Dave Thomas posted Entry 1804 on December 21, 2005 04:10 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1799

This gem is too precious to be lost during the reaction to the Dover Decision.

Do you know how the Discovery Institute likes to say the Designer might not be God, but perhaps a Space Alien or Time Traveller?

Here’s a typical instance from
Phillip Johnson

“It certainly could be God, a supernatural creature, but in principle it could be space aliens of high intelligence who did the designing,” he says.

Well, look out, Phil - here comes Discovery’s Jonathan Witt, with what can only be described as a Freudian Slip.

On Discovery’s “Evolution News & Views” Blog, Witt writes

The article [by ID critic Hector Avalos] then goes on to give the misdefinition of intelligent right out of the NCSE’s playbook (the National Center for Selling Evolution) The definition succinctly presents ID as an argument from incredulity that appeals to a supernatural agent when in fact ID appeals to positive evidence for design and merely detects design, leaving the question of the designer’s identity to religion.

Um, Jonathan, if the Designer really does turn out to be an Alien, why should the question of his identity be left to religion?

Oops, Discovery - it looks like your Agenda is showing!!

The image, btw, is from the cover of Michael A Lee’s book Wanted: One Freudian Slip.

Hat tip to Jack Krebs!

UPDATE Sharp reader PaulC has found yet another Freudian Slip, this one with TMLC lawyer Richard Thompson on the PBS Jim Lehrer News Hour for Dec. 20th, saying “creationism” when he clearly meant “intelligent design.” Kudos, PaulC!

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Comment #63895

Posted by Norman Doering on December 21, 2005 4:21 PM (e)

Um, Jonathan, if the Designer really does turn out to be an Alien, why should the question of his identity be left to religion?

Because Scientology and the Raelian religion are religions?

Maybe Star Trek is a religion too?

Comment #63896

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on December 21, 2005 4:23 PM (e)

Someone beat me to it, that ‘religion’ could be Raelianism. Now if he had said ‘theology’ instead of ‘religion’, he would be pretty much nailed.

Comment #63897

Posted by Steviepinhead on December 21, 2005 4:23 PM (e)

Alas, poor IDiots: not just clueless, but Witt-less as well…

Comment #63910

Posted by ruidh on December 21, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

The real problem with “the Designer” is that even if “the Designer” isn’t God, the Designer itself must have been made by a meta-Designer. Since the Designer must be “irreducably complex”, the designer could not have evolved but must have been designed. Eventually, you get back to the ur-Designer who has to be God.

I’d probably play with their heads and suggest the Designer must be Satan.

Comment #63915

Posted by Norman Doering on December 21, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

ruidh wrote:

The real problem with “the Designer” is that even if “the Designer” isn’t God, the Designer itself must have been made by a meta-Designer. Since the Designer must be “irreducably complex”, the designer could not have evolved but must have been designed. Eventually, you get back to the ur-Designer who has to be God.

It depends on what you mean by “God.” The fact that we and the universe are here is a fact, not an opinion, unless you are solipsist. To ask “why” is to assume something that may not be true. In the case of theism you assume that there is some intelligence, a “God,” that had a reason, desire, plan, purpose to make this universe.

Theists are thus making the assumption that intelligence is more foundational than space, time and matter. This is not necessarily true.

There may not be a “why” answer that assumes “desire, purpose, plan, intention.” Intelligence might still need to evolve in a material universe if we are designed by aliens. We, ourselves, are currently trying to design intelligent entities. What happens when we pass away and they decide to ask “where did we come from?”

Comment #63918

Posted by PaulC on December 21, 2005 5:17 PM (e)

On the subject of slips, I posted this already here: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/does…
I apologize for the repetition, and I won’t repeat it again. I’m just trying to find a home for this comment, which I find to be a stunning mistake for a high powered attorney to make in this context.

I swear I heard Richard Thompson on PBS NewsHour yesterday say “creationism” when he meant to say ID, and was indeed trying to make the point that they weren’t the same. Anyone have a more charitable interpretation of the following?


