Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

When all else fails – mock them

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Cross posted over at “The Christian Watershed.”

 A few years ago I was an assistant coach to a high school debate class. One common thing that must be drilled into the heads of high school debaters is to do their best to avoid insulting the other team. I didn’t always follow this advice in high school which led to me making amazing arguments that the other team simply couldn’t refute, but losing the round because the conceited nature of my style. The point being – even if you make good arguments, it doesn’t mean a thing if people can’t see past the insults and arrogance you present.I now turn to the current debate over the movie Expelled. There’s a difference between being ‘quirky’ or ‘witty’ and down right insulting. Unfortunately it seems the critics of Expelled have simply helped to fulfill the accusations the movie makes against Darwinists.

“It’s completely stupid!”

“It’s idiotic!”

“Only someone who is brain damaged could possibly believe this movie!”

These are the accusations I have heard against the movie. None of them make an actual claim against the content of the movie, other than “how dare they compare Darwinism to the Holocaust.”


There is a great defense tactic used in court rooms that when all the testimonial evidence is stacked against your defendant, you begin to attack the people giving the testimony. It doesn’t change the facts; it simply charges that the person giving the testimony isn’t reliable.

This, unfortunately, seems to be the tactic most often employed in the debate on naturalism vs. intelligent evolution. If you call someone “stupid” or an “IDiot” enough times, maybe people will ignore the substance of the arguments and buy into the talk-show like style of debate.

I would ask those on the non-ID side to, instead of becoming so angry that they can’t form a coherent sentence without throwing an insult or two in there, actually treat this as an intellectual discussion between educated people. Is that really so much to ask?

I understand that by no longer believing in a designer one’s ego is all one has left, thus one has to wrap one’s ego up in the argument one presents. At the same time, a little civility would probably go a long way.

To my ID friends, maybe we too should think about the things we say. I know I’ve been guilty of ad hominem style attacks in the past. Being upset and mocking someone does little in the way of convincing an unconvinced public. We would be better to avoid stooping to the ‘opposing side’s’ tactics as it really gains us nothing in the end.

Ultimately, I know that this post will do little to nothing to convince people to change their ways. I know that – if read – will end up being mocked as well, picked apart, inconsistencies shown, and the attempt will be made to show how I’m somehow a hypocrite. Even a call for peace is met with violence in this world. However, I feel it is my duty to at least ask for the chance at making these discussions a little more civil. Hopefully a few will listen and we can begin to have civil and educated discussions amongst each other.


