“unintelligent non-design” and Amazon.com reviewers

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William Dembski has for years made claims that his “Explanatory Filter” (EF) provided a theoretical basis for “pre-theoretic” sciences such as archaeology and forensics. I am an archaeologist who also has forensic experience as a consultant to law enforcement, and trial expert witness. Plus, I worked as a private investigator for several years. So, finding no comparison with the EF and my professional experience, I was always somewhat irritated when reading Dembski’s books. For this reason, I was very happy to have been asked to contribute a chapter to “Why Intelligent Design Fails” (WIDF).

The book came out this summer, and eventually acquired a small number of reviews posted on the Amazon.com page devoted to WIDF.. After a handful of very laudatory reviews, a string of hostile reviews followed. The problem of creationists writing hostile reviews of science at Amazon is of course not new, and has been even discussed here on Panda’s Thumb before now. But it is rather obvious that the hostile reviews written aginst our book were by people who had neither read the book nor even had a very clear grasp of intelligent design creationism. I had hoped for some cogent comments from intelligent design advocates, but I have yet to see any.

From pseudonymous “Dr. Will Samson (Livermore, CA),” we have a few gems of bafflement. For example, “4)How does Variation in Vacuo produce Vertical and Horizontal Integration, both Inorganic and Organic? When did Universe-al Occupancy check in to Absolute Vacancy?” I did get a chuckle from “This book was worth one star for its sheer boldness and attempt at parrying ID’s lunging thrusts.” I couldn’t help combining “lunging thrusts” with Newt Gingerich’s characters in “1945” always “athwart” each other. Burrrrr.….

Pseudonymous “Sergio Montoya (Madrid, Espana)” seems to want to obscure his national as well as personal identity. (One hint: in Spain one always uses a matrinomic and patrinomic). But friend “Sergio” demonstrates that he has not read the book when he writes,

“What is the hardest for myself to accept from these experts in their respective fields is how they can go from critique to pronouncement in one short book when for thousands of years, Old Creationism and now New Creationism have been dominant in the philosophies of man, especially outside of the Modern Western Cultures.”

At no time do any of the authors base their refution of ID on an argument that it is “creationism” old or new. We were all determined to take ID at its face value when its proponents claim it is some sort of science. I also suppose that Sergio missed the discussion by Taner Edis (Chapter 1) on non-Western creationism and ID.

I reproduce the following in toto, and I think it needs no elaboration on my part.

No Artificial Intelligence without Superior Human ID, September 16, 2004 Reviewer: Joey Salem (Boston, USA) - This book made interesting reading, but missed the boat.

If there could be no Artificial Intelligence (AI) without superior Human ID, how could there be Human Intelligence without a higher Superiority Order of Intelligization??

Can the universe really get the Greater from the Lesser? If AI can’t create itself through natural selection/unintelligent undesign, how can we hold the creed that evolutionization created itself and its own I.Q.-equal or superior who in turn creates AI? In other words, it’s essential and necessary and sine qua non that Human ID create AI, but nothingness (non ID) created what created AI?

This is one of many reasons anti-ID fails. See the excellent review of the book Creationism’s Trojan Horse for further elaboration of the self-evident axiom (a synthesis of Laws of Thermodynamics, Causation, Motion, Necessitation & Physimechanics): Greater to Lesser.

Another “reviewer” “M. Martinko” explains things to us:

How can there be Givens without Giving? How can there be Giving without Giver? How can things B without A? How could B want to get us to Z in the precise DNA Formula & Physical Law and Order of C,D,E,F,G,etc.? What made the B-Z Sequentialization want to start, continue and end the race at that exact finish line (mature functionality & reproduction of healthy, survivable dominant populations)? And how do you start this Marathon fairly, well past the ‘A’-Starting Line at point ‘B’ (cheating)?

Seems like the reasoning of this book takes these and other Givens for Granted. But you can’t have ‘Taken for Granted’ without ‘Granteds’. How can there be a ‘Grant’ without a Grantor?

Looks instead like Unintelligent non-design (Alpha-less B-Z marathon) fails to win the race, let alone know how it all started and kept going to cross today’s finish line.

I doubt that there is any conspiracy afoot, although the repeated catch phrase “unintelligent non-design” suggests the possibility of collaboration. Too bad that the EF is such a failure.

intelligent designator (Chicago), “If Design is selected out (due to implications of Designer), then Intelligence is also (due to implications of Intelligentsia). But if Intelligence is selected out, then so is Designation (with the implied Designator). If Designation is out, then so is Selection (with its concomitant Selector).

We’re left with a-selective, unintelligent non-design.

What we are actually left with is the problem of how to respond to “reviewers” who have never read the book they claim to be reviewing? There is no point in responding to their arguments directly, as they make none that refer to the book in question. (Actually they made few statements that were even coherent).


Since all these negative quasi-reviews appeared practically simultaneously and all have in common the sheer absence of meaning, this points to a concerted effort. As often is the habit of ID advocates, these reviews are signed not by real names as they obviously are afraid of exposing themselves to counter-attacks revealing the senselessness of their pseudo-arguments. Their sole purpose is to diminish the overall mark (expresed in the number of stars) so from their standpoint the contents of their posts are of no significance - any abracadabra will do as long as they give the book just one star. Amazon seems to be omnivorous - they post any nonsense submitted, perhaps because of the idea that there is no bad publicity - the more reviews, the better for sales.

I agree with Mr. Rossow that the reviews seem to have been coordinated in some way. Perhaps we have hit the intelligent designauts where it hurts.

