Friday, September 25, 2015

Denyse O'Leary is certainly not allergic to Strawmen

Denyse O'Leary, the recently prolific mouthpiece for the Discovery Institute, tries her hand at 'explaining' a few things, but she certainly does Charles Darwin a disservice.  What she does is build several straw-men, proceeds to demolish them and then pats herself on the back with a conclusion based on her demolition.  Funny how it works.  Make an unrealistic claim, destroy it, the declare victory.  You know, how did she make it through school anyway?  Oh wait, she's some sort of journalist.  OK, that makes more sense.  Someone at the DI tells her to write up something, and I guess she gets creative writing credit from the powers-that-be.  Her post is "Natural Selection: Could It Be the Single Greatest Idea Ever Invented?" is an example, although she needs to work on her creative writing skills.  I was always taught that even creative writing requires a modicum of credibility to be successful.

Here is her opening paragraph:

"Information, according to Darwin's idea (natural selection), can exist without intelligence. Nature produces intelligent designs, just because some life forms survive and others don't. That's it. That's all it takes. How odd that no one noticed."
First of all, Darwin did not mention information, certainly not how she puts it.  The whole 'information argument' is nothing more than one of the many smokescreens put out by Intelligent Design proponents.  Check out the Talk Origins site for more on this particular inanity.  As for the rest of this, Nature does not 'produce' designs, and claiming that they are 'intelligent designs' is pretty foolish.  By using the word 'design', it assumes something not in evidence.  At best the phrase should be 'nature produces the appearance of design', but that would require a level of honesty also not in evidence.

Now, the second sentence shows mainly that little Denyse doesn't really understand evolution very well.  To paraphrase for brevity:  'some life forms survive and others do not'.  If she understood the actual theory she would know that survival is a result, but not of evolution -- the Theory of Evolution (TOE) doesn't determine survival, it discusses and explains populations and alleles within a population.  Some of those alleles aid in survival and reproductive opportunity, others do not, and still other are benign on the subject.  Survival isn't determined by the TOE and painting it as such gives Denyse a target to shoot at, no matter how unrealistic it might be.

And as for no one noticing, if she was talking about 'Natural Selection', someone apparently did.  His name was Charles Darwin.  If she was commenting that no one noticed 'intelligent designs', it's hard to notice what only exists in the wishful thinking of certain stripes of theists, like Denyse.  Throughout history the appearance of design was noticed, and noticed well before Darwin ever walked the Earth.

Next straw-man:
"That distinction can prove relevant if one thinks civil liberties matter. Many of us live in countries where the invocation of a supreme being is a basis for civil liberties (though those liberties may not extend to mosquitoes)."
Civil liberties are based in law, not the invocation of one deity or another.  Now I know various theists like to think their particular religion is the basis for so many things, but most legal systems draw from many sources.  If a Christian wants to point to the 10 Commandments, they really should look more at the historical source for those, as opposed to the stories.  But then, most theists rarely like the look past the stories, I think they are too afraid they might learn something.  So claiming that civil liberties are based on invocations of one deity of another is just another straw-man.

Here's my personal favorite:
"Darwin's theory of evolution (natural selection acting on random mutations) is a cultural icon, like the Big Bang, or e=mc2. One needn't know anything specific about any of these ideas. Indeed, media professionals can be passionately devoted to Darwinism without knowing anything about it at all.
That makes sense. Professed loyalty to Darwin is an admission to good parties. And Darwinism's relationship to modern warfare and eugenics is drowned out by cultural support."
Did little Denyse forget that it is not Darwin's Theory of Evolution (TOE).  I know, I know, I have mentioned it before, but vilifying a man is so much easier than refuting a scientific theory, especially when you and your group never seems to produce anything scientific.  Vilifying a man makes it  so much more personal.  If Denyse was serious about damaging the TOE, she might do the science that could over . . . Oh wait, we are talking about the DI here, what was I saying, plus Denyse is a journalist.

Now, Since when is any scientific theory a cultural icon?  Darwin might be considered one, but the scientific Theory of Evolution is not.  Oh, we all know how much the DI wishes it was so.  Cultural icons come and go, but scientific theories are not so easily dismissed.  As for 'professing' such helps get you invited to good parties, how foolishly dismissive can Denyse get?  Really?  Good parties?  Is that the best she has?  So now we know the real reason the folks at the Discovery Institute refuse to accept the Theory of Evolution.  It's not their religious beliefs as we all thought and even as they explained in their own documentation.  They are blaming not 'believing' in Darwin is the reason they never got to go to the 'good' parties.  Denyse, and the rest of your ID'iots, might look for other reasons you never got invited . . . but then self-examination is harder than rationalization, isn't it.

Little Denyse also needs a history lesson.  Only the DI, and other Creationist groups, are claiming Evolution's relationship to modern warfare and eugenics.  People who actually study this stuff, unlike the DI, know better.  I think she's been reading Michael Flannery (DI fellow who purports to be a historian).  Apparently Flannery is a good a historian as Denyse is a journalist.

Here is her definition of the TOE:
"Here it is: Information can be created without intelligence. That is, natural selection acting on random mutation explains the order of life we see all around us. What can't survive won't, and that explains how very complex life forms and structures -- including the human mind -- get built up.
True: Things that can't survive don't. But why would that fact alone drive nature to produce anything as simple as a kitten, let alone a math genius?"
Once again, with feeling, the TOE does not address 'information' and claiming that it can be defined as 'Information being created without intelligence' is mostly a whole lot of drivel.  Part of evolutionary theory, I will emphasis 'part', is Natural Selection.  Another part is Random Mutation, but little journalist-wanna-be Denyse is leaving out one hell of a lot of what the theory actually says.  But then how can she whine about it, if she actually understood it, she couldn't keep her job at the DI.

As for her play for cuteness, using a picture of a cute and cuddly kitten.  Kittens are not simple.  Have you seen the genome for a cat?  Obviously Denyse hasn't, 20,285 genes, and we humans share something like 90% of them, oh, and Denyse, that includes math geniuses.

Little Denyse does say one sentence that I have to agree with:
"Ideas have consequences."
Yes, ideas have consequences.  Darwin's ideas, and those who have expanded on his ideas, have opened up the biological world in a way that has led to places undreamed of in Darwin's day.  Evolution impacts us all, in food production, medicine, ecology and the environment, just to name a few.  Pretty impressive set of results/consequences!  The Discovery Institute's ideas have consequences as well . . . and their results are listed where exactly?


  1. We share 90% of our genes with cats? Any source for these figures?

  2. Follow the link, and from there you can get to the actual paper. I don't recall which table, but the actual number references was 91% with an error factor. I rounded it to 'about 90%' since I wasn't writing a technical paper.

  3. Link wasnt working for me

  4. here is the link: