Monday, February 21, 2011

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Descent

Alas, poor designer! I knew him, but not in the biblical sense.

Hamlet, prince of Den-blog:
To comment, or not to comment, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of SIWOTI;
Or to make Keystrokes against a Network of troubles,
And by opposing end them
GEM of TKI continues to make inane statements as he rails against a world that has thrown off the shackles of his fifteenth century religious values. Mad prince that I am, eternally lingering in Uncommon Descent's moderation prison for bad sorts, I nevertheless respond:
GEM [you say],
It is time that we expose the evolutionary materialistic, question-begging ideological straight-jacket being imposed on science, and it is time that we exposed the inexcusable, slanderous bigotry of those who are projecting what they know or should know are false accusations of theocratic tyrannical intent.
Who exactly is “we”?

And to this comment [of yours]:
FYI LT, I had to put myself on the line literally to deal with Communists, DOUBLE SHAME ON YOU for making me have to say that explicitly!
What a cheap and cowardly thing for you to write--knowing full well that whatever response I write will be moderated out and never appear here (as an earlier comment of mine seems to have done)--that I have “made” you say anything!

No, sir, I have not “made” you do anything. You are the author of your own behavior.

Don’t blame me because your watchmaker analogies ultimately fail and people generally don’t take them seriously.

Don’t blame me for the “tyrannical” perception that gets attached to religions and sects and groups.

I laid out a case for why your signs post was wrongheaded on several levels. You distort Peirce: that’s a fact. You employ a nuanced but ultimately flawed analogy: that’s a fact. You use biased language to steer the reader to the conclusion you want: that’s a fact. You consider no alternative scenarios or possible objections in your post: that’s a fact.

You say I’m tossing out red herrings, straw men, and ad hominems. Honestly, would you please grow up? Deal with the arguments instead of crying foul all the time. If you want to play basketball with me, you are occasionally going to get fouled. Deal with it and move on, maybe consider whether you want to get out of the game.

One way to deal with it is this: revise your post on signs. In over 20 years of writing and publishing, I can tell you I have learned that every criticism on a piece has value and should lead to a change.

I anticipate you will bring up that time earlier when you got offended, probably rightly, at an indirect Torquemada snipe I had made. Yes, I indeed changed a bit of what I had originally written, although I kept the central snipe [N.B. that snipe itself was but a small part of the larger point being made.] as it was for reasons I explained. I understand you didn’t and don’t like the reasons, but that’s the end of the line. I sought to understand your points, I incorporated that feedback and made the changes I felt best represented the truth.

So, instead of taking cheap shots at me when my voice will never be heard at UD (I’m tempted to dare you to publish this post in a timely manner, if ever), why don’t you revise and improve your signs post. I would really like that. I genuinely think that there’s a contribution to be made by that post of yours–it’s just not fully cooked yet.

I think you make people like me out to be the boogeyman at least as much as you think we do it to you. Perhaps we all can simmer down. I’m asking you to reconsider and revise your signs post because I think it would improve the thing. Take the advice or reject it, no problem to me.

I’m sure you have advice for me and “those of my ilk.” Well, let’s have it.

LT (Monday, 21 Feb 2011, 11:45 am EST)
I'll lay odds my comment never appears--but I have been wrong before on this subject, usually right after I post publicly about it.

But let's return to the central problem, the one that we really ought to examine. GEM says this to another commenter:
Have you a credible explanation of how not only language and algorithms, but also co-ordinated encoding, transmitting and decoding then applying mechanisms originated by chance plus necessity, backed up with empirical observational support?
Yes, we have credible explanation for how language and algorithms, et cetera, originated: evolution. Evolution explains this. Indeed, the PBS science program Nova recently aired a segment in which a chemist showed how life could have evolved from non-life, and life means language and algorithms and everything else GEM is concerned with.
Program Description
Where did the very first living thing on Earth come from? Scientists have long argued that billions of years ago, life emerged on its own--but no one knows exactly how. Now, in a landmark discovery, chemist John Sutherland has created the conditions in which the building blocks of RNA, one of the key molecules of life and the probable precursor to DNA, assemble themselves naturally.
So, GEM, I have a credible explanation that demonstrates how life, language, etc., could have originated. Now it's your turn: please show me the experiment that re-creates what the designer actually did to bring language and algorithms into existence. I trust you will simply answer my request instead of attempting to discredit Professor Sutherland's experiment.