Secondly, this idea that “creationism” [oops] is an old concept that the courts have already decided on flies in the face of the testimony of two credible scientists who basically testified, subject to rigorous cross-examination, that what they were basing their theory of intelligent design was scientific data, empirical data, that they saw in their labs, the complex biological structures that they viewed they concluded could not have been caused by Darwin’s theory of natural selection acting on random mutation; that these complex biological systems were there because they served a purpose. And that’s the reason that they said it is an intelligent design.

The transcript adds the quotes, but these were not apparent from his speech. I caught this while listening to a KQED radio broadcast. I remember pausing to wonder how he would defend the idea that creationism is NOT an old concept, and then he went right into a discussion of ID, which I must conclude he considers interchangeable.

Comment #63926

Posted by David Hudson on December 21, 2005 5:33 PM (e)

Although we regular viewers of The Panda’s thumb, applaud yesterday’s ruling by judge Jones, I am sure that this will not be the last assault upon evolution. Last August, our local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, criticized our National Ignoramus–GWB–for his believe that evolution had not been proved. This of course provoked letters to the editor. Most supported the Bee, but one, which I am posting here, perhaps contains more ignorance in a shorter space than anything I have ever read. Here it is:

Regarding the president’s remarks on teaching “design” of the universe to school children, it should be understood that few if any legitimate scientists any longer believe in the fairy tale of evolution. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for evolution and never has been.

The truth has not yet filtered down to teachers and professors (who ceased to read after leaving college) so they continue dumbing down our kids.
The reason it hasn’t filtered down is because, if there is a designer, his name just might be God and the immoral liberals can’t stand that. It might cause them to have to clean up their act.

Those who believe in evolution are ignorant people who refuse to read and are so taken in by the immoral people who want God out of the picture so they can keep on doing what they are doing.

spineless Christians and preachers who do not stand up and scream loudly at the evil being perpetrated upon our young are just as guilty as those perpetrating the lies. No wonder our young act like animals. They are told that is all they are.
Lori Brashear

This letter is genuine! Just see the Fresno Bee, Monday, August 8, 2005, page B8.
Submitted by
David Hudson

Comment #63933

Posted by Doyle on December 21, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

The alien and/or time traveler hypothesis just begs the question “how did that highly intelligent life form come into being on its planet?” Can’t they just drop that silliness and acknowledge that their hypothesis really is that somewhere at the beginning of something God acted and the results are what we see today? If enough fundamentalists understood that the ID leaders are willing to consider that the world was not created by God, that ID might stand for the proposition that aliens came here and started a process whereby humans developed through natural selection from lower forms of life, how much would the congregation kick in to buy the books?

Comment #63942

Posted by Glen Davidson on December 21, 2005 6:46 PM (e)

I don’t know that it’s a slip at all. These are people who don’t know science and don’t even know religion at all well (note the idiocy of Johnson’s conflation of a “supernatural designer” with an alien “designer”–no competent philosopher would make such a stupid mistake), and they can hardly keep such matters straight. They may even be deliberately abandoning their pretense.

The key to all of this would be that “naturalism” is labeled by them as “religion”. Witt may have simply been saying that if one believes in God, the “designer” will be God, and if one believes in “naturalism”, one would not resort to God as the agent. It’s a senseless, distorted world of re-definition of science, religion, and of normal words we use to converse with, but it’s this world that they’ll gladly share and impose upon others.

It’s the season for giving, you know.

Comment #63945

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on December 21, 2005 6:49 PM (e)

Who cares what the stupid putz thinks. ID had its chance in court. It lost.

Game over.

I’m not interested in their whining and weeping.

Comment #63948

Posted by Mr Christopher on December 21, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

Although the Raelians have mentioned ID supports their point about human creation, they have yet to really try and capitalize on all the free publicity waiting for them. And if they reached out to the DI publicly for their support the DI would have to lend it to them, or admit ID really being about God and not a designer/creator/space man.

