Commentary on the so-called Creation/Evolution/Intelligent Design Debate and Right-Wing nuttery in general - and please ignore the typos (I make lots!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Another arrogant egomaniac - "island"

I came across a couple of arrogant, condescending comments by someone calling itself "island" at the Dispatches.. blog, and I decided to see what this person had to say on his own blog.

As is almost always the case, this hypersensitive, pompous blowhard seems to rely on name calling and assertions and appears to be among 'island's' primary means of discussion. It is laughable to see 'island' declare himself an "honest scientist" when he relies on what I consider philosophical musings as a basis for his 'scientific' claims.

Before I get to the comical pomposity of 'island's' rant here, I would like to explore one example of this self-proclaimed "honest scientist's" method of 'science'. In a comment left on the Dispatches... blog (same one linked above), in response to island's asserting "Engineers and some very reputable physicists *commonly* say that design in nature recognizably exists," a commenter writes:

"there is no scientific evidence for "design."
To which the "honest scientist" island replies:

LOL... um you clowns wilfully denied every point that I made without directly
addressing it:

island: there is no scientific evidence for "designTranslation...
island... we refuse to recogize that a tree is a functional pump

What this exchange displays is not the refusal to recognize design in nature, but, in addition to island's arrogant self-importance, an insistence by island that analogies are really equivalencies. Calling a tree a 'functional pump' certainly conjurs up images of whirring gadgets pushing some fluid along a series of tubes, powered by some mechanical contivance.

But is a tree a 'pump' in that way? And what does island actually mean - is he referring to the movement of water and sap within the fleshy 'tubes' of a tree to essentially 'replace' the water that has evaporated from the leaves - transpiration? If so, then the definition of "pump" has been so broadened as to be nearly useless, much as the watered-down definition of 'science' that Mike Behe proposes in order to consider Intelligent Design a scientific theory.

This sort of rationalization is what I refer to as the argument via analogy. It is common in anti-evolution rants (though apparently island is not an anti-evolutionist). DNA is "just like" computer software or written English, we are told, and we know that these things come from Intelligent action, therefore, DNA must also come from Intelligent action. Exceptionally shallow and naive, but it works well with 'the masses.'
Thus is island's "argument."

Island then writes:

[quote from a google group]In following, this and a few other Newsgroups, I noticed that Biologist, almost without exception, are adamant in their denial of the presence of design in nature.

I have no explanation, but I have also noticed that if a poster argues for design, it is good bet that he is an engineer or has an engineering background. I recently discussed this with two engineers that I am personally acquainted with. Both are convinced that design in nature is real and one man, Wm. Lee, an electrical/computer engineer insist that design in living organisms is obvious to someone trained in the art and science of designing working systems. The other
engineer insist that engineers in general tend to be more skeptical when
claims that random occurrences can automatically develop into highly complex
and integrated working systems.
[end quote]

So, admit that my statement is correct... or crawl in a hole with the rest of them.

Get that? Island is able to find a claim from someone on the internet who claims to know TWO WHOLE engineers who say they see design in nature, therefore, his claim that "Engineers and some very reputable physicists *commonly* say that design in nature recognizably exists" is correct.

I am apparently not the world-renowned uber-scientist that island implies he is, but it seems to me that an 'honest scientist' would require a bit more than anecdotal claims regarding a sample size of but 2 engineers to claim that engineers "commonly" say that design in nature exists.
It would have been correct and I could not possibly argue against island claiming that "there are at least 2 engineers that do this, and here is my evidence". But this is not what he did. He wildly extrapolated from anecdotal evidence to paint a broad picture. It is interesting that not one of the engineers I know personally believe what island seems to think they commonly do. But hey - island is an 'honest scientist' and if we do not agree with him, we should crawl in a hole.

But wait - Mr.Precision adds to the confusion, Behe-style:

Before somebody REALLY stick their foot in their mouth by saying that the human construct of design isn't a part of nature:
there is no scientific evidence for "design." The assertion that there is "design in nature" is unprovable, and undisprovable, in and of itself.
I see... so what is it that design engineers do if there is no evidence that these
creatures of nature do anything. The capability for "design" doesn't just pop-out of humans if the potential for its emergence doesn't pre-exist within physics that constrains the force constants of nature, so only sheer unadulterated human arrogance gives one the unmitigated audacity to "believe" that design can ever reflect anything greater or less than the sum of expressed bias toward satisfying a pre-existing physical need.

Ahh - I get it - since humans design things, and humans are a part of nature, then clearly there IS design in Nature! How obvious! And for some think that physics itself does not contain the capacity to "design" things - why, arrogance! Human arrogance! Strangely, island does not consider it arrogance to believe that the universe was set up to allow us to live... I know, I know... I don't get the dichotomy either...

