Because I have too much free time

A fellow named Jeff left a comment on an earlier post of mine, regarding some actions taken by Barbara Forrest of the National Center for Science Education to counter a creationist Trojan Horse bill in Louisiana. (The bill made it into law, as the reader may recall. We’re still waiting for the hammer of the courts to fall upon that one.)

Jeff’s comment was completely unrelated to that post. Instead, it was a self-styled “critique” of a speech Forrest apparently gave at a Southern Methodist Church. In the interest of promoting good science, and because I have little better to do, I have deleted Jeff’s comment and reproduced it here. I have attempted to counter his specious and often ludicrous arguments with some semblance of objective rationality.

It’s long. I hope you have too much free time as well!

A Critique of Barbara Forrest Speaking at Southern Methodist
Video found at

7:33 – 7:37

Here is the set-up by Ms. Forrest. Her claim is that the proponents of I.D. are trying to –

“…wedge into the public mind that science requires a supernatural designer, that it requires God.”

She has skewed the argument from the very outset. It is not “science” but life that requires a supernatural designer. That she would say this makes sense as the notion that “evolution is science” is often expressed by adherents to Darwinism – and it is simply wrong. This tactic, equating evolution with science, is understandable – if one dares to dissent from Darwin, then it follows: he is antiscience and his arguments can be dismissed as a religious zealotry. This tactic provides for the end of all dialogue and any further serious consideration of your opponent’s position.

Never mind that no Intelligent Design theorist has ever published original research that establishes the need for a supernatural creator. Never mind that ID has no theory, no data, no predictions, and no practical applications. Never mind that there is not a shred of scientific validity within a parsec of ID. It’s obviously science, and obviously anyone who disagrees is a slavering brand-wielder in the Darwinian Inquisition.

I hope the rest is this comical!

Ms. Forrest makes it clear: those questioning and critiquing the claims of Naturalism are engaged in “Stealth Creationism.” Ms. Forrest, however, then goes on a lengthy critique of the ideas she opposes and the message is clear: Critique of Darwin is inherently sinister, based on “stealth” (secret and subversive) motives. Extensive critiquing (her words) of Intelligent Design Theory (or any other theory) is fair play. Questions can be asked in one direction but not the other.

Note that Jeff doesn’t provide any quotes here from Forrest’s speech. We just have to rely on his gut reactions to Forrest’s words. Since many creationists tend to be paranoid conspiracy theorists, this is no surprise.

The truth, as all rational people know, is that evolutionary theory is not only open to critique, it is under critique constantly. This is why new ideas are so hard to introduce, and why the truly powerful ideas, the ones that survive such intense scrutiny, are able to catch on with such verve. Evolution by natural selection is a champion in this struggle. Intelligent Design is a featherweight, and is only still around because of the whinging litigiousness of its proponents.

Is this how science works? Sadly, yes – this is a common attitude and approach among Naturalists.

It gets even sillier than this, I promise.

In her critique of Behe’s irreducible complexity, Ms. Forrest says dismissively that he presents in “stylized fashion” the flagellum as a little outboard motor, but then goes on to concede that he draws the information from a “legitimate science textbook.” She then condescendingly remarks “he just kind of adopted it” and “the bacterial flagellum is not really a motor.” No kidding? It’s not really a motor, Ms. Forrest? To quote someone famous, it is obvious she is “…straining at a gnat…”

Forrest corrects a bit of Behe’s overzealous enthusiasm over bacterial flagella, and Jeff sees it as “straining at a gnat.” What?

In fact, Behe didn’t discover the bacterial flagellum. The scientist who did, however, was perfectly aware that, as complex as it is, it has “all the earmarks of something that arose through evolution.” In fact, it resembles very closely a simpler structure of a mechanism that other bacteria use to inject toxins into the cells of other organisms. This seems to suggest that a similar structure was co-opted by evolution to produce the flagellum.

Such “exaptation” of existing structures for new purposes is common in evolution. Jeff would know that if he were willing to open a real science textbook.

She shows a clip “from a legitimate scientific organization.” One has to ask – What legitimizes a scientific organization, their adherence to accepted conclusions?

