Drop it, G.O.P.! Intelligent Design IS re-branded Creationism

by CynthiaYockey on May 13, 2009

Social conservatives and Republicans who support the propaganda that Intelligent Design is scientific are destroying the credibility of the G.O.P. as a supporter of the scientific method, just as Charles Johnson says today (and almost every day) at Little Green Footballs. This matters because fiscal conservatives must use science to defeat the specious science used to support the fear-mongering that is the campaign against global warming, now re-branded at climate change. Like changing isn’t what the climate DOES. The G.O.P. must drop its support of faith masquerading as science in order to be credible in its support of the real science regarding the climate and the environment.

However, I have to admit, legitimate scientists are not helping very much to burnish the reputation of science because their search for the origin of life is based on the complete failure to grasp simple principles of coding theory. The short version of the explanation is that you cannot look back from a 20-letter alphabet of amino acids to a 64-letter alphabet of codons. This means the origin of life is an axiom of biology just as much as the origin of matter is an axiom of physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc. The origin of life is unknowable. That is what should be taught about the origin of life. All of the scientific scenarios for the origin of life that currrently exist and that may be proposed in the future are based on faith just as much as Intelligent Design and Creationism and must therefore be rejected as well.

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  • Cynthia,

    I’d be interested in seeing your take on Ben Stein’s Expelled.

    Creationism has to do, as I understand it, with the origins of human life, whereas ID concerns itself more with the origins of original life–that issue that you and I both regard as probably unknowable.

    The distinction matters, particularly since a person (a hypothetical one, mind you–let’s make her five-one-and-a-half, buxom, and with long hair) might believe in creation through evolution as far as homo sapiens are concerned, yet suspect that intervention in original life on this planet might have had to be more direct.

    I understand the notion that something one cannot falsify may or may not be “science,” but there is also such a thing as truth, and we must be unafraid to speak it.

    Stein points out the limitations (and the perils) of “Darwinism,” and the necessity of not censoring academics, so in that regard I think he adds a valuable voice to the debate. He also reminds us of the unholy uses to which Darwin’s theories have been put. We must be unafraid to look at that.

    I am not anti-science. In fact, I’m extraordinarily pro-research, and I know that some on our side periodically cherry-pick a few extreme-sounding research projects that have been funded, in order to demonstrate “spending out of control,” and I’m generally skeptical about that, because basic research is important in adding to the body of knowledge in the developed world. (Though I’m sure there are funded projects out there that are the equivalent of “pork,” or “corporate welfare.” It’s just that we have to be very, very careful not to strip research of its context, and very careful that we are still doing a lot of basic research.)

    But saying that scientists can’t even allude to ID when they are discussing the origins of life appears, to my mind, to be taking things too far.

    I haven’t been to LGF in some time, but I hear that Johnson is freaking out over this a lot lately . . . they say he doesn’t tolerate dissent over there.

    • Joy,

      I haven’t read Ben Stein’s Expelled. However, I did hear him discuss it on one of the cable news channels and decided that if that was an example of his powers of analysis, my intuitions that his economic opinions are incorrect have been right on the money.

      As I have gotten to understand social conservatives, I have been truly horrified by the number of ways, levels of life and fields of science and inquiry in which they fight the theory of evolution in order to impose religious dogma. It is truly appalling. The fact that Creationists and IDers persist in their advocacy really demonstrates that they are driven by a dogma (and, quite possibly, a lust to dominate) and not the principles of science. Scientists who do anything to pass off religious dogma as science are not scientists and are not being treated badly when this is pointed out to them, or when they are ex-communicated, so to speak, for heresy. Science is where throwing out the superstitious, the dogmatic and the wrong is the entire purpose of the endeavor. It isn’t taking things too far. It is doing what science is supposed to do.

      What has made my father (Hubert P. Yockey) so unpopular among scientists is that he has probably done more than anyone else to force scientists to reject their own origin of life scenarios that rely on miracles and/or faith just as much as Creationism and Intelligent Design do. (I haven’t done a survey of the literature to be absolutely sure he deserves this credit, but I bet he does.) All of the current origin of life scenarios that purport to be scientific have a “then a miracle occurs” step in them — this includes the chance, self-organization, “proteins first” and RNA world scenarios. (I have a guest this weekend so I haven’t properly fisked the RNA world article Charles thinks pwned me as his reply.)

      Both Creationism — which has various versions — and Intelligent Design address the origin of all life. Darwin himself pointed out that his theory of evolution did not address the origin of life and he wrote that it was unknowable in the same way that the origin of matter is unknowable. By the way, the “warm little pond” scenario comes from one of Darwin’s private letters, not from his scientific writings, so it should not be considered as having the same status.

