Moran v. Discovery Institute

June 23, 2012 • 10:39 am

Over at Sandwalk, Larry Moran examines David Klinghoffer’s claim that we evolutionists don’t really understand Intelligent Design. Klinghoffer says this at the ID site Evolution News and Views (ENV):

Forget for a moment about who, Darwinists or Design advocates, is actually right. If you took a sample of ID folks and a sample of Darwin people, specifically those who have felt confident enough in their views to write about them for publication, and then quizzed each group about what arguments their opponents offer, there’s no question that those from the ID community would know better what their opposites in the debate say.

Just look at ENV as a convenient illustration. We strive to keep up with toughest challenges, such as they are, from evolutionists. Now look at the competing Darwin blogs. Guys like PZ Myers & Co. concentrate their fire on naïve young-earth creationists. Jerry Coyne and his colleagues in the Darwin-defending business are careful to stay unaware of the very serious challenges to Darwinism from ID.

Ummm. . . . no, we don’t concentrate our fire solely on young-earth creationists. Both P. Z. and I have written extensively on Intelligent Design. I have, for example, reviewed both of Michael Behe’s books (references below).  Anyway, Larry gives the appropriate response:

As it turns out, most of us know more about Intelligent Design Creationism than the average IDiot. As for evolution, I’ve yet to meet an IDiot who even comes close to understanding it, although Michael Behe and Michael Denton come pretty close.

Klinghoffer and his friends are deluding themselves if they think we don’t know what they are saying and they are even more delusional if they think they understand evolution. We’ve proven time and time again that they don’t.

Are we surprised? No, because the one thing all IDiots have in common is the God delusion—the biggest one of all.

Sometimes I wonder why this small pack of loonies thinks that so many scientists—certainly at least 95% of biologists—are so deluded as to believe in Darwinism?  Are we all simply victims of a 150-year hoax, a hoax involving fields as diverse as embryology, geology, morphology, genetics, biochemistry, and biogeography—all of which erroneously point to the same conclusions? Or do they think it’s a vast conspiracy in which scientists in their smoke-filled labs meet to push a theory that’s knowingly wrong—perhaps as a way to attain our real goal: universal atheism?

IDiots is the right word.  Klinghoffer and his cronies will die without ever finding the vindication they so crave.  The kicker is they won’t go anywhere after they die, either.  They’re worm food, both dead and alive.


(Free downloads of these articles are available at the bottom of this page).

Coyne, J. A.  1996.  God In the Details. (Review of Darwin’s Black Box, by M. Behe). Nature 383:227-228.

Coyne, J. A.  2007.   The Great Mutator (Review of The Edge of Evolution, by Michael J. Behe). The New Republic, June 18, 2007,   pp. 38-44.

48 thoughts on “Moran v. Discovery Institute

  1. Jerry, you mean that after you got your PhD you weren’t taken into a back room and given the secret handshake, charms and tokens, words of admission and sworn to uphold and defend The Big Secret?

    And as for the smoke filled lab, first of all it wasn’t entirely my fault and just give me a moment and I can explain. Srsly.

  2. We strive to keep up with toughest challenges, such as they are, from evolutionists.

    And yet they fail, 100% of the time. How smart can the IDiots be when they don’t recognize this?

    1. They succeed in their own terms – theirs are the “smoke-filled” rooms. And arguments.

  3. I keep telling myself that no one can be that stupid…the stuff that emanates from the talking heads at the discovery institute is so bizarre and unbelievable sometimes that I’ve come to this conclusion: they just flat-out lie.

          1. Yeah, that too, but my point was that there wasn’t an either/or between the stupid and the crazy.

  4. These people are beyond hope. However, when it comes to the kind of people who are convinced by their arguments, maybe they could be reminded every single time that they make use of genuine science. Every time that they turn on a light, start their car, change channels on their TV or log onto their computer they should be reminded, ‘this service is brought to you by genuine science’.

  5. Klinghoffer is more delusional than I thought possible. I mean, we’ve all read the Wedge Document. We know exactly what Intelligent Design is: a cynical attempt to hide creationism arguments behind scientific sounding language in order to slip it past the courts and into public schools. Meanwhile Kilnghoffer misunderstands evolution so much that he tries to link it to Hitler and communism every couple of months.

  6. This is the same argument that AGW denialists bring up.. “we don’t understand the data, or it’s a hoax or a canard or a conspiacy.” It seems 95% approval rating doesn’t cut it with these groups.

