Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone

| 21 Comments

Dembski can be observed quote mining Dawkins and making some ironic statements in a recent posting on UncommenDescent.

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 Dembski himself can be observed making some very interesting claims, worthy of an ‘empirical scientist’…

WAD Wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

Source

From Wiki Quotes

WAD Wrote:

“I’ve just gotten kind of blase about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print,” he says. “And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more.”

- -William Dembski in The Chronicle of Higher Education Dec. 21, 2001

Or in Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology (1999), Dembski can be observed making the following comments

WAD Wrote:

“If we take seriously the word-flesh Christology of Chalcedon (i.e. the doctrine that Christ is fully human and fully divine) and view Christ as the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation, then any view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient.”

“Christ is indispensable to any scientific theory, even if its practitioners do not have a clue about him.” p. 210

“My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ.” p. 206

Or the following quotes

WAD Wrote:

“Intelligent Design opens the whole possibility of us being created in the image of a benevolent God.” - Science Test, Church & State Magazine, July/August 2000.

WAD Wrote:

“Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory (Dembski 1999, 84).

The “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” story in the Bible would have been an important lesson to some ID proponents.

21 Comments

Demski Wrote:

“Christ is indispensable to any scientific theory, even if its practitioners do not have a clue about him.” p. 210

And all this time he has been saying that ID does not necessarily invoke a deity.…yet here he is stating that ANY scientific theory must involve Christ as an indispensible part of that theory.

I guess that he is actually admitting that ID is not a scientific theory after all, since it does not involve [necessarily] any deity, including Christ.

WAD wrote: “Christ is indispensable to any scientific theory, even if its practitioners do not have a clue about him.” p. 210

So evolutionary theory is in good hands and ID is redundant, poorly considered and executed as well as a waste of time. If the Big Wahini is in charge (preferred over evil satanic space aliens) then we can all rest on our collective rumps and cogitate. I for one would trade startup funds for a membership to the faculty club and a liquor allowance.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Ken Shackleton wrote: “And all this time he has been saying that ID does not necessarily invoke a deity.…yet here he is stating that ANY scientific theory must involve Christ as an indispensible part of that theory.”

This isn’t exactly fair. I agree with the sentiment, but not the wording. To be fair we have to acknowledge that Dawkins does write a lot about atheism too. The atheist versus Christian issue is a separate battle, it just defines their motives, not their arguments.

Dawkins and Dembski could be right or wrong about their broad metaphysical beliefs and evolution versus ID could still be an issue, after all, there would be Muslim IDers too, as well as Muslim and Christian Darwinists. Dembski’s concepts like “specified complexity” are not religiously specific.

However, Dawkins is still the more correct view when talking about Darwin’s theory of natural selection being the only theory that, at this time, can in *principle* explain the diversity of life on Earth and other things we see.

With ID you don’t necessarily get diversity, with Darwin it is required. Natural selection can be reduced to an algorithm and be modeled on a computer, thus you get genetic algorithms and evolutionary programming. Can you do that with the undefined intelligence in ID? We can watch how selection operates, we can find the mutational and selectional mechanisms. Can you figure out the mechanisms of the intelligence in ID?

We can sequence bacterial DNA, then take bacteria into a lab and force selective pressures on it, get it to evolve, and then sequence the new DNA and see how it has changed.

Would ID suggest a different experiment?

In order to claim any explanatory power you have to show that the explanation matters at the experimental level… at least potentially.

Surely, it must be let HIM who is without sin?

Norman Doering questions:

With ID you don’t necessarily get diversity, with Darwin it is required. Natural selection can be reduced to an algorithm and be modeled on a computer, thus you get genetic algorithms and evolutionary programming. Can you do that with the undefined intelligence in ID?

Yes, Poof. Alternatively, Poof followed by a little bit of evolution.

Would ID suggest a different experiment?

Asked of ID and unanswered.

