Intelligent Design / Creationism Propaganda

“Expelled” is a movie in the pipeline (due for release in April at the last count) that purports not so much to “debunk” evolution (or Darwinism as they refer to it, like any good Victorian might) in favour of ID / Creationism, but to claim a mass institutional conspiracy preventing debate on alternatives, not just to evolution, but to fundamentals of science generally. It’ll be lizards in the board-rooms next.

Thanks to P Z Myers at Pharyngula for the link to Roger Moore’s piece, on previewing the film, under conditions where the makers intended it to be seen only by supporters. (The review piece includes a YouTube link to the film’s trailer.)

[Post Note – I notice these guys are paying serious attention to publicity – they get top billing in the sponsored Google side-bar, when any evolution / origins keywords are on the page.]

The film is such an obvious piece of conspiracy theory propaganda, that it is very easy for the reviewer (and the commenters) to rubbish it, on so many levels beyond the content itself. It is a good review, and as an atheist I side with the scientific view, but as you know my agenda is to temper the “hyper-rationalism” of science as a “culture” to knee-jerk its response in dogmatic certainty in the name of science.

Intellectual honesty demands that science recognise the limits to what can be known scientifically, at its own boundaries and it’s own foundations in epistemology and the philosophy of science, however much it screams the empirical evidence mantra, back at faith-based believers. I made my comment on the original post.

You probably know my view on conspiracy theories generally – most are in the minds of the beholder – but you could be forgiven for seeing the scientific response as just the kind of conspiracy that Expelled claims to be exposing.

Reminds me of so many threads on Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” Blog, where the assembled masses end up baying for blood like any neurotic lynch mob. Again,  a good blog exposing good valid stories, but if science doesn’t wake up it will find it has shot itself in the foot whilst it nodded off.

It’s also exactly the kind of thing that happened within “Friends of Wisdom” – a forum of those in science and education looking to promote the philosophy of science ideas of Nick Maxwell – when any member openly suggested doubts or value-based philosophical extensions to the basic empiricism of science, the poor dears were run out of town (despite the fact those ideas are explicit in Nick’s work.)

Methinks science doth protest too much. Something I said about Dawkins, long before the recent upturn in science vs god debates.

[Post Note – I see in the very brief “Expelled” ads being broadcast on Fox TV (~12th April ?) – the language is “evolution” rather than the pretense at the “Darwinism” target, and apart from a worried looking shot of Dawkins, the memorable line, in response to a crusty, dusty old “evolution” lecturer the question asked is “Yes, but how did life originate.” – as if somehow that was some killer question. Doh ! The disgusting rhetoric continues. This one may run and run.]

22 thoughts on “Intelligent Design / Creationism Propaganda”

  1. Hi Ian,

    While agreeing with your take on the movie, I still have to object to those who see ID as debunking “evolution”. There is a reason to say ‘Darwinism’, rather than ‘evolution’ (though I think that too is insufficiently precise –more below). Might I suggest that what ID attempts (and fails) to debunk is ‘ME-evolution’, that is, the claim that biological evolution can be accounted for strictly through material and efficient causation, while ID is an example of ‘MET-evolution’, that is, that teleology is also required to explain the facts of evolution. (Pirsig is another MET-evolutionist, though obviously rejecting the notion of an Intelligent Designer). Both theories are metaphysical, not scientific, so to that extent, ID proponents are wrong — they make untestable assumptions to back up their calculations of probabilities. Hence, I could see defining ‘Darwinism’ as the current scientifically acceptable account of the material and efficient causes of evolution (as opposed, say, to Lamarckism) — but if one includes under ‘Darwinism’ the belief that teleology is not needed, then it too has to be considered metaphysical.

  2. Hi Scott, I’d agree with your take on ID, as that attempt to open up evolutionary metaphors beyond the “ME” tunnel vision – the materialist / physicalist / GOF rational / objective – it is my agenda here in fact. But explaining the “intelligence” as a purposeful causal entity (the MET story) is not a good enough explanation.