    1. I don’t think that the strong overlap between the people who think AGW isn’t real and the people who think evolution isn’t real is coincidental.

  7. It’s a delusion that they have to cling to. Just as the religious delude themselves that there is Sophisticated Theology that atheists don’t and can’t respond to, so the IDiots need to believe that there are “serious challenges” to evolution that aren’t being addressed.

    The lack of evidence for these delusions isn’t a problem, they’re both religious notions.

  8. Klinghoffer ought to go over to Elizabeth Liddle’s wonderful blog The Skeptical Zone which has been examining the arguments of ID advocates, one by one and in detail. Originally it was founded by her when she and most other pro-evolution commenters were purged from Uncommon Descent when its chief, Barry Arrington engaged in a frenzy of crazed bannination. Even some pro-ID commenters objected to that, and they too were banned from UD and ended up appearing at SZ.

    As the author of an article which examines in detail the arguments of William Dembski, I was surprised that there was never any answer from Dembski. In light of non-responses like that, Klinghoffer’s assertion seems exactly backwards.

    1. Read your article; thanks for the link.

      As to the cartoon from the ID t-shirt you include as Figure 1: Do the IDers completely miss the irony in comparing themselves to conquering Visigoths, whose success brought on The Dark Ages?

      1. I think they see themselves as having powerful and effective arguments, while the bloated and corrupt establishment is helpless to counteract them.

        Intellectually, this is totally backwards — they are unable to answer the criticisms of their arguments. So they don’t even try.

        Politically … well, we’ll see.

        What is fascinating is the arguments that the cartoonist thinks that they have. “Fine Tuning of the Universe”? (That has nothing to do with disproving the effectiveness of evolution). “Art”? “Literature”? “Philosophy”. Apparently they are just sure that the ability to do these could never arise in humans by natural means.

        1. OOL research is also a blatant non sequitur. We can synthesize bacteria (as we can now) and it would _still_ evolve regardless of the origin of the first population.

  9. This is sort of like the sophisticated theology argument that accuses skeptics of not being familiar enough with the finer points of theology—a similar debate-style tactic meant to put the other side on the defensive. Every moment your opponent spends explaining herself is a moment you don’t have to spend making sense. Part of their tack has always been to put evolutionary science on trial, so they make the overblown charge that well-known biologists are “unaware” of the “serious problems” with evolution. That nicely takes the attention off their big problem: their ideas are scientifically vacuous. Of course, the joke’s on them, as it’s always been: Jerry and his fellow biologists will keep right on doing their science—proper science—to which the I.D. crowd will continue to contribute nothing of merit.

  10. ” … why this small pack of loonies thinks that so many scientists—certainly at least 95% of biologists—are so deluded as to believe in Darwinism? Are we all simply victims of a 150-year hoax … ”

    The ID delusion goes even deeper: They must believe that the top scientists in all other fields are also either in on the hoax or too deluded themselves to call the biologists on their dirty big secret. The IDers must believe that every other science department — including, for instance, physics, where supporters of (what Sean Carroll has termed) “string theory and its discontents” show no hesitation in going after each other hammer and tong — are either too dense to see what the dimmest commenter on Uncommon Descent recognizes as self-evident, or are in on the grand conspiracy and thus willing to hold their noses and pretend there’s nothing rotten over in the biology department.

  11. I really would like Klinghoffer to explain to us how Darwin’s theories led to the Nazi regime in Germany when that regime rejected common descent, which is the basis of evolution. As a matter of fact, Klinghoffer and his fellow clowns at the Dishonesty Institute are the real comrades in arms of Frankenberger as they, too, reject common descent.

    1. There actual was a !*modest*! influence of the philosophy of !*social Darwinism*! on Naziism as was argued by Hannah Arendt in the 1950s. And yes, the Nazis did deny common descent.

      Creationists picked up on this back in the 1980s, but many responsible academics think they overstated their case.

      The official position of the Anti-Defamation League is “”Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.” (quoted in National Center for Science Education’s webpage on “Expelled Exposed” –

      1. The fact is that Frankenberger was far more influenced by the writings of Martin Luther then he was by the theories of social Darwinism.

  12. Absolutely “fabulous”!

    Klinghoffer performs just as any good little propagandist should. No references to a single person or fact; just write for the benefit of those good little sheeple folk who will simply agree with him without pausing to ask any questions or do any investigation for themselves.

