A fake evolution site!

I’ve always known that the dogmas of Intelligent Design are unscientific and thus do not belong in any science class, but when I discovered how far some of its promoters were willing to go to trick people into reading their crap, I nearly blew a gasket in my brain!

First, look at this:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/

The home page has the title, “EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS” but this site is about anything but that. In fact, it contains news of, and arguments to promote, Intelligent Design.

To illustrate the incredible stupidity and dishonesty of the people running this website, I will cut and paste two articles from it.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/02/warren_reports_blog_judge_jone.html

Warren Reports Blog: Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It (Part I)

Last year, a post from Michael Francisco presented the “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” bumper sticker. A recent blog post at Warren Reports Blog employs so much uncritical acceptance of Judge Jones’ ruling (calling it a “scathing decision” and a “hard blow”), gets so many facts wrong, and is so full of contradictions that its author, Devin James Carpenter, deserves to have the bumper sticker awarded to him. This 2-part series will respond to some of Carpenter’s statements.

The “Main Issues”
Carpenter states: “The main issues in Kitzmiller v. Dover were: the soundness of evolution and ‘intelligent design’ as science, the separation of church and state, and the philosophy of science itself.”

Actually, that’s not true. The main issues in Kitzmiller v. Dover were whether Dover’s policy was (1) enacted for a secular purpose and (2) whether it had a primary effect which was secular. If the policy failed either of those tests, then it was unconstitutional. Judge Jones could have answered these questions without addressing the soundness of evolution or ID as science or defining science. Indeed, even the leading anti-ID legal scholar Jay Wexler argues, “The part of Kitzmiller that finds ID not to be science is unnecessary, unconvincing, not particularly suited to the judicial role, and even perhaps dangerous to both science and freedom of religion.” In order to resolve the Kitzmiller case, all Judge Jones had to find was whether the Dover Area School Board had a predominantly religious purpose—none of those other issues were mandatory.

Intelligent Design and the Designer
Carpenter observes that “‘intelligent design’ advocate Michael Behe … talked at length about ‘irreducible complexity,’” and then immediately Carpenter states that “[t]he plaintiffs noted, however, that science is only concerned with things that can be falsified and tested.” But the Kitzmiller plaintiffs conceded that irreducible complexity IS testable. The plaintiffs claimed that invoking the supernatural cannot be done because science cannot appeal to the supernatural. That’s why both the Kitzmiller plaintiffs and Carpenter, who states that ID invokes a “higher power” or “an invisible, supernatural being,” are wrong. As discussed many places (like here), the theory of intelligent design does not try to identify whether the designer is natural or supernatural. As the Pandas textbook states, “All it implies is that life had an intelligent source.” Since we have much observation-based experience with the products of intelligence, we can search for specified or irreducible complexity in the natural world, thereby testing for intelligent design–not trying to idenitf supernatural design–in natural objects.

But this wasn’t the most egregious misrepresentation of Carpenter. Carpenter states “Michael Behe said in his testimony that ‘the designer is in fact God’” and claims that this is what drives Behe’s ideas. In fact, Behe actually said:

Q. So is it accurate for people to claim or to represent that intelligent design holds that the designer was God?
A. No, that is completely inaccurate.
Q. Well, people have asked you your opinion as to who you believe the designer is, is that correct?
A. That is right.
Q. Has science answered that question?
A. No, science has not done so.
Q. And I believe you have answered on occasion that you believe the designer is God, is that correct?
A. Yes, that’s correct.
Q. Are you making a scientific claim with that answer?
A. No, I conclude that based on theological and philosophical and historical factors.(Day 10 testimony)

Clearly Behe explains that science and intelligent design cannot tell you if the designer is God. Behe’s own theological view is that the designer is God, but that is not a conclusion of intelligent design. Thus, when Behe makes the statement quoted by Carpenter, this is the context of what Behe actually says: “I think I said that at the beginning of my testimony yesterday, that I think in fact from — from other perspectives, that the designer is in fact God.” The full context makes it clear that Behe’s conclusion that the designer is God does NOT come from ID but from his own personal theological views. But Carpenter does not provide this context, leaving readers thinking that ID concludes the designer is God.

Misstating the “Wedge Document”
Carpenter also misquotes the “Wedge document,” claiming that one of its goals is “replacing current scientific practice with ‘theistic and Christian science.’” That is NOT what the Wedge Document says, and it does not even contain the phrase “theistic and Christian science.” Its true meaning is explained here. If motives matter so much to Carpenter, why doesn’t he scrutinize the fact that many leading Darwinists have anti-religious motives? Or is Carpenter applying a double-standard?

