Dembski quote mining Dawkins

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Dembski quotes Dawkins but somehow drops relevant parts of the sentence…

WAD Wrote:

What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote?

Quotes like “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” and “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” are right up there, but my all-time favorite is “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” (All these quotes are from The Blind Watchmaker.)

It’s comforting that evolutionary theory is in the capable hands of rigorous empirical scientists like Dawkins.

As opposed to ‘rigorous empirical scientists’ like Dembski he probable means? Of course there are some interesting problems with his ‘logic’. First of all Dawkins is among thousands if not tens of thousands of capable scientists who move evolutionary theory forward. What does ID have to offer? Poof.… But let’s explore the ‘empirical evidence’ presented by Dembski with respect to Dawkin’s quote:

The Dawkins quote “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” has been extensively quote mined by ID creationists on the web. Rather than making an effort to understand what Dawkins was saying, they seem to believe that they get more mileage out of it by quote mining it.

Let’s consider this quote in its proper context and marvel at how it was mined

Richard Dawkins Wrote:

“Instead of examining the evidence for and against rival theories, I shall adopt a more armchair approach. My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories”

R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker p 287

I highlighted in bold the part quoted by Dembski. I believe that the omission of the “If I am right” and the removal of “(there is, of course)” significantly changes the meaning of what Dawkins was actually saying.

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Random thought: could this be a side effect of middle school/high school research paper writing? I don't know if they were even making students do these when Dembski et al were in school, but such papers are essentially exercises in factoid gathering... Read More

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Dembski added an interesting comment to Nick’s quote

[Nick: Thanks for this quote. It is so easy to villainize Dawkins (and he is a villain). But not all of his impulses are bad. —WmAD]

Interesting how Dembski sees Dawkins as a villain… Does that help explain the (unhealthy) fixations of ID proponents with Dawkins?

See for instance Dembski’s posting

Thanks Bombadill for alerting me to this photo (that’s Richard Dawkins on the left, Steve Aldrich on the right). To view all the festivities of the 2004 Center for Inquiry cruise, go here.

Imagine someone putting a gun to your head and forcing you to go on this cruise. Imagine you died and woke up in hell. But I repeat myself.

With these examples of taking quotes out of context and spinning them to support their theses rather than trying to figure out what they mean, can we conclude that IDers are also likely to grab any pieces of scientific evidence and spin them to fit their theses instead of trying to interpret what they mean?

The ID camp persists in the dishonest practice of quote mining, taking especial glory in cases where an evolutionist introduces a concept with the rhetorical device of saying something “looks” like it was designed, but… (as discussed at this site somewhere). If they were real scientists, this would catch up with them eventually and they would begin to lose grant money, peer support, or be sanctioned.

Maybe it is because I’m a relatively young graduate student, but I had never heard of Dawkins until I read ID arguments. It reminds me about the hullabaloo over Ward Churchill a while back, where Bill O’Reilly and other blowhards bloviated about how he was spreading an anti-American message, but they didn’t see the irony in the fact that Churchill would have been an obscure and unheard of college professor if the columnists and talkshow hosts didn’t make him into a media phenomenon. On the Telic Thoughts board, on the thread “Evidence fron Plausibility” (which is a deeply ironic arguments for the IDists to use), I wrote that Dawkins could “paint his fact blue and say he evolved from smurfs” and the mountains of science and hordes of scientists behind the theory of evolution would remain unchanged. ID is a movement led by a few apostles, with the remaining masses mostly unable to comprehend even the pseudoscience the few main characters produce, so they just quote them ad nauseum. They don’t seem to understand that real scientists don’t work the same way. As far as I can tell, we are leaderless, and not dependent on any characters like Dawkins, or even Darwin.

Please do not sanction ID ‘researchers’. Their own works speaks too well against their own ideas.

Dembski quotes Dawkins but somehow drops relevant parts of the sentence…

More than that, he capitalized a letter to make it appear that the quote was the start of a sentence, rather than the consequent of a conditional. In other words, Dembski is a lying piece of scum.

It reminds me about the hullabaloo over Ward Churchill a while back, where Bill O’Reilly and other blowhards bloviated about how he was spreading an anti-American message, but they didn’t see the irony in the fact that Churchill would have been an obscure and unheard of college professor if the columnists and talkshow hosts didn’t make him into a media phenomenon.

No, they were well aware of the irony; they made a big deal of Churchill and his statement in order to push the idea that the academy has been taken over by radical leftists.

The IDists have somewhat different motives in drawing attention to Dawkins, but again, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they don’t know what they’re doing.

The IDists have somewhat different motives in drawing attention to Dawkins, but again, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they don’t know what they’re doing.