And wait - after being asked for clarification on what island means by 'design', he puts the requester in his place:

No, my point is that there is no difference between what humans and the rest of nature does when it comes to "design"... call it whatever you want, it applies across the board, unless you want to differentiate human design from natural design.
And there we have it. "Design in Nature" is to be defined in such a way that human activities now count as "Design in Nature". And astrology is a science... Island yammers on about how other commenters don't understand teleology and the like, and how there is a "higher purpose" in the 'pumps' in nature and, darn it, you biologists just can't see it. The blogger, Ed Brayton, sums it up:

Frankly, I think this is all a bunch of ill-defined gobbledygook. Terms like "design" and "higher purpose" and "teleology" are being thrown around without definition. Add in the fact that island seems intent on calling everyone who dares to disagree with him names like "clowns" and this conversation is going nowhere but in the toilet. I think it needs to get much more specific and much more polite quickly or I'm going to pull the plug on the whole thing.

Of course, island, as do all cranks, believes he is justified in dismissing criticisms and questions:

My attitude changes drastically when people try to take a position of authority when they have demonstrated zero right to it.

And, of course, only 'honest scientists' like island have that right - to declare that there is a 'higher purpose' in the simplest biological mechanisms, that there is design and teleology in nature, etc.
Well, that particular discussion took place in 2005. The entire exchange is rather insightful regarding island's position and attitude, again summed up by Brayton:

But what I do see is someone acting very much like a crank - declaring that he alone has the truth, that no one else is capable of understanding it much less critique it, and lashing out at people who disagree even when they do so politely. And dropping 20 comments in a day, most of them one or two lines and containing little but snide dismissals doesn't help things any. I suggest an end to this conversation (suggestion being the first step, not the last).

And one last bit of island superior wisdom:

If the anthropic cosmological principle constrains the forces of the *finite* *observed* universe, then humans where brought into existence... "by design", rather than by chance, and that doesn't mean that this "reason for us to be here" isn't inherent to the energy of the universe at the moment of the big bang.

[ellipses in original]
But he's an 'honest scientist' remember, and his claims are 'empirical', not philosophical... Yup...

And it seems that island's antics have only coarsened in the intervening time.
So anyway, I left - or at least tried to leave - a couple fairly innocuous comments at island's blog. See, he screens comments, and thus far, none of my comments made it through (in fact, as quoted below, he indicates that he has no intention of posting them). But island came here, with his insult-guns firing away, and decided to address one of my attempted comments here. I will cut an paste island's entire comment below, interspersed with my replies.

Here's my first example of the junk that constitutes doppelganger's idea of "science":
On, my blog, "i" said: The Anthropic Principle is a cosmological principle
And duhppelganger

How clever! Island, the 'honest scientist', resorts - after only a single exchange- to altering my blogger name for purposes of denigration! What a way to establish one's intellectual superiority!

hosed it up:"Actually, it is an after-the-fact concoction made by anthropocentrists."

No, Dr. Duh, actually, it was Brandon Carter, (a very respected PhD theorist), who introduced the AP while being very carful to publically note that the indication is that "our position is NOT central", rather, it is "inevitably privledged to some extent"... so you don't have a clue what you're saying. Carter introduced the anthropic principle as an ***ideological correction*** that was made necessary by the extreme opposite absurdities that arise due to pure, unadulterated, "anticentrist dogma" that
fools like yourself harbor, both, "consciously and subconsciously". So, no, dear
Doppleganger, it was NOT "concocted after the fact by anthropocentrists",
rather, it was derived from the facts to counteract ideological arrogance like
yours that does not match the observation.

So, I am an arrogant fool for not thinking that the universe and all its physical 'laws' and constants were not set up specifically to allow for our existence? Dear me.
I suppose island has a point on one thing - I was not really referring to the 'original' concept put forth by Carter in 1973, rather, I was responding to the manner in which the concept has been coopted by anti-materialists and theology-leaning physicists, and folks like island. Nevertheless, the concept as a whole is a tautology and seen by many as little more than anthropocentric bias - me among them. Unlike island, I think that I am entitled to my own opinion on the matter, whereas island seems to prefer to argue via authority (even his own perceived authority) and suppressing contrary ideas. While I suspect that island is a disturbed malcontent, middle-aged, balding, probably never married and living at home with his mom, a professor of physics says this about the anthropic principle:

The WAP [weak anthropic principle, see* at the bottom] is considered by most physicists and cosmologists to be a simple tautology. Of course the constants of nature are suitable for our form of life. If they were not, we would not be here to talk about it.

But what does he know - he is just a professor of physics. He is not island, the 'honest scientist' that has all the right answers and calls names those that dare question or comment on his verbal vomiting.

