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Slumming Among the Darwhiners

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I hate to admit it, but now and again I like to go slumming among the Darwhiners at Talk.origins and Pandasthumb (Darwhiner, pronounced DAR-wheye-ner, is my version of Denyse O’Leary’s Darwinbot). Not all Darwinists are Darwhiners. Some Darwinists, like Michael Ruse, follow an argument, engage issues, and genuinely attempt to understand the other side’s position.

Darwhiners, on the other hand, are reflexive Darwinists. Push the right buttons, off they go complaining how evolution is being misrepresented, how those attacking it are fools, and how its patron saint (Saint Charles) is being smeared (for an amusing instance of this last point, go here and then note the very extensive comments here). Darwhiners don’t reflect — they react.

A beautiful example of this recently appeared at Talk.origins. Michael Behe had defended his work on irreducible complexity against Andrea Bottaro (for Bottaro’s attack, go here; for Behe’s defense, go here). You decide who got the better of this exchange.

In replying to Bottaro, Behe wrote:

Professor Bottaro, perhaps sensing that the paper he cites won’t be persuasive to people who are skeptical of Darwinian claims, laments that “Behe and other ID advocates will retreat further and further into impossible demands, such as asking for mutation-by-mutation accounts of specific evolutionary pathways…” Well, yes, of course that’s exactly what I ask of Darwinian claims — a mutation-by-mutation account of critical steps (which will likely be very, very many), at the amino acid level. But that’s neither a “retreat” (In Darwin’s Black Box (page 176) I implied that many small details would be necessary for a real Darwinian explanation) nor is it unreasonable — that’s simply what’s necessary to actually explain the appearance of a complex, functional system in a Darwinian fashion, to show that it could indeed happen as Darwinists claim. Proteins change single mutation by single mutation, amino acid by amino acid, so that’s the level of explanation that is needed. What part of “numerous, successive, slight” is so hard to understand?

And not only a list of mutations, but also a detailed account of the selective pressures that would be operating, the difficulties such changes would cause for the organism, the expected time scale over which the changes would be expected to occur, the likely population sizes available in the relevant ancestral species at each step, other potential ways to solve the problem which might interfere, and much more. Alternatively, Darwinists could present a series of experiments showing that RM/NS is capable of building a system of the complexity of the adaptive immune system.

Professors Orr and Bottaro seem to think that because Darwinists’ fantastic claims are very difficult to support in a convincing fashion, then they should just be given a pass, and that everyone should agree with them without the required evidence. Fuggedaboudit. As Russell Doolittle helpfully showed, Darwinists find it easy to imagine that evolution could proceed along pathways which nature would never allow. Like Calvin and Hobbes, in their imaginations they hop into a box and fly over treacherous evolutionary terrain that nature would have to try to cross on foot. There is no reason for skeptics to trust Darwinists’ imaginations.

The following reply to this passage on Talk.origins is pure Darwhiner. The amazing thing is that this actually passes for high level argumentation in Darwhiner circles, replete with backslapping and hearty congratulations for showing up those IDiots. The level of dysfunctional group-think in these circles is staggering. But hey, enough of my commentary — enjoy:

In fact, all of this suggests to me a better way to oppose Behe’s
views. Instead of discussing the validity of his arguments, I think we
should challenge his identity, his very humanity if you will. After
all, how do we know that Michael Behe was born of human parents? I
mean, we know that humans are generally born of human parents, and Behe
is demonstrably human, so reasonable inference (rather than an
insistence that we explore the facts of every single individual’s
development) would normally allow us to assume that the same processes
were at work in Behe’s case, wouldn’t they?

Behe has convinced me otherwise. I think it is only fair to suggest
that until he can provide cell division by cell division documentation
of his development from embryo to adult, plus a detailed account of the
environmental influences upon this development along with the expected
time scale for each of the changes he _claims_ occurred, we are
justified in believing he is the progeny of little green men (and
women?) from Mars.

Absent evidence to the contrary, I believe Behe should relinquish his
position at Lehigh until this mess is cleared up. Oh, and a visit to
the INS is probably a good idea (for a, yes you guessed it, green

I mean, what part of “perverse, evidential, demand” is so hard to

So, asking for a detailed, testable Darwinian pathway to show that evolution occurs is now a perverse evidential demand. Yes, you heard right. By the way, I’m in the process of selling the Brooklyn Bridge for $1000. Please send me your check, and I’ll get the deed to you right away. And please, no perverse evidential demands.

