Living in an Alternate Reality

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Sometimes one wonders what version of reality intelligent design creationists live in. The most recent stimulus for that question is a post by Bill Dembski on Uncommon Descent. The post pitches an apologetics conferences to be held at Hickory Baptist Church in North Carolina. Dembski tells us the speakers will include such intellectual luminaries as James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Dinesh D’Souza, Lee Strobel, and, of course, Dembski.

In the post Dembski claims that

It’s nice to be in such distinguished company as indicated in this press release. I’ll certainly make my usual ID arguments. But I’ll also be pointing out that our opponents, the materialists and their cronies, are now battling principally for political rather than intellectual control. Indeed, the materialists have lost the intellectual battle.

Well, for openers, if that’s what Dembski takes to be “distinguished company” then he’s welcome to them.

More interesting, though, is Dembski’s list of how he thinks “materialists have lost the intellectual battle.” He provides a list of areas in which he thinks that’s occurred. Every one of them is a non sequitur:

**Remember how computers were going to become more intelligent than us and that we would be luck if they deigned to keep us as pets?

**Remember how humans were the third chimpanzee, only to find that some dogs and birds are smarter than chimps at various tasks?

**Remember how it was only a matter of time before the Miller-Urey experiment could be extended to explain the origin of life? (For the sheer hopelessness of OOL research, see my forthcoming book with Jonathan Wells, due out next month – How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (Or Not).)

The list of vapid materialist promises that show no sign of ever being fulfilled keeps growing and growing. But losing the intellectual battle no longer matters to materialists.

Notice anything? No evolution. No irreducible complexity. No mousetraps, CSI, SC, or Explanatory Filters. Why? Well, look below at Nick Matzke’s posts on the immune system and on the bacterial flagellum for two examples. The evolutionary origin of the poster child of ID and cover illustration for Dembski’s No Free Lunch and his blog, the bacterial flagellum, is closer to a full explanation in purely materialistic terms now than it was just 5 years ago. ID creationism lost the “intellectual battle” 150 years ago; it’s been fighting a rear-guard action every since, defending a smaller and smaller territory.

The ultimate self-parodying irony, though, is in the last two sentences of the post:

We’ve made a good case. What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

This from a Fellow of the Disco ‘Tute, whose sole and only tactics for 10 years have been political. I frankly cannot understand how a man with two (count ‘em, two!) Ph.D.s can be so unreflective, so unaware of self, so utterly blind to the reality of his own movement. It truly passeth all understanding.

Edited 9/22 to correct immune system link.

91 Comments

“This from a Fellow of the Disco ‘Tute, whose sole and only tactics for 10 years have been political. I frankly cannot understand how a man with two (count ‘em, two!) Ph.D.s can be so unreflective, so unaware of self, so utterly blind to the reality of his own movement. It truly passeth all understanding.”

Its easy - he’s in it for the money and knows how to get it. There’s a sucker born every minute.…

Hey, if you’ve been reading the Evolution News and Views website postings, you should be used to such ludicrously dishonest doublespeak.

http://www.evolutionnews.org/

No evolution. No irreducible complexity. No mousetraps, CSI, SC, or Explanatory Filters. Why?

In addition to the refutations of the Irreducible Complexity argument which you mention, such as Matzke’s recent post, Dembski’s CSI, Explanatory Filters, No Free Lunch, and “smuggling” arguments have also all seen effective refutations, which Dembski has not commented on. See my recent article (pardon the self-promotion) in Reports of the NCSE, which you can read here (it’s the one on “Has Natural Selection Been Refuted?”). I describe how his argument works, and the holes a number of people have poked in it, particularly Shallit and Elsberry. I add a couple of new arguments too. It’s a good one-stop-shopping place to read about those arguments.

Perhaps he has given up on these arguments, which were the basis of his renown among ID types. Or perhaps he will deal with these criticisms (somehow).

vince said:

Its easy - he’s in it for the money and knows how to get it. There’s a sucker born every minute.…

I have long wondered whether it would be more charitable to Dembski to think that he was a deliberate conman than to think he honestly believes what he says himself.

