Friday, 20 August 2010

Creation Watch - Casey Luskin - a post from the US

Here are some extracts from a post from Matt the Skeptical Teacher who went to see Casey Luskin talk.  I have given you a taste of some of Matt's comments but click the link above for the full talk.  This is a classic demonstration of the current creationist playbook;

**Note: This allusion by Luskin to treating evolution “more objectively” set the tone for much of his talk.  In my opinion, it was simply a more sanitized way of saying “teach both views” or “teach the controversy”.You’ll see pretty quickly that was basically the intent of this phrase – the intelligent design movement (IDM) doesn’t seem to want to give up on their strategy to push their version of creationism in public schools.  It’s just that they know certain phrases are rhetorical losers, so they have essentially scrubbed the losing lingo and replaced it with something less recognized.  As the saying goes: “If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”

**Note: These references to Padian and Berman’s comments seemed to me at the time to specifically position ID-proponents as the victims of some kind of conspiracy to discriminate against them.  Of course, in scientific academia there is discrimination against non-scientific ideas.  If ID cannot meet the standards of scientific scrutiny, then it should be discarded; this is indeed what has happened, but Luskin and many in the IDM interpret & spin this as “censorship”.  Again, this is part of the public relations strategy on the part of the Discovery Institute to frame the discussion in terms of “fairness”.  But would it be “fair” to science students to seriously take time in their chemistry classes for the Four Element Model of matter (fire, earth, air, water)?  Would it be “fair” to include equal time for geocentrism in earth science & astronomy classes?  Would it be “fair” to teach non-scientific, alternate views of gravity (such as those advocated by Transcendental Meditation) in physics class?

**Note:  There are LOTS of problems at this point.  First of all, this definition of complexity is sorely lacking, both in detail and due to the fact that it isn’t quantifiable.  As someone asked in Q&A (not myself or Jamie), if you are going to claim to be doing science with ID, shouldn’t you have a way to quantify “complexity”?  Luskin’s response was something to the effect that yes the IDM should do that and they were working on it.  Pardon me, but the IDM and Discovery Institute has been at this for 20 years, and they still don’t have a quantifiable definition of “complexity” yet?  And despite this fact, they want ID taught in schools as a valid science alongside evolution?  Give me a break.
Another problem here is that this sort of argument is post-hoc in nature.  In other words, everyone already knows that Mount Rushmore is man-made; what is necessary here is for these folks to come up with a blinded test of their method without knowing whether or not the subject is designed ahead of time.  Here’s a simple way to do it:
1. Take two sets of a dozen drinking glasses.
2. Drop one set from a significant height into a clear plastic box so that they smash apart into a random jumble of broken glass at the bottom of the box.  This is the “naturally caused” pile of broken glass.
3. Take the second set of glasses and break them up with a hammer or whatnot in a very specific manner and then place the pieces into the bottom of a second box so that the pile of broken glass appears random.  This will be the “intelligently designed” pile of broken glass.
4.  Do all of this out of view of the ID-proponents (the test must be blinded), and then ask them to apply their method to identify the “naturally caused” pile from the “intelligently designed” pile.  Of course, the entire procedure would have to be performed many times to get a correct read on the statistics.
5. If there really is something to the ID method of “inferring design”, then the ID-proponents should be able to determine correctly the “intelligently designed” piles of glass at a rate significantly higher than chance (well over 50%).
The fact that I’ve never seen any ID-proponent perform, or even seriously suggest, such a blinded test of their design inference methods speaks volumes, folks.  And remember: they’ve been at this for 20 YEARS!

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