Dembski’s Curious Incompetence With Quotations

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We all know about William Dembski's many educational degrees -- in part because he isn't shy about reeling them off. It's not the usual man who can exhibit two master's degrees and two Ph. D.'s. Such educational experience suggests a man who is in love with learning and who respects scholarship. All the more strange, then, that Dembski seems to be so completely incompetent when it comes to quotations.

In my review of Dembski's No Free Lunch, I already pointed out how Dembski's use of a line from the movie Contact was misleading. Not only did he get the quote wrong, he also misstated the name of the character who said it and what the line referred to!

In that article, I also showed how he quoted selectively from a review of Keith Devlin to make it appear that Devlin was endorsing his work.

In another article that recently appeared in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, I showed how Dembski took a claim of Del Ratzsch about the Smithsonian and dramatically inflated it, to the point where it became false. (An earlier version of my article is available here.)

Now Dembski's latest book, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design shows an even more curious inability to relate quotations accurately.

Take, for example, page 201. There Dembski writes

One of skepticism's patron saints, H. L. Mencken, remarked, "For
every problem, there is a neat, simple solution, and it is always wrong."

Wrong again, Dr. Dembski. It only took me 5 minutes on the Internet, and a 5-minute trip to the library, to find the original source of the quotation. It is Mencken's 1920 book, Prejudices: Second Series, and it appears on page 158. The real quote is: "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem --- neat, plausible, and wrong." Now if I can do this in ten minutes, why can't Dembski be bothered? Is good scholarship so unimportant?

On page 20, Dembski quotes Haldane about the four stages of acceptance of new ideas, but the first part of the quotation "Theories pass through four stages of acceptance" doesn't appear in Haldane's actual quote. Instead, Haldane wrote "I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages:" (See "The truth about death" in Journal of Genetics 58 (1962-3), pp. 463-464 for the real quote.)

The fact that Haldane uses the term "usual" suggests the four stages predate him, and in fact similar statements can be found in the writings of the German embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer (1866) (where it is attributed to Agassiz), Zahm (1896) (where it is attributed to Whewell); and William James (1907).

But it gets even worse. Also on page 20, Dembski writes

According to Arthur Schopenhauer, "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

The only problem is that Schopenhauer apparently never said this.

Several years ago, long before Dembski used this quote, I spent about three years, off and on, looking for its source. It wasn't easy. I consulted Schopenhauer scholars, examined dozens of quote dictionaries, used many electronic resources, and submitted a query to the British radio program Quote, Unquote. Eventually I determined that in all likelihood, Schopenhauer never said this (although he did say something vaguely analogous in 1818) and that the erroneous attribution may have originated in a 1981 interview with author Edward Packard.

When I saw the quote being touted in a preliminary version of Dembski's book in May 2002, I immediately wrote him and informed him that the quote was very probably specious. He then replied with a three-word message: "Prove me wrong."

But quotations are particularly susceptible to misattribution; there are even two books (Boller and George's They Never Said It, and Keyes' Nice Guys Finish Seventh) devoted to tracking down the original source of quotations. It is, of course, nearly impossible to prove that someone didn't say something. And anyone can invent or misremember a quotation and then find someone to attribute it to. As Ralph Keyes said, "Any quotation that can be altered will be." The burden of proof is on the person hawking the quotation, not the skeptic.

I then referred Dembski to my forthcoming letter to Skeptic magazine (which was published later that year), in which I explained why the Schopenhauer quote was in all likelihood fabricated. Since it was so discredited, I felt sure that Dembski would not use the quote in the published version of his book.

So I was astonished to open The Design Revolution and discover that Dembski continues to use the quote, and continues to attribute it to Schopenhauer. The fact that he does so suggests a certain contempt for accuracy incompatible with being a scholar -- no matter how many degrees he has. As American humorist Josh Billings (Henry Wheeler Shaw) wrote, "I honestly beleave it iz better tew know nothing than two know what ain't so."

Oh, and the Mencken quote? Ironically, it appears in a piece he titled The Divine Afflatus. The Oxford English Dictionary gives one definition of "afflatus" as "the miraculous communication of supernatural knowledge". Maybe ID should be renamed "afflatus theory". Or even better, "a flatus theory".

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Sheesh from Deinonychus antirrhopus on January 10, 2005 12:13 AM

I went over to the Center for Culture and Science weblog and right there, the first post was simply stunning. Here was the jaw dropper, The policy is carefully crafted so as to keep the focus upon the scientific arguments for and against evolutionary t... Read More

43 Comments

As far as ID goes, I think there is a more appropriate quote on the subject than the fake “Schopenhauer” one used by Dembski. Even more apropos, it’s from TH Huxley:

“It is customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies, and to end as superstitions.”

