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Necromancy and Alzheimer’s Among Darwin Faithful

posted by David Klinghoffer

That’s my subject at Evolution News & Views, where I take on a response to the Thomas Jefferson/intelligent design connection from University of Chicago biologist Jerry A. Coyne. Read the rest there. Excerpt below:

On his blog, Coyne lashes out at “young-earth creationist” Stephen Meyer. Of course, Steve Meyer is nothing of the sort, as he writes clearly in Signature in the Cell (e.g., see p. 17) and elsewhere, and has even testified under oath. Meyer believes the information in DNA goes back around 3.85 billion years.

It’s like a kind of Alzheimer’s with these guys. I have a Darwinist email correspondent who simply can’t grasp that I’m not a young-earther. He has queried me on this more than once, and each time I respond that I am not. He then goes ahead and forgets that he asked me once before: “Do you really believe that the earth (and the universe) is roughly 6,000 years old?”

In 2005, Coyne wrote a dismissive piece in The New Republic citing Meyer’s controversial essay in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. That’s the one that resulted in the punishment of its editor, evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg, by his supervisors and colleagues at the Smithsonian. Let’s assume that Coyne, as a serious scientist, wouldn’t cite a published article in a peer-reviewed technical journal without reading it. In the article, Meyer makes clear his view that life is very old. The article is about the Cambrian explosion, for goodness sake, that happened 530 millions years ago.

Yet now Coyne has forgotten all about that and asks incredulously of Meyer: “Is a 6,000-year-old Earth also an ‘inference from geological data’?” In an appended correction and apology, Dr. Coyne explains that he became confused and thought Steve Meyer was someone else — someone totally different with a different name and different beliefs. I know, it’s so painful when that happens.

In a more general way, Coyne becomes confused about what Meyer was even saying in a brief, simple, and clearly written [Boston Globe] op-ed [on Thomas Jefferson’s pro-intelligent design views]. He calls it an “argument from authority,” as if Steve were trying to somehow bolster the scientific case for modern ID from the authority of Jefferson. That would indeed be absurd, but the real point was a historical and philosophical one. Jefferson believed that nature is designed. He believed this based on reason and observation, not Scripture. He was not a Christian. In fact, he didn’t care for Christianity much at all. Yet he did believe in “Nature’s God,” that this God, accessible to all through the evidence of nature, endowed us with “certain unalienable rights.”

So whether Jefferson was right or wrong in his science, we can trace our own liberty back to his ideas, which are branches from an intellectual tree that is today called “intelligent design,” but that goes back much further than that phrase does. You could trace it to Plato and Aristotle, as you could trace Darwinism to Epicurus. Meyer’s message was: If you like the Declaration of Independence, thank intelligent design. Under the influence of Darwinism, such a noble document could not be written. Other kinds of meritorious writing could be produced — say, the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft — but not the Declaration of Independence.



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What's Good for the Goose

posted July 16, 2009 at 8:54 pm


David: They know. They haven’t forgotten. They just don’t care. They consider being a “young earth creationist” a vile pejorative, and in their immaturity, they apply the term against anyone who disagrees with their dogma. So you could scream it in their ears, write it on their eyelids, write it over and over again in a 300-page book, play it over and over again in a looping audio tape during their sleep, and they would still pretend not to know.
It’s a way of not having to actually deal with empirical argument.
And all reasonable persons know it.