ID and Conservatives
Carpenter asserts that “[m]ost conservative intellectuals seem embarrassed by intelligent design.” He quotes Charles Krauthammer, who badly misunderstands ID and whose misunderstandings of ID we’ve responded to at length (for example, see here or here). Indeed, John West recently authored Darwin’s Conservatives: The Misguided Quest, where he rebuts many arguments from the leading conservatives who do oppose ID.

Who is “Steve Chapman”?
Carpenter quotes someone named “Steve Chapman, the founder of the Discovery Institute” who he claims called the Dover ruling a “disaster…as a public relations matter.” Carpenter can be forgiven, as he probably meant “Bruce Chapman,” but this make me wonder, how familiar is Carpenter with the subject of his critique? With so many people (like Carpenter) using the Dover decision to misrepresent ID and confuse the basic facts (e.g. “Steve Chapman”), perhaps Bruce Chapman was correct. But readers are invited to read the full article quoting Bruce Chapman to see the context of Chapman’s views.

Part II of this response will discuss Mr. Carpenter’s philosophical and other arguments against ID.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/02/warren_reports_blog_judge_jone_1.html

Warren Reports Blog: Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It (Part II)

In Part I of this series, I discussed how Michael Francisco’s post last year had a bumper sticker for people who take the “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” approach to intelligent design. Devin James Carpenter, over at Warren Reports blog deserves the bumper sticker due to his many inaccurate statements about intelligent design and his thoroughgoing acceptance of Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller ruling. In this second installment, I will discuss problems with some of Carpenter’s arguments against intelligent design (ID).

Misrepresentations of ID
Carpenter states that ID “calls into question (on a theological basis) the ability of nature to transform simple biological beings into complex ones.” To claim that ID challenges neo-Darwinism “on a theological basis” is a flat-out misrepresentation of ID. Michael Behe provides clear empirical reasons, based upon challenges which go back to Darwin himself, as to why the mutation-selection mechanism cannot produce irreducible complexity. But to summarize some Behe’s of empirical and non-theological challenges:

In The Origin of Species, Darwin stated:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.

A system which meets Darwin’s criterion is one which exhibits irreducible complexity. By irreducible complexity I mean a single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced gradually by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, since any precursor to an irreducibly complex system is by definition nonfunctional.

To dismiss Behe’s arguments by asserting they merely have “a theological basis” completely misrepresents them and dismisses them in a fashion which will leave any informed person—whether a critic or supporter of ID—fully cognizant that Carpenter has neither appreciated nor engaged the real issues.

Intelligent Design and Negative Arguments
Carpenter states: “‘intelligent design’ seems to be merely a negative theory, meaning it only criticizes evolution and doesn’t propose anything scientific of its own” and he quotes a critic saying that because ID does not explain some things, therefore it explains no things. Again, this is a blatant misrepresentation of ID. ID proposes to positively explain (among other things) that high levels of specified complexity, such as irreducible complexity, come from intelligence. This is a positive and predictive argument for intelligent design (that is further outlined here). This positive case was made explicit by Scott Minnich during the Dover trial, where he eloquently stated:

In other words, you’re saying, it’s an argument out of ignorance. And I don’t think it is. Again, it’s an argument out of our common cause and effect experience where we find these machines or information storage systems. From our experience, we know there’s an intelligence behind it. (Day 21, pg. 86)

Clearly there is a positive argument for design, which Carpenter completely ignores.

Who is Promoting “Bad Philosophy”?
Carpenter accuses ID-proponents of employing “bad philosophy,” but I will let you, the reader, judge Carpenter’s philosophy for yourself. Carpenter states:

[T]here are many other examples that would lead the viewer to believe that humans and animals are not designed by a sentient being but by nature. For example, “some cave animals, descended from sighted ancestors that invaded caves, have rudimentary eyes that cannot see; the eyes degenerated after they were no longer needed.”

Since Carpenter concedes that the “cave animals” are descended from organisms with functional eyes, the obvious answer from ID-perspective would be that the eyes were designed, and subsequently lost function through precisely the same explanation he gives (“degeneration”). In our experienced, designed structures often undergo degeneration after they were initially designed. For example, if you take a functional television and put it on top of a mountain and then return after 30 years, my guess is that it will no longer function. Since natural processes destroyed its function, does that mean that it was not originally designed? Of course not.ID does not deny that natural selection is a real force at work in nature, even acting upon organisms which were designed. In fact, ID-proponents are often amused that the best examples Darwinists give of natural selection typically entail loss of function, not the generation of a novel feature. ID is concerned with how new biological functions originate, not with how they can be lost due to misuse.

