Shanks/Dembski Debate on CSPAN-2


Niall Shanks has informed me that his recent debate with William Dembski at UCLA will be broadcast by CSPAN-2 this Saturday at 9:30 A.M. I already have my VCR programmed ...


Cool. What timezone are you in, Jason? I couldn’t find a schedule for C-SPAN2 online, not even at the C-SPAN website. Am I dumb or missing something (or both)? ;)

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Blast! I always forget that time zone thing. Niall and I are both in the Eastern time zone (I’m in Virginia, he’s in Tennessee). Thatnks to the God Fearing Atheist for the link.

Awesome. What can I expect? Was it an interesting debate or will I just want to shoot out my TV set like Elvis did?

Will it air at 6:30 or 9:30 AM on the west coast?

Times are eastern, so it’s 6:30 pacific. The preceding debate btwn Michael Shermer and Jeffrey Schwart should also be of interest at 5:00am PT. My VCR will do the work for me…

05:00AM on a Saturday?!?!

That’s _exactly_ why God created VCRs!

That’s _exactly_ why God created VCRs!

God created VCRs? I guess that explains why they’re too complex to program. :)

Thanks, Jason.

Caught this just in time - it’s 9:10 EST - so I don’t meed my irreducibly complex VCR. Besides it’s programmed for the Mrs. already. I wonder if Dembski will finally tell us what else other “Darwinism” there is in terms of scientific theory whose results ID can accommodate.

God almighty Schwartz is a raving quantum mystic. Currently trying to connect the EPR and Bell’s Inequality to his drivel. I hope the ID discussion is better…

Dembski’s attempt to invoke application of his “design inference” to the E. coli flagellum as “evidence” for ID is laughable. IT’s just begging the question. Dembski has applied his technique in part to just four cases, three of them trivial or fictional, and has no basis upon which to claim that his “design inference” tells us anything interesting about the causation of E. coli flagella.

I noted that Dembski finally admitted that one needed to explain the emergence of the genes that coded for the parts of the bacterial flagellum. Of course, he was trying to set up a difficult problem for evolutionary biologists to answer, saying that their theories concerning the emergence of flagella must account for this. It’s funny, though, that Dembski has never included that hypothesis among those to be eliminated in his “design inference”. It is but one way of many in which his supposed application of the “design inference” to a biological phenomenon was incomplete and inadequate.

First impression - if I was not very familiar with the debate or issues, I wouldn’t have had a clue about either speaker’s thesis.

Unfortunately, we’re on Adelphia, which doesn’t carry CSPAN-2.

Having missed it, I checked the website for availability of tapes or transcripts. Didn’t see any. One of you folks that taped it: I wonder if it would be possible to borrow the tape?

Earlier today I wrote:

“I wonder if Dembski will finally tell us what else other than “Darwinism” there is in terms of scientific theory whose results ID can accommodate.”

After seeing the C-Span-2 Shanks-Dembski debate, I guess “Darwinism” (Darwinian evolution) is still all we got.

This was yet another example of how the debate format favors pseudoscience. One of many flags should have been thrown when Dembski simply crossed out the reference to Kauffman. There are some “bridges” to biology in Kauffman’s research, but none in Dembski’s “research,” if one can even call it that. Also his quote of Shapiro was undoubtedly out of context. But his best fancy footwork was the mandatory reference to Behe when acceptance of common descent came up. Dembski, as usual, slips out of stating his own position, but trots out the long refuted example of the Cambrian explosion in an effort to induce doubt of common descent among those less versed in the subject. I just hope that Shanks and Shermer made an impression on those in the audience who weren’t clear on evolution and the nature of science, and thus could have fallen for Dembski’s pitch in their absence.

Shanks was informative and entertaining, but I was disappointed at his answer to the questioner who brought up the primordial “muck.” Those who refer to it in such words are usually not going to listen to the answer anyway, and Shanks undoubtedly knew that. But for the benefit of the audience the point that needed to be driven home is that the questioner was confusing evolution with abiogenesis, and that anti-evolutionists exploit that at every opportunity.

A friend here in Atlanta taped it, so I’ll be able to see it.

Shanks needed a bath!

Actually, I think Shanks did an excellent job - he could have nailed Dembski on a couple of issues (eg, the Cambrian explosion, and the type III secretory system-flagellum relationship), but overall he did get his point across nicely.

His response to the “muck” question was also appropriate, I think, assuming the questioner was honestly asking how did the first replicators “evolve” since evolution requires replication, and not just trying to bait him into the usual Creo OoL impossibility stuff. (I really can’t tell what the intent was - the question was phrased in Creationist lingo, but the guy was wearing a Clash t-shirt, which should count for something! ;-) ). The only thing that could have been added to the answer is that self-replicating polymers, especially RNA-based, are probably not so hard to get, have low information content and might conceivably have arisen spontaneously (ribozyme people are pretty close to getting some made, which will help us understand the issue better). From a self-replicating ribozyme, it’s evolution all the way down (or up).

I agree that Dembski looked quite rational, at least compared to his snarly self in his written work. However, that may have been just in comparison to Schwartz, who seemed decidedly unhinged, yelling and squeezing the heck out of that toy brain (too bad it didn’t squeak every time - that would have been quite a scene!). Shermer did a good job too, very strong rhetorically, but a little weak on the specifics for my taste.

Frankly, I thought Schwartz just gave away the store when he admitted that “mind” (consciousness) could well be just an emergent property of the brain, and as such it could influence the brain’s activity. Of course, the same is true even if consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of brain activity - why shouldn’t it? So, if his grandiose dualistic theory could all boil down to the fact that “mind” may in fact be a materialistic product of the brain, and that as such it does influence the brain back - well, duh! Does anyone doubt that? None of this shows that “free will” (in the metaphysical sense he attributes to it) necessarily exists, and even less than the mind is something qualitatively different from the brain activity that generates it.

Finally, I was pleased at the audience. For an event organized by a religious group, many in attendance were clearly pro-science, and the toughest questions were for Dembski and Schwartz. I’d say that an open-minded listener should have likely come away with the overall impression that both Dembski’s and Shwartz’s arguments were scientifically rather weak.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on June 10, 2004 2:49 PM.

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