Friday, January 20, 2017

More Misdirection from the Discovery Institute

In my last post (Skepticism vs. Scholarship (From James F. McGrath)) I said:

"As new scientific discoveries are made, you can bet that shortly thereafter they will try and put an ID [Intelligent Design] spin on it, regardless of the fact the discovery doesn't support it."
This new post over on the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution and 'news' and Views (EnV) blog bears that out. "University of Alabama "Space Archaeologist" Seeks Evidence of Intelligent Design".  As you read their post, I want you to identify where Intelligent Design . . . not intelligence or design . . .  but something from the Discovery Institute, being being used in Sarah Parcak's work.  If you can't see it, don't worry, it's only in the very limited imagination of the DI.

In a nutshell, the associate professor of anthropology (University of Alabama at Birmingham) pioneered the use of satellite imagery to discover ruins, tombs, and more.  She's highly recognized, well regarded, and apparently quite successful.  What she is identifying signs of human habitation in ways that would have been impossible before today's modern satellites.  So what does this have to do with the DI?  Nothing, but since when does nothing stop the DI?

What the good professor is looking for are patterns, patterns that when combined with her other research, indicate the probability of being a former location of a town or village.  We recognize patterns all the time, but does there being a pattern automatically mean an intelligent source?  Here is a quote from Professor Parcak from the Smithsonian article::
"Any discovery in remote sensing rests on hundreds of hours of deep, deep study. Before looking at satellite imagery of a cemetery or a pyramid field, you have to already understand why something should be there."
I am surprised the DI used this particular quote, because I believe it defeats their own argument.  Parcak isn't just looking for patterns, she, and I would guess her team, spend hundreds of hours studying a location before looking at the imagery itself.  Her own words, "you have to understand why something should be there."  I this as a parallel to actual scientific work, you look, you study, you learn and what that does is frame any discoveries.  You don't just look at something and declare you are done!  But isn't that the modus operandi of the DI?

Parcak is looking for patterns, the DI insists on calling it 'design', they do that so they can tie into their pet idea of 'Intelligent Design'.  Does Parcak call it design?  Certainly no sign in the Smithsonian article.  The DI wants to call it 'design' so they can compare what she is doing to what they should be doing in examining DNA.  Of course they aren't exactly doing what she is doing.  They are making lots of declarative statements, but never seem to follow up with any supporting evidence.  The reason I am surprised they want to draw such a parallel is because I believe they are missing two points of Parcak's work.

One is illustrated in the quote above.  Where are the hours of deep study of DNA that would lead you to understand why design should be there?  There isn't any.  The DI looks just deep enough to recognize what they claim in the 'appearance' of design, and then they declare victory and demand to be taken seriously.

The second thing they are missing is based on another quote, this one near the  end of the Smithsonian article:
"Parcak often confirms discoveries made at her desk by visiting previously unseen sites and coring the earth or otherwise scouting for artifacts, a process called “ground truthing.”
Where is the 'ground truthing of the DI's arguments?  Where is the supporting evidence?  You will notice that Parcak doesn't just leave things at the level of the imagery, her discoveries are confirmed in the field.  The DI doesn't seem to think that's a required step, they even missed this quote from the article.

Let's imagine that Parcak made an announcement of a discovery and failed to follow-up with what she calls 'ground truthing'. Would she have been written up in the Smithsonian? Would she have been called "The Indiana Jones of low Earth orbit"?  Would she even be an associate professor?  She most certainly wouldn't have made over 3,000 discoveries with a hit rate of close to 100%!  What's the DI's hit rate on actual scientific discoveries again?  That's right: 0%?

As we have learned over and over again, the appearance of design does not mean it was actually designed.  The DI hasn't made the case that apparent design must have been designed and since they claim that only intelligence can design things, any 'design' must be the hallmark of an 'Intelligent Designer' (code word for the Christian God).  Yet their arguments fail on a number of points, particularly on a lack of evidence.  Conjecture and wishful thinking are not evidence.

What we have also learned, yet again, is that whenever anyone uses their brain (intelligence) and discovers anything that can be interpreted, or even mis-interpreted, as 'design' then the DI is going to try and claim yet another victory for their pet concept ID.  They, the DI, still cannot tell the difference between their Intelligent Design 'theory' and use of intelligence in scientific discoveries.  They keep confusing the two in order to confuse everyone else.  If they really want to make this claim, they should be able to tell us just what part of 'Intelligent Design Theory' is this particular professor using?


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