Dispatches from the Creation Wars

William Dembski: Prophet for Hire

From an article in a Kentucky newspaper:

To William Dembski, all the debate in this country over evolution won’t matter in a decade.

By then, he says, the theory of evolution put forth by Charles Darwin 150 years ago will be dead.

The mathematician turned Darwin critic says there is much to be learned about how life evolved on this planet. And he thinks the model of evolution accepted by the scientific community won’t be able to supply the answers.

“I see this all disintegrating very quickly,” he said.

This is not his first attempt at playing prophet. His last prediction, over which he offered a wager, didn’t work out too well:

I’ll wager a bottle of single-malt scotch, should it ever go to trial whether ID may legitimately be taught in public school science curricula, that ID will pass all constitutional hurdles.

This was directed specifically at Genie Scott and Glenn Branch. To my knowledge, they have never received that bottle of single-malt scotch despite the ruling in Dover. As for his current prediction, he has of course been claiming this for at least the last 10 years, and his fellow creationists have been claiming it for well over a century. Eberhard Dennert wrote in 1904:

Today, at the dawn of the new century, nothing is more certain than that Darwinism has lost its prestige among men of science. It has seen its day and will soon be reckoned a thing of the past. A few decades hence when people will look back upon the history of the doctrine of Descent, they will confess that the years between 1860 and 1880 were in many respects a time of carnival; and the enthusiasm which at that time took possession of the devotees of natural science will appear to them as the excitement attending some mad revel.

In 1905, Luther Tracy Townsend wrote The Collapse of Evolution, a title that was recycled by Scott Huse in 1983. The mere fact that the same title was used nearly 80 years apart might have given them some pause. In 1912, George Frederick Wright wrote The Passing of Evolution. In 1922, George McCready Price declared:

The science of twenty or thirty years ago was in high glee at the thought of having almost proved the theory of biological evolution. Today, for every careful, candid inquirer, these hopes are crushed; and with weary, reluctant sadness does modern biology now confess that the Church has probably been right all the time

In 1929, Harold Clark said:

The world has had enough of evolution … In the future, evolution will be remembered only as the crowning deception which the arch-enemy of human souls foisted upon the race in his attempt to lead man away from the Savior. The Science of the future will be creationism. As the ages roll by, the mysteries of creation week will be cleared up, and as we have learned to read the secrets of creative power in the lives of animals and plants about us, we shall understand much that our dim senses cannot now fathom. If we hope to continue scientific study in the laboratories and fields of the earth restored, we must begin to get the lessons of truth now. The time is ripe for a rebellion against the dominion of evolution, and for a return to the fundamentals of true science.

Harry Rimmer in 1935:

The chain of evidence that purports to support the theory of evolution is a chain indeed, but its links are formed of sand and mist. Analyze the evidence and it melts away; turn the light of true investigation upon its demonstrations and they fade like fog before the freshening breeze. The theory stands today positively disproved, and we will venture the prophecy that in another two decades, when younger men, free from the blind prejudices of a passing generation are allowed to investigate the new evidence, examine the facts, and form their own conclusions, the theory will take its place in the limbo of disproved tidings. In that day the world of science will be forced to come back to the unshakable foundation of fact that is the basis of the true philosophy of the origin of life.

I could easily go on with quotes from every decade of the 20th century. Glenn Morton has collected dozens of such predictions of the imminent demise of evolution, which he calls the longest running falsehood in creationism. It seems that evolution is perpetually just that close to collapsing, yet it never does. One would think that Dembski and his pals would be a tad bit more reticent about making predictions in light of that history, but they forge ahead valiantly, always convinced that victory resides just around the next bend. Meanwhile, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of evolution appear to be highly exaggerated.


  1. #1 BigDumbChimp
    April 3, 2006

    “One would think that Dembski and his pals would be a tad bit more reticent about making predictions in light of that history, but they forge ahead valiantly, always convinced that victory resides just around the next bend.”

    Since when did observation of repeatable events ever enter the M.O. of Dembski and the boys at the Disco Institute?

  2. #2 coturnix
    April 3, 2006

    BigDumbChimp scooped me…

  3. #3 mark
    April 3, 2006

    Has Dembski assigned a probability to that event?

  4. #4 pough
    April 3, 2006

    I’ve forgotten my Sunday School lessons. Does evolution meet its demise before or after the Rapture?

  5. #5 Irrational Entity
    April 3, 2006

    pough, evolution only dies after the Rapture. According to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in The Glorious Appearing, Jesus soundly rebukes Lucifer for the lie of evolution, which was meant to show that there is no need for God.

    Unfortunately, we shall have to wait until the end of the Tribulation to be corrected.

  6. #6 Rich
    April 3, 2006

    Check out this nugget from Mr. “I’ll detect design using my fantastic probability skills and filters”


    The actual verdict he gives a less than 10% probability. Clearly his math is tainted with wishfull thinking.

    Perhaps he can come up with a probabilistic filter to find his arse using both hands?

  7. #7 Technogeek
    April 3, 2006

    Religious people have rarely been bound by truth when predicting the end of the world, why should they be when predicting the end of evolutionary theory?

  8. #8 Tim Makinson
    April 3, 2006

    If ID is still in its “infancy” after more than a decade, then it must be one of the worst cases of arrested development on record. It also means that its ‘researchers’ (of whom Dembski is one of the foremost) have been lazy and/or incompetent in developing it.

  9. #9 Doug
    September 21, 2006

    Possibly Dembski is predicting a new Dark Ages where Science and Reason are made a crime.

  10. #10 Edward T. Babinski
    January 2, 2007

    Speaking of predicting something will be forgotten in “ten years”…

    “Owen says my book will be forgotten in ten years, perhaps so; but, with such a [short but prestigious] list [of scientific supporters], I feel convinced that the subject will not.” [Darwin in a letter to J. D. Hooker, 3/3/1860].

    “I have read lately so many hostile views [of The Origin of Species], that I was beginning to think that perhaps I was wholly in the wrong, and that Owen was right when he said the whole subject would be forgotten in ten years; but now that I hear that you and Huxley will fight publicly (which I am sure I never could do), I fully believe that our cause will, in the long run, prevail.” [Darwin in a letter to J. D. Hooker, 7/2/1860]

    Darwin’s little prediction that “the subject [of evolution] would not be forgotten,” and that, “our cause will, in the long run, prevail,” proved true. While, Richard Owen’s prediction that the “whole subject” would be “forgotten in ten years” proved false. By Biblical standards, that makes Darwin a “true prophet,” and Richard Owen (who was a creationist) a “false prophet.” (Chuckle.)

    Lastly, since the Discovery Institute’s “Five Year Plan” seems a bit shy of completion, no wonder Dembski switched to a new “Ten Year Plan.”