Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Dembski Offers Money Again

You’d think that ol’ Billy Dembski would learn to stop making these monetary offers and bets; they seem to backfire on him every time or turn out to be pointless. Remember when he offered cash for anyone who could send him Jeff Shallit’s deposition (or was it expert report?) in the Dover trial, which had in fact been available online for months? Or when he offered to pay anyone who could send him the emails between the NCSE and the Smithsonian in the Sternberg case, emails that had, again, been publicly available on the appendix of the Souder report for months? Or when he offered a bottle of single malt scotch if, when the question of whether ID could be taught in schools made it to court, it didn’t “clear all constitutional hurdles”? Despite such setbacks, he’s back with yet another cash offer:

Mark Chu-Carroll* goes after Behe’s new book here. Judge for yourself whether this deserves to be called a review (Chu-Carroll thinks it does). Nick Matzke endorses Chu-Carroll’s blog post against Behe here. Are there any anti-ID writings, no matter how ill-conceived or mean-spirited, that PT won’t endorse? It might be an interesting exercise to attempt a Sokal-style hoax to see what exactly PT is prepared to believe about ID. I herewith offer a prize, worth up to $200, to anyone who can pull this off and afterward reveal that it was all a hoax (the precise amount to be determined by how cleverly it is pulled off).

As someone who is, obviously, in on the discussions at PT when when someone outside the PT crew writes a critique of ID and we become aware of it, I can tell you that we have not linked to lots and lots of really bad anti-ID articles around the net. There are good criticisms of ID and there are bad criticisms of ID, and yes we can tell the difference. Unlike the folks who fell for the Sokal hoax, we begin with the assumption that truth and accuracy matters rather than embracing postmodernist relativism (ironically, it’s the ID crowd that embraces such nonsense, as when they put Steve Fuller on the stand in the Dover trial). Good luck on this one, Bill, but I doubt it will work.

But he’s not done yet. Here’s my favorite part:

*Chu-Carroll names his bog GOOD MATH, BAD MATH: FINDING THE FUN IN GOOD MATH, SQUASHING BAD MATH AND THE FOOLS THAT PROMOTE IT. Perhaps I’m missing something, but Chu-Carroll’s expertise is in computer programming, where he has a Ph.D. How much math does he actually know?

It’s quite common for Dembski to question the credentials of critics rather than engage their arguments; if you’ve ever read his responses to Elsberry and Shallit and his other academic critics, you’ll recognize the pattern. But what’s funny about this is that it’s coming from a guy with absolutely no training in biology telling virtually every biologist in the world that they’re wrong. That it also comes in defense of a biochemist who has based his entire critique of evolution on the use of absurd mathematical probability equations only adds to the irony.

Comments

  1. #1 Russell
    June 4, 2007

    But does he make good on his offers?

  2. #2 plunge
    June 4, 2007

    I am sorely in need of money Ed (the economy sucks). If I wrote an article poorly attacking ID, could you guys publish it so that I can make the 200$? Pretty please?

  3. #3 Dave S.
    June 4, 2007

    Perhaps I’m missing something, but Behe’s expertise is in biochemistry, where he has a Ph.D. How much math does he actually know?

    Anyway, the offer is written in a typical weasle-like manner. It doesn’t specify $200 in cash, only that its a “prize” worth “up to” $200. This is also consistant with a 2 cent plastic whistle from a Cracker-Jack box. Coincidentally, that is also the worth of most of Dembski’s ideas.

    Frankly I’m shocked that Dembski with his expertise in mathematics (as DaveScot helpfully reminds us twice in the thread) doesn’t bother refute the arguments Chu-Caroll makes himself.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    June 4, 2007

    Couldn’t it be argued that ALL ID writings are a hoax at some level?

  5. #5 Kate
    June 4, 2007

    “but Chu-Carroll’s expertise is in computer programming, where he has a Ph.D. How much math does he actually know?”

    GAH! Do you know how many Computer Programmers at an undergrad level do double majors of Computers/Math, and the number of courses needed in math to get a single comp. sci. major? And that doesn’t even adress the necessity of maths in higher degrees!

