Discussion of Big Science Today, by an Important Member of the National Association of Scholars

I’d say that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is quite frequently misunderstood. Especially by Creationists.


Hence the relentless diversion with tone trolling.

Yes. But what’s puzzling about that is that it’s hard to imagine anyone to whom the tone-trolling is not a transparent concession of the issue. Anyone knows that if the statement is “X is a liar,” the best answer is that what X has said is perfectly true. If you find yourself saying, “oh, crap; what X said is false,” you go to the level-two answer: “there is no reason to believe that X made this false statement knowingly, and so the accusation that X is a liar is wrong.” If you find yourself saying, “oh, crap; there’s really no possibility that X believed that,” you go to the level-three answer: “how unreasonable of you to point it out when other people lie! How unkind! How polemical!”

I notice that cdesign proponentsists need to do that level-3 response quite a lot. I wonder why.


Just to circle back to @Eddie’s choice of title…

Eddie, by what criterion or criteria did you determine that J. Scott Turner is important? Or is every member important by your definition?

I described three theoretical positions: creationism, scientific creationism, and intelligent design. You have chosen to describe a fourth position, with a name which, as far as I know, is not the name used by any existing group. Your description of this non-existing position may be accurate, in the sense that a description of a griffin or chimera or minotaur may be accurate, but since it pertains to a creation of the imagination, it’s not relevant to the descriptions I gave.

However, your description contains an interesting group of words:

Is the “and therefore” part merely something that the imaginary people involved think, or is it also something that you think? That is, do you agree with the inference that if God’s intervention was necessary for human beings to exist, “the theory of evolution” is incorrect?

And Kim Jong-un does not refer to himself as a dictator. However, we are still justified in saying he is one. No?

I wish the likes of Behe, Meyer, Dembski, Denton and the rest of the anti-science charlatans of the DI were imaginary creatures. But, sadly, that is not the case.

You disagree with my use of the word “creationism”, even though this use is common in the academic and non-academic literature. OK, but that is a separate issue from that of whether my description of the ID movement is accurate. You’d be hard pressed to find any one who is well-informed of, but not affiliated with or strongly sympathetic to, the movement who would disagree with my description.

I am describing what the evidence suggests actual ID Creationists actually think.

If we knew that so-called “supernatural” processes occurred, then that would raise questions over whether scientific theories that do not take these processes into account ought to be considered correct when they describe events that are sometimes influenced by these “supernatural” processes. For instance, if Behe was correct in his belief that evolution mostly occurs as described in the textbooks, but Jesus steps in every so often to deliberately cause certain groups of mutations to happen, should the theory of evolution be modified to take Jesus actions into account? Not really a question worth thinking about too much until there is reason to believe supernatural things occur.

And that, of course, is why these arguments that we should radically narrow the meaning of “creationism” are rather pointless. I always have the feeling that it’s like a pedophile who is caught in the act and is being tried for his crimes showing up and insisting that he is NOT a pedophile, if we simply adopt his unreasonably narrow definition of the term “pedophile.” He supposes that, the term “pedophile” being one of reproach, that getting rid of the term will diminish the distaste people have for him; but he forgets that the opprobium attaches to him for what he does, not for the particular word-choice which is applied to it.

If ID were not creationism, we’d need a new word: one which encompasses “creationism” in this new, overly narrow sense, but which also includes such things as YECs who need hyperspeed evolution in order for their theory to work, IDCs who hide their religious motives in order for their non-theory to be treated as though it has scientific validity, creationists of the ancient world and of other faiths, et cetera. Nobody would ever have much reason, after this new word were coined, to use the word “creationism” any longer as it would now refer to a really absurdly narrow class of beliefs. That being the case, I think we are better off sticking with current modern usage and letting those who’d like to narrow the definition come up with THEIR own word for this new class.


If he matches an independently arrived at notion of “dictator”, we are justified in calling him a dictator whether he calls himself a dictator or not. And since you seem to have trouble grasping the notion of “independently arrived at”, I will provide an example.

Suppose that someone in the Republican Party calls Democrats “communists”, and suppose someone objects to that, saying that the policies of the Democratic Party do not match the policies of classical communism (as articulated by people such as Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, etc.) The objection would be that an independently arrived at notion of “communism” does not sustain the judgment that Democrats are communists. But suppose the Republican says, “No, the Democrats are communists, because they believe X”, and “X”, on inspection, turns out to be a list of current Democratic policies. In such a case, the Republican has “proved” that the Democrats are communist only by redefining communism to match current Democratic policies. He hasn’t employed an independently arrived at definition.

