many times that will come up in new press releases. OK, so far one denial over evidence and one demanding for a 100% answer. Yup, typical DI word play. They consider the challenge to irreducible complexity unresolved because science hasn't explained the entire path. What a double standard! So just what entire path has Intelligent Design laid out? "The Designer Did It!" Now we all clap our hands and sing "Kumbaya!"

I have news for them, This is a perfect use of falsifiability in science. If one little tiny piece of a mechanism that is supposedly irreducibly complex -- by their own definition --can exist and serve another purpose then the mechanism in question is not and cannot meet the definition of being irreducibly complex. Of course the DI doesn't go into what would make irreducible complex organism falsifiable, they just ask for complete and 100% perfect answers. By the way, the person offering the critique is William Dembski, whose own supposed mathematical support for Intelligent Design rests squarely on irreducible complexity, so we know why he's bleating like a sheep.

Let's move on.

Keeping with the irreducible complex stuff for a moment, you have to appreciate this line "Contrary to the NAS’s assertions, Behe never argued that irreducible complexity mandates that sub-parts can have no function outside of the final system." Here we have co-opting at the highest level and building new arguments for the future. Now when anyone points to a reason why a mechanism isn't irreducibly complex, the DI will just say they never said a mechanism had other uses. However, let me remind you that Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box" makes no mention of other uses, but implies that something used in an irreducibly complex mechanism can only have the one use. Sure, he doesn't say it, but that's the implication of his idea. Just look at his examples! So we have one example of denial, one of example of demanding a 100% answer, and now one of co-opting. They sure are consistent, aren't they.

Next item: Splitting hairs, they are so good at this sometimes you don't even realize they are doing it. Check it out:
"None of this compares to the NAS’s most egregious error regarding the flagellum: the NAS states that “there is no single, uniform structure that is found in all flagellar bacteria.” While technically this statement may be true if one looks at the fine-grain of the amino-acid sequence of every single protein among flagellum-bearing bacteria, there most certainly are highly conserved flagellar parts and there is an identifiable core set of structures to the flagellar machine. In this regard, the NAS’s statement is extremely misleading and inaccurate."

This does remind me of one of their own critiques of evolution, they are saying the NAS is being too fine-grained in their explanation. Now where does that get us. I guess it means that the designer didn't use the exact same mechanism for the multitudes of bacterial flagellum. Hmmm, but in their critique of the PBS Nova show "Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" The DI said "PBS ignores the possibility that such recurring fundamental genetic programs across species could also be explained as the result of common design, i.e. the re-usage of genetic programs that fulfill the functional requirements of animal development. Indeed, common design may be the best explanation for the many instances where these master genes control the growth of analogous body parts in widely diverse organisms where it is even not thought that the common ancestor even had the body part in question." So when they claim that commonality exists because of common design, that's OK. But if anyone looks deeper and realizes what we are looking at is common function, not common mechanisms, they are splitting hairs.

In another part of their critique of the show, they say "PBS asserts that “shared amino acids” in genes common to many types of organisms indicate that all life shares a common ancestor. Intelligent design is not necessarily incompatible with common ancestry, but it must be noted that intelligent agents commonly re-use parts that work in different designs. Thus, similarities in such genetic sequences may also be generated as a result of functional requirements and common design rather than by common descent." See how neatly they try and co-opt the genetic answer for one of their own. Of course they have to say this because Michael Behe, the daddy of Irreducible Complexity accepts common ancestry, so I guess their best bet is to steal it. But once again do you see the theme? I see the appearance of design, so that must mean there is design. Bacterial flagellum is an example of design, see they are all functionally similar and the designer just re-used pieces and parts. Oh you mean they really aren't all identical and there are differences, well those differences aren't important, you are just being hyper critical!

Here is my favorite part:
“In all irreducibly complex systems in which the cause of the system is known by experience or observation, intelligent design or engineering played a role [in] the origin of the system. . . . Although some may argue this is a merely an argument from ignorance, we regard it as an inference to the best explanation . . . given what we know about the powers of intelligence as opposed to strictly natural or material causes.”
and this one
"The flagellum is a self-assembling, irreducibly complex microscopic rotary engine that contains parts known from human technology—such as a rotor, a stator, a propeller, a u-joint, and an engine—yet it functions at a level of efficiency that dwarfs any motor produced by humans. In any other context we would immediately recognize such an information-rich, integrated system as the product of intelligence. The NAS can only dismiss the scientific case for the design of the flagellum by distorting the facts about the structure."

Yes, this is not only an argument from ignorance, but an argumentum ad hominem, that is an argument by attacking evolution rather than supporting their own position. It's also an argumentum verbosium, in other words if you keep saying the same thing over and over again you will convince some people.

This is clearly an argument by assumption, I assume it to be true, therefore it is true. They, the DI, want to see evidence of the designer that they will put forth any argument, they will mislead, misdirect, and out and out lie to maintain their point of view. Think of another logical argument, the argument from personal incredulity, "I cannot believe something so it must not be true". Well the Discovery Institute plays on that with a "I believe something so it must be the truth!" I have no problem with them wanting to believe it, but in their role as professional creationists, they insist of forcing their way into the science classroom -- and that I object too!

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