    Math is essential for computer programming. How do you calculate the most ‘cost effective’ (in terms of CPU power/time to run operations, etc) algorythms without having a very good handle on calculus and algebra? Not to mention the logic skills required, which are easiest expressed in equation form.

    On the other hand, biological equations are more “squishy” than those used on computers. So if we are talking ‘pure’ math, I’d trust the computer scientist above the biologist 9 times of 10.

  6. #6 llDayo
    June 4, 2007

    Most computer programming (I’m assuming Computer Science) degrees require a high amount of math. Speaking as someone who started out as a CompSci major at Penn State and changing to a related major because the math became too difficult (Solving Probabilities with Integration, basically Calc 4 or something), I guarantee Chu-Carroll received almost as much math education as a mathematician.

  7. #7 llDayo
    June 4, 2007

    Damn, Kate beat me by 4 minutes!

  8. #8 IanR
    June 4, 2007

    I need to money too! Maybe PT could do a special “Dembski” posting, in which they link to a whole set of hoax-critiques (but wait, what would a Sokal-type critique of ID look like? One that suggests that ID is science?) so as to divert some money towards poor struggling bloggers.

  9. #9 Dave S.
    June 4, 2007

    No need to speculate on how much math Mark Chu-Carroll knows. He lays it out in his response, Dembski notices GM/BM, and he’s not happy!.

  10. #10 John Pieret
    June 4, 2007

    Mark has noticed Dembski’s unhappiness and set out to increase it:

    Sorry guys, but that’s not how math or science work. Credentials don’t matter in math. What matters is the validity of your arguments. Behe makes a claim based on an unvalidated mathematical model. I laid out a very clear critique of Behe’s arguments on mathematical grounds, showing why Behe’s model is invalid. It’s that simple. If you don’t like my critique, if you think that it’s not fair, the only real response is to respond to my arguments by showing where I’m wrong. I didn’t respond to Behe by saying “He’s not a mathematician, he’s a biochemist: how dare he write a mathematical argument!” I wrote a careful critique laying out point by point what’s wrong with his argument.

    Gee, Dembski is supposed to know math, right? Why didn’t he set out to show how Mark was wrong?

  11. #11 James Taylor
    June 4, 2007

    CS is applied mathematics. That this critique comes from a theoretical math hack who doesn’t even understand probability is illuminating.

    Ed, you forgot the monetary award for demonstrating any technological development that followed an evolutionary development process. Dembski first tried to rig it by only publishing submissions that were parodies, then he shut it down when many poured in demonstrating how dumb the challenge was. He eventually awarded some UD friendly that submitted via weblink which didn’t even have a page in the redirect. It was all an ugly sham and Dembski’s incompetence in rigging the challenge was laughable.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    June 4, 2007

    plunge wrote:

    I am sorely in need of money Ed (the economy sucks). If I wrote an article poorly attacking ID, could you guys publish it so that I can make the 200$? Pretty please?

    Damn, you should have emailed me that idea rather than put it out here publicly. We could have arranged to do a double hoax, have you write some horrible anti-ID piece, published it on PT, have you expose it as a hoax and get the money from Dembski, then expose it as a hoax on him. What a delightful bit of street theater that would have been.

  13. #13 doctorgoo
    June 4, 2007

    Well Ed, you know what the solution is… make sure the relevant comments just disappear and proceed as if they never existed.

    Hasn’t Davescot taught you anything yet?

  14. #14 MartinM
    June 4, 2007

    Anyway, the offer is written in a typical weasle-like manner. It doesn’t specify $200 in cash, only that its a “prize” worth “up to” $200. This is also consistant with a 2 cent plastic whistle from a Cracker-Jack box. Coincidentally, that is also the worth of most of Dembski’s ideas.

    Which is probably exactly what the ‘lucky’ winner will be getting, in paperback form.

  15. #15 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 4, 2007

    Anyway, the offer is written in a typical weasle-like manner. It doesn’t specify $200 in cash, only that its a “prize” worth “up to” $200. This is also consistant with a 2 cent plastic whistle from a Cracker-Jack box. Coincidentally, that is also the worth of most of Dembski’s ideas.

    Maybe he’ll pay off in scotch?

