It’s called development, Mr Dembski

| 123 Comments

I'm going to link to a post on Uncommon Descent. I try to avoid that, because I think it is a vile harbor of malign idiocy, but Dembski has just put up something that I think is merely sincerely ignorant. That's worth correcting. It also highlights the deficiencies of Dembski's understanding of biology.

Dembski makes a strange argument for ID on the basis of a certain class of experiments in developmental biology.

Continue reading "It's called development, Mr Dembski" (on Pharyngula)

123 Comments

As ‘sincerely ignorant’ as Dembski is, his commenters in that thread take it up a notch.

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I would say that the systems aren’t “preadapted”, but that a more organic way of viewing it is that life has an inherent quality of active adaptability. This inherent quality, in my view, stems from a substance or essence of living things which is non-material. In homeopathic medicine, for example, this governing intelligence is called “vital force”. All of the tools of science are made up of matter, and are therefore at best able to measure the material effects of this non-material living substance. The problem comes in when it is assumed that EVERYTHING has its originating cause IN MATTER. Then, things (like design, rapid adaptability) which bear the clear earmarks of a living intelligence, must be ignored, repudiated, or reduced to matter.

Comment by tinabrewer — May 17, 2006 @ 9:36 am

One of the big “whys” I at which I always thought evolution failed miserably in trying to address was “was why is their biodiversity in the same habitat?”

One would think that if fitness was the goal of natural selection everything that came from the first cell would have evolved to the same thing. Or considering bacteria exists everywhere, why bother evolving?

Comment by tribune7 — May 17, 2006 @ 10:49 am

A somewhat analogous situation arises in cases of children born with extra digits or as conjoined twins–quite novel occurrences as far as evolution is concerned. Yet those extra digits are often (not always) functional–that is, they have have joints and muscles, and because they are “wired” to the brain they have sensation and can move. Meanwhile conjoined twins have the most marvelously complicated circulatory systems with major vessel connections and blood circulation patterns that usually (not always) work perfectly well, at least in the short term–in fact these circulatory systems cause major problems when separating conjoined twins.

In both cases I think it’s fair to say that the systems did not evolve… but they WORK, and in some cases work quite well. How is this possible? Does this mean that some mysterious designer tinkered with the nervous and circulatory systems while the fetuses were developing in the womb to make sure all the necessary nerve and blood vessel connections were made? Or did some mysterious designer write it into their genes eons ago, just in case something with his/her/its design go awry?

Or maybe, just maybe, some systems are self-organizing to a certain extent, and can tolerate quite a bit of variation?

It’s quite a large “big tent” ID has, that can accomodate homeopathy, YEC, OEC, time-traveling human biologists, super-intelligent extraterrestrials, astrology, microevolution, some macroevolution, common descent, special creation of humans, front-loading, and so much more.

Of course, the biggest tent I ever saw was also full of clowns.

Yes, and I can read, too. Since organisms didn’t encounter letters until 5000 years ago, or so, I think we have ample evidence from this ability that evolution is not responsible for producing us.

Hey, I, like most literate souls, can read upside down words. So we not only have the capacity to read symbols that never existed in the past, we can also read them inverted. What more proof is necessary to show that we’re not the products of evolution?

Well, either that, or we the sorts of information processors (not my favorite term for the CNS, but here it seems functionally appropriate) that can actually deal with perceptions from the environment in shifted frames of reference and the like. You know, sort of as evolution might predict in a highly complex environment.

But that doesn’t fit Dembski’s rigid assumptions needed to back up his prejudices against evolution.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

This is too stupid to even make fun of. He is playing them for suckers. Education would fix most religious problems but you have to remember the con-men on that side have a lot to work with.

Stupid Stupid Stupid Stupid

Fundies are Stupid.

P.S. regarding polydactyly: I came across an interesting paper that deals with the genetic basis of one form of polydactyly; strangely enough (although not so strangely in an evolutionary context) the same gene is associated with fin development in fish. Shared evolutionary history, coincidence, or just sloppy work on the part of the “designer”?

(Here’s a link to the abstract for “A long-range Shh enhancer regulates expression in the developing limb and fin and is associated with preaxial polydactyly”: http://hmg.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/c[…]t/12/14/1725)

So, eggs appear designed for manipulation and somatic celll nuclear transfer, uh? Quite impressive.

