Shermer/Dembski Debate

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week. A combination of life being busy, busy, busy and the outside world being icy, icy, icy.

I did, however, manage to wander down to Bridgewater, VA last night to attend an evolution/ID debate between Skeptic Magazine publisher Michael Shermer and longtime ID flak William Dembski. I have just posted this detailed account of the goings on over at The Panda’s Thumb. Go have a look!

Comments

  1. #1 John Farrell
    February 17, 2007

    Man–I wish I could’ve been there. The chances of Dembski coming up here to the People’s Republic of Cambridge and it’s ‘evil’ university for a debate are fairly slim, I think.
    :)

  2. #2 Gary
    February 18, 2007

    John: Do you mean slim like one in a hundred?

    Jason: I loved this post. I think it is one of your best.

  3. #3 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 19, 2007

    Gary-

    Glad you liked the post.

  4. #4 Reasonable Kansan
    February 20, 2007

    Actually, I would like to see or at least read a transcript of the debate.

    I don’t think JR could give an unbiased account anymore than Sal could.

  5. #5 realpc
    February 21, 2007

    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.

    ID is essentially a critical analysis of the prevailing, Darwinist, theory. You are saying scientist’s should not be allowed to criticize each other’s theories?

    ID folks commit the either/or fallacy. That is, they act as if the only options are either Neo-Darwinian evolution or ID.

    That is not true. They do not deny natural selection or evolution. They accept that some, but not all, evolution is probably caused by natural selection.

    He said these fossils strongly suggest an evolutionary sequence. How does ID explain it?

    Come on — ID does not deny evolution, so why should it have to explain fossils suggesting an evolutionary sequence? This is intellectual sleight of hand — pretending ID criticizes evolution theory, when you know it only criticizes the strictly neo-Darwinian theory.

    At what point in the sequence did the designer interfere?

    ID does not say a designer interfered. It does not say anything about how design is involved in evolution. It could be a self-organizing principle inherent in nature. ID is not creationism, it does not claim anything about how design occurs.

    He also talked about the poor design, from an engineering perspective, of the eye.

    So how come engineers can’t design anything better? What arrogance.

    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.

    No one said the design process is top-down. No one knows how the design process works. The claim is just that design seems to be involved. The denial that design or intelligence could possibly have any part in evolution is purely ideological.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 21, 2007

    realpc-

    I’m afraid your comment comes straight from Mars. ID proponents claim that they have a valid scientific theory the ought to replace Neo-Darwinian evolution. They explicitly deny that natural selection could craft complex adaptations, which is the heart of Neo-Darwinism. They do not say that their work is merely meant as a criticism of mainstream theory. Given that, they really have to show that they can explain some bit of actual data that standard evolutionary mechanisms can not explain.

    The distinction you make between design and intelligence in your final paragraph is not one ID proponents make. That’s why they call their idea “Intelligent Design” after all. The whole point is that the designer lying behind the natural world carries out His work in a way comparable to what engineers do. They are explicit about this. That is top-down design.

    Concerning eyes, nature provides many examples of eyes that lack the design flaws inherent in vertebrate eyes. It is not arrogance to point that out. Rather, it is knee-jerk thoughtlessness on your part to ignore the obvious.

  7. #7 realpc
    February 22, 2007

    Given that, they really have to show that they can explain some bit of actual data that standard evolutionary mechanisms can not explain.

    Not all ID advocates are the same. Maybe some make the ridiculous claim that they know how to explain evolution. As far as I know, scientific ID researchers are merely suggesting that NDE cannot adequately explain evolution.

    You cannot adequately explain evolution with chance and natural selection alone. You can explain some adaptation, but not the origin of new species. Your claims are based entirely on the faith that chance and selection can accomplish anything, given enough time.

    You haven’t a shred of evidence to back up that claims. So you play a game that the average non-expert falls for. You provide mountains of evidence for evolution — who can argue against that? You provide evidence and logic that mutations occur, and that selection acts on these mutations, and species are modified as a result. Who can argue with that?

    So the poor misled non-expert thinks you have actually aupported the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution. But you have fooled him because you have not a shred of evidence to support it.