What legitimizes a scientific organization is their adherence to scientific practices, not conclusions. The organizations that support ID, such as the Discovery Institute, are conspicuous in their complete lack of scientific practices.

Recall that she admitted Behe used illustrations from a legitimate science textbook – though he just “adopted them.” While the video from the “legitimate” Protonic Nanomachine Project shows a flagellum, that, good golly gosh, they have illustrated to look like a motor, with gears and such, Ms. Forrest then says –

“I’m just showing it to you because I think it’s just really pretty.”

Jeff accuses her of calling opposition to “Darwinism” wicked, and didn’t provide a post to support his claim. Now he’s taking her to task for saying the bacterial flagellum is pretty? I think it’s pretty too, Jeff! So what?

She is showing it to us because she thinks it’s pretty? This is a woman who authored a book on a subject about which she testified in a court of law, a woman from the scientific community who is attempting to persuade her audience to her position, and she is showing us this video clip because she thinks it’s pretty?

How many scientists do you know, Jeff? By the complete lack of understanding of science you demonstrate in this post, I’m going to guess it’s a small number. Scientists are generally quite passionate about the beauty of the order inherent in the universe. Again, so what?

After stating Behe’s position on irreducible complexity using the mousetrap metaphor, she then draws from Kenneth Miller’s material to refute Behe.

Miller’s “research”

An ID advocate, scare-quoting “research?” That’s the best laugh so far.

consisted of him asking his students to come up with all the things they could do with a mousetrap if they began removing parts, and they arrived at the following: – nose ring, fish hook, toothpick, tie-clip, refrigerator clip, clipboard holder, doorknocker, paperweight, kindling block, catapult, and nutcracker.

Noticeably missing from this list is MOUSETRAP. How does this fact escape an educated person involved in a scientific critique of an idea? The argument from Behe was if you take away the parts, you do not have a functioning whole…which is what Miller’s “research” proves. This is a perfect example of dogma getting in the way of common sense and clear thinking. The statement on the slide says:

“Individual parts of a supposedly irreducible (sic) complex machine are fully functional for different purposes.”

Who would begin to argue that a functioning, purposeful object would still serve as a functioning, purposeful object after it has been stripped of its parts? Ms. Forrest does! –

It is you, Jeff, who is missing the point. A structure can evolve from pre-existing structures, even if the original structures served an entirely different purpose. The feathers that birds use to fly evolved from fluffier, downier feathers possessed by dinosaurs, and these in turn appear to have evolved from scales. The legs that all tetrapods use to walk on land evolved from the fins of fishes. The list goes on forever, Jeff. What’s your excuse?

What Ken Miller’s analogy shows is that the parts of Behe’s much-touted mousetrap serve a long list of purposes in isolation. There is a series of functional intermediates from a plain wooden board to a useful mousetrap. It does not take much imagination to see this.

17:43 – 17:53
What Miller’s “research” shows is that – “Even Dr. Behe’s analogy doesn’t work.”

“I mean, you know, you can take parts off a mousetrap and it still works. Some (stammering speech) you (stammering speech) could work as a mousetrap, or it could work as something else, like a tie-clip.”

As at the outset, a false argument is being attacked. The argument is not that individual parts can’t be used for something else, but that the whole has a specific purpose and does not work without the parts. Let’s be clear, this is no refutation of Behe. To simply state that parts of a mousetrap can be fashioned for some other purpose is no refutation of irreducible complexity, and it certainly is no proof of Naturalism! Intelligence (the students) were sought to determine FUNCTION and PURPOSE for the parts, just as intelligence and design was needed for the mousetrap itself. There was nothing “random” about it!

Again, you’re missing the point. The irreducible complexity argument is meant to show that there are structures that could not have evolved by natural selection, because all parts need to be in place for the structure to function. No such structure has ever been demonstrated to exist. The mousetrap is only functional as a mousetrap with all its parts, but the parts themselves are useful for all sorts of other purposes. That means there is a sequence of functional intermediates between a plain board and a mousetrap. Behe is refuted. So is Jeff.