    Oh, I’m sorry, isn’t that what was being talked (written) about?!


  13. This little essay might make things clearer:

    The real problem with anti-darwinism is that it requires an extremely paranoid mindset to be maintained. I was reading “What Evolution Is” by Ernst Mayr, and he says that a third of all papers published on molecular biology deal with evolution. To an anti-darwinist, all these papers are complete lies, even when they’re not:

  14. As for evolution, I’ve yet to meet an IDiot who even comes close to understanding it, although Michael Behe and Michael Denton come pretty close.

    That’s not quite right, and tends to obscure the deliberately fraudulent character of ID. I think these guys know their stuff, as any good con artist would. They know damned well that there’s nothing to the stories they tell.

    Listening to that infamous diavlog with Behe and John McWhorter (which cost Robert Wright the participation of some great science journalists), there’s a point at which McWhorter gently challenges Behe on how the supposedly irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum shares components with type three secretion systems. Behe replies

    It’s like taking away an axle or something from an outboard motor and saying, I can use this axle over here, and somebody says, Yes, but the outboard motor is broken, it doesn’t work anymore.

    Is it even remotely possible that a biochemist, speaking honestly, could say something so ridiculous? Of course not. Behe just figures he can take advantage of McWhorter’s ignorance of cell biology. He doesn’t believe a word he says. (Later, there’s an awkward moment when McWhorter expresses enthusiasm for how ID is certain to revolutionize evolutionary theory, and Behe has to remind him that, for the time being, it’s more important to catalog the shortcomings of current theory.)

    I imagine that the IDers justify their fraud as a means to buttress their beloved theism against the corrosive effects of naturalism, but I’ll always wonder if they’ve really just been running a scam on the donors who support their work. It’s probably a pretty good life.

  15. The only reason why ID is considered not science because members are identified as believers in God. Other than this, I doubt if they can put forward any arguments based in scientific evidence.

    The debate between Evolution and ID should focus not on the religious belief or affiliation of its proponents but on the merit of scientific evidence as to which between these two theories best explain particular phenomenon i.e. the origin of life.

    What we heard from neo-Darwinism proponents about ID is that, it is not science. Ask them why it is not science and you will never argue anything about science but about the belief of the person who considered ID as an explanation. That’s pathetic. If anyone would want to argue, bring on the table your scientific facts and proof showing ID is not science based on their non-adherent to known scientific method or technique.

    While Evolution cannot produce a single evidence for its claims, here the Neo-Darwinism proponents are claiming ID is not science. By logical calculation and mathematical probabilities, evolution has no place in a time constraint universe. And I quote:

    “[W]e are left with very little time between the development of suitable conditions for life on the earth’s surface and the origin of life. Life is not a complex accident that required immense time to convert the vastly improbable into the nearly certain. Instead, life, for all its intricacy, probably arose rapidly about as soon as it could.”
    (Gould, S. J., “An Early Start,” Natural History, February, 1978)

    “…we have now what we believe is strong evidence for life on Earth 3,800 thousand million years [ago]. This brings the theory for the Origin of Life on Earth down to a very narrow range … we are now thinking, in geochemical terms, of instant life…”
    (Ponnamperuma, C. from “Evolution from Space,” 1981)

    Question: Is there any evidence for ID found in nature or in DNA or in the formation of life?

    Francis Crick, the scientist who discovered the structure of DNA, commented:
    “The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.” – Horgan, J., “In the Beginning…,” Scientific American, (Feb 1991) 264:116-126).

    “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” – Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996).

    Even the heavy proponents of evolution such as Dawkins openly admitted the appearance of ID in Biology. The only difference is that, Dawkins would rather conclude that aliens are responsible for such life formation than to consider a Creator responsible for life. How funny could that be?

    1. Your post makes numerous false claims.

      1) As one of the relatively few (semi-)accomodationists who post here, let me point out to you that you are surely aware that Christians who accept evolution such as Ken Miller and Francis Collins are a polarizing issue for discussion within the rationalist/skeptic community. Skeptics like Michael Shermer & Eugenie Scott are very happy with Collins’ attempts to reconcile evolution and Christianity (Shermer & Scott have entirely different grounds for their religious unbelief) while the originator of this blog, Jerry Coyne, is rather hostile to what Collins does. And Miller is quite hostile to ID and is himself a Roman Catholic.
      The very existence of nonbelievers like Shermer and Scott and a believer like Ken Miller proves that hostility to ID is not “per se” motivated by the fact that IDers believe in God!!!