    Here the talk was about “ID” as a cynical campaign re-branding creationism to fight … science. Devalues potential debate about any merits of considering ID (which I have done in earlier threads).

    Evolution has evolved since Darwin, neo-Darwinism, incorporating Lamarkian mechanisms, pre-natal bio-chemistry, co-evolution, and more, where supported by evidence etc … as you know … (My current preferred metaphor here is Alan Rayner’s “Natural Inclusion”.)

    For me the core issue (the metaphysical one) is the appearance of teleology or design – and explanations of that. Neither blind-faith nor science has satisfactory answers to that (yet) and science is in danger of missing the real argument (whilst all the fighting is going on).

    The causation and teleology mysteries are the debate in many of the “anthropic” threads here too.

  3. I found amusing your comments about the inner turmoil within “Friends of Wisdom”. I suppose many of its members joined up because they felt strongly about the need for wisdom in a world full of pressing and complex issues. Apparently they missed Maxwell’s real agenda.

    Which raises a good question. Why abuse a perfectly respectable word like wisdom when it attracts the wrong kind of membership? “Friends of Enough Science Already” is not as catchy, but it might have caused fewer misunderstandings.

  4. Amusing is good Glenn.

    Not sure the word Wisdom is abused by Nick’s agenda. What do you think Nick’s “real” agenda is ?

    I think you answer your own point …. when issues are complex, like Wisdom, or dare I say Quality, people bring a lot of baggage to their starting point in any agenda. It requires a lot of conversation before people can relate to the many different agendas they might each really have. There is no substitute for that conversation though – more than dialectical debate.

    Anyway, if you are suggesting that the people who turned away from Nick’s agenda were those on the “enough science already” side of the debate, you really could not be further from the truth. He’s left almost entirely with mainstream science and philosophy of science people. The more “touchy-feely” were turned away by the dominance of the objectivists in the debates, not by the subject matter. There is no “wrong kind” of membership – just insufficient and insufficient variety. Ecodiversity.

  5. No, of course I’m not suggesting that. I understood you the first time. What’s funny is that the call for Wisdom was answered by the objectivists, the very people Maxwell wished not to attract!

  6. Well that’s just not the case Glenn.

    Nick’s Wisdom agenda is written up in books over 30 years. His call to action attracted all sorts, who already read him and corresponded with him – a very interesting group of people – from science, from philosophy of science, from philosophy and from humanities.

    It was the style of debate – logical positivist dialectic – on the forum that killed-off the variety. Most of those people would say they saw and agreed with Nick’s thesis, but for too many their actions totally ignored it. Please keep up.

    I was living in hope that your phrasing ” …felt strongly about the need for wisdom in a world full of pressing and complex issues. Apparently they missed Maxwell’s real agenda.” was not just your usual pejorative sarcasm suggesting the Nick’s agenda was not aimed at solving complex world issues with wisdom. That’s probably defamatory. You might want to apologize, if you had any intellectual honesty.

    You seem to think laughing at people is funny or clever, you even referred to being amusing, so I assumed it was amusing.

    OK smart-ass. in your own words, do something constructive.

    Tell me what wisdom is, Tell me what science is, and give me a sentence including both concepts that expresses their difference / similarity / relationship.

    Or do you think science is wisdom ?

  7. I didn’t mean it to come out that way. What I meant to say was, “Apparently they missed Maxwell’s methods for accomplishing that”. Maxwell has good intentions, but his conception of wisdom is dreadfully misguided as is his ‘neurosis’ thesis. I could begin to explain my own thinking on this but you have aroused my interest in the unfair tactics of the ‘dialectical logical positivists’ who killed off variety. Could you drop a link to the forum discussions?

  8. You cannot casually say “his conception of wisdom is dreadfully misguided”, without some argument / reasoning other than sarcasm.

    Unfortunately I cannot give you access to the “forum” archive because it’s a mail exploder for registered users. Not sure if an archive is visible on-line. You’d need to register with FoW at the link in the mail above, but since you believe it’s FoW agenda is “misguided”, you’d be being dishonest to register as a “friend” without making your view clear first….

