Pharyngula

William Dembski doesn’t think the way you or I do. When we encounter a problem in biological science, we try to think of experiments and observations that would help us resolve the question: Dembski thinks of public relations and commercial opportunities. Thoughts from Kansas catches him admitting that ID has experienced a setback, and what does he think of? Broadcasting infomercials, and a commercial venture to sell ID-themed toys. (Those are Josh’s comments in brackets below.)

For some time now I’ve been wanting to complement Darwinalia, Inc. [apparently to be stupid plush toys or something] with an ID-based success and motivation course (complete with infomercials). I had been thinking about something like “Designed for Success” or “Designed to Flourish.” But the more I thought about it, especially with intelligent design taking the hits it has lately [my emphasis], it’s time simply to co-opt the language of evolution and interpret it in an ID-friendly way (in this vein, recall my post about intelligent evolution on this blog some months back—go here). Yes, ID is itself evolving! I was able to procure www.evolveyourself.net (.com and .org were unfortunately taken) and expect to start another corporation once Darwinalia, Inc. is fully up and running.

And of course, one step is rebranding. Creationism got renamed to “Intelligent Design” to smuggle it into the schools, (and we now know how well that worked) so now Dembski is thinking about renaming it again.

I therefore offer the following proposal if ID gets outlawed from our public schools: retitle it Intelligent Evolution (IE). … [H]ey, it would still be evolution, and evolution can be taught in schools. In fact, I think I’ll title my next book Intelligent Evolution: The Mindful Deviation of Evolutionary Pathways. Perhaps this book has already been written.

“Intelligent Evolution”? Dembski really doesn’t get it, does he? The game should be about finding evidence and backing up your claims, not rummaging around to find the catchiest slogan.

I do think we need to keep those words of Dembski’s around for the next trial, though. Whatever label the Discovery Institute comes up with, we now have the admission of one of their foremost proponents that he’s consciously trying to merely retitle creationism. Again.

Comments

  1. #1 Lubos Motl
    January 14, 2006

    Dembski has not been exposed to actual natural science – all his interests are based on theology, philosophy, and related portions of mathematics. It really seems from his statements that he does not understand that natural science studies objective questions.

    He does not seem to hide that his goal is to push the public opinions in a specific predetermined direction rather than to find what is actually the truth.

    Creationism itself evolves. It obeys the laws of evolution much like everything else because it has no choice. Renaming IDC to “Intelligent Evolution” would be no surprise.

    Finally I want to say that the same focus on propaganda and disinformation also exists on the left. When you listen to various feminists (who can be male or female) who promote their ideas that the cognitive differences between the genders are surely caused by sociology and discrimination, it is hard not to see the similarity with Dembski’s approach. Everything has been shown, no further research is desirable and it is not moral either – the only question is how to force the whole society to accept these ideas.

  2. #2 mark
    January 14, 2006

    So Dembski thinks he may join the ranks of the hucksters of free-energy machines, run-your-car-on-water devices, and cure-all-ills-with-coffee-enemas. We’ve been saying all along that his product was buncombe.

  3. #3 Joseph O'Donnell
    January 14, 2006

    I think ultimately that Dembski has just completely ceased caring anymore. He has been relegated to the middle of nowhere and any respectability he formerly had as a ‘scientist’ have disappeared. Intelligent Design has itself been exposed as fraudulent and has failed all of its objectives. Now there really isn’t any point for Dembski to try being serious about it anymore, he might as well try to cash in on the sinking ship with his crappy plush toys (or whatever it is).

    If there are people dumb enough to buy it, like his bunch of collected sycophants, then he might as well earn some money before ID becomes just as relevant to science as the old YEC movement are after the 1987 EvsA decision.

  4. #4 decrepitoldfool
    January 14, 2006

    “Finally I want to say that the same focus on propaganda and disinformation also exists on the left.”

    I have noticed the idea that evolution is something the ‘left’ does, and creationism is something the ‘right’ does. While there is correlation there is nothing inherently leftist about evolution.