      My father has repeatedly admonished scientists that science is, as Socrates says, about counting and measuring. This is what scientists should stick to. They have no business whatsoever making pronouncements about God, or faith, neither of which can be counted or measured. But since some scientists can’t resist twisting science to make pronouncements to deny God and invalidate religion — OK, “the sun revolves around the earth” as a religious dogma is fair game, but not whether or not there is a God — it is not surprising that people of faith can’t resist returning the favor by twisting science to prove God and force people to accept their particular dogma.

      FYI, the objections to the theory of evolution raised by Intelligent Design have been simply and conclusively answered by my father. First, he pointed out that the ID objections based on morphology and gaps in the fossil record — which IDers clearly believed would allow them to lead legitimate scientists around by the nose forever — have been obsolete since the discovery of the genome. We can trace the genome all the way back to the origin of life. My father also pointed out that the genome takes the place of the “Designer” in Intelligent Design. These points didn’t come out until the end of the 205 Panda trial because the people at NCSE apparently thought Dad was some kind of Creationist, even though his most recent book pointed out the flaws in ID and none of his publications support Creationism or ID, so they didn’t invite him to testify or submit anything until the very end. It is a real tragedy to science that they (NCSE) never really understood his work because no one could have addressed Of People and Pandas better — he has original letters from the authors of the book and drafts of the book and tried to get the authors NOT to distort his work but they did it anyway.


  • I think that Ben Stein has generally shown himself to be knowledgeable and often wise. So I was very disappointed by how much ‘Expelled’ missed the point. But it makes no sense to argue that everything he has said lacks merit because he was off the mark here. I could just as well argue that since Barack Obama thinks there are 57+ states in the union and he believes that Austrians speak Austrian, that one should there after pay no attention to anything the man has to say.
    I really don’t care if some conservatives are Creationists or not. The important point is where do they stand on the important points of policy, law and governance. I would prefer them to someone who agrees on some unrelated point of science whose policy positions are dangerous. It is not important. It is just the latest whip that the left is using to beat the right and has little or no actual impact on anyone’s life. And if everyone on the right were to come around to the MSM’s orthodoxy the attacks would not end, they would just take another approach. The MSM care nothing for truth, they are just out to stab their enemies in the back. Anyone interest in truth must seek elsewhere.

    • Snaggletoothie,

      If Barack Obama were white, or black and conservative, no one would have cared what he thought after the “57 states” gaffe. But affiirmative action and media corruption saw him through and he is busily destroying our economy, erasing our borders and weakening our military. That gaffe was a huge red flag about the man’s ability to grasp the simplest facts.

      Regarding the Creationism of anyone, if this religious belief stayed in the churches where it is propagated, that would be fine. However, social conservatives are constantly trying to force their beliefs onto everyone through every lever of the apparatus of the government they get their hands on. They work to have religion dressed as science and then they force it into public school textbooks. They pass laws requiring their religious doctrines be taught as fact instead of faith so that they can gain more converts. A very pretty facade is plastered onto this unremitting campaign, but the driving forces behind it are greed and lust for power. Religion may legitimately be taught in churches, religious schools and the theology and philosophy departments of universities. But it has no business in the science classroom anywhere.

      Likewise, science cannot have anything to say about matters of faith and is in no position whatsoever to make pronouncements either affirming or denying God. All science can do is address particular dogmas, such as the assertion that the Sun revolves around the Earth. With regard to dogmas about the origin of life, the origin of life is unknowable by any current or future scientific method, but it is mathematics that shows us why this is so. So religions may have any origin of life dogma they wish, as long as it is professed anywhere except in science and science classes. However, regarding the theory of evolution, there science does demonstrate conclusively that it is the correct explanation for how living creatures have transformed from the origin of life to their current state and will continue to transform until the end of all life, if that time ever comes. Religious dogmas asserting otherwise are comparable to the assertion that the Sun revolves around the Earth — in my opinion this should be accepted as a call to a larger faith, because it is not the an all-encompassing negation that some religions make it out to be. Dogmas are not God and God is not dogma.


  • Evolution is a useless waste of time. It has not been proved conclusively. If it has been the more meticulous scientists would have stopped calling it the ‘theory’ of evolution. But if you accept it you end up with nothing of use. It will tell you nothing specific about what to expect in the future. You cannot construct a test situation that will inform us of as to whether or not it can predict accurately. A Darwinist might claim that there will be different species in the future. But someone who examined the fossil record and induced from it could tell you that without going thru the rigmarole of developing the theory of evolution. Most of the time spent teaching about evolution could be more profitably spent learning anatomy, physiology, histology and so much else in biology that is actually of some use. I can only see all the time spent teaching evolution as just another sign that our schools and teachers have long since quit caring what kids need and are just abusing the system to advance their own personal prejudices. Useful scientific knowledge does not include evolution.

