Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Design v. Intelligent Design, two different things

The Discovery Institute seems to have a language problem, or maybe an issue with defining terms.  I recall an old joke about how the United States and Great Britain, two countries separated by a common language.  I think there is a new divide between the Discovery Institute and the rest of the world.  For a while now I have commented how the DI likes to claim that when there is something intelligently designed, be it a car or a mousetrap, the DI likes to lay claim that it's Intelligent Design 'theory' in action. (Intelligent Design vs intelligent design).

Well they are now doing the same thing for the word 'design'. Take a look: "Michael Behe's Challenge -- Past, Present, and Future".  In the referenced papers they do mention the word 'design' a number of times and that seems to give the DI cause to celebrate yet 'another' example of their Intelligent Design 'theory' in action.  And since the authors didn't discuss evolution, obviously the DI is winning the battle for the souls of the world.  Here's a quote that struck me:

"While these Japanese researchers do not mention Behe or his conclusions, their work underscores the case for irreducible complex molecular machines as prima facie evidence for intelligent design. Nowhere do they credit evolution for the motors of the cell"
However . . . and you just knew there had to be a however . . .
  • Were either of the two papers about the evolution of the structures being replicated?  No!
  • Did either paper cite any of the multitude of Intelligent Design articles or books?  No!
Do you see where I am going?  At no time did the papers discuss evolution because the purpose of the papers were not about evolution, they were basically announcements about two teams artificially creating structures that mimic the function of cilia (nose hairs are an example of cilia).  Now cilia are fascinating things, tiny hairs that actually move material along a pathway in a specific direction.  You can read the abstracts for yourself (Artificial cilia as autonomous nanoactuators: Design of a gradient self-oscillating polymer brush with controlled unidirectional motion and From Biological Cilia to Artificial Flow Sensors: Biomimetic Soft Polymer Nanosensors with High Sensing Performance).  To be honest, little made sense to me after the first line or two because the technical details came fast and furious.  But what I read was two groups built objects that mimic the functioning of human cilia.

How many times in the past has human engineering mimicked something from nature?  Too many to count, right?  So, what we actually have here is another example of intelligence being used to create something  . . . and the DI then come along, well after the fact, claiming that since these were smart people doing smart things, they must have been using Intelligent Design 'theory' and since they didn't discuss the evolution of cilia, we win!

Anyone else's BS meter pegging?  You know my Chilton's Manual for my car didn't go into the evolution of the automobile, so therefore Intelligent Design 'theory' wins?  My Java programming language manual doesn't go into the development of computers since the 1940's, so therefore computers haven't evolved since then . . . obviously.  The papers didn't discuss evolution because it is immaterial to the stated purpose of the papers, but the DI doesn't see it that way.  They prefer to spin it as some weird success for Behe's irreducible complexity and then, by extension, a validation for their whole reason for existing.

However, wouldn't you think someone using the DI's idea of Intelligent Design 'theory' go to the source and reference it in their papers?  That would make sense, now that would be a victory for the DI and actual validation.  So, why didn't they?  I would have to think that the obvious answer is the best one.  That religious claptrap published by the DI simply doesn't apply.  If you want, check out the 30 papers cited in the first and the 48 papers cited in the second and you won't find any reference to the DI's pseudo-scientific publications.

I'm sure the DI will spin that as something caused by their constant whine of some massive prejudice ID proponents face in the world of science -- one often claimed but never substantiated.  The simpler answer isn't some deeply hidden multi-national, multi-cultural conspiracy, but that their idea of Intelligent Design simply does not apply.  Unlike the DI's stable of writers, lawyers, and philosophers, these are actual scientists who seem to apply only things that supported and furthered their research. That's a more honest answer than any spin from the DI, but that's not what you hear from them!

One last comment and then I will go to do something a bit more useful.  If the biology of cilia are so supportive of Intelligent Design, who in the DI's limited sphere of influence is doing the actual scientific work to make that connection?  Instead they prefer to quote a 20-year old book by Michael Behe that was thoroughly dismantled years ago -- as if it is still relevant.

Don't worry, DI, I am sure you can build another green-screen 'lab' and one of your talking heads can present your lack of findings to the world.


  1. Ah yes, come along well after a paper is published, cherry pick the bits you can "wiggle" enough to fit your nutty "idea" and……..you win!
    So, this must be how the DI does its "research" then. They comb through various articles, etc. and try to find bits that fit their "idea". Well, I was just a machinist when I was able to work, but I did take chemistry in high school, even college before the USMC and I got a four year deal. I enjoy science and math still today, but the DI does NOT do real research.
    Oh, one minor point. In one way computers have not evolved since the 1940's. They still use either 1 or 0. They were binary then and still are. Probably will be until some new breakthrough that we cannot even imagine comes along and is proven to be much better. Again, this is only a very minor thing. Of course humans, going way back in time have been and mostly still are (there are some in central Louisiana I wonder about) bipedal. Now we know that over the millions of years since "Lucy" walked the planet, humans have evolved, very much for most of us. The DI, maybe not so much.
    I enjoyed this post, thank you for all your work on the blog.

  2. Thanks David,
    You pegged it, quote-mine to take stuff out of context and spin it to make it sound like it supports their religion. Hopefully no one buy into it . . . well their true-believers will believe anything.