I think the ideological similarites concerning human origins between the Raelian movement and the Discovery Institute are too often ignored or overlooked. And I think we should point out those similarities every chance we can. Here is the Raelian “Welcome” message (found here http://www.rael.org/rael_content/rael_summary.ph…) -


Traces of this epic masterpiece of creation can be found in all religious writings and traditions. It is to them that Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed referred. It is now time to welcome them.


On the 13th of December 1973, French journalist Rael was contacted by a visitor from another planet, and asked to establish an Embassy to welcome these people back to Earth.

The extra-terrestrial human being was a little over four feet tall, had long dark hair, almond shaped eyes, olive skin, and exuded harmony and humor. Rael recently described him by saying quite simply, “If he were to walk down a street in Japan, he would not even be noticed.” In other words, they look like us, and we look like them. In fact, we were created “in their image” as explained in the Bible.

He told Rael that:

“We were the ones who designed all life on earth”
“You mistook us for gods”
“We were at the origin of your main religions”
“Now that you are mature enough to understand this,we would like to enter official contact through an embassy”


The messages dictated to Rael explain that life on Earth is not the result of random evolution, nor the work of a supernatural ‘God’. It is a deliberate creation, using DNA, by a scientifically advanced people who made human beings literally “in their image” – what one can call “scientific creationism.”

References to these scientists and their work, as well as to their symbol of infinity, can be found in the ancient texts of many cultures. For example, in Genesis, the Biblical account of Creation, the word “Elohim” has been mistranslated as the singular word “God”, but it is actually a plural word which means “those who came from the sky”, and the singular is “Eloha” (also known as “Allah”). Indigenous cultures all over the world remember these “gods” who came from the sky, including natives of Africa (Dogon, Twa, etc.), America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

Leaving our humanity to progress by itself, the Elohim nevertheless maintained contact with us via prophets including Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, etc., all specially chosen and educated by them. The role of the prophets was to progressively educate humanity through the Messages they taught, each adapted to the culture and level of understanding at the time. They were also to leave traces of the Elohim so that we would be able to recognize them as our Creators and fellow human beings when we had advanced enough scientifically to understand them. Jesus, whose father was an Eloha, was given the task of spreading these messages throughout the world in preparation for this crucial time in which we are now privileged to live: the predicted Age Of Revelation.

And most important of all, read the book, “Intelligent Design - Message from the Designers” the book which will revolutionize your thinking, transform your life and which is already changing the world.


Look, Raelians claim the creator(s) used DNA (and not junk DNA I bet!) to create mankind and we are NOT the product of “random evolution”, and they rightfully claim all the popular books of mythology mention a creator (meaning creationism is popular amongst various cultures and therefore true). Is that not what the Discovery Institute tells us about intelligent design?

A key difference is the Raelian’s know very well who the intelligent designer is and the DI is still scratching their heads. In this race for the truth it seems the Raelian theory has far outpaced the DI theory. Raelians can introduce you to the intelligent designer(s), the DI can only wonder…

If anything the Raelians should be helping the DI to understand the nature of the intelligent designer. Heck they know all about him, well them.


Comment #63961

Posted by PaulC on December 21, 2005 7:44 PM (e)

As long as we’re doing Raelians, why isn’t much airtime given to the power of the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum events to produce intelligent life? Granted, it’s unfalsifiable and I believe it is quite unnecessary given what we know, but it does have sufficient explanatory power.

The many worlds interpretation is roughly that there is a new universe spawned for every outcome of a quantum event. Now, suppose that intelligent life is possible in the universe (which after the Jones decision I’m more inclined to believe) but that it actually does require some kind of tornado-in-a-junkyard series of steps to get going.

A trivial consequence of “many worlds” is that there are some parts of the “multiverse” in which sequences of lucky outcomes of quantum events really do look like 747s assembling spontaneously in junkyards. As intelligent agents, we humans are only privy to whatever universe we happened to emerge within; so it really doesn’t matter what we would expect to happen on average. It is with probability 1 that we exist in a universe in which events conspired to produce us. That this may be a vanishingly small part of the entire sample space is irrelevant as we don’t get to see the rest.