(Source not verified, use quote at your own risk) ;-)

Hi Jeff,

Nice going. Three years trying to track down that Schopenhauer quote and still at it.

Hey, and how about that Mencken quote? So Dembski screwed up. Apparently John Rennie at SciAm screwed up as well, since he attributed the same quote to Mencken in his opening salvo against Lomborg: http://www.sciam.com/print_version.[…]809EC588EEDF.

But, hey, Rennie only has a bachelor’s degree, so he can get away with it. No? Maybe as editor in chief of SciAm he should also be held to a higher standard?

Your selective attention to detail is remarkable. Have you thought of getting a life?

Steer Dembski over towards Gandhi, instead: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Gandhi’s cooler with kids today than Schopenhauer. It’ll go over better.

Hey, has World magazine done the follow-up on what happened to mathematics and engineering in 2050, when we discovered pi really was equal to 3, just like it says in 1 Kings 7:23?

Darwin screwed up in the Origin of Species (first ed., 1859). He attributes an observation to Louis Agassiz (p. 439), about the similarity of vertebrate embryos: “…a circumstance mentioned by Agassiz, namely, that having forgotten to ticket the embryo of some vertebrate animal, he cannot now tell whether it be that of a mammal, bird, or reptile.”

The actual source for this forgot-to-ticket story is Karl Ernst von Baer.

Dembski isn’t “incompetent” with quotations. His misuse of them is deliberate.

You mused, “Maybe ID should be renamed “afflatus theory”. Or even better, “a flatus theory”.

I would suggest, “a flatulent theory.”

It’s amazing how, when criticized, ID advocates suddenly turn into moral relativists. Is there any other way to interpret the use of tu quoque as an apparent defense?

Is it really tu quoque and moral relativism, Wes, to remind readers of our common humanity?

John 8:7.

P.S. Can you tell me where I can get the coding instructions here for italics, URLs, etc., and also how to edit one’s posts for errors? Thanks.

You don’t get to edit your comments here. The best strategy is to write everything offline with a text editor, and copy and paste when you are happy with it. (letting people go back and revise comments would be something open to abuse, so only official Maintainers of the Thumb are allowed to do it)

You get italics by bracketing with the “i” tag: <i>italics</i>

Bold: <b>bold</b>

Links: <a href=”http://pandasthumb.org/”>The Panda’s Thumb</a>

Paul,

1) Darwin didn’t have the internet.

2) He corrected his mistake on the Agassiz/Von Baer story in (IIRC) the third edition of OoS. Only the first and sixth editions are online at the authoritative Darwin site, but we can compare. 1st edition:

The embryos, also, of distinct animals within the same class are often strikingly similar: a better proof of this cannot be given, than a circumstance mentioned by Agassiz, namely, that having forgotten to ticket the embryo of some vertebrate animal, he cannot now tell whether it be that of a mammal, bird, or reptile.

Sixth edition (& probably third):

A better proof of this latter fact cannot be given than the statement of Von Baer that “the embryos of mammalia, of birds, lizards, and snakes, probably also of chelonia, are in their earliest states exceedingly like one another, both as a whole and in the mode of development of their parts; so much so, in fact, that we can often distinguish the embryos only by their size. In my possession are two little embryos in spirit, whose names I have omitted to attach, and at present I am quite unable to say to what class they belong. They may be lizards or small birds, or very young mammalia, so complete is the similarity in the mode of formation of the head and trunk in these animals. The extremities, however, are still absent in these embryos. But even if they had existed in the earliest stage of their development we should learn nothing, for the feet of lizards and mammals, the wings and feet of birds, no less than the hands and feet of man, all arise from the same fundamental form.”

3) There is a difference between occasional mistakes, which are indeed due to our common humanity, and a systematic pattern of error, which Shallit was making a case for.

4) There is a further difference between voluntarily correcting mistakes and ignoring corrections, apparently out of snarkiness.

5) People might have a better sense of humor if Dembski wasn’t (a) continually proclaiming the downfall of a central theory of modern biology and (b) supporting the interference of the ID movement in public schools based on (c) little more than his own misunderstandings/ignorance of the relevant science and literature. For example, the existence of a large literature on the evolution of the immune system was pointed out to Dembski, and yet he systematically ignores it and continues to make claims about how no one knows how “irreducibly complex” systems evolved, “just show us the literature and ID will go away” (paraphrase), etc. (I should note that I haven’t checked The Design Revolution for a discussion of evolutionary immunology and don’t have it handy at the moment, can someone tell me what Dembski says about the immune system in his latest book?)

