I’m in a bit of a bind? Should I dignify ID blog posts with critiques?

As I point out frequently: Intelligent Design is an insult to human intelligence and is absolutely not science. It’s just, well, stupid. There are some highly visited ID proponent blogs out there. I visit them from time to time, though always on an empty stomach. Whenever I go, no matter how much I mentally prepare myself and no matter how many deep breaths I take before hand, it still hurts to read their inanities.

There are a few regular occurrences that one can count on when visiting an ID blog. Firstly, they will present a finding which they claim to be a slam dunk case against Darwinism. Then they will go spouting off about how the scientific community will ignore this finding because they are dogmatically committed to their theory (evolution, which by the way is also a historical fact), will claim that evolution never had any evidence for it and is fueled simply by ideological dogmatism, and that the scientific community has some sort of vendetta against ID. What’s truly ridiculous about this is that what they are saying is completely untrue of Darwinian evolution and completely true of Intelligent Design theory. It is the ID that is based on no evidence—how much great evidence can really be counted on when they don’t have any testable hypotheses or statements that don’t just boil down to arguments from ignorance? It is the ID camp that sweeps evidence against them under the rug. They have been making the same old tired points for years despite the many times over they have heard rebuttals for them. They talk about irreducible complexity as if it was brilliant demonstration of the limits of Darwinism. They have heard IC completely torn to shreads, showing it to be nothing more than an argument from ignorance that is buttressed by mock ignorance of evolutionary biology knowledge that any mid-level evolutionary biology undergraduate would be well aware of. No matter how many times they hear the rebuttals—and they shouldn’t have needed to hear the rebuttals in the first place because Michael Behe, the man behind IC, has a PhD in biochemistry—they just keep on making the points again the next day to a fresh audience, as if the points had never been rebutted. Next, to say that evolutionary biology is rooted in ideological rigidity is the height of ridiculousness for two very obvious reasons: 1) The undeniable monstrous aggregate of evidence for evolution; and 2) Wow! Devout Christians are calling someone else ideologically dogmatic! And science no less! That is simply mindblowing idiocy and deceit. And lastly, when it comes to assuming a vendetta, again it is they who have the vendetta. They simply do not like evolutionary biology and science because it shows their theistic beliefs for what they are: senseless drivel.

Next, they will act as if presenting an argument against standard scientific views (e.g., evolution)  qualifies as a de facto argument in favour of Intelligent Design. Lets be clear about this: even if somehow every bit of evolution were to be completely falsified—which would rip the roof off of science given the incredible amounts of evidence that would need to be disqualified and/or reframed—Intelligent Design theory (and hear theory really is “just a theory”) would still be stupid. It would still be nothing more than a baseless argument from ignorance.

And lastly, if the article is written by O’Leary, it will contain roughly 10 links to one of her handful of blogs…

So here is the dilemma. Do I make visits to their blogs and comment on their articles discussing how ridiculous they are? On the one hand, it would be good to show the readers of TFP the ridiculousness of this religious movement masquerading as science. It would also be good to have one more set of rebuttals available online to curious right wingers. However, there are also many good reasons not to rebut the posts—and at this point, I am far more compelled by the reasons to not respond than to respond (I guess the dilemma has moved closer to resolution during this writing). Firstly, they’re not going to change their minds. You could shut them right down and they’re just gonna get up tomorrow morning and keep on doing what they do as if they had never heard boo. Secondly, by engaging in discussion with them it creates the illusion of an actual controversy, thereby giving them far more credibility than they deserve—which, by the way, is none. Thirdly, by commenting on their posts I will help increase traffic to their sites by providing additional links to them—I definitely don’t want to help them in spreading their gospel.

For these reasons, I have decided, unless I am given good reason to the contrary, to not go through their blogs and picking apart their postings. If any of you for some reason feel compelled to go look at their blogs—it’d probably be worth doing once or twice just to see it for yourself (kind of like a trainwreck or Ground Zero, you wish it had never happened but since it did you just gotta see it)—when you’re reading their posts keep the points of this post in mind and see how quickly they are verified. When you’re evaluating their “scientific arguments” ask yourself “is this an argument from ignorance?”, “is this actually an argument against evolution?”, and “if this were to be a valid argument against evolution, would that matter at all for the case for an intelligent designer?”.

My fellow skeptical blogger Larry Moran, University of Toronto Biochemist, has a name he uses when referring to Intelligent Design proponents: IDiots. While I don’t use the term very often myself, it is quite the fitting nickname.

14 Responses to “I’m in a bit of a bind? Should I dignify ID blog posts with critiques?”
  1. doubtingthomas426 says:

    Another great post, Ron. Ahh, what an endless exercise in frustration arguing with the faithful can be sometimes. Did I say sometimes, I meant EVERYTIME. I think you clearly answered your own question and I completely agree.

    Your QUESTION: Do I make visits to their blogs and comment on their articles discussing how ridiculous they are?

    Your ANSWER: They’re not going to change their minds. You could shut them right down and they’re just gonna get up tomorrow morning and keep on doing what they do as if they had never heard boo. By engaging in discussion with them it creates the illusion of an actual controversy, thereby giving them far more credibility than they deserve—which, by the way, is none.

