Shermer and Dembski in Bridgewater


Skeptic Magazine publisher Michael Shermer debated William Dembski yesterday in Bridgewater, VA on the subject of evolution vs. ID. Since Bridegwater is a short drive away from my digs in Harrisonburg, I decided to go check it out.

The debate was held at Bridgewater College, a small liberal arts school affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, as part of their Anna B. Mow Lecture Series. According to the small program handed out at the door, “The Anna Beahm Mow Symposium honors Dr. Mow as a teacher who walked with her students, a scholar whose life was a pursuit of knowledge, an author who conversed with her readers and a Christian whose love of her Lord enabled her to be accepting of all children of God.”

The site was a small theater, filled with roughly 150 people. The format called for each speaker to present an opening statement of twenty minutes (I wasn't actually timing things, but it felt like twenty minutes at any rate.) Then there would be a round of questions from the audience. Finally, there were five minute closing statements from the speakers.

Dembski went first. Curiously, in his Power Point presentation he identified his institutional affiliation as the Discovery Institute, as opposed to the small Texas seminary where he actually works. As is typical in such venues, it was the calm, faux-reasonable Dembski who showed up, not the lunatic, frothing-at-the-mouth Dembski so familiar from his writings and blog posts. He titled his presentation “Blind Evolution or Intelligent Design?” He was keen to emphasize the significance of the word “Blind.” ID, you see, is not hostile to the idea of evolution viewed as common descent or change through time. It merely rejects the idea that a blind process like natural selection could be the cause of it.

From here he launched into the usual ID tripe: Can Darwinism explain the origin of genetic information? What about irreducible complexity? Functional biochemical machines are islands of fucntionality in an ocean of non-functionality! Just look at the flagellum for heaven's sake!!

Next up was a video allegedly showing the complexity of what goes on within the cell. Animated, personified proteins carried out various incomprehensible tasks while a voice-over provided rapid-fire, jargon-laden descriptions of what was going on. I'd be curious to know what effect this video had on the audience. To me it seemed an obvious snow-job. No one other than a professional cell biologist could have followed the presentation. It was strictly an attempt to get the audience to say, “Gosh! That's really complex!” On top of that, the whole exercise seemed a bit patronizing. I came to hear Dembski speak, not to be plunked down in front of the television.

Moving on. Compared to that, the flagellum comes off looking simple! The ribosome is even more complex!

Then came a tremendous onslaught of mechanical metaphors for the goings-on in a cell. I only had time to jot down: Self-replicating robotic manufacturing plants, Information processing storage and retrieval, and Automated parcel addressing (UPS labels), before he was on to the next slide. Needless to say, the cell does not actually contain any of those things. Instead it contains a collection of proteins doing whatever it is proteins do when properly organized. But the metaphors can be useful for bamboozling people.

Next up came some talk about the flagellum and the Type Three Secretory system. Dembski argued that it's not enough to identify one possible stepping stone toward evolving a flagellum. Rather, a “complete, fully articulated evolutionary path” is required. Required for what, one wonders? Unless we can spell out every step in the evolution of a complex system we should accept ID? It goes without saying, of course, that Dembski provided only a caricatured version of all that is known about flagellum evolution.

Then came the quotes about how there are currently no detailed Darwinian accounts of structures within the cell. It was the usual ID suspects: Shapiro, Harold, Griffin and so on.

Around here Dembski provided his definition of ID: ID is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. Which is odd, because in his writing he has been known to say things like, “Inetelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.” I wonder why he didn't use that definition?

Somehow Dembski never got around to explaining how that study is meant to be undertaken. Once you have decided the pattern is the result of design, ID seems to have little to offer. Dembski might better have said that ID is the search for patterns believed, for little reason, to be the product of design. Better still would have been the most honest answer: ID is the search for a method of having religion taught in public schools without having some uppity judge lecturing them about the constitution.

Dembski closed with a whirlwind tour through his own prattlings about specified complexity. He rather amusingly showed a clip from the movie Dumb and Dumber. You know the one I mean. Jim Carrey asks Lauren Holly what the chances are that a guy like him could end up with a girl like her. “Not good,”she replies. “Not good like one in a hundred?” “More like one in a million.” Pause. “So you're telling me there's a chance! Yeah!!” Very amusing. Definitely the high point of his presentation. This was meant to show the absurdity of evolutionists relying too much on blind chance.

