Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

New UD Glossary Additions


The following are being added to UD’s glossary:

“Miller’s Mendacity”

Miller’s Mendacity is a particular type of strawman fallacy frequently employed by Darwinists. It invariably consists of the following two steps:

1. Erect the strawman: The Darwinist falsely declares that intelligent design is based on the following assertion: If something is improbable it must have been designed.

2. Demolish the strawman: The Darwinist then demonstrates an improbable event that was obviously not designed (such as dealing a particular hand of cards from a randomized deck), and declares “ID is demolished because I have just demonstrated an extremely improbable event that was obviously not designed.”

Miller’s Mendacity is named for Brown University biochemist Ken Miller and is based on his statements in an interview with the BBC:

BBC Commenter: In two days of testimony [at the Dover trial] Miller attempted to knock down the arguments for intelligent design one by one. Also on his [i.e., Miller’s] hit list, Dembski’s criticism of evolution, that it was simply too improbable.

Miller: One of the mathematical tricks employed by intelligent design involves taking the present day situation and calculating probabilities that the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past. And the best example I can give is to sit down with four friends, shuffle a deck of 52 cards, and deal them out and keep an exact record of the order in which the cards were dealt. We can then look back and say ‘my goodness, how improbable this is. We can play cards for the rest of our lives and we would never ever deal the cards out in this exact same fashion.’ You know what; that’s absolutely correct. Nonetheless, you dealt them out and nonetheless you got the hand that you did.

BBC Commentator: For Miller, Dembski’s math did not add up. The chances of life evolving just like the chance of getting a particular hand of cards could not be calculated backwards. By doing so the odds were unfairly stacked. Played that way, cards and life would always appear impossible.

In a letter to Panda’s Thumb Miller denied that his card comment was a response to Dembski’s work. He said, “all I was addressing was a general argument one hears from many ID supporters in which one takes something like a particular amino acid sequence, and then calculates the probability of the exact same sequence arising again through mere chance.” The problem with Miller’s response is that even if one takes it at face value he still appears mendacious, because no prominent ID theorist has ever argued “X is improbable; therefore X was designed.”

“Darwinist Derangement Syndrome”

Darwinist Derangement Syndrome (“DDS”) is akin to Tourette’s syndrome, a neuropsychiatric disorder characterized by physical and verbal tics in which the patient involuntarily vocalizes grunts and/or nonsense words. Similarly, those who suffer from DDS seem compelled to spout blithering idiotic nonsense in order to avoid a design inference. For example, famous evolutionist Nick Matzke makes a DDS utterance in the following exchange:

Barry Arrington: “If you came across a table on which was set 500 coins (no tossing involved) and all 500 coins displayed the ‘heads’ side of the coin, would you reject ‘chance’ as a hypothesis to explain this particular configuration of coins on a table?”

Mark Frank: “. . . they might have slid out of a packet of coins without a chance to turn over.”

Sal Cordova: “Which still means chance is not the mechanism of the configuration.”

Matzke: “Not really.”

That an internationally prominent Darwinist would make such a patently ridiculous utterance is beyond rational explanation and can be explained only by DDS. DDS is a sad and pathetic condition that the editors of UD hope one day to have included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association.

“Berra’s Blunder”

Berra’s Blunder was coined by Phillip Johnson. It describes a particular kind of false analogy Darwinists have employed since, well, Darwin himself in Origin of Species. In this false analogy the Darwinist points to an evolutionary pattern that everyone knows is the basis of careful planning by an intelligent agent and then declares that the pattern that resulted from intelligent agents is evidence for completely naturalistic evolution. The term itself comes from Tim Berra:

If you compare a 1953 and a 1954 Corvette, side by side, then a 1954 and a 1955 model, and so on, the descent with modification is overwhelmingly obvious. This is what paleontologists do with fossils, and the evidence is so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people. . . .

Everything evolves, in the sense of ‘descent with modification,’ whether it be government policy, religion, sports cars, or organisms. The revolutionary fiberglass Corvette evolved from more mundane automotive ancestors in 1953. Other high points in the Corvette’s evolutionary refinement included the 1962 model, in which the original 102-inch was shortened to 98 inches and the new closed-coupe Stingray model was introduced; the 1968 model, the forerunner of today’s Corvette morphology, which emerged with removable roof panels; and the 1978 silver anniversary model, with fastback styling. Today’s version continues the stepwise refinements that have been accumulating since 1953. The point is that the Corvette evolved through a selection process acting on variations that resulted in a series of transitional forms and an endpoint rather distinct from the starting point. A similar process shapes the evolution of organisms.