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Turmarion

posted July 16, 2009 at 10:56 pm


I know you’re not a young-Earther, David, but I quote you from your last post, with emphasis added: “On the other hand, that life has an evolutionary history including billions of years of change — that is unassailable as science and unobjectionable to me as a Jew.” I asked you then how in the world that is different in any way from theistic evolution. I notice you didn’t answer. So, what about it?
Jefferson believed that nature is designed.
What you seem unwilling or unable to get through your head is that theistic evolution believes that, too. We disagree as to means, and theistic evolution follows the actual evidence. Did you ever read what I wrote about how God works through “randomness”?
we can trace our own liberty back to [Jefferson’s] ideas
Which is completely irrelevant to the science involved in biology and evolution.
which are branches from an intellectual tree that is today called “intelligent design,” but that goes back much further than that phrase does. You could trace it to Plato and Aristotle….
One, to call that “intellectual tree” ID is not accurate. Two, whether Plato believed in what we would call “creation” or “design” is debatable. In his “myth of the demiurge” he seems to imply that a being lower than God created the cosmos out of pre-existing matter, and did the best he could, which was limited. Of course, to secular audiences, IDers claim that the Demiurge, or alien fish-men from Sirius could be the “Designer”, but we all know they don’t mean that. Finally, Aristotle believed the cosmos was eternal and undesigned as we think of it. Remember a couple posts ago when you were misquoting Maimonides against Aristotle? And when are you going to get back on that, BTW?
What’s Good for the Goose: They consider being a “young earth creationist” a vile pejorative….
Since young-Earth creationism (to which, to his credit, David does not subscribe), like belief in a flat Earth or geocentric cosmos, indicates ignorance, stupidity, or a refusal to see reality based on ideology or religion, it is and should be a “vile pejorative”.



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Anderson

posted July 17, 2009 at 9:46 am


I will confess that I, and many of my fellow theistic evolutionists, have been guilty of unfairly conflating young earth creationism and intelligent design as a means of dismissing the latter. Apologies.
That said, it bothers me that you continue to refer pejoratively to those who subscribe to evolution as Darwinists.



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Turmarion

posted July 17, 2009 at 11:12 am


Anderson: Good point and I agree. However, as I’ve pointed out before, at least a young-Earther is logically consistent, if highly mistaken. On the other hand, I don’t understand David saying “life has an evolutionary history including billions of years of change — that is unassailable as science and unobjectionable to me as a Jew,” and then going on about the evils of “Darwinism” (which, as you rightly point out, should not be used–not only is it intended pejoratively, but it’s not even accurate). Ditto Michael Behe, who admits the multi-billion-year-old cosmos and evolution as well, but who argues that certain parts of life’s descent were done directly by God. The inconsistency borders on what Orwell called “doublethink”, believing two contradictory things at the same time.



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Todd White

posted July 17, 2009 at 12:26 pm


David:
Take a look at this photo:
http://mustardseednovel.blogspot.com/2009/07/picture-of-day.html
It’s all the evidence you need.



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Olorin

posted July 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm


DK: “It’s like a kind of Alzheimer’s with these guys.”
Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? You make the same tired claims over and over again, merely ignoring the evidence we present for evolution. We give you books and we give you books, and still you eat the covers.



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Olorin

posted July 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm


DK: “It’s like a kind of Alzheimer’s with these guys.”
Talk about Alzheimer’s! David forgets what he says from one sentence to the next.
DK: “He calls it an ‘argument from authority,’ as if Steve were trying to somehow bolster the scientific case for modern ID from the authority of Jefferson. That would indeed be absurd….”
David admits that arguments from authority are inappropriate in science.
DK: “Jefferson believed that nature is designed. He believed this based on reason and observation, not Scripture.:
An argument from authority. We should believe in design because Jefferson based his belief on non-scriptural sources.



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Ted Herrlich

posted July 17, 2009 at 2:57 pm


David, you are starting to sound more like Casey Luskin — which is not a good thing.
How in the world did you arrive at this conclusion: “Under the influence of Darwinism, such a noble document could not be written”.
Typical unsupported and unsupportable conclusion by another member of the Discovery Institute less-than-stellar group of pseudo-scientists.
By the way, since the document in question was written well before the Theory of Evolution . . . I think it is safe to say that the notable document was in fact written without the influence of the pejorative ‘Darwinism’. Science doesn’t cause Atheism or even athlete’s foot — but you seem to miss that memo.
I do enjoy how you point to Plato and Aristotle in your ‘claim’ that Intelligent Design has been around a while — yet wasn’t it one of your compatriots, Steve Fuller, who testified that Intelligent Design, as a ‘science’ — a position I still disagree with — is very young. I believe he stated that as another excuse why there are no peer-reviewed literature supporting it. So when you claim Thomas Jefferson is a proponent of Intelligent Design, and then use his authority to support the modern Intelligent Design Movement, you are in fact not being completely open and honest?
It’s OK, I confuse both of you (You and Meyer) with YEC’s, Flat-Earthers, Moon-Landing Conspiracists, Climate Change opponents and Fundamentalist religionists of varying sorts. It’s easy to see the similarities, the differences only seem to be one of degree not substance.