Finally, I can hardly imagine what would divest GEM of his bad analogy:
intelligent beings:communication systems::intelligent designer:cellular communication systems
Perhaps if he sees the analogy in this form, he will begin to come to his senses. I don't doubt that he'll want to tweak what I have above, which is fine.

I truly hope UD gets some bona fide biologists, chemists, and cosmologists on their team. Lawyers, engineers, journalists, philosophers and such won't cut it forever.


  1. Mr "Tanner:

    I have responded to the above here, and draw your attention to the correction of an exaggerated inference.

    In addition, it is plain that you need to learn civility.

    Good day sir

    GEM of TKI

  2. I wonder why GEM thinks I dismiss all analogical reasoning out of hand when really I criticize only his specific analogy?

    My question to GEM is fairly straightforward: do I have the analogy presented correctly or not? If I do, then fine. If not, please correct.

    My quick skim of GEM's reply shows that, as predicted, he dismisses the actual research being conducted on pre-biotic earth. Sutherland's research is of no value to GEM and just leaves all the old gaps and some new ones to boot (hence, gap reasoning).

    Of course, the point is that credible explanations are being developed and tested to strengthen our model of how early earth could have generated the first life forms by itself.

    But GEM does not accept that evolution is the answer (or even, apparently, an answer) to his question. Instead, he makes evolution part of the question, which is fine to do, but the questions need to be separated out.

    Now, does GEM explain how the designer worked? Yes, kind of. If I'm reading his note #10 correctly, his basic pitch is that however we people eventually create new life on our own (outside of sex, of course; let's not talk about that) will be how the designer did it on pre-biotic earth. Viola!

    Holy anthropocentrism, Batman

  3. Hey Larry,

    Your blog is an interesting find.

    I truly hope UD gets some bona fide biologists, chemists, and cosmologists on their team. Lawyers, engineers, journalists, philosophers and such won't cut it forever.

    I truly hope not. Having such people arguing for a bankrupt position, such as the barely disguised form of creationism called I.D., would mean that education is worse than ever, that honesty is no longer valued, and/or that people have lost their abilities to think properly.


    On the topic:

    These creationists will "infer Intelligent Design" from "only intelligence has been observed to create algorithms" or such crap. Yet, if you point them to other, non-intelligent, life-forms that use and produce algorithms, then they are not part of the observation before the inference, they automatically become part of the inferred. Again: they limit their observation of what produces algorithms, codes, et cetera to humans, jump to the cell having algorithms, communication, codes, thus "Intelligent Design." But point them to naturally occurring algorithms being produced and such, for instance, ants optimizing their path towards food through a process of trial and error, or plant phototropism, and, instead of making this part of the "original" observation of the kinds of things that can produce an algorithm, message, code, et cetera, and thus: not necessarily intelligent, oh, no sir, that is the work of The Intelligent Designer too.

    Should this be called the fallacy of methodological / observational convenience? "We have observed that only intelligence produces this!" Well, no, ants ... "Aha! ants prove that there is an Intelligent Designer!"

    It is all about what they want to believe, not about what the evidence might support or not.

  4. Negative Entropy,

    Thanks. You might be right about my comment on UD and "real" scientists. I think it is telling that UD has no significant science following.

    On your second point: Have been following the discussion with two commentators, MathGirl and DrBot, against the "science" people of UD? It's fascinating. MG and DB are making your point in a civil and intellectually robust way, and the ID proponents have been working extremely hard to de-rail the discussion. I think the title of that thread includes the names "Arthur Hunt" and "Michael Behe," if you want to search for it.

  5. Went and took a peek.

    The discussion is derailed. The cdesign proponentsists keep adding stuff to the discussion whenever they don't haver an answer, and they keep trying to get the burden of proof into MathGrrl and Dr Bot. I don't see them making the point I made here. but it might be because there are so many things already going on there.

    Best and thanks for the tip


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