Moving on. Here's a picture of the cover of The Design Inference! Here are the first pages of some peer-reviewed papers I claim support ID! There's a real debate over this in the scientific community! Thanks.

Then came Shermer. He organized his presentation around five basic pricniples. First up: Before we say something is out of this world, make sure that it's not in this world. The point was simply that you don't glom onto a fantastic, supernatural explanation when a natural one will suffice. He illustrated this point with some humorous examples. He showed a picture from the Weekly World News showing a picture of Arnold Schwartzeneggar shaking hands with an alien. Surely the explanation that the WWN was making stuff up is more likely than the explanation that involves actualy alien visitation.

Point two was that the burden of proof lies with the ID folks. If we are to accept ID as an explanation, some positive evidence in its favor is required. It is not sufficient to just make criticisms of evolution. This led into point three, which was that ID folks commit the either/or fallacy. That is, they act as if the only options are either Neo-Darwinian evolution or ID.

But the bulk of the talk centered around point four, which is that evolution is etablished not by any one fact, but by a large collection of facts from disparate fields of study.

He began by showing a very detailed sequence of transitional fossils linking ancient land mammals to modern whales. He said these fossils strongly suggest an evolutionary sequence. How does ID explain it? This was a point he came back to over and over again. Evolution provides a single, coherent explanation for a wide variety of facts. If you choose to reject it in favor of ID, then say something about how ID explains these fossils. What did the designer actually do? At what point in the sequence did the designer interfere?

Then he moved on to numerous examples of vestigial structures. Evolution explains these effortlessly, but what is the design explanation? What light does ID shed on the origin of these structures?

From here he mentioned the possibility of observations that would be very difficult to work into an evolutionary picture, such as fossil trilobites in the same strata as human fossils.

Next up was the evolution of complex structures. He talked about the gradations of complexity to be found in different sorts of eyes in the animal kingdom. He also talked about the poor design, from an engineering perspective, of the eye. Once again he emphasized that this sort of cobbled together design is what you expect from evolution by natural selection, but is hard to explain from a design perspective.

Then he discussed the idea of a convergence of evidence. He used the example of using different dating methods for establishing the age of the Earth. When there is a consistency acorss many different sorts of data, we are justified in drawing certain conclusions.

He went on to discuss the evidence from genetic and molecular similarities, relying heavily on Francis Collins' presentation of these facts in his recent book.

The final point was the vacuity of supernatural explanations. Invoking unspecified, all-powerful designers just doesn't get you anywhere when you are trying to explain the natural world.

Shermer went on to provide an apt summary of ID logic: (1) X looks designed. (2) I can't think of how X was designed naturally. (3) Therefore, X was designed supernaturally. He said that ID has no substance, and that it is not a good idea to peg religious faith to assertions of the form “I hope scientists don't fill that gap!”

From here he went on to discuss some specific ID claims. He talked about exaptation as a general difficulty for notions of irreducible complexity. The picture of complex systems evolving linearly by the sequential addition of clearly defined parts overlooks the possibility of changes of function over time. He said specifically that ID assertions about the flagellum are simply wrong. The flagellum and its parts serve several functions, not just propulsion but secretion and adhesion as well. He pointed out that quite a lot is known about the genetics of the flagellum, and that there is no reason to believe it did not evolve via familiar mechanisms.

He then gave several examples of complex systems emerging from natural prcoesses. Modern languages are the result of an evolutionary process, Various sorts of self-organization lie behind some complex structures in nature, and the orderliness of a free market emerges without any central planner. In every case we obtain complexity without hypothesizing top-down design. Thanks.

That's an overview of the substance of the two presentations. But let's talk about the really important stuff: Style. Shermer was better. Now, I grant you, I'm not an unbiased source. But the fact is I'm usually very hard on the pro-evolution side in these debates. This is partly because I think evolutionists often get themselves into these debates without a proper consideration of how a debate differes from a scientific conference. It is also because I often think the evolution defender simply does not make the correct points in reply to the torrent of creationist argle-bargle.

