If you watch the Discovery Institute, you’ll discover they’re constantly playing games, trying to find that winning PR technique that will persuade the hapless ignorati. Some of them are effective, even if dishonest: “irreducible complexity” injected all kinds of misleading chaos into the brains of their followers, and “teach the controversy” was a potent slogan. They’ve been flailing about in recent years, trying to emphasize their pretense of scholarliness with tripe like West’s efforts to use pseudohistory to blame Darwin for Hitler, or Meyer’s farcical, long-winded distortions of modern biology in Signature in the Cell. Those haven’t worked so well.
The one thing that is always a constant, that has been true of everything the Discovery Institute has ever done, is that they don’t have any new ideas to offer, and everything is focused on being anti-evolution, or as they call it, anti-“Darwinism”. I really think that one of their big problems is that they’re actually anti-something-they-don’t-understand-at-all, so all their efforts fall flat. They especially fall flat with real biologists, who are gobsmacked that anyone would seriously say this crap.
Larry Moran discusses their latest venture. The new chant is
non-adaptive order, a mysterious thing that could not possibly have evolved. And that’s the trip wire that always makes the ID creationists stumble: find something that you can say “that couldn’t possibly have evolved!” about, and they’ll stand about gape-jawed and staring, eager to agree.
Here’s their slick video, titled
The Biology of the Baroque: the mystery of non-adaptive order. It is unbelievably stupid. Also, it’s as if they went shopping for the narrator with the thickest, poshest, stodgiest upper-class British accent to narrate it — it’s completely over the top.
Here’s the core logic of this argument. There are many features of living things that are elaborate and beautiful, but they are otherwise useless. But natural selection is purely utilitarian! Therefore, beautiful ornamentation Could Not Have Evolved.
So evolution should produce only the biological equivalent of sterile gray Soviet architecture, and if you find something that is the equivalent of a Baroque church, then evolution is refuted. This entire argument is built around what Michael Denton calls
the fundamental assumption of Darwinism…that all novelties are adaptive. To which biologists around the world can only say, “Fu…wha?” in total confusion. That is not one of our assumptions at all. Novelties are going to arise as a product of chance mutation; if they are not maladaptive (and sometimes even if they are), they can spread through a population by chance-driven processes like drift. And some elaborate fripperies can acquire a selective advantage, like that example of Soviet architecture, the peacock’s tail, which this video actually uses as an example of
It’s an excellent example of creationists avidely embracing a counter-factual. All I can say is, please do continue to attack the fallacious idea that everything in evolution is adaptive.
Only…they do have one little problem. They’re going to have to rewrite their own history. For the past several years, they have been raging against the assertion by those damned “Darwinists” that the genome is full of junk DNA — that it contains huge amounts of non-adaptive order. That somehow, while the official dogma of the church of Intelligent Design has been that “Darwinists” have been promoting a heresy of non-adaptiveness of the genome, the new party line is going to be that “Darwinists” have always been promoting a strict line of omnipresent utilitarian functionality and adaptedness.
It’s going to get confusing. Here’s the old ID:
Since the mechanism of evolutionary change is based on genetic mistakes, evolutionists expect the genomes of certain species to be littered with useless DNA—essentially leftovers from the clumsy, unguided evolutionary process
A number of leading proponents of Darwinian evolution claim that “junk DNA”—the non-protein-coding DNA that makes up more than 95% of our genome—provides decisive evidence for Darwin’s theory and against intelligent design, since an intelligent designer would not have littered our genome with so much garbage
See, evolution is dead because it’s full of ideas about randomness and unguided evolutionary processes and genomes littered with garbage!
But here’s the new ID:
Denton presents a novel yet compelling vision of life on earth that modern biology has forgotten. He shows that the language of Darwinism, limited to adaptation and fitness, is bankrupt in the face of the most recent scientific knowledge.
See, evolution is dead because it’s limited to only talking about adaptation and fitness!
The authors of those old quotes are going to have to have their faces airbrushed out of the old official portraits, and may find themselves shivering in a gulag somewhere.
Nah, who am I kidding? Creationists have always been willing to swallow inconsistencies and contradictions. It’s in the Bible.