I’d also like to note 6 favorable reviews by people who give every sign of having read and understood the book: Adam Smith, Alexander Eterman, Helena Eterman, Yigal Orem, Marge Strow, and John Forester. Many thanks to them for taking the time to inject some sense into the discussion. In addition, thanks to Norman Levitt and Paul Gross for pointing out the vacuity of the so-called reviews.

For the record, I do not know any of the reviewers besides Dr. Levitt and Dr. Gross, but I once had a student named Adam Smith.

The problem, as I see it, is that some folks might actually think that the protracted verbiage of these non-reviews amounts to some kind of substantial criticism of the book. A reader considering the book, but not having read it, would not know that these ID-aughts have also not read the book, and are only trying to discourage anybody else from reading it.

That kind of says something itself, that they don’t want others to read it. To me it suggests that not only do they know the book is devastating to their position, but that they are willing to resort to any kind of dishonesty to prevent others from realizing that.


I’m not hugely bothered by negative but mindless reviews on amazon.com. OK, as one of the editors and a contributor, it hurts my ego to see the star count go down, but that’s no huge deal.

It’ll be more interesting when the serious ID proponents attack the book. With something more substantial than “X and Y have said this, but their criticism fails” without really saying why it’s supposed to fail, I hope. (Though I’m not hugely optimistic, I’ll admit.)

Too bad ID is such a nasty political issue. I still think there is a lot to learn from seeing precisely how ID fails, and that it’s intellectually worthwhile to devote time and effort to critique ID properly. But I also sometimes suspect that I’m being naive, and that the ugly political battle over ID is the main thing, with scientists occasionally jumping in only as a side show…

It used to be the case that typing Evolution into google would get you Answers in Genesis. While that’s fortunately not the case now, I think the creationists have reached some kind of critical mass, where their millions of words amount to an ocean of nonsense that uninformed people can easily drown in. How long would it take you to argue those people on Amazon, and AiG, and Kent Hovind, etc, into submission? Eternity. It makes me sympathetic to Dawkins’s belief that even debating results in a kind of victory for the creationists.

Everyone of you has got a fascinating point in this discussion and I really appreciate it because a good critique of WIDF would be welcomed by great joy but this is just horrible.

As I would like to point out there is not just problem with the simultaneous appearance of this articles but also something else. Try too look this pseudonyms and their last reviews. Woow! There is only _one_ or _two_ reviews from the claimed persons. I’m very concerned about this this because you don’t need Sherlock Holmes nor the Dembski Filter to figure this out. This horrible anonymous argumentation is just an embarresement to ID and we can see that when you don’t have got anything fruitful to share with others, you must use 1) ad hoc or/and 2) ad hominem. Take your pick!

This alchemism doesn’t contribute to the efforts of ID advocates and we can just see how rational and very sharp critique can be diminished just by a magic trick. Whoooops! I just said _the_ magic word. ;-)

Could somebody apply Dembski’s Filter to this problem? Who is behind this kind of crap? Chaotical random naturalistic atheistic materialistic etc. natural forces or the Intelligent Designer?

Regarding hostile reviews on amazon, turnaround is fair play.

Just do what pop Bible apologist Jason Gastrich does: complain to amazon.com and they will delete them.

If you’re not familiar with the tale of Jason Gatsrich, skepticsannoatedbible.com, amazon.com, and the DMCA, search Google for these terms. Here are a few starters:

http://www.durangobill.com/JasonGastrich.html http://www.johncollins.org/JG/Jason_Gastrich.html http://www.skepticsannotatedbiblecorrected.com http://www.gastrich.org/ http://www.livejournal.com/users/cz[…]d/39810.html

I see no need to request from Amazon the deletion of negative reviews of Why Intelligent Design Fails. Those negative reviews are so ridiculously senseless that they only illustrate the intellectual impotence of the critics (most of whom obviously have not read the book they attack). They seem to be not capable of suggesting any cogent comments, indulging instead in irrelevant ruminations. Also, most of them clearly use pseudonims and indicate false locations of their whereabouts. All this discredits them, thus serving only to enhance the status of the book in the eyes of unbiased readers. It looks like the book has indeed hit the ID crowd painfully, so they resort to underhanded tactics trying to smear the book. Let them do it - sapienti sat. Cheers!

Re: comment 7785 by Matt Young. Matt,I happened once to have in the same class two students both named Adam Smith (I believe some time around 1986 or ‘87). They had, though, different middle initials which I cannot recall now. Unlike you, I know who is Alexander Eterman (but not Helen Eterman); like you, I know who are Levitt and Gross (our thanks to all of them) but not any of the rest of the reviewers.

Mark – Some advice: please spell “anonymous” and “pseudonym” correctly.

Ambrose: You’re right. I am sorry for typos. My Russian background shows - when typing rapidly I am prone to misspell various words. Usually I correct typos myself if checking the typed text (which I often fail to do when posting comments - this is not a justification but rather an explanation, however awkward).

My additude toward spelling is that of William Shakespear. I consequently had very little success at spelling contests in grammer school.

I agree with you Mark that the Amazon.com “reviews” do more to discredit the ID supporters than the book. But, allowing them to remain is an unwarrented boost to their authors’ egos, and could even encourage this sort of ignorant and dishonest act. So in sum, I would rather see them removed, not because they are hostile, but because they neither reflect the content of our book nor considered positions of IDC.

Are some of these reviews just a bit too ridiculous, suggesting that an anti-antievolutionist posted them? Is anybody’s brain as muddled as these imply? How about some comparisons with comments known to have come from antievolutionists.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Hurd published on September 19, 2004 12:25 PM.

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