In this case I thought Shermer acquitted himself admirably. His presentation was polished, funny, and made many good points. Dembski, by contrast, has a tendency to speak in monotone. Also, his timing was way off. He had to race through nearly half of his slides.

Next up was the question and asnwer period. As is typically the case at these debates, the questions were overwhelmingly anti-evolution. How do you know junk DNA has no function? How did transfer RNA evolve? What about these combinatorial/probabilistic arguments? How do you know those fossils are transitional? Your assuming evolution is true by even referring to them in that way! What about the origins of life?

The structure here was that questioners could direct their fire to either of the two speakers, but then the other one would have a chance to reply to the same question. This put Shermer in a difficult spot. First, he was on the defensive becuase of the hostility of many of the questions. Then, in every exchange Dembski was getting the last word.

Until the last question that is. That was when a strikingly handsome and breathtakingly eloquent (not to mention deeply humble) young mathematician approached the microphone to unleash a rhetorical tour-de-force of a question aganist Dembski.

He began by addressing the combinatorics argument from the previous questioner, explainingly patiently that you can not assess the probability of a particular DNA sequence evolving simply by treating it as a simple combinatorial object. That ignores the role of natural selection in the process, which has the effect of radically changing the probabilities of certain structures coming about. From there he unloaded a few jabs at Dembski's prior statement that at the 1966 (!!) Wistar conference, the mathematicians offered cogent arguments against Neo-Darwinism while the biologists stood around uncomprehending, muttering that we got here somehow. Showing an impressive mastery of relevant historical detail, the questioner pointed out that the biologists did considerably more than that, and that actually they pointed to specific places in the arguments of the mathematicians where they were making biologically unrealistic assumptions. The he sealed the deal by unloading a haymaker about Dembski's idiotic probability bloviations. He pointed out that the sorts of probability calculations Dembski says are essential to his theory are in fact impossible to carry out. He closed by saying the impossibility of such calculations is self-evident to people who know this subject, which is why not many scientists are impressed with Dembski's work.

Okay, you got me. The questioner was me.

Dembski's answer was bizarre even by his standards. He claimed that when the results of a probability calculation go against them the scientists all talk about biologically unrealistic assumptions. But when the numbers help their cause they are perfectly happy to tout them. He then launched into - are you sitting down? - a discussion of the Miller-Urey experiment.

Miller and Urey, you see, did their little experiment where they shot a spark through a mixture of some common chemicals that were likely to have been around in abundance on the early Earth. They produced amino acids. Scientists apparently touted this as evidence that a naturalistic origin of life was highly probable. Not the case, according to Dembski.

Bizarre, no? The Miller-Urey experiment had nothing to do with probabiilty. No one was claiming, based on the experiment, to be able to produce a number representing the probability of life arising naturally. But that is precisely what Dembski claims to be able to do in assessing the proposed evolution of the flagellum.

But let's suppose that it really is true that biologists are happy to tout the fruits of probability calculations when it helps the cause. So what? Dembski's logic appears to be that if you endorse the use of probability theory in one aspect of biology, you must also endorse every proposed use of it. As I said, tres bizarre.

Dembski closed his response by asserting, contra me, that in his work he assumes the best possible scenarios for evolution and that it was possible to carry out the calculations he was describing. So there.

There were several people lined up behind me waiting to ask questions, but at this point the host of the event said they had to move on to closing statements. I didn't jot down any notes here, having mostly lost interest. Dembski seemed to be losing interest as well, since he appeared to be sleepwalking through his statement. Shermer closed with his characteristic enthusiasm, and said bluntly that all the talk of scientific progress aside, ID was nothing more than an attempt to inject religion into public schools by clothing it in scientific garb. A fine point with which to close.

There was a brief reception after the event. I had a pleasant chat with prolific ID spokesman and blogger Salvador Cordova. I had the chance to converse with Shermer for a while. It looks like I'll be reviewing a couple of books for Skeptic. Stay tuned! As things were winding down I introduced myself to Dembski. He smiled politely but seemed uninterested in conversing.