Ah yes, once more the battle cry: “THE WINDMILLS ARE WEAKENING!” It’s getting too tiresome to even make being annoyed worth the trouble.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Joe Felsenstein said:

See my recent article (pardon the self-promotion) in Reports of the NCSE, which you can read here (it’s the one on “Has Natural Selection Been Refuted?”). I describe how his argument works, and the holes a number of people have poked in it, particularly Shallit and Elsberry.

Self-promotion actually appreciated, looks like a nice article. I keep looking for materials to give me a better handle on Dembski’s work without having to read his bafflegab books. His short 2004 essay on human origins was enough to completely torpedo his credibility to me forever.

I might comment that Dawkins’ weasel program could be made a better model of evolution if instead of finding a fixed target phrase, it synthesized a meaningful phrase just on the basis of the rules of language syntax. The rules would be “front-loading” of course, but since they would be analogous to the laws of nature, that would not be a real objection.

This would be incredibly difficult to write unless one came up with a deliberately stripped-down language that had a small vocabulary and very simple rules of syntax. Another option, which would be easy to implement, would be for it to match an existing string in some archive of text – but alas this would also have the “front-loading” accusation thrown at it.

Of course, Dawkins flatly said in THE BLIND WATCHMAKER that the Weasel program was strictly an example of artificial selection. He simply wanted to demonstrate the power of selection.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Dinesh D.Souza, Lee Strobel, and, of course, Dembski.

A finer collection of anti-intellectual elites it would be hard to find. No wonder conservatism is in so much trouble in the USA if these people are the luminaries they listen to.

So when did UD become an Obama hate site and Palin love-in?

Parody indeed.

Well what else do you want them to talk about? They ran out of bigfoot controversies, and bucking global warming wasn’t working out too well either.

It’s becoming a generalist wacko site. I like the change.

The ultimate self-parodying irony, though, is in the last two sentences of the post:

We’ve made a good case. What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

Really, there are only two problems with Dembski’s statement: one extra word, and missing emphasis. Try this:

We’ve made a good case. What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

Seems OK to me in amended form …

I’ve watched Dinesh D’Souza debate intelligent people. On the bullshit meter (words uttered divided by relevant evidence delivered), Dinesh has one of the highest scores ever recorded. He is good company for Dembski.

If Dembski is looking for more of the same BS star power, he should also invite Alistar McGrath whose a close second to Dinesh.

It would be more intellectually honest for Dembski to state: “Dembski tells us the speakers will include such bullshit-meter luminaries as James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Dinesh D’Souza, Lee Strobel, and, of course, himself in shameless selfpromotion.”

tacitus said:

So when did UD become an Obama hate site and Palin love-in?

Yeah. I went there the other day to see if there were any word of the big meet-up at the Vatican, only to find insipid election-related propoganda and not even much in the way of own-horn-tooting.

Looks like Dembski is trying to make up for lost time. Besides his completely idiotic and irrelevant list, what does he consider the turning point for when his underdog “theory” became the intellectual victor? Any event? Series of events? Gradual change in the public perception?

… publication of peer-reviewed research?

But I’ll also be pointing out that our opponents, the materialists and their cronies, are now battling principally for political rather than intellectual control. Indeed, the materialists have lost the intellectual battle.

Wow. Projection in a nutshell. This from the muckety-muck of a group that has utterly failed to provide evidence for their claims in a single peer-reviewed scientific research paper, let alone produce a body of research.

It’s also worth noting that Dinesh D’Souza realizes the failure of ID.

We’ve made a good case. What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

Initially they talked of “scientific strategies.” At least they’re now honest about what their strategies are. Perhaps they should review Lysenko’s history for tips on political strategy.

…What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

Such as showing up at the next trial where he’s agreed to be an expert witness?

-Karen S.

tacitus said:

So when did UD become an Obama hate site and Palin love-in?

Parody indeed.