Norman Doering wrote:

We can sequence bacterial DNA, then take bacteria into a lab and force selective pressures on it, get it to evolve, and then sequence the new DNA and see how it has changed.

Indeed, we got a catalytic enzyme to build an RNA virus essentially from scratch – back during the mid-seventies. Just look up Manfred Eigen or Qb-replicase. Not quite the origin, but getting there…

Just a funny offtopic observation, but in my office the acronym WAD means (W)orking (A)s (D)esigned.

Timothy Chase wrote: “Just look up Manfred Eigen or Qb-replicase.”

I didn’t know anything about Manfred Eigen or the catalytic enzyme, Qb-replicase, until I did as you suggested and looked them up.

I found this: http://mescalin.tbi.univie.ac.at/~p[…]-pks-005.pdf

Haven’t read it all yet, but it’s remarkable in that it talks about Dembski’s claimed ID terrain of “information.”

What I was thinking of, and I had to look this up in order to spell names and clarify what was done, was Richard Lenski’s evolution experiment with bacterium E. coli. It continues to this day, and is probably the largest controlled evolution experiment ever undertaken. The bacteria have grown for more than 20,000 generations.

Also look into “Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.”

Microorganisms or used in controlled processes where it is possible to choose the particular microorganism or microbial community and define and control the environment in which an activity will take place. Thus evolution is already one industrial process used to produce new or modified products.

Can I write PT a free article about these experiments? They all seem very relevant to ID and it looks like they demolish Dembski’s ideas.

Dembski Wrote:

“Christ is indispensable to any scientific theory, even if its practitioners do not have a clue about him.” p. 210

“My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ.” p. 206

Hmmm… Where does one put Christ in an equation? I’ve always heard that He is everywhere.

(Christ)E=(Christ)MC2

If I’m applying Christ correctly here, any good mathemetician would know what to do…

Ved Rocke wrote: “If I’m applying Christ correctly here, any good mathemetician would know what to do…”

Well, as far as I can comprehend Dembski…

It’s not: (Christ)E=(Christ)MC2

It’s: (Christ) = (E=MC2) = (Christ)

Well, as far as I can comprehend Dembski…

It’s not: (Christ)E=(Christ)MC2

It’s: (Christ) = (E=MC2) = (Christ)

Sounds more like:

(E=MC2) = (Isaac Newton of Information Theory) = (Christ)

(E=MC2) = (Isaac Newton of Information Theory) = (Christ) = (Dembski)

Favorite Dembski quote: Other things being equal, would you rather party with a design theorist or a Darwinist?

Becoming a Disciplined Science: Prospects, Pitfalls, and Reality Check for ID By William A. Dembski

Keynote address delivered at RAPID Conference (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design), Biola University, La Mirada, California, 25 October 2002. The aim of this conference was to examine the current state of intelligent design research.

Maybe I would prefer the eats (Dembski does have an interest in a Texas barbeque joint) but the conversation would kill my appetite. I ll choose primordial soup at the next Darwin Day bash, thank you very much!

Bruce

Norman: “This isn’t exactly fair. I agree with the sentiment, but not the wording. To be fair we have to acknowledge that Dawkins does write a lot about atheism too. The atheist versus Christian issue is a separate battle, it just defines their motives, not their arguments.”

I think there are some fundamental differences there. Demski’s books are the argument for intelligent design. They have no other publications to speak of. And even if you posit that this particular book was philosophical and not part of his scientific argument, do you think Demski would make that distinction in front of a religious audience? In front of the DI’s donors? I don’t. Thirdly, Demski specifically advocates the inclusion of Christ (God knows how) in our scientific models. I don’t think it is unfair to use this statment to disparage his and his argument’s scientific credibility. Dawkins, on the other hand, is just one guy among many evolutionary biologists, so he is not the figurehead that stands for evolutionary thoery. If one wants to criticize that, they can begin with a journal search, not Dawkins book. Evolutionary biologists have conveniently published their observations in peer-reviewed literature for others to examine, and potentially falsify.