Out to the car, quick shot up I-81, get home, pet the cats, pop in some more back episodes of House delivered courtesy of Netflix earlier that day. All in all, a pleasant evening.


I’m proud of you for not mentioning The Bridgewater Treatises, particularly Babbage’s Fragment, which seems to come closest of them to Dembski’s blather.

Cordova is an ID spokesman?

Dude! Great review, and it sounds like you had a lot of fun - I hope someone has video of you bringing up 1966 on Dembski! BTW - You say that you talked to Sal… were you able to actually shake hands with him, or did you slide right over his slimey skin without actually touching him?

I am sure Dembski wasn’t interested in conversing because one of the tougher Christian kids had just given him a wedgie. Dembski just seems to me to be the kind to bring that out in people.


Cordova is an ID spokesman?

well, I always thought he was a lackwit bootlicker.

OTOH, those characteristics don’t conflict with being an ID spokesman.

Jason, I saw Dembski give lectures on consecutive nights when he was in Berkeley last year. That experience plus your review gives me a nice picture of the evening’s events. Thanks. One question: Did Dembski show his cow slide?

All this effort and expense to get religion into schools. I don’t see how they can keep coming back over and over again without losing all enthusiasm for finding new ways to tell old lies, and vice versa. Keeping barbarians from taking over the schools is vital, but it is such a waste of time and talent.

Is there a silver lining in this somewhere? I think there are many people that would have missed the chance to appreciate the marvel that is evolution, absent these efforts to combat IDiots. I know I am glad I didn’t miss that image of Hox expression in D. Melanogaster that PZ posted a while ago.

It would be nice to think that a final victory might be around the corner, but not likely. Thanks Jason and thanks Michael, for this.


Was Dembski’s video “The Inner Life of a Cell?” If so, it’s a pretty damn good representation of what we think cellular processes look like (although it contains no voice-over, so maybe this isn’t the one Dembski showed). The kinesins are way mass rad. Here’s the link:

Good on ya, Jason!

I note that over at Uncommon Descent your good friend Sal Cordova is claiming victory on behalf of Dembski:

Dembski won the debate, but I must salute Shermer’s honorable and courageous performance in the face of overwhelming odds.

Do you concur?

Wow, seems that Salvador, Davescot and now the overwhelming crowd seem to all be exposing their scientific vacuity at the same time. Sal on the supposed victory by Dembski against Shermer, Davescot showing his ignorance about yet another topic, this time global warming and then overwhelming with their ignore that which they donot understand response to yet another destruction of Behe’s arguments.

Seems that Id indeed attracts the intelligently challenged crowd.

He was keen to emphasize the significance of the word “Blind.”

I’ll bet he was. A designed eye for a designed eye makes their whole worldview blind. (My apologies to Ghandi.)

Dembski seems to have gotten over his “Barbara Forrest won’t debate me about Dover!” phase. Or not.

cordova at UD: Dembski won the debate

I guess this is like the description of the Dover case over at overwhelming ignorance

Despite this and some very minor setbacks we are certainly winning. The ACLU and friends may like to boast about their stolen victory in Dover, but the simple fact is we are already winning in the only court that counts: The American People.

I note that over at Uncommon Descent your good friend Sal Cordova is claiming victory on behalf of Dembski:

hey, I wasn’t kidding when i describe him as “bootlicking”.


I used to call him Slaveador, for the same reason.

Is it a given that “rethinkers” of any flavour will declare themselves to be the victor in a debate if they still maintain their original set of beliefs at the end.

Once again somebody failed to convince Dembski that he was wrong. What a surprise. If there is one thing that can be predicted with 100% certianty is that these people will never admit to being wrong.

Remember after Ohio when the Discovery Institute scam artists were laying low and they attended the Texas debacle. Dembski didn’t list the Disocovery Institute on the junk he gave the Texas board, and one of the Discovery Institute wiz kids even lied to the board about his Discovery Institute affiliation. Now, Dembski is listing the Discovery Institute instead of his college, why? Dover paints the Discovery Institute as liars worse than the Meyer and Wells snake oil presentation to the Ohio board where they had the give the Ohio board a replacement scam that didn’t even mention that ID had ever existed instead of any ID science to teach.