Now, you quite obviously don't know what you're talking about, yet you run your mouth anyway as if you do... (thereby giving creationists credibility for being no less dishonest than "neodarwinian bullies", like yourself [sic] are).
Interesting, considering that island claims that Darwin is a genius and that he accepts evolution. So why mention creationism? Who knows. And how, exactly, am I a 'neodarwinian bully'? Unlike island, I do not merely mock and insult those that I disagree with. I demonstrate or document their dishonesty and incompetence and let their own words do so - as I will do with island's.
Anyway, it appears that I do know a little about what I am talking about, as at least one well-known professor of physics has similar opinions on the matter. Allow me to reiterate:

The WAP is considered by most physicists and cosmologists to be a simple tautology. Of course the constants of nature are suitable for our form of life. If they were not, we would not be here to talk about it

Allow me to expand.
Carter's so-called strong anthropic principle, according to Stenger (as already linked), states:

The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must
be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage.
Why? And just who are these 'observers'? Why, they are US! What a grand coincidence. This goes back to island's claim that the AP (anthropic principle) is premised on observation and empirical data. And what are these observations and data? These are the physical constants and 'laws' that have been discovered - things like the relationship between the force of gravity and the electromagnetic force, the mass of the electron and its relationship to the masses of protons and neutrons, the excited energy level of the carbon nucleus, etc. (culled from Stenger's paper). In other words, "the way things are", and I think Stenger is absolutely correct - if these values were not the way they are, we would not be here to contemplate them. And we are humans. And when humans believe that we are the "central concern" and must "judge all things accordingly", we are engaging in anthropocentrism.
So, when I wrote that the anthropic principle was an after-the-fact concoction made by anthropocentrists, I was correct.

And you want me to publish crap like this on my science-based blog???... lol... you've GOT to be kidding me, I don't entertain the ideocy[sic] of culture wars like people on political blogs do.

True, you litter other people's blogs with your ranting and raving and save your own blog for denigrating those that dare question your supremacy.

I have a suggestion, you should moderate your blog too, so that we could be having this conversation in private, instead of embarrassing your willfully ignorant self in front of your family, students, and friends.

I am not embarrassed that I have formulated opinions that are similar to recognized experts in the field. Why should I be? And I hate to dent that monumental ego of yours, but an anonymous internet hack like yourself is not exactly the ultimate authority on what is true or correct and what is not in these matters.

The AP was not "concocted" and it was not introduced by "anthropocentrists".

Concocted: To devise, using skill and intelligence; contrive

There is a bit of a negative connotation in the use of the word 'concoct', and that is my purpose. Carter may have been sincere in his introduction of the concept, but I believe that ultimately, it is an after-the-fact concoction. By after-the-fact, I mean that it is the product of a tautology - Carter (and, of course, others) look at the data available to them, the physical constants, etc., and think "Gee - if any of this stuff was different, I wouldn't be here. Thus, these things are the way they are SUCH THAT I could be here!" Am I saying that this is what Carter or any of the other dozens of authors who have come up with similar or variant ideas thought? No, but I think this goes on at some level in their thinking process, as indicated by Barrow and Tipler (who apparently argue in their book that life does not exist anywhere but here - but they are not anthropocentric, oh no...) :

[re: WAP]The observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are not equally probable but take on values restricted by the requirement that there exist sites where carbon-based life can evolve and by the requirement that the Universe be old enough for it to have already done so.

and even more obvious, their SAP [strong anthropic principle]:

The Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at
some stage in its history.

And why must it have those properties? Because it does. And what life are we talking about? Us. Tautology. Anthropocentric. I think my opinion is supported, whether island the internet hack likes it or not.

Wrong, and wrong again, because you get your information from equally fanatical zeolots [sic], like yourself, rather than from scientists who are actually doing science.

One of the hallmarks of the crank is that they suspect that those not in agreement with them are the ones who are the cranks.

What an absurd fool you categorically prove yourself to be... but nothing that the delete button can't handle, right, Dope?

Ironic, as island wrote this to a commenter on his blog:

You haven't refuted or corrected anything, and you have clearly demonstrated that you can't even follow instructions, so you are rightfully identified to be a crank, and will not be allowed to further comment, unless you can do something better than nothing.

Island can project with the best of his ilk, it seems.
Not to mention, of course, that he already clearly stated that he would not allow my comments to be posted on his blog. Cranks and fanatics are like that. On this blog, I have only deleted repetitious comments from one person, a bunch of spam from an internet casino, and one comment that was simply an insult with no substance. Which is basically what island's posts have been thus far. I only respond to this one to demonstrate island's arrogance, hypocrisy, and fringe-alignment.

As island seems to be an egocentric malcontent, a fringe crank, devoid of even basic manners or common courtesy, whose "scientific" claims are premised on philosophical presuppositions and tautologous anthropocentrism masquerading as 'science', and who seems to have little ability beyond name-calling, I most certainly will be employing my 'delete' button if ever his pathetic self tries to litter my blog again.

*From the linked-to document from Victor Stenger:

His [Carter's] weak anthropic principle (WAP) states that:

We must be prepared to take into account the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers.

Carter’s strong anthropic principle (SAP) says that:

The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must
be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage.

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