I don’t think it’s surprising at all, since ID is just another arm of the politico-religionist movement, which has attached itself to the “conservative” movement.

These are tough times for conservatives, although many who identify as such don’t seem to know it. I am reminded of the Dworkinization of Feminism and how they failed to distance themselves from their fanatics.

Iml8 says…

I might comment that Dawkins’ weasel program could be made a better model of evolution if instead of finding a fixed target phrase, it synthesized a meaningful phrase just on the basis of the rules of language syntax. The rules would be “front-loading” of course

Despite the braying of the IDiots, I’ve never understood how specifying the target phrase counted as “front loading”, since you don’t specify the way to get here

Each time you run these programs they figure it out anew and give you a unique solution. How can you be accused of telling it what to do when it doesn’t do the same thing twice?

It’s like the plains of Africa, where one common survival target, largely “avoid being eaten by the cats” has spawned myriad solutions across many, many species.

Some animals solve the problem by getting too big to eat (elephants). Some get fast (gazelle). Some hide underground (meerkats). Some out think the predators (us). Some take wing, some climb trees, some take to the water, etc, etc, etc.

I fail to see how the fact that we all have to solve the same problem makes my solution any less valid than the giraffes.

Looks like Dembski is trying to make up for lost time. Besides his completely idiotic and irrelevant list, what does he consider the turning point for when his underdog “theory” became the intellectual victor? Any event? Series of events? Gradual change in the public perception?

… publication of peer-reviewed research?

But didn’t they make a good case in the form of a movie? Anyone? Anyone? You mean that wasn’t peer-reviewed? Of course it was! All of the ID peers reviewed it and love it!

I just wonder why Denyse O’Leary wasn’t invited to the conference.

stevaroni said:

Despite the braying of the IDiots, I’ve never understood how specifying the target phrase counted as “front loading”, since you don’t specify the way to get here

A good point, but then have you ever seen a “front-loading” argument with any substance at all? They can’t bear to admit defeat, even though the little AI robots running around cheating each other are about as solid an in-your-face proof as you can get, so they just wail “front loading” and hope no one notices that there’s no there there.

stevaroni said:

Despite the braying of the IDiots, I’ve never understood how specifying the target phrase counted as “front loading”, since you don’t specify the way to get here.

I think they’re saying “this is artificial selection, there’s an Intelligent Designer (Dawkins) setting up the goalposts and giving it a direction, so the Weasel program is not only (a) bogus as a description of evolution by natural selection but (b) justifies our position.”

Fortunately Dawkins noted that it was an artificial selection process to begin with. Hmm … by identifying Dawkins as an Intelligent Designer, does that mean they’ve conceded he’s INTELLIGENT? (Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive!)

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

But I thought ID isn’t about religion! They don’t even pretend anymore

tacitus said:

So when did UD become an Obama hate site and Palin love-in?

Parody indeed.

The very moment she became McSame’s running mate. Truth be told - I actually understand the motivation.

Literally, right now, I’ve been searching for something “sciency” to blog about and I have been unable to because I am so obsessed with the fact that McPalin is so anti-science-environment-education-etc…that nothing else seems to interest me.

Look at a quote from this article

“That’s nearly a million every day, every working day he’s been in Congress,” McCain said. “And when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that he asked for, he shouldn’t be saying anything about Governor Palin.”

Anyway … IMO it’s just the most important thing right now.

Draconiz said:

But I thought ID isn’t about religion! They don’t even pretend anymore.

Yes they do, and that’s not being sarcastic. It depends on who they’re talking to. There may be no evidence on either UNCOMMON DESCENT or EVOLUTION NEWS & VIEWS of any concern but well-right-of-center ideology, but that’s irrelevant – they believe, and I would bet sincerely, that the scientific facts justify their position and that the ideology is incidental.

“Your Honor, the court should not conclude that simply because we talk ideology 24:7:365 that ID is just a sock puppet for our ideology. ID is a scientific FACT and we are just lucky that it happens to fit with our ideology.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Vince,

In this case, I believe it’s “There’s a sucker born again every minute.”