So why would Dembski admit to affiliation with the Discovery Institute, now? Any publicity is good? His current institution doesn’t want to be painted with the brush of dishonesty smearing ID at this time? Does he have to do a certain number of scam shows for the Discovery Institute to keep his stipend coming in? After Dover maybe the DI is demanding some sort of accountability for their money. After Minnich and Behe admitted under oath that they basically haven’t done squat for their paycheck, and claimed that they didn’t know of anyone else doing any science to test ID, it must have burned at least the guy footing most of the bill. Heck, didn’t Berlinski claim that he never bought into the ID junk, so why is he still getting his stipend, or is he?

Perhaps Dembski listed the DI instead of his current Texas location because he had to use a more permanent address.

Dembski argued that it’s not enough to identify one possible stepping stone toward evolving a flagellum. Rather, a “complete, fully articulated evolutionary path” is required. Required for what, one wonders? Unless we can spell out every step in the evolution of a complex system we should accept ID?

This should really be all that is required to show an unbiased thinking person that the ID position is unreasonable. In no area of historical science is this sort of standard expected. It is the same flawed reasoning that has people claiming aliens must have built the pyramids because we lack a complete step-by-step explanation of how the ancient Egyptians did it.

This once again shows the influence of the IDers’ fundamentalist religious view of the world. In that view knowledge is absolute, complete, handed down from on high, and never-changing. Thus, reason they, since the complete evolutionary pathway is not known, it will never be known, and therefore Goddidit.

The idea of new knowledge is anathema to them. They don’t even consider the notion that we don’t know the answer to their inquiry, but history suggests we will one day based on progress to date.

Perhaps this odd psychology of theirs lies behind their seeming complete lack of respect for scientists who actually do the work to gain knowledge. In their world-view, correct views don’t require that “pathetic level of detail” and all that “technobabble”, and the fact that some theory is complicated and difficult is proof that it is flawed.

No wonder they can’t even fill their homegrown journal with articles of their “work”. With their epistimology, there’s really no need for it. There are more “fruitful” things for them to do with their time.

a Christian whose love of her Lord enabled her to be accepting of all children of God.”

Is that code for “she hated atheists”?

Jason — Very good. Both the reporting and your humble remarks at the debate.

Question for you: Did Sal appear to be sane when you spoke to him?

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Next up was a video allegedly showing the complexity of what goes on within the cell. Animated, personified proteins carried out various incomprehensible tasks while a voice-over provided rapid-fire, jargon-laden descriptions of what was going on.

That sounds like Unlocking the Mysteries of Life. Good production values, bad science. Did the tRNAs enter the ribosome already in order, rather than stochastically finding the codon through trial-and-error base pairing with the codon sequence?

It seems no one asked the question I would like to hear Dembski address: How did he make the fart noises for his flash animation? Was it pursed lips, the armpit technique, the double palm technique, or were they, ahem, genuine?

ptisdall said:

By this analysis ID would be acceptable as a hypothesis and evolution would be acceptable as a theory. Both can be taught in science class. In fact, I wouldn’t want a child of mine to be in a science class that wouldn’t teach this way.

Within the hypothesis category there are subgroups, such as well-defined or not, and scientific vs nonscientific, re falsifiability. Since ID falls on the wrong side of these categories (it is both ill-defined and nonfalsifiable), it would be among the last hypotheses worthy of discussion.

If a student asks about ID, the teacher should make clear it is merely a hypothesis, and a bad one at that. That’s about as far as it warrants going. Class time is limited.

I’ve followed the evolution-anti-evolution debate for some time now and am posting my first comment in hopes of a more rational discussion on the larger view of the nature of scientific investigation. Please help me understand if my thinking is flawed (I’ll start with my first question to see if it’s worth continuing): 1. there is a hierarchy of scientific knowledge, which for the sake of structure I think of as hypothesis theory law.

Your thinking is flawed, or at least your understanding of the terminology as used in science. The heirarchy is not as you describe. Laws do not outrank theories, they are two different things. Here is how the National Academies of Science defines “theory”:

Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

They offer definitons of facts, hypotheses, and laws in the same document.