It’s the first time I see Dembski, or any other “mainstream” ID advocate for that matter, endorse an openly Raelian perspective. I wonder if he did it on purpose, or the implications of his “colleague”’s arguments just escaped him.

Like our primate ancestors never had occasion to hang upside down from a tree limb, and still be able to figure out what they were looking at!

And that’s only one of probably hundreds of reasonable explanations…

I’m sorry, there’s certainly a more polite and civil way to put it, but Dembski is such a complete top-to-bottom tool!

Sincerely!

Sorry, but your quote wasn’t Dembski’s, but was extracted from another blog. WD even says he doesn’t buy the argument, but wanted to see what people thought.

Yeah, yeah…Dembski quotes the whole thing, and now we’re supposed to let him off the hook when we show how bloody stupid the whole argument is.

If Dembski is so clever, why didn’t he see through the poverty of the SCNT nonsense?

PZ Myers Wrote:

…I think is merely sincerely ignorant.

Here we go again.

Can someone tell me why my fellow “evolutionists” have such a need to note whenever they “think” that anti-evolutionists are “sincerely ignorant”? Unlike evolution, that claim is mere speculation that demands, but rarely grants, “equal time” for an alternate claim. So once again its up to me:

I “think” that Dembski knows darn well that he’s spinning nonsense. He knows that he lost all credibility with mainstream science years ago, so he has nothing to lose by playing “sincerely ignorant.” His target audience will swallow any feel-good sound bite against evolution, no matter how absurd. Plus, whenever we rush to judge it as “honest belief” we only help their PR.

There could (almost certainly is) malice in his intent, but I think it is true that Dembski really, truly, and sincerely is that ignorant. I certainly don’t think he is hiding a secret genius for biology.

Yeah, but if he knows he’s ignorant and doesn’t care, then it certainly is malicious. Frank J really has a point, calling him “ignorant” alone makes it seem more like a forgivable oversight, a mere foible, rather than the pernicious dishonesty Dembski obviously trucks in.

Can someone tell me why my fellow “evolutionists” have such a need to note whenever they “think” that anti-evolutionists are “sincerely ignorant”?

Because it gives us an opportunity to point out how wrong they are without sounding too vitriolic.

Plus, whenever we rush to judge it as “honest belief” we only help their PR.

I disagree. I feel that explicitly pointing out that some of their mistakes are honest gives us more credibility when we claim that they’re being deliberately deceitful - it doesn’t sound like we’re crying wolf in quite the same way.

What Dembski actually said was, “I’m not sure I buy the entire argument here…”. (My emphasis.)

This certainly suggests he buys into some substantial portion of the argument, while conveniently leaving himself an out when his “sincere ignorance” of basic biology is inevitably exposed.

For a truly interesting new development, suggesting that protohominids and protochimps may have intermittently interbred over a lengthy period before speciation was complete, see Carl Zimmer’s “The Loom”: http://loom.corante.com/archives/20[…]_manimal.php.

Ben said:

Of course, the biggest tent I ever saw was also full of clowns.

I don’t think it’s accurate to compare the ID activists to a circus. At the circus, all aerial acts stricly adhere to the theory of gravity, and there is no pussyfooting about whether scientific ideas apply or not; there is someone who goes behind the elephants to clean up the droppings; and the clowns are trained, professionals at what they do.

None of those things applies to the intelligent design movement.

and the clowns are trained, professionals at what they do.

The IDists are definitely professionals at what they do. Propaganda, I mean.

Yeah, but if he knows he’s ignorant and doesn’t care, then it certainly is malicious.

negligent homicide?

minimalist Wrote:

Frank J really has a point, calling him “ignorant” alone makes it seem more like a forgivable oversight, a mere foible, rather than the pernicious dishonesty Dembski obviously trucks in.

Even if this example is “forgivable,” there are many others that are not, and they need to be highlighted.

Now that the courts are doing a good job of reducing the “supply” of anti-evolution pseudoscience, it seems that our main job is to focus on the “demand.” Given that most potential ID/creationism sympathizers are conservative theists, they tend to be “forgiving” of ignorance, but not of dishonesty (e.g. the incessant quote mining).

Glen Davidson commented: The trouble with IDists is that they are neither, but are only apologists twisting the scientific method to accommodate religious preconceptions.

They are not practicing apologetics but rather aposcience.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

now if they would only practice “aporeproduction”, eventually we would be rid of this idiocy.