You might argue that a tornado in a junkyard would stand out as a dramatic event, but maybe not. Among all the universes that produced intelligent life, the vast majority would have only the shortest series of lucky coincidences necessary.

Now I personally think it’s with probability close to 1 that a single universe like ours would evolve intelligence. Evolution is the result of a long series of very reasonable outcomes that converge to self-replicating competing systems. But in the unlikely event that you need a tornado in a junkyard, many worlds will give you infinitely many of them. I don’t see why this is any less plausible a hypothesis than a “designer.” It’s actually a much more interesting thought experiment. Any chance I can get this taught in high school?

Comment #63966

Posted by buddha on December 21, 2005 7:58 PM (e)

ruidh wrote:

The real problem with “the Designer” is that even if “the Designer” isn’t God, the Designer itself must have been made by a meta-Designer. Since the Designer must be “irreducably complex”, the designer could not have evolved but must have been designed. Eventually, you get back to the ur-Designer who has to be God.

No. A system is irreducibly complex iff removing one part of the system would destroy its function. If I design/create an irreducibly complex system then there is no reason why I must also be irreducibly complex. It is possible that aliens evolved according to the modern synthesis and that they designed/created life on earth that itself could not have evolved (plausibly). [There is no evidence for this, however.] Without studying these aliens we would not know whether or not they also had a designer/creator. “Who designed the designer?” is a piss-poor retort.

Comment #63968

Posted by PaulC on December 21, 2005 8:07 PM (e)

Without studying these aliens we would not know whether or not they also had a designer/creator.

On the other hand, without a shred of evidence of aliens or other designers to study, it is unreasonable to introduce them to explain observations that we can explain without them.

The point about irreducible complexity might have some validity except that (a) nobody has produced a convincing example of IC and (b) there is no evolutionary obstacle to creating IC systems.

Comment #63973

Posted by Mark Nutter on December 21, 2005 8:17 PM (e)

Here’s a Dembski quote from an AP story:

“This galvanizes the Christian community,” said William Dembski, a leading proponent of the theory and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think-tank that promotes intelligent design research. “People I’m talking to say we’re going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.”

Spotted that in a blog that came up in Technorati. Now who was it that was insisting that ID is not religion in disguise? Money talks, and it says “DI is a Christian ministry, promoting a Christian cause.” Think Dembski really meant to admit that in public?

Comment #63977

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on December 21, 2005 8:25 PM (e)

Think Dembski really meant to admit that in public?

They’ve already lost. What’s the use of maintaining the pretense now? (shrug)

Comment #63990

Posted by Corkscrew on December 21, 2005 9:29 PM (e)

I’ve been attempting to get an analogy straight in my head. It’s quite a nice analogy, but I don’t want to expose it to live fire until I’m sure it’s valid. It goes as follows:

Irreducibly Complex systems are unevolvabe in the same way that arches are unbuildable. With an arch, you have to build both sides up and up and then start slanting them further and further inwards, and it’s quite obvious that the entire thing is going to fall down before you can put the keystone in place. With an IC system, you’d have to build the parts into the system one by one and it’s quite obvious that there’d be no chance of accumulating precisely the right pattern of parts to get a working system out. Both these proofs are wrong, because both assume that the end product is constructed piecewise without “scaffolding” of any sort.

Any thoughts? Is this one worth adding to my personal arsenal?

Comment #63999

Posted by Russell on December 21, 2005 10:38 PM (e)

“People I’m talking to say we’re going to be raising a whole lot more funds now.”

I guess those are not the people from the Templeton Foundation. The Ahmansons and Rushdoonys, perhaps?

Comment #64000

Posted by Freelurker on December 21, 2005 10:47 PM (e)

I am not one of the ID-ists, but I have heard enough of their arguments to suspect that they will see the arch as an example of IC (or at least ID). Intermediate steps in the construction of the arch do not produce something useful; the arch gets built only because the builder has foreknowledge that the completed arch will be stable and useful. I see your point, but I doubt that an ID-ist will.