Nick

PS: Regarding posting italics, etc., you can use standard HTML tags on the blog.

Oh no.…Zealot found the board.…we’re doomed I tell you. No one can survive in the glare of ID Zealot’s brilliant reaosning.

~DS~

The curious thing about von Baer’s observation is that he opposed evolution (many years later; the observation was made in the 1830s). He did not repudiate the similarities of early vertebrate embryos, and was in fact an excellent scientist and careful observer.

Now we have the curious spectacle of the anti-evolution crowd closing their eyes and furiously denying phylotypy. Creationists have fallen far. Von Baer is something of a hero of mine, and he fared well in his arguments with the naturphilosophen and recapitulationists because he relied on evidence and observation. The modern creationists rely on denial of the same.

Andrea wrote

“As far as ID goes, I think there is a more appropriate quote on the subject than the fake “Schopenhauer” one used by Dembski. Even more apropos, it’s from TH Huxley:

“It is customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies, and to end as superstitions.”

(Source not verified, use quote at your own risk) ;-)”

Bartleby, citing Bartlett’s 1919 edition, attributes it to Huxley, giving the source as “The coming Age of the Origin of Species.”

http://www.bartleby.com/61/88/U0158800.html

RBH

DS-

Friend of yours?

PZ wrote, “Now we have the curious spectacle of the anti-evolution crowd closing their eyes and furiously denying phylotypy.”

Watch how wide you swing that broadsword. You might take someone like Richardson off at the knees. Interesting – von Baer is a hero of mine, too. If I ever popped for a vanity plate here in Illinois, I’d ask for VON BAER (one is allowed 7 characters). Bet no one has that, yet, and only people who know their embryology would get a smile.

Richardson has a far more nuanced and informed view of the subject than you imagine; don’t try lumping him in with phonies and ideologues like Wells.

From the paper:

Our results demonstrate that the supposed inductive interactions in the mid-embryonic period can be broken, if only on a small scale. Dramatic alterations are also possible (e.g. delayed onset of limb development in frogs; Richardson 1995; Galis et al. 2001), which speaks against a universal phylotypic stage based on this mechanism or on this particular key character (which is not even universal among vertebrates).

Followed by

The high degree of independence we infer for developmental events during the mid-embryonic period may serve as an additional important target for natural selection (Richardson 1999), possibly resulting in macroevolutionary changes. In vertebrates, the independence of midembryonic developmental events apparently allows pervasive small-scale timing changes, which may contribute to the corresponding high level of phenotypic diversity across adult vertebrates (Gould 1982).

Ed: If by ‘friend’ you happen to mean a parasitic troll; then yes, Zealot has TONS of friends.

~DS~

Paul, the point isn’t that Dembski made some mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, and I’m sure I’ve messed up some quotations from time to time.

The point is, even after Dembski was informed of his error, he continued to use the quote. Maybe you can come up with a reasonable excuse for this, but I can’t.

I wonder what common pre-Darwinian views were on homology in general and vestigial organs and embryonic similarities in particular.

Darwin in Origin of Species points out a common belief that vestigial features exist to “fill out the plan of creation”; this would suggest that vestigial features and embryonic similarities are present out of a taste for completeness. Like how every vertebrate ought to have gill bars and related features for at least a little bit of their lives.

Is it really our common humanity, Paul, to lie?

Exodus 20:16.

Paul,

Insteresting choice of scripture, there.

So, is there any evidence that Bill follows Christ’s advice to go forth and sin no more? What I’ve seen is a continuing pattern of recidivism so far as ignoring early warnings from critics that his information is simply erroneous.

The “design inference” as a procedure is moribund. It is flawed in so many aspects of logic and procedure that even Bill can’t produce more examples of its use than he writes whole books. If the “intelligent design” movement is relying on Bill’s work as its philosophical foundation, I think that you can write it off now. Everything of scientific usefulness insofar as pattern recognition and the like that Bill would like to attribute to his “design inference” can be accomplished using the universal probability distribution, as Jeff Shallit and I pointed out in our paper of last year in the appendix describing “specified anti-information” (SAI). Further, SAI is simple to apply to real-world problems.

The reason he probably continues to use the quote is because he is conviced that he is right.

