Be Afraid!

Posted: November 30, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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Time and again the media prove the same point -that propaganda is the news of the victor. The news of the dominant worldview.Noam Chomsky wrote a book entitled ‘The spectacular achievements of propaganda’ where he outlines how opinion control and manipulation are achieved through the mass media He states: ” propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state”.

Further to this means of manipulation is what Walter Lippman calls ‘the bewildered herd’ a notion that is represented by the majority of society, who are spectators rather than active participants -who need diverting, entertaining in order to make sure that a stampede is avoided.Using fear tactics seems to be fashionable; fear of terrorism, fear of WMD’s.fear of theocracy, fear of recession, fear of taxes and fear of death.

Francis Schaeffer talks about an idea not unrelated to ‘the bewildered herd’ notion, he comments on the use of fear, particularly fear of loss as a mean of anesthetizing people. He says people have a desperate desire to attain and maintain personal peace and affluence, so desperate are we for this that we will put up with anything, absolutely anything so long as our personal peace and affluence is not compromised. We are the bewildered herd garrisoned by threats of war and disease, economic crashes, nuclear terrorism, religious fundamentalism, etc.This general desire to maintain our personal peace and affluence means we are interested in opposing anything that threatens to rock the boat and destroy the current status quo.With this in mind I have been looking at the recent flurry of articles regarding the UK and ID.

This sudden interest by the media in ID is prompted by a group called ‘Truth in Science’ who sent out information packs to teachers in the UK , overwhelmingly the response from teachers to this material (according to the TiS website) is positive, 63% of all recipients valued it, while 19% were negative, 18% other.The most obvious and least sophisticated argument is to associate one community with in this case a scientifically less rigorous community such as Creationism.ID is in one respect related to the idea of Creation in that design implemented is creation, but that is just semantics .

The tenants of creationist are more numerous and take not scientific data but Biblical interpretation as the final arbiter of truth. There’s much to say about the limits of science and the limits of Biblical interpretation. My personal stance is with Francis Schaeffer on this -see his small book ‘No final Conflict’.ID and creationism is constantly being confused and deliberately so, this does not serve to further the debate.For instance from the BBC report: ‘The chairman of the parliamentary science and technology committee, Phil Willis, said using the packs in science classes “elevated creationism” to the same level of debate as Darwinism and that there was no justification for that. ‘

Next from the same report is an accusation from the British Humanist Association:“Young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs.” In both cases outlined above there is either a deliberate or unintentional attempt at misinformation or equating Creationism with ID.If the only sources you go to are ones which support your own view then you begin to report bias as fact, visiting anti ID sites will possibly lead some to concede that ID and Creationism are one and the same.If that is the case , why then do we see Creationist distancing themselves from ID? (See ‘design is not enough!’ from Dr Henry Morris)Robert Wright writing in Time magazine said:

“Critics of ID, which has been billed in the press as new and sophisticated, say it’s just creationism in disguise. If so it’s a good disguise. Creationists believe that God made current life-forms from scratch. The ID movement takes no position on how life got here, and many adherents believe in evolution. Some even grant a role to the evolutionary engine posited by
Darwin: natural selection. They just deny that natural selection alone could have driven life all the way from pond scum to us.”

My experience of ID does not include misrepresentations or withholding of information;  although the majority of those prescribing to ID are Christians, there are many others of different beliefs and some of none, that prescribe to  design  as a far more credible explanation of why we see the complexity in the form and function that is becoming increasingly so obvious.

Caricaturing the ID movement as closet rightwing Christian fundies with a hidden agenda of take over and slap down to the wayward, is easy to do and an effective way of avoiding the basic issue which is, simply does Naturalism fully describe the complexity we see?The alternative Naturalistic Neo Darwinian explanation that dumb blind luck produced the level of complexity we now see is, for me, unable to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

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Comments
  1. You’ve hit ther nail on the head. Opposition to ID is propaganda aimed at caricaturing opponents and misstating scientific data as supportive of the idea that life arose through a chemical process. To ID opponents it does not matter if you support conventional wisdom as to how life adapts and changes with time. The only really important thing to them is that you disavow the possibility that anything occured as a result of purposeful, intelligent causality.

