Intelligent design advocates tell me what I believe

Uncommon Descent header

I consider myself a materialist, by which I mean that I believe that I believe the physical universe, that of matter, energy, and spacetime, is all that exists. I don’t, in other words, believe in magic, or in magical beings. I wasn’t always a materialist; I’ve been a Christian, and I’ve also believed some (non-religious) mystical nonsense. If you prefer to classify my beliefs as physicalist, naturalist, or some other category, I don’t mind.

I don’t believe in the supernatural. I’m not too picky about what you call it.

As best I can tell, what most intelligent design advocates call it is materialism, and that’s what is important for the purposes of this post. Because those folks have some strange ideas about what materialists believe.

For example, Barry Arrington says

Staggeringly sophisticated systems such as the blood clotting cascade are not ordinarily assembled through the accretion of random errors.

Yet every materialist believes the claim as a matter of course.

I don’t believe that. I don’t know anyone who does.

[Read more…]

A helpful translation

I’m never sure whether I should be amused or horrified to see intelligent design’s PR firm, the Discovery Institute, trying to pose as a scientific organization. Right now I’m tending decidedly towards amusement, as their inept aping of the scientific process only serves to reveal how fundamentally they misunderstand it.

As always, I’m here to help.

Recent posts from members of the Discovery Institute show that their authors have learned to imitate the language of science without actually understanding it. I’m going to do my best to translate a few things. For example, when David Klinghoffer (who is, in a sense, a ghost) says,

I’m currently seeking to place an awesome manuscript by a scientist at an Ivy League university with the guts to give his reasons for rejecting Darwinism. The problem is that, as yet, nobody has the guts to publish it.

what I think he means is

our manuscript has so far failed to pass peer review.

[Read more…]

Manufacturing controversy

Darwin Devolves cover

If you read the same blogs I do, you’re no doubt aware that Nathan Lents, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski published a not-very-flattering review of Michael Behe’s new book, Darwin Devolves, in Science. As you would expect, various members of the Discovery Institute, including Dr. Behe himself, have responded to the review. I haven’t read Darwin Devolves yet, so I there’s a lot on both sides of the argument that I won’t try to evaluate.

What I am going to talk about is the attempts, mostly by David Klinghoffer, to imply that there is something underhanded about the review itself. Klinghoffer takes issue not just with the content of the review, but with its authorship and timing:

Three? Why Not One?

Why was it [the Lents et al. review] written and published in this way? It’s odd to review a book that hasn’t been publicly released yet.

[Read more…]

Stephen Meyer’s definition of intelligent design is unfair, according to Barry Arrington

A while back, Barry Arrington challenged critics of intelligent design to define intelligent design, claiming that

I have never seen a fair summary of ID theory come from one of our opponents.

Several ID critics(including me) weighed in with our definitions, but Arrington called all of them “superficial and contemptuous” (my answer was apparently so superficial and contemptuous that it got me banned from commenting at Uncommon Descent). I pointed out at the time that some of these answers were virtually identical to the definitions given by prominent ID proponents.

Stephen Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt, founding member of the Discovery Institute, and occasional contributor to Evolution News and Views, has cleared things up for us. Here’s his definition of intelligent design (around 1:58 in this recording):

The theory of intelligent design is the idea that there are certain features of life and the universe that are best explained by a purposive intelligence, rather than an undirected material process such as, in the realm of biology, natural selection acting on random mutations.

Stephen C. Meyer

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. Discovery Institute press photo from http://www.discovery.org/p/11.

[Read more…]

I don’t exist!

David Klinghoffer has outdone himself. For a guy who thinks the discovery of an extrasolar planet is a challenge to materialism, the bar for the dumbest thing he’s ever said is already high, but he has cleared it with room to spare:

In a sense, there are no atheists.

He’s right, in a sense. In the sense that we can arbitrarily redefine words to mean whatever the hell we want them to mean. Let’s look at some equally valid examples:

In a sense, all mammals are descended from snakes.

This is true, in a sense, because I define snakes as small Triassic insectivores.

In a sense, there are no dump trucks.

This is true, in a sense, because I define dump trucks as wine bottles that magically refill themselves.

In a sense, David Klinghoffer is a ghost.

This is true, in a sense, because I define ghosts as human beings who occasionally say monumentally stupid things.

A Ghost Story

David Klinghoffer, in a sense. Image from A Ghost Story, downloaded from IMDB.

[Read more…]

A quick question for Douglas Axe

Intelligent design proponent Douglas Axe says,

My recent book, Undeniable, makes the case not just that life is designed but also that this is obvious — you need no special training to see it. And yet, as with other obvious truths, some people prefer to deny this one than to fully embrace the attending implications.

For atheists to be in denial here isn’t surprising. Short of recanting, they have no option. [emphasis added]

Douglas Axe

Douglas Axe

But intelligent design proponents have said many, many times that ID, being a scientific rather than religious theory, does not identify the designer. According to Michael Behe,

Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel–fallen or not; Plato’s demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being.

So here’s my question: if ID is agnostic to the nature of the designer, why can’t an atheist believe life is designed?

[Read more…]