Monday, August 15, 2016

Still Pushing Discredited Ideas, I think Sarah Chaffee is Behind on her Homework

The Discovery Institute's Sarah Chaffee doesn't seem to have gotten the message that some of their arguments quit working a long time ago.  In her post "Use Your Brain: Scientific Controversies and Intelligence" she is commenting on a book she hadn't read, but she focused on a review of that book.  So she really doesn't know if it's a good review or not, or one that actually represents the book well.  She just found something she just had to comment about and she actually quotes both herself and . . . get ready for it . . . little casey luskin.

'Over 950 PhD scientists have signed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list, affirming they are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." For a summary of weaknesses and links to scientific articles challenging the major mechanisms of neo-Darwinism, read Casey Luskin's article, "The Top Ten Scientific Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution.'
Yes, the 'list' is now over 950. but they are still calling them PhD scientists, when not all of them have PhD's and only about 25% of them work in a biology-related field and none of them work in evolutionary biology.

The DI has been collecting signatures now for 15 years and they are all the way up to 950! Can you believe it? Especially when you consider that after this list was used as part of an amicus curiae brief in the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design court case in October 2005, a counter-petition, A Scientific Support For Darwinism, was organized and gathered 7,733 signatures from scientists in four days. Yes, four days, with over 68% of those signatories working in biology-related fields, many were working evolutionary biologists.

Of course while the DI used to wave their list around all the time, even they seemed to cool it on the list for a while.  I had thought they finally learned that a petition doesn't mean that science is settled by a majority opinion, it only shows that real science, like evolution, has passed an incredible number of tests and evaluations and is supported by a huge amount of evidence that finding consensus on actual scientific theories, like Evolution, pretty simple.  So after 15 years of collecting signatures, the DI is all the way up to 950 names, of which -- while the DI claims they are PhD's, not all of them have a PhD -- far fewer of them work in biology-related fields, and . . . according to the NY Times, all of them have a philosophical, not scientific, bias against Evolution.  And Sarah is still using that list as evidence of the great 'scientific' controversy over evolution.  She might take a page out of the rest of the DI who rarely mention the list anymore.  But then she's relatively new to the DI I believe.

But maybe Sarah considers 950 to be a large number.  Maybe like asking a 4-year old if they want a nickle or a dime, they pick the nickle of course, it's a larger coin.  So in order to place Sarah's 950 in an appropriate context, we would have to know how many scientists there are in the world, but that number would be impossible to calculate.  So how about a rough estimate.  According to Wikipedia, approximately 79 out of every 10,000 workers in the United States works in a field and position the meets the definition of a scientist.  According to the US Department of Labor, there are over 150,000,000 workers in the US.  Using those numbers to create our rough estimate, there are approximately 1,185,000 working scientists in the US.  So if we say Sarah's 950 are all US citizens . . . which is an assumption because if you scan the list you can see that many are obviously not . . . but for the sake are our estimate, let's give Sarah the best possible outcome.  So, based on those numbers Sarah's list represents 0.08% of working scientists.

Of course, that estimate goes down the more signatories from foreign countries there are on her list, but even at it's best, Sarah's list doesn't indicate much support for Intelligent Design, but of course she won't say that, she'll keep waving the list around like 0.08% is statistically significant.

OK, enough on Sarah's list and let's keep going.  I do love how she points people to a paper by little casey luskin, a lawyer who used to work for the DI.  I think he might be her predecessor because she started posting much more after casey left.  Since casey isn't a scientists, the DI had given him the job of writing about science.  Sarah's not a scientist either, her background is a BA in Government and a job at Probe Ministries.  So I guess that makes her just as qualified as casey.  But she does need a bit more . . . shall we say  . . . guidance.  Little casey used to quote the ID 'bigs', like Dembski, Behe, and Meyer.  Sarah is quoting herself and little casey.  Definitely not playing for the varsity yet.

But Sarah's main point is nothing new, she's toeing the party line claiming that  . . . well here she says it:
"Origins science, no less than neuroscience, is beset by controversy."
Ah yes, the 'controversy'!  The one that seems to exist only in the minds of the DI and other ID proponents.  I ask very simply, is there a scientific controversy about the Theory of Evolution?  No, there is not.  The 'controversy' is a tactic used by ID proponents.  It's one of their many marketing campaigns.  In 2001 philosopher Robert Pennock wrote:
' . . . that intelligent design proponents are "manufacturing dissent" in order to explain the absence of scientific debate of their claims: "The 'scientific' claims of such neo-creationists as Johnson, Denton, and Behe rely, in part, on the notion that these issues [surrounding evolution] are the subject of suppressed debate among biologists. ... according to neo-creationists, the apparent absence of this discussion and the nearly universal rejection of neo-creationist claims must be due to the conspiracy among professional biologists instead of a lack of scientific merit." ' (Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives Robert T. Pennock. MIT Press, 2001. Page 322.)
Manufacturing a controversy isn't the same thing as there being an actual controversy.  Remember that Sarah's use of the Dissent from Darwinism petition which, at best, only represents 0.08% of scientists.  That's not much of a controversy.

Her final comment asks a question that has been answered, but I am happy to offer my opinion of it today.  She says:
"Is it such a stretch to recognize that products of human creativity (machines and code) have remarkably close parallels in nature (molecular machines, DNA code) and therefore to consider the possibility that they all have their origin in purposeful, intelligent agency?"
The answer is it has been considered and rejected because of a lack of any evidence.  The DI has had the last 20 years to provide something other than their desire for scientific legitimacy and have failed at every turn.  It's time to turn off the marketing machine and put more effort to actual science.  But people have been asking for that for years and the DI continues to prefer marketing to science.  They have to realize that by now, don't you think?


  1. ironic isn't it they want so badly to be scientific and their text is literally intentionally devoid of anything we would consider scientific intentionally. Why would anyone desire to be understood as "scientific" when Science itself is 100% responsible for the Anthropocene epoch, 100% responsible for global warming, 100% for the massive extinctions and massive reduction of biodiversity!. It's rather impossible to arrive at all of those through their texts. Poetry, song, narrative, that's it!!!!. Of course there would be those in science that would deny the above but that's just creationism intelligent design, Calvinism dressed up in secular lingo, called science fiction. If science literally understood nature, we would not be where we are at!!!.

  2. So . . . your point is that the DI shouldn't be trying to be scientific because science caused all the bad things going on in the world. Am I missing your point?