      You write “Ask them why it is not science and you will never argue anything about science but about the belief of the person who considered ID as an explanation.”
      Obviously, you haven’t read Ken Miller’s books.

      2) You write
      “While Evolution cannot produce a single evidence for its claims,”..
      not a single solitary piece of evidence at ALL?
      Even by the standards of some IDers that is a blatant exaggeration.
      In the massively unlikely event that evolution were ever to be proven wrong, one could still state there was a case for it, even if turned out to be misleading.

      3) You write
      “Dawkins would rather conclude that aliens are responsible for such life formation than to consider a Creator responsible for life”
      A misleading claim due to the dishonest editing of his interview in the film “Expelled” which has been repeatedly debunked.

      4) You are also doing a lot of “quote-mining” in the last section. Lots of philosophical naturalists use the word miracle in a poetic sense. Francis Crick was a complete non-believer. Near the end of his life he said “And if some of the Bible is manifestly wrong, why should any of the rest of it be accepted automatically?”

      Vladski, I am pretty much the most religion-friendly guy who regularly posts on this blog as evidenced by my earlier defenses of Francis Collins (re his integrity not his beliefs) and Bart Ehrman and liking various snippets of the Bible, and you know what? Even I think you’re as dumb as a horse-post.

    2. Vladski, when you say things like this:

      “While Evolution cannot produce a single evidence for its claims”

      you trash all your credibility.

      There is tons of evidence for evolution. For you to claim the opposite means that you are either:
      a) spectacularly ignorant, or
      b) breathtakingly dishonest

      If it’s A, you should go read a book like Why Evolution is True or The Ancestor’s Tale. If it’s B, oh boy, are you on the wrong site.

    3. Creationists shouldn’t comment on science. Taken at face value, they show in explicit detail how their religion is based on waving scientific paraphernalia around like any other Cargo Cult out there.

      It is also mostly counterproductive to humor their trolling of science. It is like encouraging a dove to think it plays chess when it knocks the pieces over and craps on the table.

      That said, creationism has led me to study the basics of biology, evolution, and now astrobiology. Since I am bored at the moment, I will use this opportunity to survey that:

      – What Grania Spingies said on evidence for biology. Same when you go “By logical calculation and mathematical probabilities, evolution has no place in a time constraint universe”, because exactly by those means (population genetics et cetera) evolution has been established as comfortably within geological time.

      Besides, this is a fallacy of false choice based on that you can’t test your own theory by finding problems in others. It would be like declaring that you are no thief because your neighbor happens to be one.

      – Creationism is at face value a religion. Everything else alike it can never become a scientific theory – no mechanism, and no tests to make observations against.

      Besides, evolution is the most successful theory we know, explains complicated facts to high certainty by way of phylogenies. It contains the best observed fact of all science: the existence of a LUCA, with ~ 1:10^2000 (!) odds against creationist ID of random (non–mechanical, remember) “poofing” of species.

      ID can’t even start to compete, even and especially when creationists insert their god into it. (Since “mechanism” would be arguable. If gods are mechanisms, so are “I wish it was so” too.)

      – OOL research is a blatant non sequitur. We can synthesize bacteria (as we can now) and it would _still_ evolve regardless of the origin of the first population.

      Evolution is mainly concerned with the process taking living populations into living populations. It doesn’t hinge on predicting how living populations occur any more than gravity, which takes masses through spacetime, hinges on predicting how masses occur.

      – The Ponnamperuna quote is a classic creationist quote mine, using excerpts by a scientist that had concluded the exact opposite of what the distorted quote seems to imply.

      The book is of creationist* Hoyle (of the infamous Boeing 747 junkyard argument) and his student Wickramasinghe. Ponnamperuna embraced the soup theory (now RNA world), and they knew it:

      The late Dr. Cyril Ponnamperuma, the Sri Lankan scientist who was attached to the Ames Research Institute of NASA, had professed that life began on earth in a primordial soup. How is your theory different from his? (A Frontline interview with Dr. Pon namperuma app-eared in the issue dated March 25, 1994.)

      Our theory is diametrically opposed to that point of view. We argue that life could not have started here on the earth, …” [My bold]

      The fact that observation falls in line with what the generic pathways from chemical to biological evolution predicts, abiogenesis happened quickly in geological terms, is a good test for the latter.

