Infographics/Deceptographics

It takes a special kind of doggedness to make an “Infographic” that rehashes debunked stories as if the debunking had never happened, but that’s what the Discovery Institute did the other day. Perhaps some of this nonsense is down to the background of the author, who appears to have zero science credentials.

The other day, the wonderful xkcd published this satirical cartoon about Infographics (right).

I do tend to agree with this sentiment, though of course a well-structured infographic can be a useful and clear way of illustrating.

The dear old Discotute’s effort, though, is pretty pathetic (I haven’t embedded it here for copyright reasons). It’s apparently derived from what the Discotute rather grandly term “the Discovering Intelligent Design curriculum”.

Beginning with the rather grand (and incorrect) claim that

Intelligent Design uses the scientific method (e.g. observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion) to make its claims.

Except that’s not really how ID creationism works. For starters, ID creationism was born as a cynical attempt to push creationism into US schools after successive court room defeats, and to do this by masquerading as science. The overall objectives can be seen in the Wedge document, after all. Accordingly, ID creation doesn’t really operate like science – it has a pre-determined conclusion that evolutionary biology must be wrong, and the only observations that the Discotute make are aimed at trying to make evolutionary explanations seem unreasonable (classic god of the gaps approach). They don’t really do experiments, and their labs appear to be greenscreens of stock photographs.

And then it’s on to the old canard that biological information is in some way directly comparable to language, computer programmes and the like, and that it can only be produced by intelligence.

The bonkers ID creationist concept of Irreducible Complexity (a.k.a. the Argument from Incredulity) is up next, illustrated by the bicycle (!) and the bacterial flagellum.

Bizarrely, the Discotute still think that bacterial flagella are in some way impossible to arrive at by natural processes, and must have been poofed into existence (by some as yet unknown mechanism) by some (unknown) sky fairy/alien genius/god, despite considerable evidence for how these structures did evolve. Anyway, get this tortured illogic:

In our uniform and repeated experience irreducibly complex systems (e.g., a bicycle) always originate from a mind capable of thinking with forethought and intentionality. Only intelligence can create the unlikely arrangement of parts that matches a specific pattern required for the machine to perform its function. ID predicts that natural structures will contain this same kind of information and complexity – patterns which we attribute to mind.

The problems with that are particularly obvious. On the one hand, we know from historical records who invented various aspects of a modern bicycle and when. Furthermore, we have an excellent understanding of how these inventions were made. On the other hand, the ID creationists are clearly being disingenuous when they claim not to identify the Judeo-Christian god as their designer of bacterial flagella, but in any case they are unable to point to specific evidence for their designer, when he/she/it did the design, and how he/she/it put the design into practice.

The concluding paragraph is lovely.

In the same way that we attribute the complex and specified information found on the Rosetta Stone and in machines to an intentional mind, the specified and even irreducible complexity found in living organisms points to an intelligent cause. By viewing biological systems as designed machines, ID opens up new avenues of scientific investigation to understand how life works.

The Discotute really needs to employ some scientists. We know that humans made the Rosetta stone. We know that humans made bicycles. The evidence there does point to intelligent cause. In the case of biological structures, there is zero evidence for a creator designer, zero evidence for how the supposed creator designer implemented his/her/its supposed design and nothing but wishful thinking and a deeply held desire for a resurgence of religious belief.

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