  16. #16 Coin
    June 4, 2007

    I claim Dembski’s ≤$200, to be delivered to the “Answers In Genesis” organization.

    Now, given, I think there would be isolated parts of the critique I link above that most PTers would agree with. For example:

    * Since the only thing in [the Intelligent Design] platform which comes close to being a commonly-shared presupposition is a negative (naturalism is wrong), they can provide no coherent philosophical framework on which to base the axioms necessary to interpret evidence relevant to the historical sciences (paleontology, historical geology, etc). So they can never offer a ‘story of the past’, which is one more reason why they must continually limit the debate to one of mechanism–and then only in broad, general terms (designed vs undesigned).

    * They generally refuse to be drawn on the sequence of events, or the exact history of life on Earth or its duration, apart from saying, in effect, that it ‘doesn’t matter’. However, this is seen by the average evolutionist as either absurd or disingenuously evasive–the arena in which they are seeking to be regarded as full players is one which directly involves historical issues. In other words, if the origins debate is not about a ‘story of the past’, what is it about?

    * Their failure to identify themselves with a story of the past (e.g. Genesis) is partly tactically-driven, but is also a necessity, because they do not agree within themselves on a story of the past. However, this failure only reinforces the perception by the establishment that they are really ‘creationists in disguise’. The attacks on the IDM have thus been virtually as ferocious as any on Genesis creationists. Thus, the belief that agreeing to ‘keep the Bible out of it’ would serve to keep anti-religious hostility out of the arena has not been confirmed in practice.

    * Some who are prominent in the IDM appear to be sympathetic to the Bible’s account of Creation. However, if the movement should ever make the strategic inroads it hopes for, then our concern would be that any of its leaders who might later identify themselves with Genesis belief would lay themselves open to charges of having been publicly deceptive.

    That is, naturalism was there long before Darwinism and led directly to its dominance. It is therefore ironic to observe IDers telling people that fighting ‘naturalism’ is the important issue…

    However– although I think PT would as an institution agree with these specific criticisms which I quote here that AIG raises– I am quite confident that PT would not in general endorse the linked piece itself, due to its other conclusions and general tone, thus satisfying Dembski’s conditions.

    Will someone who has not yet been banned from Uncommon Descent please let Mr. Dembski know that he has lost his bet, again.

  17. #17 Kristine
    June 4, 2007

    But does he make good on his offers?

    No.

  18. #18 Wesley R. Elsberry
    June 5, 2007

    On the other hand, biological equations are more “squishy” than those used on computers. So if we are talking ‘pure’ math, I’d trust the computer scientist above the biologist 9 times of 10.

    I have degrees in zoology, computer science, and wildlife and fisheries sciences. While biology encompasses many people who wouldn’t do well when confronted with mathy bits, it also has a fair proportion of folks who have contributed significantly to various branches of, say, statistics (Fisher being perhaps the archetype of this group). Computer scientists, despite the heavy leaning upon discrete math that is endemic to the field, are not all math mavens. I personally wouldn’t assign such a lopsided score to relative math cluefulness between practitioners of the two fields.

    Pick up an issue, any issue, of the journal Evolution some time and peruse it. I doubt that, say, Michael Behe would be capable of explaining each bit of math that you will encounter there. I have my doubts that even the estimable William Dembski would follow it all without recourse to some references.

  19. #19 Barry
    June 5, 2007

    “On the other hand, biological equations are more “squishy” than those used on computers. So if we are talking ‘pure’ math, I’d trust the computer scientist above the biologist 9 times of 10.”

    Posted by: Kate

    The ‘squishy’ part at might be *technically* true, in the sense that more CS problems are in simpler environments.

    However, the real skill lies in being able to cope with more complex environments. Think of the difficulty of transitioning from classroom problems to a real-life problem, where defining the problem itself is both critical and difficult.

    I find it interesting that many people seem to feel that the ability to operate in a highly-structured environment is better thant the ability to operate in a unstructured environment. I think that it’s the result of how we educate people.

  20. #20 Ed Darrell
    June 5, 2007

    Maybe he’ll pay off in scotch?

    I’ll gladly donate $200.00 worth of Scotch.

    You wouldn’t mind if I filtered it first — through my kidneys?

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