If biological systems have the appearance of design, some people are going to conclude that maybe these were designed. Should they be raked over the coals because they feel this way?

nope. but when they claim their “feelings” are science, then bring on the branding irons.

think about what would happen if the reverse were true, and we simply encouraged all opinion as science.

there’s little other than projection in it. nothing for philosophers, and it’s even a rejection of faith.

what would you do with it?

Frank J Wrote:

Can someone tell me why my fellow “evolutionists” have such a need to note whenever they “think” that anti-evolutionists are “sincerely ignorant”?

I just assume that when people use a phrase like that, they are trying to distinguish between “sincerely ignorant” and “insincerely ignorant”. Or, as Tom Tomorrow puts it: Are they stupid, or lying?

Or, in entirely other words: Let us say William Dembski makes a statement which is flat out wrong. Is the statement wrong by chance? Wrong due to natural law? Or wrong by design? How can we tell which is which?

You’d just put it through his explanatory filter Frank J. I suspect that the order of explanation would be 1) wrong by design, 2) wrong by natural order, 3) wrong by chance!

Cheers

Sorry Frank J for using your name in vain. I meant Andrew McClure!

Corkscrew Wrote:

I feel that explicitly pointing out that some of their mistakes are honest gives us more credibility when we claim that they’re being deliberately deceitful - it doesn’t sound like we’re crying wolf in quite the same way.

I agree. I just think that pointing out honest mistakes — and the rare cases in which IDers own up to them — is already well taken care of. But highlighting deliberate deceit needs more coverage. I should have said that the imbalance helps anti-evolutionists’ PR.

The big caveat, of course, is that no one can truly know others’ private beliefs. Besides, it’s not their beliefs, but their actions that count. And that’s why my main “mission” here and at Talk Origins is to point out that anti-evolution activism is first and foremost a misrepresentation strategy. That doesn’t rule out that much of the misinformation is innocently passed on second hand. But most people who think “equal time” is fair, do so because they think that it’s all just about honest beliefs, including honest mistakes.

KiwiInOz Wrote:

I suspect that the order of explanation would be 1) wrong by design, 2) wrong by natural order, 3) wrong by chance!

Actually, one of the reasons the explanatory filter sells, despite being totally useless in biology, is that something like it is used every day, particularly in the courts. Of course there’s that pesky “side information” like independent evidence of a certain class of designer.

Stevepinhead says:

“For a truly interesting new development, suggesting that protohominids and protochimps may have intermittently interbred over a lengthy period before speciation was complete, see Carl Zimmer’s “The Loom”: http://loom.corante.com/archives/2006/05/17/gran.…”

But don’t miss Zimmer’s link to John Hawks misgivings at http://johnhawks.net/weblog/2006/05[…]tterson_2006. I don’t know the subject, but he seem to raise some serious doubts about the validity of the paper and the proposed hypothes. (And he managed to make me understand the importance of ancestral poulation sizes when looking at genetic spread. Great!)

Frank says: “And that’s why my main “mission” here and at Talk Origins is to point out that anti-evolution activism is first and foremost a misrepresentation strategy.”

You have converted me, or perhaps clarified my own unarticulated notions. Anyway, as you also say, it is hard to call these things. The default for the individual error is that it is an “honest mistake”. (And some will be.) Like a spontaneous ID visitor here.

It is only when we look at an unebbing flow of errors we can claim with certainty that it is misrepresentation. Like Unending Dense posts. Or pointing out to the spontaneous ID visitor that ID sources he cites are misrepresenting.

If biological systems have the appearance of design, some people are going to conclude that maybe these were designed. Should they be raked over the coals because they feel this way?

Depends. In a purely informal discussion, they shouldn’t be raked. In a scientific discussion, unless they can quantify their terms, they’re going to get reamed.

Nice report in the CSM this morning, even if there are dissenting views—it is in the nature of science. What if all research into the complex simply ended because “it’s designed?”

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0518/[…]01-usgn.html

Well, not a hovercar, but This would be kinda cool!

Yup. Every year, the morning after the ball drops, get on the air and ask “It’s 200x… where’s my flying car?”

Boing, I noticed that someone quoted scriptures from TimeCube.com. You all should know that Time Cube is the ineffable truth of the universe.

Ignorance of Time Cube dooms life, but knowledge of Time Cube shall save humanity. You must seek Time Cube.

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