A bit stubborn maybe, but hardly sinster. I see no reason he would continue to use the stages of truth quote if he didn’t think he was right, since there are plenty of other quotes he could use which say basically the same thing.

Well, Tim, maybe you can explain why Dr. Dembski is so convinced he is right about his faulty quotations when there is so little evidence to support him.

Oh, yeah, I forgot, that’s what ID is based on. Faith, not evidence.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&[…]ays+wrong%22

It took me 20 seconds to find 10,000 hits for “simple solution, and it is always wrong” on the net.

Did it occur to you that maybe Menken made the quote exactly the way Dembski wrote it and that you simply discovered Menken saying it a different way?

I’m going to discount the rest of your article because of it. I’m sure you understand.

The Mencken quote Dembski used is called Mencken’s Metalaw, and it is indeed cited endlessly on the Internet, as Mencken’s Metalaw. I attempted to track it down to an actual source or origin in something Mencken actually wrote, but interestingly nobody I can find has a source for this quote. It is simply labeled “Mencken’s Metalaw”. Indeed, one of the sites I found that DOES track down the source of common quotes gives the source as “Mencken’s Metalaw” and then cites the AUTHOR as “Mencken’s Metalaw!” The quote is commonly attributed to Mencken, but unfortunately never tied to any context in which it may have appeared.

So far, I have not been able to find this quote in anything Mencken himself actually wrote. Has anyone had any more luck than I have?

Of course! We academics have been such fools! The Internet is never, ever, ever incorrect, nor is public opinion!

Thanks to this revelation, DaveScot, I now believe in UFOs; after all, 329,000 google hits for “UFOs are real” says it all, don’t you think?

gaebolga:

DaveScot has a point, and your response does you no credit. The quotation Dembski uses is attributed to Mencken everywhere. Sometimes it’s in quotes, as in: As H.L.Mencken said, “For every human problem, there is a neat, simple solution; and it is always wrong.”

Now, it’s possible that someone somewhere took Mencken’s original words, paraphrased them succinctly, and inserted the paraphrase somewhere from where it’s been picked up, given the label “Mencken’s metalaw” and spread widely. But nonetheless, when I searched for any indication that perhaps Mencken was being paraphrased, or otherwise did NOT say this, I found no such hint. Maybe he paraphrased himself, in a speech or informally in conversation.

My point is that using Google hits as a means of supporting the validity of ANYTHING other than public opinion is stupid, and public opinion tends to be a piss-poor gauge of reality. It doesn’t matter if “everyone” believes that a particular person said a particular quote, or even if someone makes such an attribution in a private setting, but when a writer puts quotes around text and attributes that text to someone, if said writer doesn’t actually check on the validity of such a quote, especially if the writer is advised that the attribution may be incorrect, then said writer is guilty of academic dishonesty. Period. I’ve dropped students from my writing classes for less.

Of course, the nice thing about the Internet is that there are no academic controls, and anyone can say pretty much anything they choose. Take DaveScot’s post, for example. I didn’t even bother to mention that his claim of “10,000 hits for ‘simple solution, and it is always wrong’ on the net” is a complete lie, and a stupid one at that. The posted url only lists 1,070 hits, which I confirmed by running an independent Google search on those same parameters. Just because ~329,000 webpages contain the phrase “UFOs are real,” that doesn’t make it so, and neither do 1,070 webpages attributing “simple solution, and it is always wrong” to Mencken.

Besides, one of the first ten hits attributed that phrase to Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, so now we have some controversy over the source of the quote.…

gaebola:

Calm down a moment. Let’s say you started with Dembski’s quote, and set out to assess whether or not it was genuine. Forget the number of Google hits for a moment, but instead consider the content as you read it. Can you find apparently solid attributions of this wording to Mencken? Yes, you can. Can you find any indication that Mencken may have used different words? Starting with Dembski’s phrase, I was not able to do so. Can you find attributions to Mencken in terms of a direct quote? Yep, you can. If you were Dembski and someone wrote to you and pointed out that Mencken wrote essentially the same thing (but in somewhat different words) in a given source, would you conclude that Mencken therefore did NOT say the exact words from the common quote? Mencken (according to my reading) was rather fond of his aphorisms and tended to repeat them. Certainly the fact that he wrote one of these aphorisms down in one place using one set of words, does not rule out the possibility that he also said those words everywhere attributed to him as well.

