The Discovery Institute is still singing the same tune. It’s revealingly tone-deaf, too. David Klinghoffer champions falsification as a key strategy, and he doesn’t even understand it.
Want to falsify the theory of intelligent design? Here’s one way.
Show with a convincing computer simulation – no cheating allowed — that the infusion of biological information in the Cambrian explosion could occur absent the intervention of a guiding intelligence: artificial life in a variety as we see in the Cambrian event, but without design.
He starts out with an interesting proposal: falsify his favored theory. That’s how science works. We propose a hypothesis, and then we batter it about trying to find the flaws and identify tests that would evaluate whether our proposal actually works. I read that and thought that finally we were going to see a testable claim about Intelligent Design creationism.
No such luck. Read the next sentence, and he isn’t taking a critical look at ID creationism: he announces that we have to come up with a test to prove our theory is possible. That isn’t a falsification test! It’s the opposite of falsification — we have to prove every detail of evolutionary theory is true, or he gets to claim his bullshit idea is true.
Wesley Elsberry takes on the bizarre infatuation of creationists with binary models. This is good stuff.
There is nothing in falsification about how validating some other concept makes a concept false. This is a popular misconception in antievolution circles, though, as one finds this particular mistake in the output of various high-profile “intelligent design” creationists. It is a long-running misconception, a zombie pseudoscience if you will, as I was pointing this out directly to William Dembski and Michael Behe at a conference in 2001, and it continued to put in appearances from them later.
One might wonder why IDC advocates have such trouble with this. I think that it follows from confusing and conflating their “two-model” worldview with an actual concept in philosophy. The “two-model” view was a component of “scientific creationism” that has propagated through the various renamings that have followed it. The “two-model” view states that there are only two possible models, creationism or evolution, and evidence against one is evidence for the other. In other words, that one’s likelihood of belief in one can be bolstered by reducing one’s likelihood of belief in the other. Or, putting it in the terms that likely led to the confusion, the falsity of one model attests to the truth of the other. This whole notion is rank nonsense, and has been exposed as rank nonsense for decades. For example, Francisco Ayala, as a witness in the McLean v. Arkansas case in 1981 was questioned about the soundness of the “two-model” view by an unfortunate lawyer named Williams. Ayala said, “Surely you realize that not being Mr. Williams in no way entails being Mr. Ayala!” Judge Overton in his decision also noted the inherent problems with what he termed “a contrived dualism”. This was referenced in the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision as well, where it was noted that the same erroneous argumentation had been carried forward to that case.
I also take exception to creationist’s constant focus on “computer models”. Computer models are useful tools for assessing some ideas, but they’re no substitute for real data…especially when the events you’re pursuing are not simple, and have a million different equally valid ways of producing a result. Again with the binary thinking: Cambrian evolution will not be described with a “yes” or a “no”.
I’m also going to call shenanigans on his assumptions. The Cambrian was not an “event”. It was a long, multi-million year series of events, and it was driven by multiple phenomena. There was the pre-Cambrian bioturbation revolution, in which the evolution of worms with hydraulic skeletons drove massive turnover of nutrients in sediments; there was the gradual increase in atmospheric oxygen, which made more energetic organisms possible; there was a long history of evolution of animal lineages before the Cambrian that set the stage with breadth and depth of diversity. How do you “simulate” all that on a computer? And why bother, because you know creationists like Klinghoffer will simply reject any result that shows an increase in complexity without an
infusion of biological information (whatever that means) as
Most importantly, no one with any sense or competence would carry out such a simulation to falsify creationism, an endeavor with no reward, since they’ll just move the goalposts as they always have.