We went round and round on this well over a year ago. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote a shallow and ignorant argument that sort of shilly-shallied over a pro-creationist argument; I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was. The response was insane; criticize Adams, and his horde of Dilbert fans will descend on you like a cloud of pea-brained locusts. Adams took a stab at the subject again, proposing that at least we ought to teach it as an alternative to evolution, an old and tiresome argument that I thoroughly despise. Basically, Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack making tepid arguments that only a creationist could believe.
Oh, and the most common lame defense: Scott Adams shouldn’t ever be taken seriously, because he’s always just joking to get a rise out of people. That would be acceptable, if ever he’d said anything intelligent on the subject, if his whole argument wasn’t based on common creationist canards, and if his fanbase weren’t taking his every word so damned seriously, as if he’d given them some deep insight.
That’s the history. I hadn’t read the Dilbert blog in ages, so I don’t know if Adams has since continued his wishy-washy creationism. Now I see on OmniBrain that yes, Scott Adams has written another post on intelligent design, and yes, if anything, Scott Adams has become even more stupid in the intervening months Here’s his key argument for assigning intelligence to the universe.
I take the practical approach — that something is intelligent if it unambiguously performs tasks that require intelligence. Writing Moby Dick required intelligence. The Big Bang wrote Moby Dick. Therefore, the Big Bang is intelligent, and you and I are created by that same intelligence. Therefore, we are created by an intelligent entity.
It’s a wee bit circular, don’t you think? He’s defining intelligence by assuming that the only process that can create intelligence is driven by intelligence; I’d simply rebut him by challenging his assumption, and say that the process that created the being who wrote Moby Dick did not require intelligent guidance (as we already know—the processes that drive evolution do not require active intervention by any intelligent agent), therefore there is no reason to call a prior process like the Big Bang “intelligent”. He’s also managed to put together an argument for an intelligent designer that requires us to conclude that everything in the universe is intelligent: phosphorylation is intelligent, sperm are intelligent, carrots are intelligent, bacteria are intelligent, interstellar dust is intelligent. I suspect that there’s a self-serving motive involved—he had to really reach to come up with a definition that would allow him to claim that Scott Adams is intelligent.
It’s nice to see that one constant on the internet is that Scott Adams is still a babbling idiot. If any of his defenders want to claim that “hey, he’s just being funny!” that’s fine, as long as you’re willing to admit that his chosen style of humor is to pretend to be a colossal boob…and that he’s suckered many of his readers into thinking that his intentionally absurd ideas are brilliant.
Here’s a lesson for you: criticize Scott Adams, and you will receive a deluge of Dilbonian hate mail. Virtually all of it is saying exactly the same thing: “You failed the humor test”; “Adams was being ironic”; “Adams isn’t a creationist, he’s pulling your chain”. Part of it is taking a different, overtly creationist tack: “The Big Bang didn’t happen, so you ought to be able to tell it’s a joke”; “You professors don’t understand anything”; and then there are the long-winded discourses on why Adams is exactly right, and that he has seen the mind of God, and his argument is irrefutable.
Listen, Dilbonians: you can stop telling me I have no sense of humor. I know it already. I also know that Scott Adams has a piss-poor sense of humor, too. I’d be more inclined to believe that he was mocking creationist thinking if a) everything he has written on evolution, creation, and science hadn’t had exactly the same tone and advanced the same point of view, which seems to be, basically, that Scott Adams knows better than every scientist on the planet, and b) his fans were a little less enthusiastic in supporting every turd of faux-wisdom that drips from his mouth. Read the comments; his readers aren’t treating this as a hilarious send-up of religious thinking. Maybe Adams is a true cynic who has purposely cultivated a collection of acolytes who are stupid enough to believe the amazingly stupid things he writes, but I don’t think that is an accomplishment that would insulate him from criticism.
Oh, and those of you complaining that Adams is not a creationist: look up David Berlinski. There is a lot in common there: the same supercilious and inflated sense of intellectual self-worth, the same mocking tone, the same knee-jerk rejection of anyone else’s expertise, as if the fact that some people know much more in some discipline than he does is a personal insult. He’s an anti-science hack who probably also rejects authorities on the creationist side because they do not defer to his superior intelligence, either.