So I ask: how do YOU know that Dembski didn’t check on the validity of his quote? I tried to do so, and the quote looks real – every citation was to Mencken. If you cannot produce any evidence that the quote is NOT real, how can you accuse Dembski of dishonesty? After some time spent checking, I would have no problem attributing the quote to Mencken – UNLESS I was convinced of the dishonesty of the quoter for some other reason, in which case my standards for validity would become almost unreachable!

Your logic sounds very much like: 1) Dembski is a liar 2) I can’t prove in this case that Dembski did NOT lie 3) Therefore, Dembski is a liar.

Consider Shallit’s version: The real quote is: “Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Now, consider the Wiki version: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible and wrong.”

You will notice that the Wiki version cites the same source Shallit cites, yet uses different wording! Who should we accept, Shallit or Wiki? Would you use Wiki to drop Shallit from your writing class?

Now, here is a version from The Writing Company. In their version, “For every complex question there is a simple solution: neat, plausible, and wrong” (H.L. Mencken).

One starts to wonder if perhaps there are multiple printings of Mencken. Perhaps with enough research it would be possible to trace the evolution of the phrase, noting where branching speciation took place through imperfect copying. All I can say is that I do not know which one(s) might be original with Mencken, and I don’t think you do either.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 218, byte 218 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Flint,

In rereading my posts, I do appear to imply that I’m referring to Dembski; as a writing teacher, this is rather embarassing, since I was obviously not being particularly clear. The point I was trying to make had nothing to do with Dembski, and everything to do with DaveScot’s attempt to use Google hits as some sort of arbiter of accuracy. Despite the fact that I didn’t refernece Dembski at all, I also didn’t explicitly state what I was referring to.

My point is that this entire thread counts as advice that the quote “simple solution, and it is always wrong” may not be attributable to Mencken; for DaveScot to essentially reply that “10,000 webpages can’t be wrong” is exactly the sort of stupidity that leads to things like the Dover School Board’s latest attempts at undermining science.

gaebola,

OK, I agree that Google hits, as a simple count, are not documentation of anything except a suggestion of the popularity of something. However, DaveScot’s point isn’t completely invalid. Dembski’s quote gives every appearance of having originated with Mencken, at least in some form. I was able to locate at least two sites which cited the exact same source, yet differed. I found a site specifically dedicated to Mencken quotes, which gave *both* Shallit’s quote and Dembski’s quote. To me, this indicates that the phrase’s history doesn’t fit the slam-dunk dishonesty that Shallit is so unseemly eager to see.

You wrote “when a writer puts quotes around text and attributes that text to someone, if said writer doesn’t actually check on the validity of such a quote, especially if the writer is advised that the attribution may be incorrect, then said writer is guilty of academic dishonesty. Period.” To me, this strongly indicates you have accepted Shallit’s version and rejected Dembski’s version. Having done a bit of checking, I sincerely don’t know which (if not both) versions may be correct. If you haven’t at least dug up a physical copy of Mencken’s material and looked, how can you be so sure who’s guilty here? Given what I’ve learned, even if you DID find Shallit’s source and it agrees with Shallit (and not Wiki), there is some indication that Mencken said essentially the same thing in different words at different times. How do you know?

I wouldn’t buy into the “10,000 Google hits can’t be wrong” school of thought either, all by itself. But your complaint wasn’t entirely directed at DaveScot’s research technique, but at Dembski’s failure to adopt Shallit’s version. Although you say “the point I was trying to make had nothing to do with Dembski”, when you write “especially if the writer is advised that the attribution may be incorrect” you are clearly referring to Dembski, who was so advised.

Dembski is a scholar. It’s a scholar’s duty to check sources to the best of his ability, and admit errors when wrong. In some cases, Dembski apparently doesn’t do this.

Quotations are notoriously susceptible to misattribution and changes. (Yes, quotations evolve!) Therefore, the only scholarly method that is acceptable is to check the original source. Doing a google search doesn’t count for anything, since once a quotation is cited incorrectly, many people simply copy the incorrect one. (See the two books I cited for dozens of examples.)

Yes, Dembski’s misquotation of Mencken is a pretty minor affair. But my point with Mencken was not that Dembski misquoted Mencken; it is that Dembski couldn’t be bothered to check the original source. It is amusing to see those questioning my veracity who can’t be bothered to head to the library themselves to check! Oh, but it’s so much easier to sit at the computer and grouse. Could there be another similar quotation somewhere in Mencken’s work? Sure, that’s a possibility. But the burden of proof is on those hawking the quotation. If someone finds Dembski’s version in Mencken’s work somewhere, then please let me know. I’ll be glad to add a postscript to my article withdrawing that part of my essay.

