The Opinion page in today’s Globe carries a piece by a Stephen C. Meyer, identified as the Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Among other things he is pimping his new book.
The Discovery Institute, for those of you who have no clue, is the place where fake scientists concoct phony science to push religious creationism. Meyer’s piece is full of delicious ludicrousisms (hey, if they can make up science, The Lion can make up words).
The piece is headlined ‘Jefferson’s support for intelligent design’.
Among other things, Meyer ignores that Thomas Jefferson, astute politician and revolutionary leader he may have been, lived long before Darwin and well before the discoveries of modern science. To consider him an informed and authoritative source on science and evolution suggests that Meyer and his cronies are at the worst desperate, and at the best, desperate.
In his opening paragraph Mr. Meyer calls down the spirit of Jefferson to invest his opinion with authority and immediately dives deep into the waters of the ridiculous.
Many argue that the controversial alternative to Darwinian evolution, intelligent design, is an exclusively religious idea and therefore cannot be discussed under the Constitution.
IDism is in no legitimate way an alternative to Darwin’s science, which includes the scientific investigations of thousands of legitimate scientists in a wide variety of sciences. The legal case, Kitzmiller v. Dover in 2005, convincingly settled that idea.
But consider the other bit of fakery and falsehood in that statement: IDism cannot be discussed under the Constitution. That is ridiculous on its face. Anyone can nail the Constitution to the ceiling and discuss whatever they want under it. Anyone can talk about IDism whenever they want. What Meyer is not saying is what he really means, and that is that IDism cannot be presented in science classes as legitimate science. It is not science. It has no place in a science curriculum. It is not an alternative to the science of evolution. It is nothing more than a paean to supernaturalism, to ignorance, to blind ideology, to religious authoritarianism.
And to suggest that ID is not exclusively religious simply beggars belief. These people have done no science, but they present as their conclusion that the universe and all life was designed by some being of vast power, a being for whom they offer no evidence other than a supposition based on their non-science. We can be pretty certain that the being in question was not Yogi Berra, who in his worst moments made more sense than the IDists, and certainly the being was not any human who ever trod the planet. So what we have left is some alien of incomprehensible power, which, if true, would remove the taint of religion from IDism, but which is assuredly not what the IDers have in mind.
They have in mind a god, a capital G god, indubitably Christian of course, as in ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’. Sounds suspiciously religious to The Lion. Since their entire thesis rests on this being and since they have no science to support their theories, the IDers are promoting an exclusively religious idea. Religion is the whole reason IDism exists.
But The Lion digresses, of course. Getting back to the abused Thomas Jefferson, we have this from Mr. Meyer.
In 1823, when materialist evolutionary ideas had long been circulating, Jefferson wrote to John Adams and insisted that the scientific evidence of design in nature was clear: “I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition.’’ It was on empirical grounds, not religious ones, that he took this view.
Contemplating everything from the heavenly bodies down to the creaturely bodies of men and animals, he argued: “It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion.’’
Let’s see, here’s a couple of accepted definitions of empirical:
‘Derived from experiment and observation rather than theory’ and an archaic one, but apt, ‘Relying on medical quackery’.
What Meyer has done is take as fact an opinion of Jefferson’s, an opinion not derived from scientific investigation, not derived from experiment, but based merely on his assumptions and opinions about what he could see. And he could obviously not see much. He was not doing science. Belief is not science.
He says it himself when he says it is impossible for the human mind not to believe in a fabricator of all things. He was wrong, of course. There are hundreds of millions of human minds who do not believe such a thing today, and assuredly there were quite a few then.
Belief is not science. The Lion suspects that if Mr. Jefferson had access to the real science done since Darwin he would repudiate his view that a fabricator existed, and likely adopt the view that the fabricators are those who spew their foolishness from the Discovery Institute. Jefferson was not stupid: he simply lacked accurate knowledge. The IDists cannot make that claim. The knowledge and facts are there in front of them, easily accessible, but they choose to deny them and to pursue their fantasy of the supernatural.
Mr. Meyer, though, pursues his beliefs into the modern day, into the researches of Watson and Crick into DNA, which he claims vindicate Jefferson’s view. He calls DNA a ‘four-character digital code’ and drags in Bill Gates of Microsoft, who said, ‘DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.’
Then Meyer embellishes:
DNA functions like a software program. We know that software comes from programmers. Information – whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal – always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of digital code in DNA provides a strong scientific reason for concluding that the information in DNA also had an intelligent source.
His argument states, in sum, that because computer software is written by programmers, and DNA is like software, therefore god created life.
Let’s look at that. God, as postulated by the believers, doesn’t make junk, so we might assume that his software would be tight, clean, precise, and contain nothing extraneous, the way top-quality software is supposed to be written.
DNA ain’t like that. It’s messy. It’s got sequences that bring on disease, malformations, death. It’s got sequences that have no use at all, no purpose, though some may at one time have had a reason to exist (a sneaky way of saying DNA has evolved).
And that’s not a digital code in DNA. It’s chemical. It’s subject to variances and mutations and changes that digital codes don’t undergo. Imagine if the binary math that underlies modern technology changed and varied itself on some random basis. It wouldn’t be digital anymore, would it? It would be something else, something with states other than one and zero, on and off. It would have evolved into something unpredictable and unreliable. Hardly the stuff of intelligent, purposeful design. Rather it would be a thing out of control. It would be something that could evolve, or devolve, if you will.
To finish off his descent into the lakes of the ludicrous, Mr. Meyer says:
Design is an inference from biological data, not a deduction from religious authority.
Apparently he wishes his readers to assume that because an inference is made, it must be true. The Lion can infer from certain biological data, to wit, the girl next door smiled at him, that The Lion is going to get her into bed. The Lion would be wrong, as scientific experiment would soon show.
Further, to claim that IDism is not a matter of religion is simply laughable. The whole point of IDism is to prove that god exists and created the universe and all things in it. Mr. Meyer and his ilk simply want to make IDism the religious authority, and, no doubt, themselves the high priests, making their living peddling their indulgences and books to the ignorant and the willingly misinformed.
They are, indeed, engaged in empirical quackery.