Is it a given that “rethinkers” of any flavour will declare themselves to be the victor in a debate if they still maintain their original set of beliefs at the end.

sounds about right.

AFDave (YEC) over at the ATBC area constantly demonstrates this on a daily basis, if you needed supporting evidence.

They offer definitons of facts, hypotheses, and laws in the same document.

To add to the fun, usage of the terms has shifted over time, and they are somewhat vague. But yes, a hypothesis (as the word is used) is not just any old idea that sauntered in the door.

A hypothesis can be counter-intuitive and bizarre sure, but it should be in general accord with known facts. (So far so good for the FSM). But a hypothesis should also have some hope of becoming a scientific theory. So it should be possible to develop a hypothesis to the point where it can be corroborated (or refuted) by evidence. And it should have the possibility of the sort of rigour expected of a scientific theory. (Not so good for FSMism.) And a few other odds and ends that aren’t mentioned much: It shouldn’t have any unnecessary protuberances or baroqueness. (The “midgit” of FSM creation would be such an ornament). And it should assume a uniformity to the universe at a suitably abstract level. So no theories of the sun going cubical tomorrow despite being round until now, not without good reason. (Such theories would be in accord with the evidence, but they shouldn’t be considered seriously).

Now, hypothesis may not start out meeting many of these conditions. But the expectation is that they will make progress towards becoming scientific theories or be abandoned. Witness, for example, the current controversy over whether string theory has become moribund.

Its fascinating to read this summary (and comments) of the debate and compare it with the Uncommon Descent summary and comments.

A short digression: When I worked in IT in a big company I went on a course about how to build relationships with key executives of IT users. The theory was that psychologically IT people tended to deal in figures and facts, and other workers in the company tended to deal with persuasion and vision. So when a chief marketing executive said “Your damn systems are no good, they are always failing” it was no good responding “The system has been available 99.8% of the time as agreed”. His/her view was formed by the frustrations of trying to do his/her job, which he/she saw marketing as vital to the success of the company. Being told that the systems (which were vital to the success of the company) worked as designed just did not align with his/her world view.

Similarly when you have an evolution/ID debate like this between scientists and faith based people, its no good the scientists piling fact on fact because they just don’t apply to the world view of the faithful. Dr Dembski’s arguments about ID, CSI etc. will have no traction on scientific fact unless they can be used to do real science. No wonder ‘each side’ claimed victory - both were right in their own eyes.

I am not convinced by poor science, conspiracy theories, or faith based arguments (which one, there are so many!). Personally I accept that the Theory of Evolution is a good scientific paradigm, and it will take some really good science to overturn it. But then I used to argue that 99.8% was a really good computer availability…

Ron Okimoto asked

So why would Dembski admit to affiliation with the Discovery Institute, now? Any publicity is good? His current institution doesn’t want to be painted with the brush of dishonesty smearing ID at this time?

Consistent with Disco Dancers’ policy, he is listing what seems to be the most prestigious affiliation, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary apparently is lower that the Disco Institute, an evaluation approximately equivalent to realizing that the sea bottom is lower than whale shit.

BTW, ID currently isn’t even an hypothesis. At best it’s a speculation, a conjecture. It lacks even the minimal specificity necessary to be anything near a hypothesis. It has no research program, no data, and no theory. It’s an empty vessel.


ptisdall said:

a hypothesis is any idea, no matter how seemingly counter-intuitive (flying spaghetti monsters would, by this definition, be allowed). A theory is formulated on the basis of data, and when applied to a new data set, has predictive value. A law has been used widely in time, place and by many different users, and always predicts precisely.

As wamba pointed out, your thinking is flawed. I might point out that your understanding of how scientists use these terms are also flawed.

First, a hypothesis is not, in science, any idea. It is a testable explanation for observations (data) that have been made. The key here is that it must be testable. Standard creationism in many ways is in fact a hypothesis under this definition, although when tested it has repeatedly failed. ID is not, because there are no tests that can prove ID incorrect. When ID has made predictions (which can serve as tests) such as the irreducibility of the bacterial flagellum, the predictions are shown false, at which point ID simply moves on to other features for which it claims the same thing.