Norman

That Schuster paper is a good read. Thanks for the link. That an organism is connected to its antecedent on the fitness landscape by Hamming distances of 1 blows Dembski’s blathering about searching large spaces randomly out of the water, and so succinctly.

sanjait wrote: “…some fundamental differences there. Demski’s books are the argument for intelligent design.”

At the very least I think you have to include Behe. In fact, Behe’s concepts are a little better even though they’re wrong too. “Irreducible complexity” is a little closer to actually defining something measurable than “specified complexity.” Both concepts still fail to be objective, but Behe was closer.

“They have no other publications to speak of. And even if you posit that this particular book was philosophical and not part of his scientific argument,”

I would to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“… do you think Demski would make that distinction in front of a religious audience?”

If he doesn’t, then he is destroying the benefit of the doubt I’m willing to give him.

“In front of the DI’s donors? I don’t.”

But do you know for sure? You could be right.

“Thirdly, Demski specifically advocates the inclusion of Christ (God knows how) in our scientific models.”

Well, if there is a Christ, if we are designed, he would have to fit into some kind of “model,” but maybe not something as narrow as a scientific model which allows us to make predictions. You’d have to be able to predict Christ.

Dembski does say dumb things at times, but he can wake up from that mistake and still support ID.

My point is that Dawkins can’t get rid of religious ideas and say evolution is atheistic any more than Dembski can say it’s necessarily Christian.

But don’t get me wrong – I think the larger naturalistic view of science isn’t kind to theology. It’s hard to imagine a supernatural intelligence when we are beginning to make “natural/material” intelligences with AI. But I try making the AI argument to other Darwinists and I don’t get far.

“I don’t think it is unfair to use this statment to disparage his and his argument’s scientific credibility.”

I do. Isaac Newton had some pretty crazy ideas about theology too, and we tend to forget about those.

There’s a political reason to avoid stepping on Christian toes in a country that’s mostly Christians.

“Dawkins, on the other hand, is just one guy among many evolutionary biologists,…”

There may be few ID theorists, but Dembski is still one of some (maybe just two good ones – good being relative to ID, not science) if not many.

“… [Dawkins]… not the figurehead that stands for evolutionary thoery… wants to criticize that, they can begin with a journal search, not Dawkins book. Evolutionary biologists have conveniently published their observations in peer-reviewed literature for others to examine, and potentially falsify.”

I agree. But in the end the argument has to be made to the general public, not just scientists. Dawkins is a prime target because he writes for the public, not expensive journals most people don’t read.

You should avoid throwing stones at Dembski’s Christianity for political reasons alone. Stick to his science and math… it’s bad enough. I think we make things more complicated than they need to be by dragging Dembski’s religion into it too deeply.

But you are right – Dembski’s religion has distorted his perceptions.

It is important to remember that ID is part of a conspiracy theory political activists have gotten most of the Christian Right to embrace. The theory is that members of a godless scientific establishment conspire to suppress all challenges to neo-Darwinism. If it were not the case that many Americans perceive science as opposed to any finding that might support religious belief, President Bush would not have endorsed “teaching the controversy” in biology courses.

A major task now is to persuade Americans that scientific authority is as much to be trusted in biology as in physics. Sneering at Bill Dembski will get us nowhere. When scientists express, or appear to express, disdain for the religious beliefs of those putatively excluded for religious reasons, they shoot themselves in their collective political foot.

Please deal with religion respectfully in the debate over ID.

Norman - “Dembski’s religion has distorted his perceptions.”

Funny, but I found his theological comments lucid and honest. I like Dembski when he’s not spinning to gain political advantage. The one thing about him that mystifies me is how someone who writes so sincerely about theology can engage in such awful deceit when writing about evolution. Do the ends really justify the means?