      It also shows that there is likely no generic deterministic problem for oft repeated abiogenesis attempts to succeed on habitable terrestrials.

      – Hence panspermia is both not necessary nor very likely, except in the direction Earth – other solar system bodies that have a harder time establishing viable biospheres. In any case, like the ID trolling science it is a false choice fallacy, since life originating elsewhere would as likely originate naturally as it did here.
      * Long story, but let me say here that it looks at face value that Hoyle was creationist at the end.

    4. Vladski, first of all Darwin studied origin of species, not origin of life. Secondly, your evidence is…..a couple of quotes? Come on. You can do better than that.

      Anyone can write a book. Books do not provide evidence. Studies do. Where are the published studies for Intelligent Design?

  16. “Sometimes I wonder why this small pack of loonies thinks that so many scientists—certainly at least 95% of biologists—are so deluded as to believe in Darwinism?”

    I don’t know about the IDers who write books and host websites and so on. Many of them should know better. I think for many average people, though, they look at 3% of people in the world who are atheists [1] and wonder if we can really think that the other 97% is just deluded that they believe in a god of some form. I’ve heard this often, in fact. Of course, we do think that other 97% of the world is deluded. And we have good reason for it. While everyone here probably regards the evidence for evolution as not only overwhelming but also easy for even an average person to understand, I think for most people it feels like a battle between some small group of experts (“elites” as conservatives in the U.S. like to say derisively) and the super-super majority of everyone else. Once you are acquainted with the evidence and reasoning behind science, it is easy to see that scientists aren’t BS’ing everyone, but I don’t think many people get to that point. So, for them, it’s kind of a question of “Who you gonna believe, everyone you know and love, plus all your heros of history, or some small group of atheist scientists”. For many, I think it’s not even a question.

    There is a scene like this in the movie Contact, where Jodie Foster is taken to task by a Senator for thinking that most of the world is deluded to believe in God. I think that scene captures something real in the world.

    [1]By some estimate here

  17. ” . . . there’s no question that those from the ID community would know better what their opposites in the debate say.”

    I’d say mainly because their opposites speak and write plainly and logically, and butress their claims with solid evidence, as contrasted with ID smoke-and-mirrors, and white noise.

  18. One of the disconcerting elements of ID is the way the arguments shift and change around from one decade to the next in a haphazard way.

  19. IDiots is certainly the right word, because the existence and the process originating the term itself illustrates amply how badly designed their movement and its ideas are.

    And they wonder why people point at their emptiness and laugh at them.

  20. “Sometimes I wonder why this small pack of loonies thinks that so many scientists—certainly at least 95% of biologists—are so deluded as to believe in Darwinism?”

    Perhaps it’s because I practise my biology in Australia and not the US, but I am flummoxed by the concept of ~5% of biologists not believing in Darwinian evolution. Maybe people who’ve actually met them might enlighten me.

    How can this be? Do they believe in “guided evolution”, or are they full-on God-put-us-here-as-we-currently-are creationists?

    If the latter, how do they cope with the overwhelming cognitive dissonance that areas like genetics, palaeobiology and developmental biology must constantly present them with? Seriously, I don’t get it.

  21. Everyone’s done a great job of picking apart the IDiots’ lunacy, but let me also note that the quote from Klinghoffer creates facepalm in its very *first* line:

    “Forget for a moment about who, Darwinists or Design advocates, is actually right.”

    No. No way.

    That line is just unbelievable. Imagine these equivalents:

    “Forget for a moment about who, medical doctors or chakra healers, are right about curing disease.”

    “Forget for a moment about who, scientists or flat-earthers, are right about the shape of the planet.”

    No. Which side is actually right, as determined by the evidence, is the entire crux of the matter! NEVER forget which side is right, not even for a moment.

    Only a con artist (hi, ID advocate!) would ask otherwise.

  22. I like to remind them that they had the opportunity, and the time, to explain ID, in detail, to Judge Jones.

    The transcript is there for all to see and read. 😀

  23. The problem is ID’ers whitewashing of ideology mixed in with evidence. Ideology requires human beings and their opinions. Evidence does not.

    Evidence of evolution was present millions of years before our sorry presence contaminated Planet Earth.

    The labels of Skeptic, Atheist, Darwinist, Christian, none of these have anything to do with natural processes. Please, let’s not get confused.


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