Second, both theories and laws are generally hypotheses that have been accepted by scientists on the basis of repeatedly successful testing. Predictions made with them are found to be true. But a theory does not become a law, nor is a law more certain than a theory. Simply put, laws describe aspects of nature, generally mathematically, while theories explain aspects of nature.

Since ID has neither testability, falsifiability, explanatory value, nor descriptive value for nature, it is useless in science and need not be taught in science classes. Since it has been repeatedly shown to be religious apologetics without scientific value, it is also not permissible in public science classes.

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Sorry, I am not up to date on that either. I’m lunching with a self-described naturalist, stanford grad, scientist tomorrow. I’ll ask him about a few of these things

Randy, don’t believe anything I say, and don’t believe anything your self-described naturalist says.

Research it for yourself.

Do as much research as you possibly can on the Wedge Document especially, and on the Dover trial secondarily.

Come to your own conclusion.

It’s like these [people] can’t go outside on any given day and see that big, bright shining ball o fire up in the sky.

(hint: the earth is not a closed system - it has a rather large external energy source)


The only people who support the whole “2nd Law of Thermodynamics refutes evolution” argument are people who don’t understand that the Earth is not a closed system; Sir_Toejam is referencing the Sun, which provides a whole hell of a lot of energy.

I find it extremely difficult to believe that there are physicists that think otherwise.

Ya know, with all this talk about the dishonesty of IDers, it’s incredibly surprising that none of us has mentioned our main man, Dr. Kent Hovind.

Has our fandom left us that quickly? ;-)

Note for Randy: that’s another person for you to investigate, but I just feel that it’s just unfair to the IDers to present one of their biggest embarrassments.

I apologize for posting four times in a row now, but I felt that it was very important that I post a particular quote from someone who has intently studied Phillip Johnson, and the ID movement.

Randy, the following quote is from, an essay, regarding Phillip Johnson’s Darwin On Trial book, that I really encourage you (especially considering your law degree) to read:

Many Christians have welcomed the “intelligent design” creationists in the belief that they are fighting for God and truth. But, as the televangelism scandals of the 1980’s should remind us, there are some more unsavory reasons for seeking celebrity in the Christian community: money, fame, applause, or power, especially political power. In short, there are a wealth of reasons why Christians need to be careful about trusting the stars of the “intelligent design” movement. And even well-intentioned debaters, if they let their desire to win the argument outstrip their respect for the facts, will turn out a product which is grossly misleading. Integrity is important. If–as I will show in this essay–the claims of “intelligent design” are more a product of debating tactics and tricks than they are a fair and honest presentation, Christians need to seriously consider whether they can support this movement in good faith.

A question from an amateur skeptic:

How does the question of human intellect, a gift from the divine in religious circles, affect the ID debate? The choosing of a supernatural explanation for evolution forfeits objective inquiry, and replaces curiosity with laziness. If one truly believes man is created in God’s image, then all aspects are divinely inspired. To reject, misuse, or simply ignore one of the major gifts is to reject the divine.

Is there an ID reply for this?

I’m doing some of the reading you folks have recommended, so I’m taking a breather from this post. I may come back in a few days, or maybe we’ll meet again on another post of interest. It hasn’t always been fun, but I have gained from my time here. Hopefully there has been a drop of two of substance from my comments that has been useful to someone.

Randy Kirk — Read Into the Cool. Interesting argument. Not all scientists agree with it, but the reviews state the book is provocative.

And no, your comments here have been completely useless to everyone…

Global warming and oil companies buying scientists. You make my point. However, you don’t go far enough. There is plenty of paying off on both sides of this issue, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, etc. That doesn’t even count all the $500 an hour legal experts bought and paid for their opinions.

I stated earlier that many branches of pseudoscience have “scientific experts”. What you will find lacking of these “experts” is peer reviewed literature that supports their pseudo-scientific assertions. Evidence that the scientific community does not lack integrity as it refuses to publish false or misleading research. (Not to mention the fact that these “experts” rarely do research to support their assertions; they depend mainly on their credentials.)

If you are saying that scientific issues should not be argued in the media and in the courts; I whole-heartedly agree with you. The merit of scientific research should be debated within the scientific community. More specifically, branches of science should review research relevant to their respective areas of expertise, cross-over not withstanding.