    Next time you consider going over and reading one of the ID blogs, pause a moment and realize how calm you are at the moment before you click the link. Reading the words of fools can’t be good for your blood pressure. And really, what’s the point. Can anyone offer proof or an example of the words of an atheist convincing one of the faithful?

  2. YenMano says:

    I don’t think you should even bother commenting on their blogs. Last time I was in a “debate” with someone who didn’t believe in evolution they showed me this ID link.

    Basically the link stated that evolution-Darwinism is the source of racism, abortion, war, everything bad in the world. How can you possible reason with someone who thinks that your belief cause all the social ills in the world?

  3. Sam James says:

    I think you raise some interesting questions about how ID is presented, but you need to realize that your post does exactly what you accuse ID posts of doing. You throw ID away out of hand, resorting to abstract adjectives “ridiculous,” “insult to intelligence,” etc. Why not post some real scientific rebuttals to ID? I think you display capacity for critical thinking, and that involves also throwing away the elitism that has surrounded modern science. I’m not saying you should believe in ID, just to keep an open mind.

  4. ronbrown says:

    Sam: Honestly, ID is bullshit. It’s not even a joke. Jokes are funny. ID is a an interconnected web of lies. The rebuttals can be easily found online, and I’m pretty sure I’ve addressed them somewhere among my posts. Here is a quick summary:
    1) ID is nothing more than a set of arguments from ignorance and design—we don’t know how this could have happened without a designer, it looks like it has a designer, therefore it has a designer. Of course the IDists like to ignore the problems this creates—how did the designer come about?
    2) Its argument for specified complexity is exactly what evolution by natural selection explains.
    3) It’s argument for irreducible complexity has been slapped silly since its proposal. The proponents of this criticism are constantly rebutted and despite hearing rebuttals and not being able to retort them they continue to go on telling the story the next day as if there was no good retort.
    4) The fine-tuning argument assumes that this universe is special in much. It may be a low probability universe, but so what? The universe didn’t have to be this way. It coulda been another way. For all we know there are other parallel universes—some may have life, some may have analogous forms to life on earth. Plus, look how small a part of our known universe is known to have life. The fine-tuning argument is one of willful deceit. The people who represent this view (e.g., Guillermo Gonzalez) have clearly received the training to see the flawed reasoning behind the theory. He and others are lying to others and are engaged in some pretty mindblogging mental compartmentalization if they can maintain this belief while having received the education they have received. Or perhaps not. Perhaps since he was likely a devout Christian first, physicist second, he had a mindset in which Christianity was top priority and everything else was second. So he would use other frameworks (e.g., science) but whenever there was a conflict between, say scientific reasoning and Christianity, Christianity would always win in his mind.
    5) It makes no testable predictions and thus is unfalsifiable.
    6) It is based on no evidence—the evidence is just the arguments from ignorance and design.

    The fact that the scientific community rejects it says a lot. I have written a post arguing that the scientific community is not dogmatic, that it will accept ideas that seem ridiculous if there is good evidence for it, and that it will similarly accept ideas from religion if there is evidence for them. https://theframeproblem.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/is-mainstream-science-dogmatic/

    And it’s not just the scientific community that rejects ID as a science and views it as nothing more than an underhanded attempt to sneak religion into the classroom. Even Christian (and conservative) Bush-appointed judge John Jones came to this conclusion in the Dover trial.

    The scientific community—which is ultimately at the mercy of reason and creativity—and the court are both against ID.

    Over the next few days I will work on finding a good article that summarizes the arguments against ID and will post it.

  5. ronbrown says:

    As for keeping an open mind with regard to ID. You might as well have said “You don’t have to believe that human cognition is explained by martians living 100 feet underneath Stockholm, Sweden, but just keep an open mind”.

  6. frankyvanherreweghe says:

    I also feel like vomiting when I read posts from the ID people. While reading their posts I constantly ask myself: ‘Do they really, really believe that? Are they that stupid or ignorant? What are they getting paid for keeping ignoring the scientific truth? Are they afraid to be kicked out their community if they show any sympathy with the scientific truth?’
    ID is a doctrine not a theory (!). Evolution is fact. The way it happened is debatable, Darwinism provides us to date with the best explanation in that matter, hence the name ‘theory’. The conclusion is therefore simple: ID is nonsense and is not worth going into debate with ‘them’. Consider them as ‘those we do not speak of’. But be aware of the fact that they do exist. You must listen to them, so you can scientifically prove that they are wrong (which has happened ever since, again and again). But do not talk to them because then you will give them a forum.
    I know that this is difficult. Especially because a (scientifically correct) study showed that around 46% of Americans would choose for a Genesis-story instead of a scientific alternative concerning the origin of life on earth !! (Here in Europe this is much less).
    The answer is: stop vomiting when you read something of those-we-do-not-speak-of, because it is not worth it. Do not talk to them-go never into debate with them- but start laughing ! Consider them as stand-up comedians if you which. In this way, you turn their own crap into something useful for yourself: it makes you feel happy.