To finish the quote from someone famous, Ms. Forrest has “…swallowed a camel.”

Maybe Jeff will enlighten me as to who this “someone famous” is.

Moving on to her critique of Dembski, Ms. Forrest is even less persuasive. She states her opponent’s position, remarks that the position has been critiqued by so and so, and then shows pictures of some plants.

21:31- “…but, this (Dembski’s argument) has been scrutinized by many, many capable people…”

How do we know that the people are capable? What are the criteria? It is important to ask these things!

Yeah, it’s important to be able to see people’s research.

(Crickets from the ID camp)

As the slides of flora are shown, the only thing offered is the names of the people who looked at it, found it in a grocery store, and the names of the plants. No evidence or explanation is offered of how Natural processes alone brought these organisms about; just the statement from Ms. Forrest that it happened! The only thing proven is that Ms. Forrest believes that Naturalism can explain what only has “appearance of design.” 22:28

“…so, Dembski, of course, has been shown to be wrong…”

If he was, it was not in her presentation.

You have not demonstrated that she failed to refute Dembski. You haven’t even noted what she said about him. If, however, you want to know what’s wrong with Specified Complexity, it isn’t hard to find critiques online.

After dismissing Dembski for the same (21:42), Ms. Forrest simply applied her own preferred “conceptual framework” to get the result she wanted. Without any evidence or explanation to the contrary, just on her word alone and those of other “capable people,” we are to believe her.

Folks, this is not science.

Jeff, don’t be silly. Critiques of Dembski are available everywhere! The information is free for the taking! The free exchange of ideas emphatically is science. It is only because of the free exchange of ideas that ID tripe is allowed to persist.

I watched this video until the 35 minute mark and had to leave it alone due to time constraints. It became clear to me what Ms. Forrest’s real argument is, and it is not science. This debate is about the influence of Religion in our educational system with the “foothold” being the open critique of the Naturalist/Materialist view of life.

So you wrote a critique of her presentation, without having watched the whole thing. Classy. Telling, too.

Many, like Ms. Forrest, have accepted a view of science which has left them incapable of free inquiry. A Naturalistic/Materialistic view of life does not open people to new avenues to discovery – to the degree that these views are held dogmatically – it limits them.

Guess what, Jeff? No one is stopping people of a supernaturalistic (whatever that means) bent to do research of their own. So why aren’t they? Why aren’t ID theorists blowing away the scientific establishment with the evidence of the existence of God (whoops, the “Intelligent Designer”)?

Is it because they have no research?

Is it because they have no idea what such research would even look like?

Face it, Jeff, the emperor has no clothes, and his genitals look ridiculous.

The powers that be have declared the acceptable view of Reality. All who dare to question or interpret differently are branded “heretic,” or worse.

What evidence do you have of this? You have not shown that anyone has been persecuted in any serious fashion for espousing ID. Again, no one is stopping them from doing research, and there is certainly a windfall of funding available to anyone willing to try. The Discovery Institute certainly could dig up some funds.

Galileo, anyone?

As a free public service, Jeff, I am going to list the ways in which the ID cronies are not like Galileo.

  • Galileo did actual research.
  • Galileo’s findings followed from rigorous observation of the natural world.
  • Galileo was persecuted because his findings contradicted with religious dogma, not verifiable findings of legitimate science.

In summary Jeff, think about this. Not fifty years ago, it was still illegal in many states to teach evolution. No where would you find ideologues saying “Evolution is one theory, but here’s another.” Creationists opposed evolution because it contradicted their religious beliefs and offended their sensibilities. The ID pushing hypocrites oppose evolution for the same reason, but they’re too bound up in their own attempts to circumvent the Constitution to see it.

The ID camp has bought its own hype, Jeff. You’ve been suckered in by the Wedge strategy. You’ve been hoodwinked into believing that ID is science, when anyone who takes the time to look it up can see in moments that it’s a sham. How does that feel?


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One Response to “Because I have too much free time”

  1. Tony Whitson Says:

    You’re obviously right — you did have too much free time on your hands.

    Next, you’ll be debating Larry Farfalman. 🙂

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