PaV - if you haven't, that might be because you haven't followed the literature. A good place to start would be the Dover trial, and if you want to get into the details of immune system evolution, Nick Matzke put up the list of texts Behe was presented with at the trial. He's also written about the evolution of the bacterial flagellum. I suspect your criterion for "satisfactory" might be higher than mine, of course. Bob O'H
Bob O'H (16): "Of course, the new data we are gathering about the molecular level is a challenge to evolutionary biology, and if we fail to explain it then we will have to do some thinking, but we’re certainly not there yet." In 1996, twelve years ago, Michael Behe wrote a book. Here's the full title: "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution" I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer in terms of evolutionary biology to any of the systems he proposes as irreducibly complex. Shall we wait another twelve? And then another twelve? Seriously, the more that technology advances, the quicker that Darwinism will disappear. Thank God for that. PaV
Joel, great post. This is related to a great blog post that I read recently titled "How to Write Strong Arguments" that can be found here: http://blog.createdebate.com/2008/04/07/how-to-write-strong-arguments/ It details out the different types of arguments that people can use and does a good job of depicting it with a picture. The site that it is from is a good example of a place for debate to occur online in a civilized and structured manner. http://www.createdebate.com/ Bryan
"Intelligent design proponents say the eye is too complex to have evolved" I thought is was about irreducible complexity. That old "too complex" wording seems to indicate they don't really understand what ID is saying. However, it is a good way to bias the reader against those IDiots, who find so many things "too complex," while real scientists are unafraid of complexity. Frank
Upright BiPed - the short answer is "no". Evolutionary biology has been a successful science, able to explain and predict. We have yet to come across a large number of problems that it fails on, so why throw it out? Of course, the new data we are gathering about the molecular level is a challenge to evolutionary biology, and if we fail to explain it then we will have to do some thinking, but we're certainly not there yet. Bob O'H
Regarding Bob's ExpelledExposed movie: Quote: "… mollusks probably also represent stages…" ?!? This is the best they can do?? This is pure argument from analogy! Absolutely NO evidence is offered in this entire video. And then to "support" the analogy, they resort to Haeckelian logic by pointing to human eye development. Of course embryonic eye development goes from less to more complex. It started from nothing and it's GROWING! But the sorriest statement in the vid is: "first you get a row of light sensitive cells…" What!!! Where do you get some of those? The drug store, or perhaps laying around on the ocean floor? Even getting them to line up in a row is amazing enough. Sorry, but I see ID as a movement to reclaim the Scientific Method. No more idle speculation and CGI models. Until the following can be verified by objective, observable, and repeatable experimentation, they do not deserve the honor of being called "science": 1. Abiogenesis: Life arising from non-living chemicals. 2. Macro-Evolution: New species with new traits, abilities, structures, and systems arising from other species. (The term Macro-Evolution was first coined by Russian evolutionist Iurii Filipchenko in his book on evolution.) 3. Proteins forming without DNA, or DNA forming without Proteins. (One had to “evolve” first.) 4. Right-handed amino acids forming in vats of organic chemicals. (The ones needed for life) 5. Non-deterministic Information without an intelligent, non-naturalistic source. Graceout
Bob O'H - "So it seems reasonable to ask the ID side to provide the science to back up its claims." Likewise, given that evolution is held as a default position, I would like its proponents to either 1) show the mechanism by which evolution can create complex systems from scratch taking into account all current knowledge of bio systems and their complexities, or 2) remove evolution from a default position that it cannot substantiate. Is that not reasonable? Upright BiPed
Link. kairosfocus
1 Peter 3:15 CN
Bob - sorry, please keep your kudos. I was being unusually generous for the sake of respectful discussion, but the more I learn about the site you linked to, the more I see that its the same old stuff, perhaps done slightly more respectfully than, say, Pandas Thumb, etc. By the way, a few weeks ago I heard a famous chemist (George Whitesides of MIT) speak at the American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans. He spoke on “Questions about questions about the origin of life”. He stated plainly that although he is good at imagining answers to all kinds of difficult questions, he absolutely could not imagine how life could have gotten started. He then said something to the effect (not a quote) “There are people who see a religious aspect to this and promote intelligent design. Many scientists often simply dismiss those people. But there are some very intelligent people in the design camp. I do not have a single religious corpuscle in my body, but I think deriding the ID folks is not a useful response.” I haven't been able to locate a transcript. But this is a good example of respecting the other side, and by someone who is much more knowledgeable than even most scientists. Chemfarmer
Kudos to Chemfarmer for understanding Joel's post. But I hope Eric, Berceuse, Gil, butifnot and Barb were all being ironic. Upright BiPed - I agree. Biological organisms are complicated. But if you want to argue that they did not come about through evolution, then you need to go further than "wow, they're complicated". The ID side claims that evolution can't produce something so complicated (Gil does at least provide some meat here in his "They're stupid!" sandwich). So it seems reasonable to ask the ID side to provide the science to back up its claims. If the debate were to stay about the science, and not drag in politics, religion etc., then I think it would be a lot less vituperative. Of course that would also make it less interesting to follow. Bob O'H
