Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Um... you do see the irony, right?

Regular readers of the blog know that I keep an eye on Uncommon Descent, the blog of "Wild Bill" Dembski. Okay, that's something of a fallacy- the blog is organized by Dembski but, by and large, it's manned by Dembski's cronies. To quote the venerable Ben "Obi Wan" Kenobi, "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." In any case, Uncommon Descent is the hangout for proponents of Intelligent Design creationism, an approach to biology that takes the argument from ignorance to new and more grandiose levels of stupidity.

In any case, keeping an eye on the IDers over there is an interesting intellectual exercise for me. On the one hand, I enjoy following the writing of those I disagree with- if nothing else, it keeps my brain limber. On the other hand, even my admittedly gymnastic mind isn't really the equal* of those cerebral contortionists and their god-of-the-gaps argument. Fortunately for me, however, they occasionally drop the evasive reasoning and just go for out and out hypocrisy.

Recently Paul Nelson wrote a post consisting of the following:

Whacha gonna do with all that junk…

…such as, for instance, those LINE elements?

Wired magazine weighs in with an article about the shifting fortunes of so-called “junk DNA.” Anyone following the ongoing discovery of functional roles for DNA once assumed to be evolutionary rubbish should agree that this is the very worst heuristic for biology:

I don’t know what X does; therefore, X probably does nothing.


Ha! Quite the zinger Paul! What an example of stupid reasoning, "I don't know what X does; therefore, X probably does nothing." Leaving aside the fact that scientists never asserted that any such thing was definitively true** there's the small issue that you're an ID supporter- and ID uses reasoning that goes something exactly like this:

"I don't know how X could have occurred naturally; therefore, X must have been produced by god!"***

Indeed, quite the unassailable logical edifice y'all have constructed there. Hell, your own adherents even realize this:

"I don’t know what it does therefore it must be vestigal” world view is far more deletirious to the mission of science than “The specified complexity is impossible to evolve by random chance, therefore, it must be designed” world view could ever be.

And thus decide to choose between two logical fallacies by deciding which one is less personally annoying. Nice.

I don't really have a deeper point here aside from just observing out that if the irony gets any thicker I'll need a diamond-toothed chainsaw to cut my way through.

UPDATE: Steve Reuland over on the Panda's Thumb has also posted some commentary on this issue. It's much more intelligent than my own and you should go take a look!

* I am, at best, using "equal" in an ironic sense here. I know Dembski is probably a smart guy but, really, his assertions about probability make me want to scream. Why must the bad man keep hurting Drek's brain with absurd arguments?

** The scientific perspective is that we should expect some DNA to be genuine junk but, really, there's never been consensus that it was ALL without function.

*** I am well aware that the IDers would claim that their "designer" is not necessarily god. I just regard that claim as entirely disingenuous.

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Blogger Tom Bozzo said...

A nice companion piece is this TNR article posted chez Richard Dawkins. This notes a snow-job mode of discourse of Behe's that I think Dembski also makes plenty of use of.

In this belief, I am influenced by my blog's one-time conservatarian troll, who happened (improbably!) to be an atheistic biochemistry PhD student (since graduated) whose thesis had an implications that showed why Dembski's probabilistic arguments against evolution are wrong. I only heard the summary for the social science audience, but it boiled down to what Dembski characterizes as very improbable 'specified' events being many orders of magnitude less improbable than Dembski would have one believe.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:13:00 PM  

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