And further, suppose someone named Aizal Fali jumps in and says, “No, the Republican hasn’t artificially redefined communism; I have found a dozen places in academic literature where ‘communism’ is used in that way,” and then he cites the writings of a dozen well-known extreme right-wing academics for whom even very slightly progressive income tax rates and even compulsory bottle deposits constitute “communism”. Would we say that such a definition of “communism” is a normal part of the language, or would we say that the right-wing academics are misusing the term?

Make the appropriate parallels, and you’ll see the flaw in the way you’re arguing.

I arrived at my definition of “creationism” independently. It was the notion of creationism I have had since I was very young, and understood long before modern intelligent design ever existed. In fact, if truth be told, people like Coyne, Forrest, Scott, etc. would have entirely agreed with my definition of creationism if you had asked them back in, say, 1988, what was the essence of creationism. They’d have said: “denial of evolution, appeal to Genesis.” But when ID came along, they expanded the definition of creationism so that they could brand every ID proponent with the label. They abandoned the independently arrived at definition that they had previously used, and created a new definition. Without a new definition, they could not have included Behe, Denton, Sternberg and many others as “ID creationists”. And they wanted to include not only the actual creationists within the ID camp, but everyone in the ID camp, because they perceived everyone in that camp as their political enemy, whether they were actually creationists or not. “Creationist” thus came to mean “actual creationists, plus anyone who hangs around with creationists, even if he explicitly disagrees with major tenets of creationism.”

Other people here have already granted my point. John Harshman, for example, has said, OK, Behe and Denton and a few others in ID aren’t creationists, but most IDers are." And I’ve agreed with him. But you aren’t flexible enough even for that tiny concession. This shows that your motivation is political. And in fact you have at least once admitted – you are better at finding old comments than I am, so I am sure you can find it quickly – that your arguments about vocabulary are tactical, i.e., that you don’t want to concede things which, even though they might be technically correct for a small number of ID proponents, could be used to the political advantage of ID. The difference between us in our approach is thus the difference between the philosopher (me, just to make sure you are following) and the ideologue, or the scholar (me) and the culture warrior. I think we should be absolutely scrupulous to state only the exact truth, regardless of whether that exact truth might be used against my side politically, whereas you think that “all’s fair in love and culture war.”

I was not offering any definition of the ID movement. I was offering a definition of ID as a theoretical position about nature. And no matter how many times I make that distinction, you ignore it. Which again indicates a political motivation. You want to undermine a theoretical position by talking about the social/political activities of some (not all) of its members; this is in logic called argumentum ad hominem and is universally agreed to be an invalid form of argument.

I have never done so. I have presented the standard meaning of creationism, which everyone understood from early in the 20th century all the way to the time ID came on the scene, and which is therefore the logical meaning to employ if one is asking the question, “This new idea, ID, is it creationism?”

I’ll ask you the same question I asked someone else (who ducked the question): How would you decide whether or not the political position of Ayn Rand is “fascist”? What steps would you take, if you were asked to make that determination?

Rubbish. It would still adequately capture the beliefs of probably nearly a hundred million Americans who subscribe to YEC and more tens of millions who subscribe to OEC. It would remain the same serviceable label it always was.

But it isn’t the “current modern usage” of the term except among a very small group of diehard culture warriors who congregate in places like this, Panda’s Thumb, Skeptical Zone, the NCSE, Wikipedia etc. Most people on the street, people who don’t eat and sleep origins debates 24/7, still understand “creationism” to mean: “evolution didn’t happen, Genesis read literally gives us the true account of origins.”

Your parallel with pedophilia was tasteless, by the way. And unnecessarily provocative. I await the intervention of @Paul_King, our Holder of the Moral High Ground, who will surely chastise you for a dialogical foul, if he is really as opposed to “unnecessarily raising the temperature” of these discussions as he makes out.

I’d be surprised if I actually have said that. But what I would say about the handful of crackpots who apparently are not religious but somehow swing to ID is that these tiny exceptions do not really affect what the phenomenon itself is. Holocaust denial is a form of anti-semitism, but I am sure that somewhere there’s a Jewish Holocaust denialist to whom others point every time the point that Holocaust denial is anti-semitic is made. It really doesn’t change the truth of the matter that there are a tiny handful of oddballs. There would be no such thing as ID without creationism as its founding cause and central feature.