Self-deception is very easy when one is emotionally attached to his/her views. Then a person begins to rationalize, often manufacturing reasons to justify when are really mistaken and misleading beliefs. One indication that a person has fallen prey to self-deception is how angry he/she becomes when his/her beliefs are challenged. For exhibit A on self-deception, may I present pretty much every atheist who saw (or didn't see, as in Derbyshire's case) 'Expelled.' Barb
That eye-evolution video should be a hideous embarrassment for the NCSE. It basically suggests: "Just imagine an incremental sequence of morphological changes that might improve vision, and Darwinian mechanisms can explain it all." What about a few little problems and questions to ask, like: What random genetic changes would be required to engineer those morphological changes? What is the probability that these could occur? What is the probability that they would be fixed in the population, given the probabilistic resources? And, last, but not least: What about all those superbly orchestrated chemical reactions, that transmit information to the brain where it can be interpreted and acted upon by a mind? Darwinian theory is so completely bankrupt concerning what it attempts to explain that it is a waste of time. And yet, this is passed off as "science," when it is nothing more than speculation based upon complete ignorance of what it takes to engineer stuff. This NCSE eye-evolution nonsense deserves a dedicated UD thread. GilDodgen
The point I was trying to make is the same that Behe makes...in the biomolecular age, its not (only) the shape and parts of the eye that matter, its the complex cascade of chemical reactions underlying vision that must be accounted for by evolution. And when you're through with that, you can move on to the complex cascade of chemicals that represents visual interpretation and memory. Those would be an evolutionary mechanism as well. Upright BiPed
Great video. For ID! butifnot
Bob H, In the spirit of hearing each other, I went to your site and watched the nice video debunking the ID claims about vision. I thought the graphics were...interesting. Now its your turn: Biochemical vision is described as such: “When light strikes the retina of the eye, a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to form trans-retinal. The change in the shape of retinal forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein’s metamorphosis alters its behavior, making it stick to another protein called transducin. Before interacting with activated rhodopsin, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with activated rhodopsin, the GDP falls off and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. GTP-transducin-activated rhodopsin now binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase, located in the inner membrane of the cell. When attached to activated rhodopsin and its entourage, the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability to chemically cut a molecule called cGMP. Initially there are a lot of cGMP molecules in the cell, but the phosphodiesterase lowers its concentration, like a pulled plug lowers the water level in a bathtub. Another membrane protein that binds cGMP is called an ion channel. It acts as a gateway that regulates the number of sodium ions in the cell. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while a separate protein actively pumps them out again. The dual action of the ion channel and pump keeps the level of sodium ions in the cell within a narrow range. When the amount of cGMP is reduced because of cleavage by the phosphodiesterase, the ion channel closes, causing the cellular concentration of positively charged sodium ions to be reduced. This causes an imbalance of charge across the cell membrane which, finally, causes a current to be transmitted down the optic nerve to the brain. The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision" - Behe Perhaps we are not talking about the same thing. Upright BiPed
Re: #3 Yeah, I wish that eye video was a joke. Just one hand waving argument after another. Berceuse
Bob O'H, interesting site. - There is a prominent link on the first page to the NCSE. Hmmm, quite the objective paragon there . . . - There is a linked video on the first page about how the eye supposedly evolved. Is this a joke? - The site seems partly devoted to challenging ID. Keep in mind that Ben Stein is not claiming in the movie that ID is right. He is simply questioning the Darwinist tactic of not letting any other voice at the table. Challenging ID is certainly a legitimate activity in its own right, but it is only tangentially related to Stein's larger point. Eric Anderson
Joel: Good post. I have sometimes wondered if either side really understands/listens to what the other is saying. If you could get each side to state what they think the other side's positions are and what problems they see with that, then proceed to have a respectful discussion, I think it might do a lot to making things more civil. Bob O'H: the site you linked does try to keep a civil tone, but it is hardly objective (at least the piece on Rick Sternberg, the only part I read). For example, it doesn't seem to address the other government investigation (see http://www.rsternberg.net/smithsonian.php?page=letter), or would they simply accuse that report of also being unsupported, etc.? The main thesis of that site (and most anti-Expelled "discussions") is that anti-ID discrimination doesn't exist. But I have seen it first-hand. Chemfarmer
Whilst some people are, shall we say, shrill there are also serious attempts to deal with the issues. Bob O'H

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