I did not mean “you” personally with regard to calling of names. I meant that in the general case of folks on this and similar sites, not to mention from the podium at the GW conference. I was so amazed by the anti-Christian statements from the comedian at the conference that I brought it up to my friend of 25 years, Michael Shermer, and suggested he keep in mind that not everyone in the audience would be an atheist.

But the others in the room howled the loudest when the Christians were being gored.

If this truly happened at the conference you attended, I am sorry. I think this behavior is unprofessional and insensitive.

Dawkins changed the playing field with his comments about Christians. They were what psychologists call “fighting words” and they indicate that his agenda goes far beyond science.

Creationism movement began in 1900’s as a reaction to how the majority intellectuals and scientists viewed the origin of man; and that movement is really what changed the playing field with “fighting words”.

Richard Dawkins, on the other hand, was born March 26, 1941 30-40 years after this movement began. The fighting words began long before he was even born. Dawkins just happens to be one of the more outspoken critics of the ID/Creationism movement currently. I hardly think that you can blame this thing on him.

It is hard to test things like the research books on someones lap.

The research books contain the results of the tests. No need to test the books themselves. Most educational texts on any specific scientific subject will contain independently verified research from a large array of unbiased sources. Therefore little contained in these texts will be considered controversial to mainstream scientists in their respective fields without some sort of disclaimer, such as, “More research on this subject must be done to verify these claims.”. If you were very familiar with the way science works, you would know that.

Behe’s specific problem in the Dover case is he claimed no such research existed and he was proved to be wrong.

I do not accept, however, that it is decided science that species have been seen to come about via evolutionary processes. Sorry. I don’t even agree that you could get a majority of the field to sign onto that.

And Sir Toejam responds:

really, you can’t just keep lying about the fact that there are literally hundreds of papers of observed speciation events dependent on documented mutations extant in the literature.

It’s very much like Behe sitting on the stand, and saying that the dozens of papers laid on his lap detailing the evolution of the immune system simply didn’t exist.

Exactly, the fact that you have not read this scientific literature does not mean it does not exist.

It is very difficult to debate a subject if you are not very familiar with it, and judging by your statements you qualify as unfamiliar. Behe’s crime, however, is much worse than yours because he claims to be an expert on ID and is unfamiliar with a subject he claims evolutionary mechanisms can not explain.

But, of course, even if Behe had been correct, he offers no alternative explanation other than evolution can’t explain it, therefore, (Goddidit) designed. The false dichotomy that is ID, in essence claiming that if one theory is wrong that ID is right. In science, unfortunately for ID, theories must stand on their own merit, in which ID is entirely lacking, not only in merit but in a testable theory. ID is completely dependent on the gaps in our scientific knowledge, and ID’s proponents desperately try to keep those gaps where they are.

I’m doing some of the reading you folks have recommended, so I’m taking a breather from this post. I may come back in a few days, or maybe we’ll meet again on another post of interest. It hasn’t always been fun, but I have gained from my time here. Hopefully there has been a drop of two of substance from my comments that has been useful to someone.

Best of luck with that. Just remember that nobody here cares if you abandon your subjective belief that there is more to life than matter and energy. Just that you not try to demand philosophical ideas like yours be seriously considered as science, because for the time being, at least, we have no evidence for or against those philosophical positions. (Although many times claims made by people holding said positions can be proved false using science.)

I know I’m beating a dead horse, but does anyone know if this statement from wikipedia, regarding Phillip Johnson, is true? Because, if it is, that just takes the cake.

In 2004 he was awarded the inaugural “Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth”


In 2004 he was awarded the inaugural “Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth”

Yes, this award is presented by Biola University in honor of Phillip Johnson and its first recipient was none other. Most recently Anthony Flew received one.[…]327_flew.cfm

And your right, it certainly does take the cake. Of course, it should be no surprise that a university that excels at religious apologetics would bestow such an ironic award.

Dawkins changed the playing field with his comments about Christians. They were what psychologists call “fighting words” and they indicate that his agenda goes far beyond science.

And this impacts the validity of the theory of evolution…how?

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on February 16, 2007 8:27 PM.

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