I don't know about public discourse, but it is a lot of fun. PaV
All of this name calling adds to a great deal of unproductive vitriol. IDiots vs. Darwhiners, Cretinists vs. Darwimpians. How does any of this advance public discourse? eswrite
[...] we witness Denyse O’Leary referring to “Darwinbots“, Dembski to “Darwhiners“, and John Davison to “Darwimpian”. [...] stranger fruit » Sauce for the goose
Or may I suggest avoiding such terminology entirely? Lowering yourselves to their level doesn't exactly help the cause that much compared to clear and concise logical reasoning. Gumpngreen
Denyse Alrighty then. We also need to categorize Darwimpian (Darwimp for short) and Darweenie. Darwimpian is JA Davison's invention. It's a Darwin apologist with Olympian assuredness. Darweenie is mine. It's a handy catch-all and is self-explanatory. DaveScot
Usage note from Denyse O'Leary: Bill, we really MUST distinguish more accurately between a Darwhiner and a Darwinbot. A Darwhiner is generally a Darwinist who has studied his field. Yes, he is probably wrong but he is wrong in the normal human way. A Darwinbot is actually a 'bot modified by the Darwinator program you can download for free (I think) at the Panda's Thumb blog ... It is relatively easy to tell the difference between a Darwhiner and a Darwinbot because the Darwhiner will watch the Privileged Planet film and then whine to the Smithsonian about what is wrong with it and how awful the Smiths was to even THINK of showing it. You might expect that from a Darwinist, right? But the Darwinbot will simply activate its program and fill the publicist's e-mail box with, like, 18 megs of stuff swiped from some alarmblog!!! that the Darwinbot has been programmed to reach. Usually, the 18 megs was generated by an alarmbot!!![TM], which saves everyone tons of time and expense. Just think of all the alarm-mail!!! we don't have to read any more, because it is now all done by 'bots.... Simple rule for distinguishing between a Darwhiner and a Darwinbot: Ask if the entity has WATCHED the film before denouncing it. cheers, Denyse O'Leary P.S.: For anyone who cares, I will be updating my Post-Darwinist blog tonight with lots of stuff that is NOT about the Smithsonian. O'Leary
Carnap Where did you get the notion that natural selection can simulate design? You've never observed it doing that, and no one else has either, so someone must have told you a story and you believed it. Who was the culprit? If you're like most people it was your high school biology teacher parroting the story he was fed. As far as I can tell natural selection hasn't been shown to have designed, simulated or otherwise, one darn significant thing. It's all conjecture - a grand extrapolation from adaptation within species via random mixing of alleles already present in the species. Random mutation + natural selection hasn't been observed to have created a single novel cell type, tissue type, organ(elle), or body plan. That's speculation peddled as fact beginning in 9th grade biology classes and (until recently, thanks to the efforts of people like Bill Dembski and the Discovery Institute) not disputed or discussed until graduate school in a biology major. Given that a only a tiny percentage of the population ever makes it to graduate courses in biology it amounts to a huge coverup instigated and perpetuated by the atheists who dominate (80%) the membership of the National Academy of Science. I don't say this frivolously or without merit. I'm a bonafied designer myself with several U.S. patents in my name and have professionally reviewed for suitability about a thousand patent abstracts for a multi-billion dollar computer company. While there are certainly the most complex designs I've ever seen incorporated in the machinery of life I have not seen a shred of evidence that natural selection had anything to do with creating novelty. Bill's math is a proof of what many of us know by intuition, common sense, and practical experience i.e., that RM+NS is incapable, within the temporal and spacial constraints of the known universe, of overcoming the odds required to produce the novel functions incorporated in living things. Only an intelligent agent of some sort can overcome those odds. If you see a machine with a clear purpose, assume it was designed until proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was not the result of design. When you find such a proven case of a machine that wasn't designed you'll become world famous because you'll be the first person in history to do it. That machines come about only through design should be viewed, for now, as a law of nature because there's not a single instance of a machine where the origin is known that wasn't the result of intelligent design. DaveScot