    What is your view of Wisdom ?
    What is your view as to how that plays to “complex world issues” ?

  9. No more than you can casually say that a ‘logical positivist dialectic’ ruined the discussion without explaining why. Should I take that as sarcasm, too? You’re asking me for an argument? Would that be a dialectic argument, or some other flavor of arguing I might have a chance at you accepting?

    You’re right, I certainly could not sign up as a “friend” in good conscience, because I know what the Maxwell faction is up to and I don’t like it. I expect, however, that there were many ‘objectivists’ types who signed up who initially liked the idea of making the world a better place through wisdom only to demur later when they found out how he intended to do it. I’m at a disadvantage here without seeing their arguments, but I suspect that is how it went. As Struan said to me this morning, he wonders if your objection to the ‘dialectical logical positivists’ and their evil ways translates into, ‘the guys with the good arguments won’?

  10. Look Glenn, I didn’t “casually say” that … it’s excplicit in my “manifesto”, my “footnote” and in hundreds of posts and comments on Psybertron. And on the specific Wisdom / Science / Maxwell point I also wrote a comprehensive review, full of references to sources, and so on, as well as a number of posts about Friends of Wisdom.

    Argument ? No just asking for your view – a positive thing. I will indeed avoid any (uncesserarily dialectic) argument, but you can say what you like, and I can respond to what you say. Conversation, dialogue. The only thing I object to is sarcastic opinions with no content (but I still let you do it – notice – I just call you for what I think they are.)

    What Maxwell is up to ? Why don’t you just say what you think that is, and why you don’t like it. Or, what you do / don’t like about my agenda, if that’s easier. Any thought of your own ?

    Struan’s point is interesting. That is precisely my point. The prevailing idea (meme) of good arguments seems that they have to be “winning” arguments, to the exclusion of other qualities – like being “constructive” arguments. I’m not interested in “winning”, as an object in itself.

  11. No, you didn’t explain the content of the ‘logical positivists dialectic’, or the specific proposal(s) that they shot down. I’m in the dark about this aside from your casual reference. I’m not talking about the raison d’etre of your blog, I’m talking about this. Please keep up. 🙂

  12. So yet again, you ignore any specific questions Glenn, or choose not to respond to any of mine or Maxwell’s points.

    Do you actually have anything to say ?

  13. I’ve hinted that I’m not comfortable discussing this further until I know more specifics of this case. Since these are not public, and you have not been forthcoming with them, we’ll have to content ourselves with the catch phrases ‘logical positivists dialectic’ and ‘Friends of Enough Science Already’.

    Furthermore, you demanded at first that I give arguments and then you retracted that and said you wanted my views instead. Well I’ve given you my views already and anything more I say about them will involve an argument, and since you don’t respect dialectic I see little point in going there. I’ll say this about you. You are no hypocrite when it comes to this. Your blog input is bereft of argument. What remains are topical pointers, facts, blurbs, personal views and catch phrases, like ‘hyper-rational’. Puts me in mind of ZMM when a world without quality is imagined, except here it is dialectic argument, but it is realized!

    I’m trying to make a concerted effort to respect your site, which you have criticized me about in the past. I will try to follow your lead on this.

    Oh, and your constant complaints about my sarcasm? Shove it. Your accusations are only right about half the time. But to be fair, your site and your heroes and your methods are so topsy-turvy that what sounds like sarcasm could be dead-on serious, or vice-versa. Take this paragraph, for instance.

  14. Hi Glenn, thanks for that. Progress.

    I agree about not discussing the specifics of the FOW discussions without mutual knowledge. Not sure how to help you there, except as I said – go read. If I detect any positive interest, I could go off an gather some specific links for you … but that takes time and motivation on my part.

    Retraction ? Puzzled, that you saw any inconistency between asking for arguments and then asking for views, as explanation for your initial remark – about Maxwell’s “Wisdom” agenda, and the subsequent “casual” remark. I’m just saying elaborate any way you choose, or ask me to elaborate about my own shorthand for issues, we can make progress. Dialogue.