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Glen Davidson

posted July 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm


He calls it an “argument from authority,” as if Steve were trying to somehow bolster the scientific case for modern ID from the authority of Jefferson. That would indeed be absurd, but the real point was a historical and philosophical one

The “point” was a mish-mash of confused ideas, faulty claims, and absurd reasoning.
Indeed it was absurd for Meyer (as it was for Klinghoffer) to use any argument from authority, let alone an “authority” who died before there was a truly scientific theory of evolution. Meyer committed exactly that absurd feat:

Design is an inference from biological data, not a deduction from religious authority. Jefferson said just that, and based his political thinking on it. The evidence for what he presciently called “Nature’s God’’ is stronger than ever.

There Jefferson clearly is presented as correctly inferring ID from biological data (an idiotic notion, except in the broadest sense), and not from religious authority, and that he was right. The highly dishonest claim that he based his political beliefs on it (which beliefs, with notable exceptions, most of us would agree) is clearly an appeal to authority above and beyond the rest of the appeal to authority.
Of course there is no evidence for ID at all, which is why Meyer had to pretend that evolution is held to mimic design, when it does nothing of the sort, nor does anyone knowledgeable say that it does (including Dawkins, who, in my view, tilts entirely too far in that direction). Meyer’s whole book is based upon that colossal and ongoing IDist lie.
Apparently Meyer is as bad a historian as he is a scientist, because Jefferson based his views upon Locke and the philosophes, among the numerous influences on his political beliefs. I’d be hard put to think of a single claim or view of Jefferson’s that actually rested upon “design,” as it was a lot like evolution is today, largely accepted as the explanation for things in “nature,” with little or no relevance to politics (save where anti-science forces try to make gov’t support their theological views).

Under the influence of Darwinism, such a noble document could not be written. Other kinds of meritorious writing could be produced — say, the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft — but not the Declaration of Independence.

In an extremely trivial sense, this is probably so. As in, Jefferson would not have claimed that our rights are endowed by the “Creator,” but would have had to appeal to “nature” or some other “source.” Other than that I can’t think of anything that would necessarily be different about the Declaration.
And there is no excuse for rubbishing Coyne for a minor lapse of memory, as he has a lot more to think about than some rot written by Meyer four years ago. He does science, unlike DI fellows, who have nothing to do but malign honest folk and write dissimulating apologetics. When corrected, Coyne quickly and graciously noted that he was wrong at the end of his article.
When you’re corrected for obvious lapses, David, you typically either repeat them, or compound them.
Glen Davidson
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p



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Ray Ingles

posted July 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm


Even Answers In Genesis talks about the Cambrian Explosion. They don’t think it happened that far back, but they think it happened and it’s evidence for creation. Believing in the Cambrian Explosion is hardly evidence that someone isn’t a young-Earther.



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David Klinghoffer

posted July 17, 2009 at 5:49 pm


Ray, I would think that discussing the Cambrian explosion as an event *that happened 530 million years ago*, as Meyer does in many places, would be pretty solid evidence of not being a young earther.



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Turmarion

posted July 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm


So, David, how come you can answer a relatively trivial question such as Ray’s (I’m not saying that Ray is being trivial, only that defining a young-earther is ancillary to the main discussion, or lack thereof, here), but you still won’t speak to the issues that Glen, Gabriel, and I keep asking you about, let along the quite reasonable question in my first post on this thread?



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Gabriel Hanna

posted July 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm


So, David, how come you can answer a relatively trivial question such as Ray’s (I’m not saying that Ray is being trivial, only that defining a young-earther is ancillary to the main discussion, or lack thereof, here), but you still won’t speak to the issues that Glen, Gabriel, and I keep asking you about, let along the quite reasonable question in my first post on this thread?
Because David is not interested in debate. He is interested only in lying about science and history to people who don’t know much about them. That way he can get the government on his side, and they can force his religious views to be taught as science. See also “Wedge document”.



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