I think you’re simply wrong there. It is true that there are many people who are unfamiliar with IDC and therefore haven’t had occasion to consider whether this type of creationism is so different from other types of creationism that it shouldn’t be called creationism at all. But I should not think the usage of people who aren’t very familiar with the discussion should be deemed controlling, especially where the effect is to aid the IDC crowd’s campaign of deception.

I’ve never been asked to apologize to pedophiles before. That’s a new one.


I don’t think that’s terribly analogous, or that any answer would be helpful. There is, however, a Monty Python sketch which is analogous and helpful.

When Mr. Hilter has relocated to Minehead and is running to represent Minehead in Parliament, he knows that his agenda will remind people of bad things and that this will lead to a bad outcome in the election. Accordingly, he recasts things. Instead of National Socialism, he calls it “Bational Bocialism.” Instead of concentration camps, he advocates the creation of “Boncentration Bamps.”

Now, is Mr. Hilter a National Socialist? Is his proposal effectively one for concentration camps? This is precisely the situation with ID: recycle a raftload of ancient creationist arguments, dress them up a little and avoid suggesting that they have anything to do with their obvious historical precursors. In such a case, the answer is clear enough.


And the DI has graciously provided conclusive evidence of ID having everything to do with creationism:

cdesign proponentsists

As Eddie will point out, the DI did not publish that book. Instead, it provided a boatload of expert witnesses to defend to the utmost the right to foist it on children, most of whom then backed out, in a most cowardly fashion, before the trial. And then it absorbed what remained of the publisher of that book, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics. So the DI is no closer to that book than is, say, the publisher of that book which is now a part of the DI. Hardly any relation at all, under the mathematics of inverse homeopathy.


That is what I have used. It is too bad you wasted so much time trying to explain in excruciating detail a simple concept that I already understood well.

Not quite. I am criticizing a movement that claims to be producing scientific arguments and research that demonstrate “design” in biology by pointing out that their scientific claims are false and made in bad faith. IOW, I am evaluating them according to the standards by which the ask to be evaluated, and find them severely wanting.

I notice you have taken no issue with whether my description of the movement was accurate.

To be clear: If someone wants to make a case for design by, for instance, arguing that the fine tuning of the universe is best explained by a designer, I see nothing dishonest about this though I might not agree with the argument, so long as the “fine tuning” is itself an accurate representation of the scientific evidence.

That is not the case with any of the arguments that have originated with the ID movement. Not a single one of them.

You ignore the fact that it has already been demonstrated that you have not done so. Your argument requires that you disregard definitions offered by such dyed in wool creationists like Henry Morris.

So, sorry, any definition based on such sloppy and selective research is worthless.


As everyone should, because it’s bogus. You’re trying to wrap a pathological avoidance of science in a sciency-sounding wrapper.

I didn’t say you did. That part of my reply was to Faizal Ali, as the quoted blocks indicate.

But that’s not Faizal’s position. Faizal’s position is that they are all creationists. If he said what you just said, and what John Harshman has said, I would not have opposed it. I’ve said repeatedly that I’m talking about a set of ideas about nature, not a social phenomenon. The philosopher, the historian of ideas, the scientist interested in foundational metaphysical and epistemological questions, and more generally, the thinker, will be interested in what ID proponents assert about nature; the sociologist, the political scientist, the journalist, and the scientist doubling as culture warrior will be interested in the social behavior of ID proponents when they act as a collective.

Yes and no. The particular social form is undoubtedly shaped by creationist involvement. But the core ideas long predate modern creationism, being found in Alfred Russel Wallace, in the Bridgewater Treatises, in Paley, in Calvin, in medieval and Patristic writers, and in Greek and Roman writers. And modern scientists, including atheists like Fred Hoyle, have set forth parallel ideas. I got involved because of these things, not because of creationism.

So language does not belong to the people, but to a self-appointed elite?

Come on, Mr. Glib – you know that wasn’t my point. My point was that in your analogy, pedophiles were parallel to ID proponents. That’s what was tasteless.

Well, they may be. I think that it’s very hard to puzzle some of them out. Certainly it’s very hard to imagine them having any other explanation for their views.

