May 29, 2006

Time to climb into the fish tank and sing Jerusalem

"Did somebody say "intelligence" to Mr. Camp?"

There's a typically nutty Monty Python skit (I believe it's called the "Buying a Bed" sketch) in which a typically loony Python character, Mr. Lambert, puts a bucket over his head every time someone says "mattress." Thus does everyone who works with him (in the bed department of a store) endeavor never to say the word, and they encourage prospective customers to say "dog kennels" when asking Lambert about mattresses. If a mistake is made, the only thing that will prompt him to remove his pail is to get into the fish tank and then sing the song Jerusalem - "And did those feet, in ancient times..."

Well, I live in the real world not the Python universe, so I'm not particularly interested in constantly dealing with euphemisms. I'm so tired of hearing "intelligent design" proponents say "dog kennels" I think of myself as an exasperated reverse Mr. Lambert. And I suspect it will take an awfully large fish tank and a lot of people to turn this around.

Of course their "dog kennels" is the word "intelligence." They incessantly conflate the conventional meaning of this word with the preferred inference of their "theory" in a duplicitous attempt to create rhetoric which supports the intuitive unambiguity of a non-natural designing agency.

During a May, 2006 event at Biola ("Intelligent design under fire") Stephen Meyer answered a request from Cal State Fullerton's Jim Hofmann for specifics such as "how" and "when" by saying,
"So in fact we do say when, and moreover we say how,” he said, “we say it was done by an act of intelligence."
Not only do they continually offer these sophistic statements, they draw disingenuous argumentation directly from them, asserting that scientists who resist ID are defining intelligent causation out of the empirical picture. Paul Nelson used such specious reasoning in this characterization of his opponent's views (from another debate near L.A., see more on this and other issues here),
"So my disagreement with these guys has relatively little to do with evolution and a great deal to do with what kind of philosophy of science we're going to adopt. Are we going to allow for the possibility of intelligent causation when all of us know that could have happened? That's what science should do. Science should be free to follow the evidence where it leads."
[Going for extra points, Nelson manages to include another bit of ID marketing-speak at the end. See here for more.]

Stephen Meyer also used this suggestion that scientists dismiss intelligent cause in his debate in Seattle with Peter Ward. Many other ID advocates make use of the argument. But of course it is utter nonsense.

Intelligence is well accommodated by science. Archeology, forensic sciences, and cryptographical disciplines could not exist were it not for the uncontroversial assumption of intelligence cause acting as part of, and in concert with, the natural universe. Scientists investigate intelligence and its products (designs) all of the time. There is established methodology for doing so.

Every time ID advocates accuse scientists of disallowing the possibility of "intelligent causation" they brand themselves as either ignorant or intentionally duplicitous. And most are not ignorant.

All that integrity requires in this situation is for guys like Nelson and Meyer to say what they really mean when discussing these issues. But should they petulantly protest the methodological disqualification of "supernatural intelligent causation" then the horse (which is already out wandering around the paddock) will be officially acknowledged to have left the barn.

Of course my, and scads of other people's, frustration at their deceit will be absorbed into the growing list of results of questionable means that are justified by their ends. But evasiveness and dishonesty will eventually close many initially receptive ears, and pretty soon the burgeoning ranks of people with buckets on their heads will be too big for any size wet-footed chorus to recover.

"And was Jerusalem builded there.
Among those dark Satanic mills?"


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