As ts (not Tim) pointed out, IDists spin their deceits consciously. Quotes don’t get cunningly distorted by accident (unless there’s some kind of sinister natural selection process going on among the IDists – and wouldn’t that make them unhappy!). These conscious distortions are based on the idea that a juicy misquote will be more broadly distributed by ID sympathizers and apologists than the actual quote and context. It’s a useful lie, so it’s okay. (No doubt they pray that the mysterious Intelligent Designer will forgive them their false witness.)

One of the figureheads of a right-wing conspiracy to undermine science and culture in America refers to Dawkins as a ‘villian’. Keep on projecting, Dembski.

Coming soon: photos of a Dawkins stuffed doll with its head in a vise

Dembski said (Dave Barry is on vacation – no one could make this stuff up):

Imagine someone putting a gun to your head and forcing you to go on this cruise. Imagine you died and woke up in hell. But I repeat myself.

In one fell swoop he plagiarizes Mark Twain, makes a petty jab at Richard Dawkins, makes a petty jab at people who like to read and study, and reveals himself as one who would find it hell to be on a cruise ship, eating fine food, drinking fine drinks, and hobnobbing with really bright people who find intellectual exercise to be among the most stimulating possible.

Would-be despots prefer their peasantry to be uneducated, the better to oppress them. No doubt it IS hell for creationists* of all stripes, Dembski included, to be among people who know a thing or two and who don’t take crap for thought.

* By “creationists” here I lump in all those who blindly and foolishly oppose Darwinian theory and other demonstrated facts and theories of science – Lysenkoists, homeopaths, scriptural literalists and other IDists, etc.

It amazes me that Dembski’s fans think that all those quotes they offer are so damning. I believe that Dawkins serves pretty much the same purpose for Dembski as Michael Moore does for thinkers such as Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. All you have to do is pronounce the name to elicit a chorus of “Boo! Bad!” from your Ditto-Heads.

Substance? Who needs substance.

You have to remember that to someone like Dembski, the facts will never get in the way of the Truth. Truth is something he knows about, albeit in a strangely ironic way. Here are his Truths, which can never be shaken (solid rock, not sand, and all that):

1. There is a God 2. Evolution is not True 3. #1 and #2 are so very, very True 4. When I change someone’s quote, it becomes closer to the Truth; it is the message that they meant to write, even though what they actually wrote is quite different

I think that Dembski honestly believes that when he changed the quote, it became MORE accurate, not less. When you already have the Truth in your head about what someone else believes, it barely matters at all what they write. You can take the bits and pieces that match (or almost match) and discard the rest; it’s mere dross.

The Truth has set him free; fact-free!

Quote mining Dembski:

“Even without specialized biological knowledge, it is possible for laypersons to see that evolutionary theory, as taught in high school and college biology textbooks, is desperately in need of fuller treatment and more adequate discussion.….” In Defense of Intelligent Design

It’s a slow afternoon at the Delta Pi Gamma fraternity house.

Hmmm, I’m surprised that Sal, Dembski’s Renfield, hasn’t appeared to defend his master.

Somebody toss in another bucket of chum, OK? Where’s Toejam when we need his caustic hide?

In “In Defense of Intelligent Design”, Dembski argues that ID is like SETI. But SETI isn’t the notion that radio waves traveling through space cannot be explained without recourse to an intelligent designer. Rather than SETI, ID is more like the view of schizophrenics that the voices in their heads are from God or the Devil or from devices planted in their teeth by evil scientists.

ts Wrote:

Dembski quotes Dawkins but somehow drops relevant parts of the sentence…

More than that, he capitalized a letter to make it appear that the quote was the start of a sentence, rather than the consequent of a conditional. In other words, Dembski is a lying piece of scum.

And to make it even worse he fails to put in the ellipses to mark the ommission.

I wonder if he simply copied and pasted someone else’s quote mine of Dawkins instead of double checking the original.

bill requests: Somebody toss in another bucket of chum, OK?

Quote mining Dembski:

“Darwin looms larger than life in the study of biological origins because his theory constitutes the very bedrock of evolutionary biology. Indeed, nothing in evolutionary biology makes sense apart from Darwinism.”(1)

and

“Life over the course of natural history has become more complex. One of the great appeals of evolutionary theory, when thinkers such as Darwin first proposed it, was to underwrite a progressive, onward-and-upward, complexity-increasing form of evolution.”(1)

1. Dembski, W. A. 2004. Unintellignet Evolution. Talk presented at the annual American Academy of Religion meeting, San Antonio, November 22, 2004.

And to make it even worse he fails to put in the ellipses to mark the ommission.

Well, I think the capitalization is considerably worse, because it’s an active and necessarily intentional misrepresentation, not just an omission.

I wonder if he simply copied and pasted someone else’s quote mine of Dawkins instead of double checking the original.

Dembski fancies himself a scholar, and certainly owns and has read Dawkins’ book, and claimed these to be his favorite Dawkins quotes, so if he did copy someone else’s quote mine he didn’t simply do so.

