Science v Intelligent Design: Public Retraction v Dembski

flunked.jpgOn UcD Dembski addresses the news that the author of a 52 year old paper has retracted the paper. Dembski makes some claims which are either erroneous or full of irony. So let’s start.

Dembski wrote:

Below is a fascinating report in the NYTimes about a long-retired professor who found that his work was being cited by “creationists” and THEREFORE decided to retract it.

But in fact the researcher retracted passages of the paper because he had uncovered errors in his paper, errors which were being quote-mined by Creationists.

So not only did the researcher not retract the paper, he asked to retract two passages that contained errors in the claims and which were abused by creationists.

Homer Jacobson wrote:

In January 1955, American Scientist published my article, “Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life” (Vol. 43, No. 1). I ask you to honor my request to retract two brief passages, as follows:

The NY Times article explains

Things grew worse when he reread his paper, he said, because he discovered errors. One related to what he called a “conjecture” about whether amino acids, the basic building blocks of protein and a crucial component of living things, could form naturally.


Another assertion in the paper, about what would have had to occur simultaneously for living matter to arise, is just plain wrong, he said, adding, “It was a dumb mistake, but nobody ever caught me on it.”

As Homer Jacobson explains

Retraction this untimely is not normally undertaken, but in this case I request it because of continued irresponsible contemporary use by creationists who have quoted my not merely out-of-context, but incorrect, statements, to support their dubious viewpoint. I am deeply embarrassed to have been the originator of such misstatements, allowing bad science to have come into the purview of those who use it for anti-science ends.

Will Dembski ever retract (or admit to) known errors in his research publically? We are still waiting the retraction by Marks and Dembski of their paper which claimed to disprove Schneider’s work on EV.

If history is a reliable predictor, Dembski will unlikely retract these errors in a public forum. But there is more:

Dembski wrote:

But by having its author not merely dsavow its superseded conclusions, but formally “retract” the paper, the effect is to wipe it out of history.

Has Dembski forgotten how he explained how he ‘uses critics effectively’?

Dembski wrote:

Critics and enemies are useful. The point is to use them effectively. In our case, this is remarkably easy to do. The reason is that our critics are so assured of themselves and of the rightness of their cause. As a result, they rush into print their latest pronouncements against intelligent design when more careful thought, or perhaps even silence, is called for. The Internet, especially now with its blogs (web logs), provides our critics with numerous opportunities for intemperate, indiscreet, and ill-conceived attacks on intelligent design. These can be turned to advantage, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. And even if the critics choose to revise the objections on their website, books are far more permanent and influential than webpages.

Seems like rewriting history.

The NY Times article ends with the following observation

It is not unusual for scientists to publish papers and, if they discover evidence that challenges them, to announce they were wrong. The idea that all scientific knowledge is provisional, able to be challenged and overturned, is one thing that separates matters of science from matters of faith.

So Dr. Jacobson’s retraction is in “the noblest tradition of science,” Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist, wrote in its November-December issue, which has Dr. Jacobson’s letter.

His letter shows, Ms. Reid wrote, “the distinction between a scientist who cannot let error stand, no matter the embarrassment of public correction,” and people who “cling to dogma.”

Let’s see if we can build a list of items that ID proponents have yet to retract in public and which are still quoted on the internet?

Examples of ID Dogma

  1. Marks and Dembski’s “Unacknowledged Information Costs in Evolutionary Computing” paper addressing Schneider’s Ev
  2. Dembski’s claim that “Regularity and chance processes cannot create complex information”

Feel free to add to this list, there must be dozens of good examples. In a few weeks or so, I will combine the suggestions.