    I am wary of interactions with you, despite expressing “hope”, because whilst I appreciate humour and irony as well as anyone, e-mail is a notoriously bad medium for such humour, and it’s a thin line between irony and sarcasm, when the generally negative intent is already known. Your history precedes you. The reason I persist trying to interact with you is that you persist in commenting, so I assume you do have some purpose in that – I still don’t actually believe your objective is simply to be “annoying”. You probably have a point. I’d be interested in knowing it. But that requires some honesty, trust, and clearing away of (even misunderstood) irony.

  15. Hardly an ending … progress I said, barely a start … you still haven’t elaborated on anything you said or asked me to elaborate on any point. Dialogue I said, and that’s where you bow out. Are you really just a waste of time ?

  16. I took your “I agree about not discussing the specifics of the FOW discussions…” indicated we should wrap things up.

    I would be happy to continue this discussion, but I thought I was clear when I said I would not be comfortable discussing this further until you were forthcoming about this case, i.e. the specific proposals shot down within FoW and the arguments given by the ‘logical positivists dialectic’ that carried the day. If you hadn’t previously taken this as a request to elaborate then let me tell you now that it is. If this still isn’t clear or you can’t elaborate then please tell me what the difficulty is.

  17. Er, no, you can’t discuss other people’s discussions you’re not aware of, but we can have our own discussion … anytime.

    My comment about the “objective dialectic arguments” were about those other discussions involving third-parties … so not much we can do about that just now, but we may come to that eventrually, if we put in the investment.

    Your comment about Nick’s “misguided agenda” is a comment about public domain stuff – his books, his Website, my review of his most recent book, tying in with my agenda here generally. It’s a comment about the whole agenda (mine and his, and a lot more) … not just a passing remark about the recent community dynamics, trivial by comparison, though symptomatic of the bigger agenda, hence my remaking on it..

    So. Elaborate what you think is “misguided” about the Wisdom agenda ? Your view.

    My view is pretty simple to elaborate – science that excludes values everywhere, not just from empirical experiment, is actually unwise. That’s what Nick’s books and my review of “I Science Neurotic” is pretty well all about that – extending basic empiricism to aim-oriented empiricism is the wise thing to do.

  18. You said “you can’t discuss other people’s discussions you’re not aware of.” Ian, yes I know that. That’s why I’m asking you to tell me about them, so we can.

    Let me reiterate what I said yesterday.

    I would be happy to continue this discussion, but I thought I was clear when I said I would not be comfortable discussing this further until you were forthcoming about this case, i.e. the specific proposals shot down within FoW and the arguments given by the ‘logical positivists dialectic’ that carried the day. If you hadn’t previously taken this as a request to elaborate then let me tell you now that it is. If this still isn’t clear or you can’t elaborate then please tell me what the difficulty is.

  19. I’ve addressed all of those points Glenn. I think your position is clear to me (about feeling uncomfortable about commenting further on something you didn’t experience directly – perfectly understandable, not rocket science that needed explaining further).

    I could gather, expose, summarise, elaborate about the FoW e-mail discourse, but the context would be important and it would take time and effort, and that would require motivation that I didn’t suspect you were just wasting my time. If you put effort into understanding that it might help my motovation.

    My motivation is further dampened by you choice of “shot down” and “carried the day” despite you having no actual knowledge of the discourse. Prejudiced / pejorative language. The individuals were discouraged, the arguments were simply left unfinished. Sound familiar ?

    Anyway to build some confidence, and motivation to continue that discussion, I simply suggested we could each elaborate on what we have each said about the FoW Agenda itself … since it and what I’ve said about it are both matters of public record, that we can easily refer to. If you actually understand the FoW agenda, I might be more inclined to dig out all the correspondence that went on.

  20. This conversation is serving no useful purpose for either of us and I think it best if I try to end it again. We can’t expect every conversation to be profitable. It’s OK. I’m still smiling.

  21. Glenn, OK end it if you wish.

    I have to say my hope of even one “profitable conversation” with you is worn pretty thin 😉

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