Quote mining Dembski:

I don’t think you quite have the hang of it. Try this, from the same Dembski talk:

“Darwin’s greatest achievement was to show that the organized complexity of living things could be brought about without recourse to a designing intelligence. … all organisms trace their lineage back to a universal common ancestor. Thus you, the fly buzzing around your head, and the bacteria perched on the fly all share the same great-great-great grandparent. … any two organisms are n-th cousins k-times removed where n and k depend on the two organisms in question. … an unintelligent physical process can account for the emergence of all biological complexity and diversity.”

And so on.

even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories

Finer weasel words have never been crafted. Having his cake and eating it too. He wants everyone to admire the rationality of his atheism, but he can not let go of his ‘empirical’ saftey net. Each side is a house of cards stacked on top of each other.

So lets analyze this carefully. Dembski is guilty of omitting “If I am right it means that” and “(there is, of course)”. The former omission replaces a suppsedly doubtful Dawkins with a certain one. Does any reasonable human being believe that Dawkins’ saying “If I am right” is really expressing doubt? He would go so far as write an entire book to support a theory and still doubts it? I submit that is extremely unlikely. So omitting those words did not materially alter the message Dawkins was conveying. And the latter omission is altogether irrelevant. Whether there is or is not evidence in favor of evolution, Dawkins is clearly indicating that even in the absence of said evidence it would still be preferable to prefer evolution over all rival theories. So this omission also does not materially alter Dawkins’ message.

So folks here are just nit-picking Dembski in the extreme. It’s much ado about nothing. And it’s all so very disingenious and unscientific. Whether we like what Dembski is doing or not, and I don’t care for him at all, we still need to be fair. Let us reserve our criticism for more worthy situations.

Finer weasel words have never been crafted.

Noting that there’s evidence for a position is hardly weasely.

quote Having his cake and eating it too.

No, he’s having his cake and his coffee too.

He wants everyone to admire the rationality of his atheism, but he can not let go of his ‘empirical’ saftey net.

Uh, his statement has nothing to do with atheism, it was to do with the explanatory power of various theories. And it would be silly to “let go” of empirical evidence.

Each side is a house of cards stacked on top of each other.

Even your metaphors are nonsensical.

Hi Bevets:

Each side is a house of cards stacked on top of each other.

Nice stragetic quote editing. Nice spacially impossible metaphor. Couldn t take the heat on Fark.com, eh…

Bruce

Hi Carol:

Here is the key part that Dembski left out:

“Instead of examining the evidence for and against rival theories, I shall adopt a more armchair approach. My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life.

Kind of changes things a bit…I wonder why you didn t notice this.

Bruce

So lets analyze this carefully.

Like Judah Landa’s lying lapdog is capable of such a thing.

Dembski is guilty of omitting “If I am right it means that” and “(there is, of course)”.

Clouser manages to omit mentioning what “it” refers to.

He would go so far as write an entire book to support a theory and still doubts it?

Yes, scientists do retain doubt about things that they have written books about. But in any case, Dembski’s misquote radically misrepresents Dawkins’ claim, which is that

“[If] Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life [then], even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories”

And it’s all so very disingenious and unscientific.

Clouser gazing into the mirror. “disingenious” indeed.

Carol, who seems to be unfamiliar with Dawkin’s book ‘argues’

Carol Wrote:

So lets analyze this carefully. Dembski is guilty of omitting ‘If I am right it means that’ and ‘(there is, of course)’. The former omission replaces a suppsedly doubtful Dawkins with a certain one. Does any reasonable human being believe that Dawkins’ saying ‘If I am right’ is really expressing doubt? He would go so far as write an entire book to support a theory and still doubts it? I submit that is extremely unlikely. So omitting those words did not materially alter the message Dawkins was conveying.

Note that Dawkins made his statement in the final chapter of his book where he presented an ‘armchair argument’. By presenting Dawkins’ statement out of its proper context, Dembski gave it a meaning quite a bit different from Dawkins.

So folks here are just nit-picking Dembski in the extreme. It’s much ado about nothing. And it’s all so very disingenious and unscientific. Whether we like what Dembski is doing or not, and I don’t care for him at all, we still need to be fair. Let us reserve our criticism for more worthy situations.

Exposing quote mining is a very worthy situation for many reasons. Nitpicking Dembski? Or showing a poor scholarship? This is very relevant as he is portraying Dawkins as somehow being (the main) representative of evolutionary theory.

One may argue that Dembski merely took the quote from another source and made a type II error (thanks Casey…). Perhaps all Dembski did was being very sloppy with his quotations but he turned a statement made by Dawkins in a very restricted sense to sound as if Dawkins was making a very general statement.

Perhaps Dembski can admit his error? Time shall tell. But history has shown that Dembski has been very reluctant to admit any errors on his part.