No, I got your point: that it is insulting to pedophiles to draw such a parallel. But I apologize neither to people who attempt to cause harm to children and have no moral standard that would prevent them from continuing to cause harm to children, nor to pedophiles.

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No, you haven’t. And you couldn’t possibly think you had, if, as you say, you understood “independently arrived at” well. Apparently the crystal-clear parallel between my fictional scenario and your own line of argument did not get through.

Whether or not they are false is entirely irrelevant to what we are discussing. We are discussing the meaning of a word.

If you were merely criticizing their scientific proposals, we would not be having this discussion. But you’re calling all of them creationists, when some of them aren’t, and that’s why you’ve been challenged. I don’t claim to be an expert in science, but I am an expert in theology, in particular the theology/science area, including the subjects of creation, nature, creationism, and Genesis exegesis, and I’m reasonably competent in philology as well, having studied several ancient and modern languages, and having taught three of them. So I recognize when faulty principles of philology are being employed in my area of academic study. And I recognize when they are being employed in the service of a political agenda.

And you’ve not commented on whether my description of my automobile was accurate. In both cases, it’s irrelevant. I was never discussing any “movement”, and I announced that years ago on this site. I was discussing ID as an approach to the study of nature.

I didn’t disregard it. It was a definition of “scientific creationism”, not simple creationism, so it wasn’t directly relevant to my claim. And even taking it into account, it’s still different from ID, as I showed at length in my posts above (to you and others), most of the arguments of which you have simply ignored.

You couldn’t make that judgment without having read all of ID literature, and we both know you haven’t read even a small fraction of it. In any case, you specifically mentioned fine-tuning arguments as potentially legitimate, and Denton has six books on that subject, none of which you have read. Get back to me when you have.

Only if you haven’t read them. Tell me how you get “creationism” out of Nature’s Destiny. He appeals to the truth of Genesis on which pages? He denies evolution on which pages? Or is that one of the ones you haven’t read?

Mr. Glib again. I know that such answers would be considered witty at lawyers’ cocktail parties or “business lunches” over five or six beers. They nonetheless remain vulgar and tasteless. But then, given that the anti-ID movement from the start has featured such paragons of good taste as P. Z. Myers and the posters “John” and “melanogaster” on BioLogos, why should I expect anything different?

They don’t have any scientific proposals to criticize. It’s all armchair criticism of people who do science (some from people who have quit doing science, others who never have), in a bizarro inversion of the Mencken aphorism loved by right-wingers.

There you go again with the phony framing. You’re the anti-science critics, remember?

To be precise: You are attempting to discuss a “set of ideas” that purport to be scientific hypotheses or theories while ignoring whether those ideas actually meet the standard by which scientific hypotheses and theories are usually discussed and defended.

The irony here is that you insist on a rigorous and precise definition of “creationism” while showing no interest in whether the ideas of the ID movement meet the definition of science vs pseudoscience. It is not possible to have a meaningful discussion of ID without addressing that question. It is, however, quite easy to act as an ID propagandist without addressing it.

How interesting, then that you so fervently and consistently avoid discussing the specific of the scientific claims made by ID proponents. I, OTOH, discuss this regularly. Exactly how is that shying away from discussing what they “assert about nature”?

Ah, I see. So the question of whether the claims of the purportedly scientific movement called ID have any scientific validity whatsoever is irrelevant to what you think we are discussing. Well, thanks for making it clear that you have no idea what I am discussing.

Yes, and I have justified my use of that term.

Hee hee. So now Scientific Creationism is not creationism, because it isn’t “simple creationism”, but Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism are creationism because… Reasons, I guess. Who knows?

So could you perhaps cite for us this very good and solid and totally legitimate scientific claim that the ID Movement has come up with and which has somehow not only escaped my notice but that of the entire scientific community? TIA.

Since you have been bragging about your close reading skills, I will simply quote my statement to which you were referring, and you should be able to figure out your error from there. I’ll even bold some of the words to help you out.

TBH, this argument between the two of us has gone on far too long and is increasingly pointless. It is the equivalent of arguing with someone who believes the earth is a flat square and all he wants to talk about is that we should not call him a “flat earther” because those guys all believe the earth is a flat circle. Regardless of whether that is true, is has nothing to do with whether his belief that the earth is a flat square can be scientifically supported.

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