Carpenter also asks, “what about the human appendix? An appendix is ‘certainly not the product of intelligent design,’” and then he quotes Jerry Coyne, who assumes that the appendix is functionless and simply causes disease. Carpenter is promoting a Darwinist urban legend. As a physiology professor Scientific American states at Scientific American: “For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults. … Among adult humans, the appendix is now thought to be involved primarily in immune functions.” So Carpenter is wrong to imply that the appendix is a useless organ that only causes pain and suffering.

But what about pain and suffering? Is design refuted if the structure can sometimes cause pain? Carpenter then quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing diseases and natural events which kill organisms and species, claiming this is “counterintuitive to a design theory.” But ID does not try to analyze the moral purposes of the designer. Indeed, whether we like it or not, guns and atomic bombs are all designed—designed to kill. On what basis does Carpenter claim that something which causes pain or death cannot be designed?

In fact, most of Carpenter’s arguments here are simply theological objections to design, based upon the “problem of evil.” Since he raises theological objections it should be noted that many religions have had theological answers to the “problem of evil” for millennia. But ID does not concern itself with such theological questions, and thus Carpenter’s objections are moot.

This whole discussion from Carpenter is intriguing, because he previously attacked ID as something that cannot be “falsified and tested” (see part I). Yet now he claims that the presence of disease and death is “counterintuitive to a design theory.” If Carpenter wants to claim that ID is both unfalsifiable and false, and cite the fact that “cave animals” can lose their sight or that organisms get sick and die as evidence that ID wrong, then I will let readers judge for themselves who is promoting “bad philosophy.”

When A Court Hands you Lemons…

Carpenter’s makes one final blunder I’ll discuss, regarding Judge Jones application of the Lemon test. The Lemon test is a three-part legal test used to determine if a law violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing religion. Carpenter writes: “Judge Jones made the right decision, concluding that ‘intelligent design’ is based on religion rather than science, and…that intelligent design is an updated version of ‘creation science’ which is unconstitutional given that it violates all three facets of the ‘Lemon’ test.”

There are at least 2 major problems with this statement: First, Carpenter claims that the law violated “all three facets” of the Lemon test. The third “facet” of the Lemon test prohibits “excessive entanglement” between government and religion. But as Judge Jones said in a footnote: “Plaintiffs are not claiming excessive entanglement. Accordingly, Plaintiffs argue that the ID Policy is violative of the first two prongs of the Lemon test, the purpose and effect prongs.” Thus Judge Jones did not even assess the third prong of the Lemon test.

Second, ID is not based upon religion, but upon an empirical argument which looks at the types of information produced by intelligent agents and then seeks to test for that information in natural objects. When tests reveal such information is detected, design is inferred. It’s a simple empirically based argument with no theological basis whatsoever.

The moral of this story is: Just because a judge and a bunch of his internet supporters say something, doesn’t mean it is true.

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=683  (An insulting “bumper sticker”!)

This raises a simple question: Why should I or anyone else take seriously anything on this website when its very title is a blatant LIE???

Also, I find it strange that the website’s writers would refer to comments by Jay Wexler, one of their opponents, criticizing some aspect of Judge Jones’ ruling, since that actually  undermines their whole case that anti-ID people think that “Judge Jones Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It”.

Do they really think their readers are that STUPID?! If so, then Intelligent Design as a credible concept really IS doomed!

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8 thoughts on “A fake evolution site!

  1. Pingback: Discovery Institute: Bunch of liars « Matt’s Notepad

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  4. Hi!
    Does this website really qualify as a “fake evolution site”? The Discovery Institute clearly states that it is a site that evaluates news relating to evolution. It’s not as if they were trying to portray themselves as pro-evolution, then underhandedly deceiving their readership.

  5. Hannah, I run an internet forum in Care2 titled Evolution Education.
    http://www.care2.com/c2c/group/evolution_education
    Creationism is frequently discussed there, but I would never
    think of titling my group “Creationism News and Views” for the simple reason that the people running that group are NOT pro-Creationist! I would be lying if I did that, and the Creationist themselves would have every right to call me a liar for that!

    How did I find that site by the Discovery Institute? By entering the words “evolution news” into an internet search engine! IF
    THAT IS NOT AN INDICATION OF FALSE ADVERTISING, WHAT IS?!

  6. I find it interesting that this is exactly the kind of approach the Church of Scientology took against XenuTV (a Scientology critical site):

    http://www.xenutv.com is the original site, but if you accidentally type in (or deduce from hearsay that the address is) http://www.xenu.tv you’ll be forwarded to a scientology site. And we all know what a happy bunch these people are.

  7. Pingback: Another fake “science” website « Dale Husband’s Intellectual Rants

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