I'm pleased that the first example Bill picked included my one and only forray into this sort of discussion on the Panda's Thumb site. Some of the reaction to Bill's humorous use of a doll to illustrate his "vice" strategy seemed so pathological I couldn't resist expressing some frustration with it. Granting for the sake of discussion that Bill's arguments were uniformly meritless -- nay, frivolous! -- I couldn't help asking whether the fevered tone of responses to virtually everything he says seemed a bit, er, much. But it turned out to be like banging my head against a brick wall. I have no expertise in this area and no axe to grind on the merits (except that I wonder whether some of those who ridicule Dembski's mathematical arguments even understand them, rather than seizing on a formulation in a paraphrase and dismissing the whole based on a tendentious reading; they appear to require a significant mathematical background). For all I know, Bill is just wrong on a lot of this stuff. But why isn't the response one of encouragement to keep working on an interesting question, rather than constant ridicule? There is just no good reason why it is a per se illegitimate thing to try to formalize our intuitive idea that we can (at least in some cases) distinguish between designed and non-designed artifcats. The obvious big challenge in the biological arena is, of course, that natural selection can simulate design, but if that can be worked through (e.g., by establishing limits on the capacity of selection) then what's the problem? One would think that proponents of non-telic evolution would be very enthusiastic about this inquiry, since under their reasoning presumably a well-designed method for detecting design would turn up negative, and prove that there was no design of biological organisms. Sorry for the rant. Carnap
Bill, do you ever go slumming at http://www.sciam-editor.typepad.com ? That's editor-in-chief of Scientific American John Rennie's personal blog. Rennie is a quintessential Darwhiner. Of course I've been banned there too. Through the wonders of ancient US Robotics analog modem technology and the associated dynamic IP addresses of dial-up modems I still get in a shot once in a while which stays up a day or two until John notices it and deletes it. Just today Rennie referred to part of Jonathan Wells' paper in Rivista as "blithering idiocy". I found it a bit disturbing that a double PhD from UC and Yale with a perfect SAT score would be called a blithering idiot by the editor of an otherwise respectable magazine that I've subscribed to for 30 years. Notably, and to his credit, Rennie didn't gratuitously bash Rivista for publishing an ID piece. Just about everywhere else in Darwhinian blog space trashed Wells AND Rivista. I attributed Rennie's lack of disrespect for Rivista as a matter of professional courtesy. I then went on to point out that bashing Jonathan Wells certainly couldn't be attributed to professional courtesy because the not-so-bright Rennie is no peer of the brilliant, accomplished, and highly credentialed Jonathan Wells. DaveScot
(Due to technical snafu this may have already been partially posted) A few quick notes, - I was a bit disappointed that you could not come up with something a little snappier than "Darwhiner." I guess it's okay, but considering the apparent emulation of Rush Limbaugh I'd have thought Darwinazi would immediately come to mind. - It appears you disagree with my assessment of Michael Behe's demands as perverse. I would then ask two questions, 1) Do you believe that the level of detail asked for by Behe is, even if only in principle, possible? 2) If this is a legitimate request of scientific investigation, are you willing, then, to provide the "numerous, successive, slight" details that elucidate the empirical processes connecting designer and putative design? (A question posed by a fellow Darwhiner, Bobby Bryant) - To clear up a few details, we hardly ever back-slap (we're all well-aware of how poorly our backs are designed), and, speaking only for myself, I've never used the very popular "IDiots" or even the more fluid "IDots." I've used credulous, misguided, whiney, sarcastic (probably should consider glass houses on that one), and many others but to my knowledge I've never called you, Behe, or any other ID proponent an epithet. I'm very proud of that (okay, you caught me, I'm just looking for hearty congratulations). ["Nazi" is so overused and emotionally charged that I avoid the term. Yes, I'd like something better than Darwhiner, but perhaps it will inspire others to come up with a better epithet. I do think that my National Center for Science Education Selling Evolution is primo. As for Behe's request for successive point-by-point mutations, that may be more than required; and yet, if conventional evolutionary theory is correct, that is what nature did, so at least in principle his is not an unreasonable request. You are welcome to post critical comments here if they stimulate the discussion. But if I get the sense that I have to police you, you'll be gone quickly. --WmAD] RLCamp

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