Speaking of acknowledging errors, it would be interesting to know why Dembski still does’t have an errata page for No Free Lunch. It’s now been two and a half years since I pointed out, in print, many mistakes in that book, including that the centerpiece calculation of his book is off by about 62 orders of magnitude. But Dembski has never acknowledged this. In intelligent design, that’s what passes for intellectual honesty.

It seems fairly clear that Dembski is NOT a scholar. Dembski is an advocate. He presents his material not to enlighten but to convert. His audience, despite his massive overuse of equations and Greek symbols, is not a scholarly audience, but rather the lowest common denominator. He is part of a PR campaign, not a mathematical or scientific exercise. And so his focus is understandably on right belief, not right quotations.

If Dembski were trying to be a scholar, his inattention to accuracy would be a serious concern. But maybe we should judge his success on how well he achieves his goal, rather than Jeffrey Shallit’s goal.

Flint,

It may be clear to us that he’s not trying to be a scholar first and foremost, but I doubt that it is so clear to his target audience. His ostensible authority derives largely from the scholarly veneer of his work, the aforementioned equations and Greek symbols. Whether or not his goals are scholarly, so long as he attempts to claim the mantle of scholarship in order to further those goals, he should be held to the appropriate standards. Your last paragraph sounds awfully Machiavellian to me. If one pretends to be a scholar in order to pursue a political/religious agenda, should not actual scholars criticize him for doing so and point out his errors? Or should they abstain from doing so because the person is obviously not a real scholar, and is therefore outside their bailiwick?

Dembski cannot admit any errors, even trivial ones. The cost of admitting that this ‘Newton of Information Theory’ could have made mistakes would be too high… Dembski claims he learns a lot from his critics, but he does little to show support for his claims. Perhaps, he’d rather ‘use them’.… (read “4. Putting critics to use” to find out how Dembski intends to use his critics. Is this a scholar speaking? You be the judge)

“I would go further than that and say that I value objective peer review. I always learn more from my critics than from the people who think I’m wonderful.” - William A. Dembski as quoted by Fred Heeren

In fact I don’t see anything wrong, in principle at least, with Dembski’s professed use of critics. A long-standing practice in science is to circulate preprints or early drafts of papers to elicit comments and criticisms. Back when I was an academic I gave colloquia describing research in progress specifically to elicit those kinds of comments. What specifically is wrong with Dembski’s practice?

RBH

Smokey:

I seriously doubt that we can hold Dembski to high standards of scholarship. Clearly, he doesn’t really care about them. We are not his target audience, and his target audience doesn’t much care about standards of scholarship either. I think it was Mark Perakh who pointed out that 80% of Dembski’s equations are symbols are superfluous; they are there to beguile the credulous.

And so Dembski does what RBH has no problem with, but his goal isn’t to increase his accuracy (hey, his entire thesis is absurd!) but rather to make his efforts more convincing. “Look”, they are supposed to say, “This brilliant man with all these degrees producing all these super complex and sophisticated (and utterly inaccessible, but that’s the point) equations, has proved the existence of God with mathematics so it must be right!”

Dembski’s goals and techniques are not scholarly or academic or scientific. He is saying what his audience wishes to hear, in terms they are not qualified to see through. But maybe it’s helpful to criticize his scholarship, I don’t know. It hasn’t seemed real helpful to point out ad nauseum that beneath all the razzle dazzle, his thesis lays a logical egg.

RBH, Read the url in question Here

The quote at the end of my posting was in reference to Dembski claiming to learn more from his critics. The url links to Dembski’s feelings on how to ‘use critics’.

Has anyone taken notice of the recently published work titled IN THE BEGINNING OF, A NEW LOOK AT OLD WORDS, by scholar and scientist Judah Landa, in which he makes a persuasive case that the original Bible, which came to us in Hebrew, when accurately and correctly translated, does in no way conflict with any of the tenets of science even if the Bible interpreted literally? Landa demonstrates this for the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Imagine that!The whole notion of conflict between the Bible and science is based on the sloppy and often erroneous translations out there, particularly the Authorized Version! His science is rigorous, the linguistics (ancient languages)is sound and easy to follow, the analysis is incisive and the conclusions inescapable. Someone ought to bring this to the attention of our fundamentalist friends. The book is easy to obtain at www.Amazon.com, where I found it.

Someone ought to bring this to the attention of our fundamentalist friends.

good luck with that.

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This page contains a single entry by Jeffrey Shallit published on April 3, 2004 3:28 AM.

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