Comment #64034

Posted by the_ignored on December 22, 2005 5:52 AM (e)

Don’t know if this counts as a slip, but didn’t Dembski once say

“finally, we’re going to be able to take the evolutionist to court and make them defend their silly ideas”

Would anyone know where I can find that quote?

Comment #64035

Posted by Amos on December 22, 2005 5:52 AM (e)


I was thinking along the same lines a while ago, and then I found that origins of life biochemist A.G. Cairns-Smith had already considered IC systems at the biochemical level a decade before Behe–and used the metaphor of an arch to solve the problem. You might want to look at his writing for more detail on how he used it.


Actually, there are natural arches made from the erosion of stone. There’s a whole national park devoted to them.

Comment #64042

Posted by wial on December 22, 2005 8:00 AM (e)

To my mind the problem with ID is not the idea of design but the idea of irreducible complexity. It’s pretty easy to postulate a universe created by intelligence, given articles by cosmologists Alan Guth and Andre Linde on the subject. (for an intro, read Gregory Benford’s “Cosm”). That is, universes can produce the inflationary events that lead to other universes. This implies both natural selection and domestic reproduction of universes by alien intelligent designers. It may even be true that a nice stable universe like ours is more likely produced by intelligences with a good grasp of the standard model. But this is actually a more thorough refutation of god than any assertion this universe is one-off, given all its odd life-supporting characteristics. It’s simpler to suggest our universe is one in a series of types, and it’s not an accident ours supports life, but only because cosmology evolved from good Darwinian principles to produce universes that produce universes like ours.

As Lee Smolin has written, a tell-tale for this theory would be if the tuning of our inexplicable constants were slightly sub-optimal, since that’s how evolution tends to do things.

Whether such a produced universe could include instances of irreducible complexity is an interesting question. Maybe such an instance would indicate the signature of the C average alien grad student in our parent universe who produced ours as a rough draft.

Comment #64086

Posted by AC on December 22, 2005 12:01 PM (e)

David, when I read that letter, all I can think of is an angry/frightened chimpanzee, jumping around and screeching. Cousins indeed.

Norman Doering wrote:

Maybe Star Trek is a religion too?

At this point, if I were at all religious, I’d be praying for the Vulcans to come save us from ourselves.

Comment #64091

Posted by Dave Thomas on December 22, 2005 12:16 PM (e)

the_ignored wrote

Don’t know if this counts as a slip, but didn’t Dembski once say

“finally, we’re going to be able to take the evolutionist to court and make them defend their silly ideas”

Would anyone know where I can find that quote?

Maybe this post:

May 11, 2005
The Vise Strategy: Squeezing the Truth out of Darwinists

The recent hearings conducted by the school board in Kansas (May 5-7, 2005) made it clear that what needs to happen is not for our side to be interrogated by Clarence Darrow manqués (like Pedro Irigonegaray, the attorney for the other side in Kansas) but for our side to get to interrogate the Darwinists. As I pointed out on this blog (May 6, 2005, “Kansas Hearings: Scopes in Reverse? –Yes and No”), Darwinists have a long record of evading critical scrutiny, a problem that goes right back to the original Scopes Trial.

In the Scopes Trial, Clarence Darrow (cf. Pedro Irigonegaray) got to interrogate the evolution critics, but William Jennings Bryan (cf. Kansas attorney John Calvert for our side) did not get to interrogate the evolutionists….

Thus, in a crucial way, the Kansas hearings repeat the pattern set by the Scopes Trial, which has been repeated many times since, namely, evolutionists escaped critical scrutiny by not having to undergo cross-examination. In this case, they accomplished the feat by boycotting the hearings. I therefore await the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas that compel evolutionists to be deposed and interrogated at length on their views. There are ways for this to happen, and the wheels are in motion (e.g., Congressional hearings over the teaching of biology in federally funded high schools for military kids). For such hearings to have the desired effect, however, will require that evolutionists be asked the right questions.

What I propose, then, is a strategy for interrogating the Darwinists to, as it were, squeeze the truth out of them….


Comment #64253

Posted by the_ignored on December 22, 2005 7:29 PM (e)

That’s it, Dave. Thanks!