Stacy S. said:

Literally, right now, I’ve been searching for something “sciency” to blog about and I have been unable to because I am so obsessed with the fact that McPalin is so anti-science-environment-education-etc…that nothing else seems to interest me.

I’ve got the same problem, although it’s not from lack of interest. It’s just that seemingly every day lately the most realty-free assertions in the world are coming from her mealy mouth.

This would be incredibly difficult to write unless one came up with a deliberately stripped-down language that had a small vocabulary and very simple rules of syntax. Another option, which would be easy to implement, would be for it to match an existing string in some archive of text – but alas this would also have the “front-loading” accusation thrown at it.

We’re on the same wavelength. I outlined an approach to doing exactly that in response to some correspondence with Paul Nelson just over a decade ago.

[Objection] 6. The generation of a natural language sentence via means of evolutionary computation is either difficult or impossible.

I think that instead of either being difficult or impossible, the correct classification is that it would be time-consuming to generate such an application. I’ll lay out the approach I would take if I had the time and inclination to do such. First, I would not use fixed-length bit strings, so the underlying computational approach would not quite match the definition of a GA, although most of the same code would likely be useful. Second, the initialization of the evaluation function would involve scanning a large source of text in the language of choice, building a symbol sequence frequency table. (A possible or likely objection here is that this gives information about the language to be generated. However, this procedure gives far less information than is provided to developing humans, who in the absence of examples of language use do not generate grammatically correct sentences, either.) Third, the evaluation function would return a probability value for a bit-string based on the likelihood that the bit-string could be drawn from the distribution represented by the symbol sequence frequency table, with extra points for the final symbol being a period, and the initial symbol being a capital letter. The GA would finish when a bit-string achieved a threshold evaluation value. The likely results will be the production of nonsensical, but often grammatically correct or near-correct sentences. I say this on the basis of experience in coding ‘travesty’ generators and information entropy analysis applications. The use of evolutionary computation in this regard would be no huge stretch.

From this essay.

Science Avenger said:

Stacy S. said:

Literally, right now, I’ve been searching for something “sciency” to blog about and I have been unable to because I am so obsessed with the fact that McPalin is so anti-science-environment-education-etc…that nothing else seems to interest me.

I’ve got the same problem, although it’s not from lack of interest. It’s just that seemingly every day lately the most realty-free assertions in the world are coming from her mealy mouth.

Yes, but at least you have a cool picture of an entelodant! ;-)

It’s spelled “entelodont” and you two mind if I make some suggestions of “sciency” things to blog about?

Stacy S. said:

Science Avenger said:

Stacy S. said:

Literally, right now, I’ve been searching for something “sciency” to blog about and I have been unable to because I am so obsessed with the fact that McPalin is so anti-science-environment-education-etc…that nothing else seems to interest me.

I’ve got the same problem, although it’s not from lack of interest. It’s just that seemingly every day lately the most realty-free assertions in the world are coming from her mealy mouth.

Yes, but at least you have a cool picture of an entelodant! ;-)

We’ve made a good case. What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

William Dembski has the uncanny ability to completely drop his guard and let slip a little truth from time to time. Like when he talked about fund-raising “in the Christian community” to help ID, or when ID hasn’t made any scientific advances. Now, he’s admitting that their legal and political strategies weren’t good.

Took him almost 3 years to admit it.

Karen S. said:

…What we need now are good legal and political strategies.

Such as showing up at the next trial where he’s agreed to be an expert witness?

-Karen S.

Beautiful! You win the thread, Karen. :)

I did neglect on other aspect of Dembski’s post, namely its subtitle:

“November Apologetics Conference — We need more than good arguments.”

May one suggest that data might be a useful add-on to intelligent design “theory”?

No, it should be…

Find the wabbit!

In the Cam’brin!

Find the wabbit!

Dig the shale!

Find the wabbit!

With the raptors!

That would be the

ho- lee grail!

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on September 21, 2008 5:25 PM.

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