  2. Mike Godfrey says:

    Thanks William,
    the implications of ID are what really is considered ‘beyond the pale’ for most naturalists.That and the idea that if they let design in, then everything becomes a black box ‘God dun it’ and so discovery science suffers.I don’t buy that idea -the most productive period of scientific descovery was done by scientist who were belivers.
    The other reason for such opposition is best outlined by Holopupenko in his blog article: Why Atheists Deny Meaning and Purpose to be found at: http://reasoningrepaired.blogspot.com/

  3. marco says:

    Hi Mike,

    Welcome to my world. Not having any luck here in the states the Discovery Institute is apparently trying to peddle its wares across the big water. These guys have produced a stunningly inadequate body of work. You can boil ID down to 2 concepts; Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity and Demski’s algorithm for separating design from chance and contingency. Both these ideas have been dismissed by the people actually working in these fields. Behe makes a fool of himself in the Kitzmiller trial by claiming no knowlege of a sheaf of peer reviewed papers regarding possible evolutionary paths to the bacteria flagellum and Demski doesn’t deign to answer his critics (sadly, my math background renders me unable to ferret out the proofs) and insists that ID is not explainable by the “pathetic level of detail” he demands from evolutionists. I don’t know what else you can call this but intellectual dishonesty. As the good Captain said, all these guys ever do is blabber and smoke.

  4. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Marco,
    Thanks for posting.
    I m not really aware of the Discovery institutes manoeuvres internationally or nationally. I don’t know if they have decided to turn their attention to the UK or not. The post refers to another group the Truth in Science group who as far as I am aware is not part of DI.
    I am convinced that design should be an option on the table for two broad reasons:
    1 The inadequacy of naturalistic neo Darwinism.
    2. The notion of design as a means of explaining the complexity both in form and function that we see.
    For instance I was reading recently that the information density of DNA is apparently about 6×10 8 bits/cm, which is approximately 75 GB or 12.5 CD-ROMs per cm, our experience is that this information density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe, information of any density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe. Yet what we are expected to believe created the complexity we see? Sheer Dumb luck?
    I would be very interested to know how IC has been shown empirically to be false as an idea?
    Intellectual dishonesty is also an apt description of anyone willing to dismiss the possibility of design as a cause in the origins debate without evidence to back that claim up. It makes me wonder if there is a non-empirical reason for that dismissal for instance an apriori philosophical commitment that is untouched by what the data might say. Don’t forget that the majority of IDers believe in the process of evolutionary change, what they disagree with is the knee jerk dismissive reaction to the possibility of intelligent design as a cause.
    Far from calling ID a form of intellectual dishonesty I consider it a theory in embryo, which needs time to develop. ID has an explaining power that is lacking in the orthodox dogma of Naturalistic Neo Darwinism.

  5. Behe makes a fool of himself in the Kitzmiller trial by claiming no knowlege of a sheaf of peer reviewed papers regarding possible evolutionary paths to the bacteria flagellum

    Why should Behe be obligated to study speculations as to possible evolutionary paths to the bacterial flagellum? When one of the speculations is demonstrated to be a reality in a lab then his critics will have something worthy of study.

    I don’t know what else you can call this but intellectual dishonesty. As the good Captain said, all these guys ever do is blabber
    and smoke.

    To the Darwinian mindset not accepting possible pathways as evidence is dishonesty. These types of shallow allegations are the real blabber and smoke.

  6. marco says:

    “Why should Behe be obligated to study speculations as to possible evolutionary paths to the bacterial flagellum? When one of the speculations is demonstrated to be a reality in a lab then his critics will have something worthy of study.”

    What? If he is going to popularize the notion that the bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex he should at least be aware of the relevant literature in the field. If he told the truth under oath about being unaware of this material he is either lazy, dishonest or stupid. And he’s not stupid. Maybe he was overwhelmed with putting out his one paper in the last 20 years that marginally dealt with ID.

  7. marco says:

    Hi Mike
    For instance I was reading recently that the information density of DNA is apparently about 6×10 8 bits/cm, which is approximately 75 GB or 12.5 CD-ROMs per cm, our experience is that this information density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe, information of any density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe. Yet what we are expected to believe created the complexity we see? Sheer Dumb luck?

    I don’t get it. What about evolutionary theory requires DNA to be spontaneously generated? How is selection sheer dumb luck? We see novel configurations (new information) in DNA all the time. Are you saying there are no plausible chemical precursors to DNA?

    I would be very interested to know how IC has been shown empirically to be false as an idea?

    I don’t know if it can. There is always a new unexplained structure to be found. The eye, bacterium flagellum, blood clotting cascade, etc. have all been shown to have plausible naturalistic explanations. The whole idea of irreducible complexity seems to be rather useless, wouldn’t you agree? About as useless as using statistical analysis to prove that what happened didn’t actually happen.