  7. kathleen61 says:

    I realize if you go to their sites, it increases their traffic. Yet, if more people look at something would it stand to reason that there would be increased scrutiny by adding additional visitors?

    Is it possible to go to those sites and, rather than engaging in a debate with the intent to win an argument, simply add to the wisdom out there by simply staying to and stating facts that support scientific logic?

  8. ronbrown says:

    Kathleen: Yes, but in addition to increasing traffic to the site it could also contribute to the illusion that there is a genuine honest debate happening here.

  9. kathleen61 says:

    Ron: I personally believe democracy requires public debate involving ordinary citizens. For centuries, people were forbidden to debate or question the authority of religious or governing officials for fear of severe reprisals. Imagine how frustrating it must have been to debate the logic of a round earth or an orbiting earth; where would we be if early scientists and other logical people had thrown up their hands in the face of widespread public opposition to such radical, sometimes dangerous “theories”?

    Now that we can debate publicly, let’s hang on to that right by exercising it, because in the end debate always precedes understanding and is central to democratic opinion formation.

  10. ronbrown says:

    Democracy does require public debate. You can look around online and see that this debate has happened a million times over. There are plenty of scientists who’ve put out arguments against ID on their blogs, where debate is fully available. There are, moreover, many that have posted refutations against statements on ID websites. And even by me posting this very post I introduced the possibility of debate and indeed, it is happening. The debate is occurring both here and in the comment section of other posts. So it’s not like debate isn’t happening.

    But at the same time, I’m averse to going and critiquing ID blog posts. There are a few reasons. 1) no matter how many times people knock down their “arguments”, they’re just gonna keep on making them anyway; 2) By linking to them I’ll increase the number of hits they get which is what they want anyway; and 3) I’ll contribute to the illusion that what they are saying is any more contentious than the notion that martians are controlling our minds; which is also what they want. Moreover, it is perfectly honest that these people do not want to debate. They just want to have a forum where everyone agrees with them and the people that disagree do not make overly compelling cases so that they have ready strawmen to knock down and then create the impression that they are winning the argument. A number of skeptic bloggers who are knowledgeable about the issues such as PZ Myers (www.scienceblogs.com/pharyngula) and Larry Moran (http://www.sandwalk.blogspot.com) have been banned from posting on their blogs altogether.

    ID is not a scientific position. It’s a religious position. This is not simply a view of the scientific community. Even conservative and Christian judge John Jones who presided over the Dover trial came to this exact conclusion.

    Not only is ID a religious position, it is a position that is most popular among very devout as opposed to moderate religious persons. Most of these people are not going to change their minds for the same reasons they won’t change their minds about God, because for them the designer is God.

    Side note: even evangelical Christian biologist Francis Collins is against ID.

  11. ronbrown says:

    I should also mention that in the coming days I will be looking for a good concise argument against ID that I will post on the blog and also have ready to present to people who either favour ID or aren’t aware of its dogmatic, blind-spotted and deceitful nature.

  12. Chris­™ says:

    Ah, I love the spark of controversy one can ignite from one strong-willed entry. Your frustration is tangible though; how is one supposed to argue with someone who inevitably revert to circular logic that has no basis other than opinion? Ultimately, individuals will always believe what they choose do for various reasons. Unfortunately, fantasies based in dogma, such as Intelligent Design will always appeal to a certain niche of humans. Adding to the misfortune, it’s just a fact of life that humans are, well, human. As such, we do stupid things.

    I would hope that as we progress as a society, we will inevitably discard garbage, ‘feel-good’ existential theories like these. The potential is there, but it becomes more difficult with this tendency to respect all viewpoints as legitimate, no matter how absurd they might be. I’m hoping for the best though.

    Thanks for your post anyways. It cuts straight through the sludge and makes an important (and honest) point.

  13. Monado says:

    No. It just gives them traffic and they’re likely to delete, fail to post, or blatantly edit your comments.

  14. kathleen61 says:

    Hi Chris: I don’t think you need to respect all viewpoints as legitimate to engage in a debate. Galileo certainly didn’t when he wrote his “Dialogue” (which, of course the Catholic Church eventually banned–like PZ Myers and Larry Moran were apparently banned from pro-ID sites–and angered the Church to the point of threatening Galileo with torture unless he recanted his observations of an orbiting earth). When the Vatican banned “Dialogue”, sales soared 😉

    Of course ID is a religious position and we can never lose sight of that and even more importantly, we ought not let others forget that either.

    What we need is someone to write a “Dialgoue” presenting the two systems: scientific observation versus blind dogma, where a logical and thoughtful Salviati and a dogmatic blowhard named Simplicio present their points to Sagredo, a man seeking the truth.

    Ron, I’m new to this blogging world; is it possible to do something like this on the ID sites you mentioned? What would they do if someone lifted Galileo’s brilliant method and just put installments on those sites? Or would the site managers simply not post them? In that case, it would be similar to what the Aristotleans did when they went to their graves believing the earth was the center of the universe. What can bloggers do to find the “Sagredos” who are genuinely seeking the truth on the origins of life?

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