    • Snaggletoothie,

      “Theory” means “the explanation of how and/or why something happens.” Compare it to a recipe.

      The religionists behind Intelligent Design try to use the word “theory” as if it were the same as the word “hypothesis,” which is closer to a best guess. The theory of evolution is not a guess. It IS the explanation.


  • What in the world is a ‘religionist’? It sounds like an insult.
    Calling something ‘the explanation’ does not make it so. I say that evolution is useless and unnecessary and you seem unable to cite any examples of its usefulness. I am reminded of Plato’s allegory of the cave. The poor guys in the cave constructed explanations of what they saw. But only the one who escaped the cave understood that their conditions rendered them incapable of having the least clue about what was actually happening.

    • Snaggletoothie,

      Eric Hoffer called what true believers have to repel evidence disproving their fanatical beliefs a “fact-proof screen.” I notice that one of the strategies of the Discovery Institute and it cohorts is simply to wear down the opposition through repetition.

      I see why Charles Johnson has taken to banning commenters. If I spot people who I think are using the technique of wearing me down, I will ban them.



      “Religionist” is a catch-all term for people using religion to explain the origin of life and evolution. It was intended to be neutral.

  • Sorry to post on a stale thread, but this one caught my eye. I won’t argue that a lot of people say “Intelligent Design” when they are really thinking “Crypto Creationism.” And I hope that I’m not advocating any religious dogma or any other dogma.

    I’m given to understand that when you consider certain physical constants, they seem to be precariously balanced in such a way that the universe is interesting. But given the laws of physics, were physical constants slightly different, we’d get a universe without stars. Or something else that would make life as we know it impossible.

    Now, I haven’t opened my Bible, and I haven’t put John Scopes on trial, and I haven’t told anybody to shut up. I haven’t even mentioned anything biological, much less the origins of any species.

    I have a mathematical question in mind. We’ve only seen one universe, so we’ve no basis of comparison. Is it true or not that the physical constants of the universe are set up as I represented above? Is it likely or unlikely that they should be so? If I show you a one-in-a-million event, you’ll be impressed until I tell you that I looked through a million events for it. Does this explain this business with the physical constants of the universe? What about Occam’s razor? Is this mere selection bias?

    These are more questions of physics and mathematics (combinatorics), than religious questions. (Though they have obvious religious applications, let’s not shy away for that reason any more than Charles Darwin shied away from possible implications of his theory.) If someone wants to study these questions, how should he label it? The first few years after I heard of Intelligent Design, I thought it referred to these questions, but the language has gotten muddled.

    I think the aim of Creationism is to confirm the Biblical narrative of origins. Since Darwin challenges that narrative, Creationists must falsify Darwin’s challenges or accommodate his theories within the creation story.

    This is a different activity than asking questions about physical constants and their statistical likelihood. After grad school I was a cryptologic mathematician. That job involved a lot of questions whether interesting looking things were causal or not. What I want is a label to put on these mathematical/statistical questions, and it appears that someone’s spoiled Intelligent Design for that purpose. What label do you suggest?

    • Steven,

      Hi, long time no see! I have only glanced over your comment and don’t have time to reply. But I plan to come back to this because Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs answered it with an article on RNA world, which shows he has no idea of how the genetic code operates.


  • Texas Tom

    “Theory” means “the explanation of how and/or why something happens.” Compare it to a recipe.

    The religionists behind Intelligent Design try to use the word “theory” as if it were the same as the word “hypothesis,” which is closer to a best guess. The theory of evolution is not a guess. It IS the explanation.

    Whoa! A hypothesis is the guess you test and the most robust wins the Theory moniker until shown to be false. The Theory of Evolution does explain with qualifications, but it does not prove. It’s assumptions are not disprovable because we can’t replicate the assumptions. From the primordial muck to the current state of being, we must put a lot of faith in our conclusions about the journey from the beginning to the present. Especially when the evolutionary drama never seems to segue from a lower form to the advanced product with intermediate results still present (man evolved from pre-man; no intermediate man found.. or.. lizard to bird? WTF?). So I see a great deal of faith in The not quite holy Theory. What is wrong in having faith in the divine and go on living without the answers that don’t add to a life worth living. I, myself find “Intelligent Design” a bit of a cop out because too many folk are afraid to publicly proclaim their great ignorance of our existence (why? how?) without some high sounding throat clearing. I am not ashamed to say I don’t know how but I enjoy the faith in knowing it is. Dos centavos.