T. Berra, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, 1990, pp 117-119.

To which Johnson replied:

Of course, every one of those Corvettes was designed by engineers. The Corvette sequence – like the sequence of Beethoven’s symphonies to the opinions of the United States Supreme Court – does not illustrate naturalistic evolution at all. It illustrates how intelligent designers will typically achieve their purposes by adding variations to a basic design plan. . . . [These sequences] show that what biologists present as proof of ‘evolution’ or ‘common ancestry’ is just as likely to be evidence of common design.

P. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, 1997, p. 63.

It's sad that Miller calls himself a christian. Joe
OldArmy94: The problem is that Ken Miller failed to acknowledge that SPECIFICITY is just as important as complexity.
The DDS crown seems blind to this. Even when corrected, they soon forget. If I were a software engineer commissioned to write the best random number generator possible, and after I delivered my product, the first set of results that my customer obtained were the first 500 digits of Pi, my customer would demand his money back. And justifiably. Particular numbers matter. CentralScrutinizer
Miller has spawned several absurd statements, the one highlighted above just being one of them. Eric Anderson
Thinking about the Berlinski interview -- still hopeful, God willing, to see his themes fleshed out fully in book form -- it reminds me of Leonard Cohen's "The Future." This age's culture war -- in which ID finds itself on the front line, center -- is being fought along multiple lines, scientific, legal, political, cultural. But it's ultimate field of battle is spiritual... "I've seen the future, brother, it is murder..." (CAUTION: Not child- or work-appropriate.) jstanley01
PS: I think the term that was chosen after a contest by Mrs O'Leary, for an adverse "review" of a book made by those who have not read it -- typically at Amazon or the like, the "noview" is also worthy of inclusion in the glossary. kairosfocus
BA: I generally do not like derogatory terms that target named individuals, as they raise the spectre of ad hominems and strawman tactic based false accusations (such as in the falsely accusatory term so often used by Darwinist habituees of certain fever swamps, "Gish Gallop.") In this case, however we are dealing with a specific case with specific and longstanding warrant to the point where the tactic is plainly identified with the prominent individual. I would therefore suggest to Darwinist objectors crying hypocrite, that they first examine their own behaviour and the warrant attaching to this case. KF kairosfocus
One clever argument which the DDS crowd didn't use but which Dawkins might use was there was a chance what was observed was a hallucination or an illusion created by space aliens, so chance can't be ruled out as an explanation if we include the chance one is hallucinating in the calculations or the chance space aliens were creating an illusion. See: Dawkins now convinced even if he saw a miracle, he wouldn't believe in God scordova
Thanks for the heads-up, BA. In my book Berlinski is one of the most profound thinkers of our time. I look forward to all going well on the writing and publication of his new book; it sounds like it's going to be a compelling read. Interesting that Berlinski reiterates his belief that Paley is still compelling. When why that is can be seen, in the contest of this post, simply enough, by plugging Paley into Miller...
He said, “all I was addressing was a general argument one hears from many ID supporters in which one takes something like a particular *watch*, and then calculates the probability of the exact same *watch* arising again through mere chance.”
Lol... jstanley01
I once notified Dr. Miller of a spelling error on his website, but begged him to leave it unchanged, because his sentence was obviously evolving, perhaps into a wonderful and profound new thought! He changed it a couple of days later. Well, so much for Darwinists "eating their own dogfood"! ;-) -Q Querius
OT: video - Uncommonly Comprehensive Statement of David Berlinski's Picture of the World David Klinghoffer - February 24, 2014 Wow, do yourself a favor and watch Peter Robinson's new interview with David Berlinski,, They cover a lot of ground, guided by the signposts of David's books, notably The Deniable Darwin,, The Devil's Delusion, and his upcoming The Best of Times. The talk ranges from the Cambrian explosion to the fall of the Roman Empire and the composition of Augustine's City of God, from World War II and the Holocaust to the problem of government-funded science in the U.S. and contemporary debates about climate change and Darwinian theory. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31MI5c7LYSU bornagain77
RE: Miller's Mendacity The problem is that Ken Miller failed to acknowledge that SPECIFICITY is just as important as complexity. OldArmy94

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