If you forget science for a moment, and view Dembski as a man of belief, his desire to take his theology very seriously and carry it into all parts of his life is evident. I admire that. I believe that Dembski has it in mind ultimately to change the philosophy of science to allow conclusions that some phenomena cannot be explained in terms of natural causes. This would give ID a shot at being considered science.

If you truly believe, then you must bring all into accordance with your belief. If Christ is the end of all, then you must account for that in your understanding of nature. But to go around scheming to get a downgraded version of your beliefs into public school curricula while hiding your real intent in order to pass constitutional muster is downright slimy.

Tom English wrote: “I found his theological comments lucid and honest.”

I can’t judge his honesty. I’m in the agnostic/atheist camp so I don’t get the religious feeling. But I’ll give you that his theological speculations are more lucid, at least in contrast to his scientific writing which is plagued by a deep vagueness and ambiguity.

Can you apply Dembski’s filter to anything objectively in a way that makes sense?

“I like Dembski when he’s not spinning to gain political advantage. The one thing about him that mystifies me is how someone who writes so sincerely about theology can engage in such awful deceit when writing about evolution. Do the ends really justify the means?”

I think he might be just as sincere about his science – Like I said, as honest and sincere as he sometimes seems, his religion seems to be blinding him to very obvious flaws.

“I believe that Dembski has it in mind ultimately to change the philosophy of science to allow conclusions that some phenomena cannot be explained in terms of natural causes. This would give ID a shot at being considered science.”

Well, somethings cannot be explained in terms of natural causes – YET. But I don’t want anyone putting up a stop sign saying “science stops here or else.” But I think Dembski might say that supernatural explanations can really explain things in scientific terms. That I don’t agree with. Explanations have to be natural to be explanations.

“If Christ is the end of all, then you must account for that in your understanding of nature.”

I’ve got no gripe with people doing that – just don’t call that kind of understanding “science.”

I agree with this: “Sneering at Bill Dembski will get us nowhere. When scientists express, or appear to express, disdain for the religious beliefs of those putatively excluded for religious reasons, they shoot themselves in their collective political foot.”

I do that myself sometimes, it’s a bad habit and not good argument.

First, Norman, I want to say that there was a period when I engaged in rabid attacks on Dembski. I cast myself in an awful light, and I regret having done so.

Norman - “Can you apply Dembski’s filter to anything objectively in a way that makes sense?”

Nope. Objective application of the filter means algorithmic computation, and Dembski certainly has not specified an algorithm. Furthermore, no one can give an algorithm for the explanatory filter without specifying a representation of inputs. I believe that maximum generality is required, and I have suggested that objects and processes be represented as partial recursive functions. Some ID advocates have agreed, and that allows me to invoke Rice’s theorem and prove that design cannot be decided algorithmically.

“Well, some things cannot be explained in terms of natural causes — YET.”

Precisely. Dembski does not claim that the EF correctly decides the design property, but that it detects an unspecified subset of the property. It all comes down to his notion that some things are too improbable to have natural causes, and just how improbable is too improbable depends upon the number of states the physical universe has entered since, say, the Big Bang.

So back to the topic of the thread, more or less: It is strange to see someone with Dembski’s theological views argue for a universal probability bound. He often writes of the observed universe as though it were the observable universe. The history of science strongly suggests that we are oblivious to much that we may yet observe. Black mass was not inferred until the 1930’s, and it is now estimated to comprise at least 80% of the mass in the universe. Seventy years later, we still understand it poorly. How much more of nature waits to be discovered?

I say that Bill Dembski “robs God of his glory” when he presumes to bound the information in the physical universe and define a universal probability bound. I would expect a Christian like him to share my belief that the universe is both knowable in part and inexhaustibly mysterious.

Oops – “black mass” was a Freudian slip. I divulged my sinful allegiance. So stone me. And be sure the stones are made of dark matter.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on September 12, 2005 1:36 PM.

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