    The only thing you can say in favor of NDE is that it’s utterly implausible, and some of the most implausible, counter-intuitive, theories have turned out to be true.

    Well that alone should not be enough to convince a skeptic.

    Sometimes the only scientific and logical answer is that we do not know. That is the correct answer to the question of evolution. That is the answer honest ID researchers are promoting. They may suspect there is an engineer-like god behind evolution, or that the universe is made of information, and is therefore intelligent.

    But that is not something they can promote scientifically. The goal of their mathematics is to show that chance and selection are not adequate to produce complex machinery. It is not their job to figure out if it was Yahweh, Zeus, the Great Mother, or a space alien.

    You request the impossible from ID, while you provide no evidence whatsoever for your theory. And you think that’s fine, because your theory is the one most experts prefer. It must be true, you have more signatures.

  8. #8 Explicit Atheist
    February 23, 2007

    Posted by: realpc

    “But that is not something they can promote scientifically. The goal of their mathematics is to show that chance and selection are not adequate to produce complex machinery. It is not their job to figure out if it was Yahweh, Zeus, the Great Mother, or a space alien.”

    The consensus among biologists is that chance and natural selection HAVE been demonstrated to be capaable of producing the complex machinary found in biology. The attempts by ID advocates to show it is impossible to create the complexity found in biology have thus FAILED. You are substituting your judgement and the judgement of a very samll minority of dissenting religious scientists for the judgement of the biology community consensus who reject the arguments of that small minority. As time goes on the evidence for evolution and its explanatory power have both consistently grown as additional evolutionary mechanisms and processes have been discovered.

  9. #9 MarkP
    February 23, 2007

    Realpc said: As far as I know, scientific ID researchers are merely suggesting that NDE cannot adequately explain evolution.

    There are no scientific ID researchers. Scientific researcers publish their findings in the peer reviewed literature. IDists sit around idly theorizing and writing books. Not the same thing at all.

    You cannot adequately explain evolution with chance and natural selection alone.

    No one is trying to. Evolutionary theory has progressed a lot since Darwin wrote. You will have a lot better idea of what scientists are arguing if you get it from the scientists instead of whatever crackpot creationist site you are parroting this stuff from.

    So the poor misled non-expert thinks you have actually aupported the neo-Darwinist theory of evolution. But you have fooled him because you have not a shred of evidence to support it.

    How many books do we have to pile on your lap?

    Sometimes the only scientific and logical answer is that we do not know. That is the correct answer to the question of evolution. That is the answer honest ID researchers are promoting.

    Bullshit. The IDers promote the idea that God, I mean The Designer, is responsible for certain features of life. They only claim, quite transparently, that they don’t know the nature of the designer.

    I admit you are the first person I’ve seen in this debate that failed to get either side’s view correct. Congratulations.

    The goal of their mathematics is to show that chance and selection are not adequate to produce complex machinery.

    A conclusion that the vast majority of mathematicians rightfully deride as crapola.

    It is not their job to figure out if it was Yahweh, Zeus, the Great Mother, or a space alien.

    No statement reveals their anti-scientific nature more than that one. They simply know that their propoganda machine would be completely exposed if they pursued the implications of their design inference. No scientist worth his salt would find evidence of a being that powerful and not want to learn everything he could about it.

    You request the impossible from ID

    Hardly. All we request is that ID do what all other scientists do: specifically define their thesis and the terms used in it, what it implies, what it does not imply, conduct falsifiable experiments involving those implications, and publish the results in the appropriate peer-reviewed journals. 10+ years after Darwin’s Black Box, we are still waiting.

    while you provide no evidence whatsoever for your theory.

    It’s out there in spades, all you have to do is read it. The alternative, that there is some sort of worldwide scientific mass consiracy, need only be stated and specifically considered before rejecting it as preposterous. Cranks always invent conspiracies when they lose the fair fight.

    And you think that’s fine, because your theory is the one most experts prefer. It must be true, you have more signatures.

    No, that’s the game the IDers play. The scientists have done the research, put their theories on the line, and the theory of evolution, with some minor advances since Darwin’s day, has produced a wealth of supporting evidence. ID/creationism, on the other hand, has nothing but an exposed PR campaign and an impressive string of legal losses to it’s credit.