Dembski Reviewed

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The Presbyterian Church of New Zealand recently reviewed one of Dembski’s latest books, The Design Revolution. The reviewer, Alistair McBride, is a former science teacher and current minister. He has this to say about the book.

For me the book is characterised by a great deal of polemic and special pleading which makes it difficult to tread a path through the argumentation.

His real target is something he calls Darwinism. As I read the chapter “The Only Game in Town” I found he tries to narrow the debate down to a particular understanding of what Darwin wrote. …

… From my reading, the branch of evolutionary biology has come to see that “natural selection” plays only a part in the overall scheme of the theory of evolution and to argue solely against a narrowly defined Darwinist position obfuscates the issues being discussed in the wider scientific community.

Follow this link to read the rest.

Thanks to Glenn Branch for the heads up.

7 Comments

Excellent review.

I have a cartoon on my wall with two scientists looking at a blackboard with two sets of equations and in between the two, an arrow with the words “Then at this point a miracle occurs” attached. One of the scientists is saying, “I think you could be a bit more precise at Step Two.”

I think that is what Dembski is trying to do with this book on Intelligent Design. His claim, and that of other ID theorists, is that by looking at creation carefully it is possible to see evidences of design, and hence be able to infer an Intelligent Designer.

The cartoon is one of many brilliant science cartoons done by Sidney Harris.

I think there’s a “Far Side” comic by Gary Larson with exactly the same punchline.

Wow… more reasonable Christians popping up out of the woodwork. What’s going on here?

Andrew Wrote:

Wow … more reasonable Christians popping up out of the woodwork. What’s going on here?

As you probably know, business as usual. The “silent majority” of educated Christians support science and think that ID is bunk. But even among the vocal minority, some of the chief critics of ID and creationism are Christians.

McBride ends his review with the statement:

For those who would think of dismissing it out of hand, I would note that the ID movement is gaining traction in some quarters in the States and has some significant political support towards having it taught as an alternative theory to evolution in schools, and that in itself is a good reason for finding out what Dembski and other theorists are saying.

The problem is that he doesn’t quantify “gaining traction in some quarters.” Which “quarters” exactly? How much “traction”? He also leaves unstated why ID is gaining traction. It’s certainly not because the “theory” has any scientific merit. Rather, ID is a way for Christian fundamentalists and other apologists to meretriciously provide a patina of scientific respectability to their loopy non-scientific beliefs.

Furthermore, to describe Dembski as a “theorist” is to give credit where credit is not due. He is not biologist, nor is he even a scientist. (I think he’s still under contract at Baylor, but it has never been clear to me from whom Dembski gets his grant money.) McBride should have referred to Dembski as an “advocate” or “lobbyist” or better yet as a “witness.” (The latter term would at least square with how Dembski refers to himself as a “Christian witness.”)

The other issue is: Who has all this copious free time to “find out what Dembski and other theorists are saying”? Who’s has the time to study what crackpots have to say, when just trying to learn what actual scientists have to say is, well, a full-time job? Lots of newspapers print a little astrology column every day, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go out an learn what astrologists have to say. Astrology is wrong so I just ignore it, as my time is better spent reading actual news. (Actually, I refuse to read newspapers that run astrology columns, since if the publishers are willing to publish false pseudo-science as fact, then that doesn’t bode well for the trustworthiness of anything else they publish.)

“Wow … more reasonable Christians popping up out of the woodwork. What’s going on here?”

“As you probably know, business as usual. The “silent majority” of educated Christians support science and think that ID is bunk. But even among the vocal minority, some of the chief critics of ID and creationism are Christians.”

I’m not sure about the veracity of the last sentence. But I’m undecided, unlike my EE friend Z. (Name obscured because he has a fairly public job at a small tech company in South Cackilacky.) Z. subtly searches for the religious beliefs of people he meets, and subtly discourages interaction with any who are religious. He thinks it’s a pretty good way to do a first-order filter in favor of rational people. In my personal life I don’t really discuss intellectual things much (TPT a rare exception) so I haven’t thought about doing any kind of filter like this in terms of people I know. Though as far as discussion, I filter creationists out, except for amusement.

Steve,

A number of Christians have published very critical reviews of ID and creationism on the Talk Origins archive. But the main ones I had in mind are Kenneth Miller, author of “Finding Darwin’s God” and Robert Pennock (“Tower of Babel”). Also John Haught (“God After Darwin”), who may not criticize ID&C as directly as the others, but nevertheless finds it unconvincing as science, and not very good theology either.

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on July 8, 2004 8:00 PM.

Complexity: Darwin and neutral evolution was the previous entry in this blog.

Icons of ID: Reliability revisited is the next entry in this blog.

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