  8. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Marco,
    Regarding my post about the remarkable information density of DNA I said:
    …this information density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe; information of any density is not a spontaneous characteristic of the universe.
    My point is that our current experience tells us that information densities of this kind are not spontaneously generated. I’d go further, Information couldn’t be the result of random chaotic undirected processes, even processes constrained by chemical laws.
    Is there experimental evidence showing that Information densities of the type DNA display, are produced through undirected means?
    Microevolution would not be a candidate as this already has the machinery in place, and my point I guess concerns macroevolution, the information density cannot be produced through undirected means.
    My guess is that information densities are directed –just look at the drive to produce artificial life –something that hasn’t yet been achieved, but looks to need a lot of directed intervention or intelligent design.
    Concerning Selection, although it is directed in the sense that it can only act on what has randomly been thrown up; ultimately it is a random process.
    Marco you said:
    ‘Are you saying there are no plausible chemical precursors to DNA?’
    What precursors Marco are you suggesting?
    Perhaps much more importantly, how did those DNA precursors go from what ever state they were, be they clay particles or what ever, how did they get from there precursor state to DNA? How was the information transferred? What machinery ensured their fidelity?
    I’m not too sure IC has been shown to be useless –proposals to get around the IC problem seemed to involve increasing complexity and an ever increasing number of variables that all have to be in the right place at the right time –thereby increasing the improbability of that event ever having taken place.

  9. “If he told the truth under oath about being unaware of this material”

    I believe this misstates the testimony. Behe may not have read each and every page of the papers presented but that does not make him unaware of them or their general theses.

  10. marco says:

    “I believe this misstates the testimony”

    I stand corrected. The documents referred to the evolution of the immune system.

    From Kitzmiller – Day 12:

    Q. I’m going to read some titles here. We have Evolution of Immune Reactions by Sima and Vetvicka, are you familiar with that?
    A. No, I’m not.

    That’s OK Professor, you can’t read everything.

    Q. You conclude the chapter called “Publish or Perish” by saying, “In effect, the theory of Darwinian molecular evolution has not published, and so it should perish,” right?
    A. That’s correct, yes.

    oops

    Q. And you also propose tests such as the one we saw in “Reply to My Critics” about how those Darwinians can test your proposition?
    A. Yes.
    Q. But you don’t do those tests?
    A. Well, I think someone who thought an idea was incorrect such as intelligent design would be motivated to try to falsify that, and certainly there have been several people who have tried to do exactly that, and I myself would prefer to spend time in what I would consider to be more fruitful endeavors.

    Yeah, more fruitful endeavors like building a time machine to go back to the 19th century where his ideas will be more contemporary.

    Q. Okay. But you’re not disputing that the theory of evolution says, at some point we had a subset of proteins, then we had eventually all the proteins that make up whatever system we’re discussing?
    A. That sounds okay.
    Q. Good. In slow design, same thing. At some point, we had a subset of the proteins, and eventually, we got to the whole thing?
    A. That’s right. The crucial question — the only question is the mechanism.
    Q. Okay. So in the case of evolution, there is a mechanism that’s been proposed, natural selection?
    A. Yes.
    Q. And you’ve agreed that natural selection certainly is a phenomena that operates in the natural world?
    A. That is correct.
    Q. Including at the biochemical level?
    A. That’s right.
    Q. Then we’ve got slow design, and there we have no mechanism at all, no description of a mechanism?
    A. We have no description of a mechanism. We do infer design though from the purposeful arrangement of parts.

    Wow, a new concept. Slow design. Kinda like evolution only “purposeful”.

    Here’s my personal favorite;

    Q. In fact, the only way we can make the statement scientifically that a designer exists is that it made whatever we conclude was design?
    A. Yes, that’s right.

    Thank God for tenure. You got to wonder whether the rest of the science faculty at Lehigh are going to avoid him at the Christmas Party.

  11. In fact, the only way we can make the statement scientifically that a designer exists is that it made whatever we conclude was design?
    A. Yes, that’s right.

    This is a vapid line of questioning given that existence of a designer is a secondary inference from the direct inference of intelligence- the actual inference made. This question could have been turned around and posed as:

    In fact, the only way we can make the statement scientifically that abiogenesis occured is that it made whatever we conclude was life?
    A. Yes, that’s right.

  12. marco says:


    This is a vapid line of questioning given that existence of a designer is a secondary inference from the direct inference of intelligence- the actual inference made

    Easy to make inferences when your premises are undefined. Intelligence, design? Design theorists have yet to define these let alone quantify them.

    In fact, the only way we can make the statement scientifically that abiogenesis occured is that it made whatever we conclude was life?

    The difference, of course, being that if abiogenesis research becomes part of modern evolutionary theory there will be a plausible mechanism and timeline posited. ID won’t be held to that “pathetic level of detail”. You ID aficionados need to fall back to the quantum level. The uncertainties involved could keep the ID hypothesis alive forever.

  13. Easy to make inferences when your premises are undefined. Intelligence, design? Design theorists have yet to define these let alone quantify them.

    Intelligence has been defined and tested in various disciplines. It is as real as your cells. Design is conceded even by ID critics. The only question is its cause.

    In fact, the only way we can make the statement scientifically that abiogenesis occured is that it made whatever we conclude was life?

    The difference, of course, being that if abiogenesis research becomes part of modern evolutionary theory there will be a plausible mechanism and timeline posited.

    Dream on. Chemical reactions do not produce codes.

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