Posted by: cjobrien | 23 March 2008

Lassen County Primer on Expelled #5 – Intelligent Design Can Only Make It In A Police State

 The irony of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is that it is a movie whining about its proponents having no academic freedom to argue its merits, yet the entire ID movement feels quite comfortable resorting to police state tactics to limit the academic freedom of its critics. Since last Friday, the blogosphere has been abuzz with discussions regarding PZ Meyers expulsion from a screening of…well… Expelled. The irony of a scientist denied an opportunity to critique a movie that itself complains its proponents are denied an opportunity to critique evolution is too obvious to bother having a discussion, although Brayton goes through the irony list one-by-one.

The problem Intelligent Design has is not that its proponents’ academic freedom has been restricted…it is that ID has been unable to argue its case within the halls of academic freedom. ID has lost the argument in biological research; ID has lost the argument in the science classroom; ID has lost the argument in blogosphere; ID has lost the argument in court. It wins only by contriving events and fixing the rules so its critics do not have the opportunity to object. When ID can’t get published because people ask too many unanswerable questions (peer review), it cries “foul” and attempts to fix the rules of publication. When its proponents don’t get tenure because they haven’t done any real research, ID cries “foul” and charges violation of academic freedom. When atrociously bad science teachers do not have their contracts renewed, they cry “foul” and claim they were fired because of their pro-ID positions. When ID loses its battle for legitimacy in academia, in the classroom and in the courts, its proponents get states to sponsor “academic freedom” legislation so they can teach it anyway. Intelligent Design remains alive only because of a herculean advertising effort by its proponents. ID cannot win in the same academic freedom arena where every other single important scientific discovery throughout history has made its case and triumphed. It needs to fix the rules of the game.



  1. Just out of curiosity, was your ph.d. dissertation an Intelligent Design or not?

  2. No…not on intelligent design. It was, however, in science, which is more than can be said for intelligent design proponents.

  3. You didn’t answer the question. It wasn’t the subject, but rather the methodology of research, analysis and writing that was employed. Was what you accomplished on your dissertation an Intelligent Design? Or was you dissertation random jibberish?

  4. Ok, I’ll bite…yes, it was intelligently designed. Your point?

  5. My point being that scientists claim to have proven that intelligent design is impossible, but you can’t be a serious scientist without having intelligently designed a dissertation and some peer reviewed papers.

    At some point, ID clearly does exist and it is also beyond the scope of science to explain it. That is why Artificial Intelligence is a failure. For intellectuals to start decreeing what is or is not the scope of ID when a) ID undeniably exists and b) it is impossible for ID to be brought into a subordinate role to science, strikes me as a rather untenable position.

  6. Yeah, I thought that might be where you were taking it. Unfortunately you’re conflating observations without understanding the distinctions between them. First, what do we mean by “intelligent design”? Let’s keep it simple for the moment: intelligent design is anything brought into being NOT as a result of natural processes. That leaves us two options: human/culturally created and supernatural creations. No scientist of whom I am aware, assuming a definition similar to this one, has ever claimed that intelligent design is not possible. The problem is that it cannot be tested with scientific means – you essentially cop to this in your second sentence. You also cannot conflate human “intelligent design” with supernatural “intelligent design”. We know all about human intelligent design. In the case of my dissertation, anyone can research, question and understand the entire formation process, from the subject matter (Hadza hunters and bone assemblages) to the specific workings of the Mac computer I used to compose it. There are an infinite number of questions anyone can ask about the process that led to my composing even specific words in the dissertation – ultimately, all of those processes have their roots in natural phenomena and processes, but that discussion is for another time. The point is that the human “designer” can be studied with the same methods as the “design”. Absolutely not so with a supernatural designer – there are no hypotheses generated, no data to observe and test, no research that can be conducted. You cannot use human intelligent design as a proxy for supernatural design – they are not the same thing. In fact, what the scientific data currently suggest is that there is no other “intelligent designer” other than human beings – kind of a case for atheism, don’t you think?
    I would agree that “human” intelligent design clearly does exist, but science can explain that. It is not readily apparent that any other kind of intelligent design exists, except through faith – again, you suggest it is beyond the scope of science, a point I would agree with. However, the issue ID activists are after is that it is “scientific” and should be taught alongside evolution – am I to take from your comments that you don’t believe it should be an “alternative” to evolution in the science classroom?
    I don’t know whether or not Artificial Intelligence is a failure – I don’t keep up on the progress of technological innovations generally. If “intellectuals” are decreeing what the scope of ID is, it is only to point out what I have just said – not all ID is the same, and the only ID we firmly know about is testable through science. The statement “ID undeniably exists” depends entirely on how you define and cannot be taken as given. Again, your last statement seems to confirm your feeling that ID (as I think you are envisioning it) does not lend itself to scientific investigation. If that’s the case and you can get guys like Dembski and Behe to buy into that the argument we’re all having would end tomorrow. I wish you luck.

  7. And I will respond that the intelligent design process occurred inside your brain and neither you nor anyone else really knows what happened. You can query the final result. You can’t query the process of ID. It is impossible. Science has exactly nothing to say about ID, because science is permanently inferior to ID.

    The reason I say this is that I have a lot of professional experience translating design rules into computer implementations. People are always assuming something is trivial, when it is in fact incredibly complex. This is evolution in a nut shell. “Sure, no problem, it is easy!” Just because someone can say this doesn’t make it so.

  8. Looney said”My point being that scientists claim to have proven that intelligent design is impossible”

    Can you provide a reference to any scientist who claims to have proven that?

    What has been stated over and over is that there is currently *no credible evidence* to support the ID hypothesis – i.e. that an intelligent designer (natural or supernatural) has at some point interfered in the natural evolutionary process on this planet.

    There have been claims by ID proponents that certain structures or systems are ‘irreducibly complex’ and must therefore have been designed. The most common of these are the bacterial flagellum, and the cascade of proteins in the mammalian blood clotting process. In each case the claim has been refuted by the existence of a similar but simpler structure or system from which the so-called irreducibly complex one could have evolved.

    So – while it is trivially obvious that a process of (human) intelligent design is possible, and does indeed happen, it remains the case that the ID hypothesis has no evidence to support it, and no research program or plan for one to provide it with such evidence.

    That is why this film exists. The ID proponents have failed in the laboratories, and been defeated in the courts so they are turning to public relations and spin doctoring to try and get their beliefs taught. Unfortunately for them truth is absolute, and not a matter of votes or opinion. In the long run ID, will join flat-earthism and other pre-scientific claims on the pile of ideas that humans have held and later discarded as better descriptions of reality were discovered.

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