People on this blog and those commenting on Dembski’s blog seem to have missed the part which is really the relevant omission namely

If I am right… Which refers to a preceding argument where Dawkins explains what he is really arguing about…

Instead of examining the evidence for and against rival theories, I shall adopt a more armchair approach. My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life.

This omission is quite material. At least when quote mining it would be helpful to indicate that parts are omitted by using the common indicators such as ellipses or the use of square brackets.

Sigh… Two many type II errors here by ID proponents. Ironically when Casey Luskin wrote about type I and Type II errors and ID critics, he must have missed how ID proponents are far more prone to such errors. Not just when criticizing evolutionary theory but worse, when presenting the ID argument(s). People seem to blindly accept claims and statements without realizing the lack of supporting foundations or the fact that others have shown these statements to be without merrit.

So folks here are just nit-picking Dembski in the extreme. It’s much ado about nothing.

Wait, Carol, let me guess – Jay El figured it out long ago, and all we need to do is read his wonderful book.

Right?

People on this blog and those commenting on Dembski’s blog seem to have missed the part which is really the relevant omission namely

Not “people”, just Carol Clouser. Both Bruce McNeely and I already pointed out the relevant omission just a little ways upthread.

If anyone wants to quote mine Dembski, here’s a good place to start:

http://www.idthefuture.com/index.ph[…]b=1&pb=1

Dembski Wrote:

The Truth about How I Got into ID William Dembski

Many critics of intelligent design think I got into ID because I’m a right wing fundamentalist who takes Genesis literally and wants to see its 6-day creation as mandatory teaching in the public school science curriculum. WRONG! Here’s the real story.

Back in the mid-80s, Sahotra Sarkar and I were grad students at the University of Chicago, he in philosophy, I in mathematics. One day, at the International House (a 500-room dorm for grad students on the UofC campus), we were discussing what it would take to bring down Darwinism. He remarked rather off-handedly that it would take a “revival of William Paley.” “Hmm, Paley,” I mused.

Suddenly, I had my life’s mission. Even though I was raised in a largely secular home with a biologist father who taught evolutionary biology and who was fond of reminding me that our ancestors swung from trees, I decided what better way to make a name for myself than to bring down the most popular and infamous theory in science.

My plan quickly fell into place:

* I would concoct a specious mathematical theory of design detection that critics of evolution could use as a weapon against Darwinism. * I would network with right-wing fanatics for whom a recrudescence of Paley could be a tool for their political agenda. * And finally, I would cash in on the celebrity associated with bringing down Darwin.

On this last point, let me just say that intelligent design has been very, very good to me.

Well, I’m glad I finally got this off my chest. So thank you Sahotra and all you valiant defenders of Darwinism for the fame and fortune you’ve made possible for me. I could never have done it without you.

But in “searching” for “intelligence”, SETI is, as in the movie Contact, looking for radio-frequency patterns that bear the mark of intelligence.

That’s a persistent antievolutionist myth. The real SETI is looking for narrow-bandwidth carriers, not “patterns” in received signals. The FAQ answer demonstrates this, noting that trying to figure out any “message” is not part of the current SETI project.

It seems blastfromthepast needs it spelled out for him. SETI doesn’t look for “design” exactly, it looks for radio signals that look like the radio signals that humans emit, focused in a narrow band, as they are believed not to occur in nature. If they find such a signal, they will no doubt conference and earnestly hypothesize on whether the signal they observe could in fact be from any known natural sources. There are many places where the IDists SETI/archaeology/forensics analogies fail. In all those fields, the searchers aren’t looking for some abstract and ill-defined concept called “design.” They are looking for known hallmarks of human activity, derived from first-hand knowledge of what humans are capable of doing. Even SETI bases, while looking for nonhuman activity, bases its search on what is known about how humans use radio waves. All those fields are also willing and able to subject their methods to vigorous peer-review and attempts at falsification. By contrast, IDists make bald assertions (Behe- irreducible complexity) and use entirely fraudulent mathematical models of evolution (Demski), which have been neither demonstrated to be true nor subjected to peer-review and falsification. They claim to detect “design,” although they cannot describe the source, the time, the place, the methods or anything about the designer or how they designed or what they designed, except apparently the flagellum. SETI/archaeologists/crime scene investigators all base their methods on experience observing human methods, and don’t claim the ability to see an abstract concept called “design” or “intelligence.” Although that idea raises the interesting possibility; next time I commit a crime I might try the ID defense. While the forensic evidence points to my guilt, I’ll just say that given all the variables in the universe it was mathematically improbable for me to be at that place and time, and that they can’t prove that it wasn’t the intelligent designer of the universe who had in fact committed the crime, using unkown methods in an unknown way for an unknown reason. Would you pronounce me “not guilty” Blastfromthepast?

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on September 10, 2005 2:49 PM.

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