    P.S. I love your blog and your shared thoughts. Thanks for expanding my reasoning powers. Tom

    • Texas Tom,

      My father pointed out in 2005 in his amicus brief to the Panda trial that the objection that the theory of evolution can be challenged on the basis of gaps in the fossil record is specious because it is based on the obsolete method of using morphology on the skeletons recovered. There will always be gaps in the fossil record, so Intelligent Design proponents were very smug that they could give real scientists the run-around for all eternity. They alternate between that and mechanical models of structures of living organisms. But, oops! So sad! — the contemporary model for investigating the theory of evolution is the genome. There are NO gaps in the genome from the origin of life to the present, and it is through the genome that we now look back. The mechanical model mis-direct is just irrelevant because the genome takes the place of the Designer.

      There is an unbridgeable gap between religion and science, which, as my father points out, is restricted to, as Socrates put it, counting and measuring. Religion is based on faith. Science can and should disprove dogmas that are factually wrong. However, it cannot really address the aspects of life that transcend counting and measuring. Scientists may disprove dogmas, but not the transcendent, and they are wrong to make pronouncements claiming to disprove God. Likewise, religionists should relinquish dogmas that are scientifically disproved, but the loss of a dogma should not destroy their faith. In addition, religionists really cannot and should not be using science to force people to their point of view.

      I’ve been meaning to tweak Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs again about being a creationist. He answered this post with a link to an article about RNA world and I haven’t gotten around to my reply yet, so this will have to do for now. It appears my father’s work forced most scientists to drop both the chance and self-organization scenarios for the origin of life. They have decamped to RNA world, location: east of the sun, west of the moon. RNA world isn’t going to work, either, for exactly the reasons my father states: the Central Dogma is correct, information flows back and forth between alphabets of the same number of characters (the 64 codons of DNA and RNA), but you cannot look back from the 20-character alphabet of proteins to RNA and DNA due to the imprecision of working with a single-to-many code. The bottom line is that scientists who believe that they can discover the origin of life also are creationists because every single one of their scenarios is based on faith and contains the following critical step: “then a miracle occurs,” or rather, “then an INEVITABLE miracle occurs.” (This is the same as a mathematical proof that has a step where you divide by zero — that’s the step where it loses its validity.)

      My father has demonstrated that the origin of life is an axiom of biology, as Darwin predicted, just as the origin of matter is an axiom of physics and chemistry. The current state of study of the origin of life among legitimate scientists is exactly analagous to a literature department at a university studying ink — or pixels — to determine the origin of how books got all that information in them. (I define legitimate scientists in the field of the origin of life as the ones who repudiate religious creationism in all forms, including Intelligent Design.)

      Thank you for your kind praise. I do appreciate that my gentle readers seldom share my point of view, yet are so articulate and courteous when they share theirs.


  • Texas Tom

    I am not a phi beta kappa in the world of arguments yet I really appreciate and understand your response. I understand what you say but sometimes I think that I do better when the lard is boiled away. So I should ask more questions. I see ID as a point of view as much as Evolooters (Just made that up. Like it? Too much like Emo?). I came to my acceptance of Christian beliefs through real experience of unpleasant events and how a real person deals with life (good and not so good). Does one need to “know all” to “live all?” I say nope. Whenever a person pronounces an establish fact or solid refutation I will normally see a hole in the fabric that ties the bundle together. The hole may not be relevant to the point but there none the less. Sometimes a cigar is really a deformed tobacco leaf. You put forward a statement that there are no gaps in the genome from the origins of life. Oh? And what is the evidence for this? I guess there is no witness or smoking gun (steaming goop… ahem. Smirk a little). I don’t know if a gap in the fossil record will make my love for my wife any less or a rabid defense of creationism will improve a California sunset off Point Loma.

    In short, the origin of life is unknowable but quite believable. The existence of God is knowable if believable. I am believable if known. Drat the human limitation… Must get more enigma in my diet…

    Are you really as wonderful as you write?


    • Texas Tom,

      There is no equivalency between Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is legitimate science, and Intelligent Design, which is re-branded creationism aimed at imposing religious dogma as fact. The problem with all scenarios for the origin-of-life is that they are based on faith. Life is an axiom of biology, just as matter is an axiom of physics and chemistry.

      “There are no gaps in the genome from the origin of life to the present” means from the origin of life to the present there have been living beings continuously that have passed on the non-material genetic message, or genome, which is digitally recorded in DNA. If there had been a complete gap, there would be no life at all. That’s how we know. (The digits with which the genome is recorded in DNA are the codons, NOT the individual nucleotides.)

      Regarding my wonderfulness: why, yes, yes, I am. 🙂 (Thank you!)


  • Texas Tom

    Regarding my wonderfulness: why, yes, yes, I am. (Thank you!)

    I knew it. You will never be able to claim I am not incredibly perceptive and wise, sometimes.

    I will now scan the more recent posts.

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