    The relationship, if any, is more circuitous than that – say, having common ancestry in the tendency to look at real things and draw conclusions from them.

    (blockquote tag didn’t seem to work in preview, by the way)

  5. #5 PenetratingShaftOfTruthAndSemen
    January 14, 2006

    If there is any doubt as to Dembski’s motives, look at this recent quote by the huckster–
    “Let me reiterate that ID has been very, very good to me!”

    He’s obviously just using the ID movement to make money for himself. The newest posts have him soliciting investments in “Darwinalia” and “Evolve Yourself” from his blog trolls. The guy makes me nauseous. Dembski as nothing more than another Kevin Trudeau is a very apt comparison. I put him in the same category as Orel Roberts and George Bush. They know they are lying out of their faces, but still benefit generously from those lies and scam a large portion of the population in the process.

  6. #6 S. C. Hartman
    January 14, 2006

    I can’t understand why legitimate scientists would play along with dignifing Dembski by agreeing to “debate” him, especially in a hostile enviromment where they have no chance of getting a fair hearing. See the latest:

    http://www.apologetics.org/apologetics-calendar.html

    The stock answer should be: “That debate has already been held (at Harrisburg PA); Dembski and DI were afraid to show up because they knew they would be cut to pieces by rigorous cross examination in a neutral and fair venue.”

  7. #7 jared hansen
    January 14, 2006

    How sure are you guys that he’s even serious? Even Dembski isn’t usually that blatant about the sneakiness – and you’d think that especially after the recent result in Dover, these guys would know better than to be posting on blogs about their next rebranding scheme.

    Maybe I’m just underappreciating the ID crowd’s capacity for idiocy, but this smells like a hoax to me.

  8. #8 Don Culberson
    January 14, 2006

    Dembski gives further evidence of his pecuniary approach to, um.. “Intelligent Evolution” in the comments to his original article. The commenters had quickly digressed from his intended topic to a discussion of women’s underwear, the governor of California, and Dawkin’s successful mating habits (not to mention holding a brief spelling bee). Dembski attempts to reopen the store with this gem:

    “Hey, let?s get this thread back on track, which is how to make some money with Evolve Yourself, Inc. I?m looking for investors.
    Comment by William Dembski ? January 13, 2006 @ 10:40 pm”

  9. #9 PenetratingShaftOfTruthAndSemen
    January 14, 2006

    Sure, this could be just more “street theater” from Dembski. He likes to lure people in then drop the ball. I’m sure when the ball finally is dropped, there will be explosions of laughter and applause from his blog trolls. It is some sort of game for his lonely, warped mind. Is he married? He needs to find something else to occupy his time, like a woman or man–whatever his preference is. Seems like he has a lot of selfish time to sit around and think of ways to lure his sycophants into his scheme.

  10. #10 Tastant
    January 14, 2006

    Can you imagine Richard Dawkins proposing, even as a joke, selling plush toys to promote the teaching of evolution?

    Is Garry Trudeau writing Dembski’s life?

  11. #11 Matthew Cromer
    January 14, 2006

    Who cares about Debinski? Much less the young-earth creationist laughing-stocks you keep focusing on.

    You guys need to do some damage control on people like this instead:

    http://med.muni.cz/biomedjournal/pdf/2000/04/211-222.pdf

    It’s only the researcher who proved that retrovirii transform their RNA into DNA (via reverse transcriptase). That’s Nobel-caliber work.

    Yes, evolution is absolutely real. But the nature of that evolution (only random mutations + selection vs. random + teleological changes + selection) is very much in question. I guess that’s why you go after soft targets like evolution deniers instead of addressing the real issue: is evolution a directional, purposive process or not? This option doesn’t require some kind of supernatural, external diety, it’s entirely possible that the teleology of the universe is inherent.

  12. #12 Chris Clarke
    January 14, 2006

    Go read Matthew’s website. It’s hilarious.

  13. #13 Jenna
    January 14, 2006

    I really hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been linking some of your ID/creationism themed posts over at Myspace; the general population there is age 14-25 and I thought it would be a good idea for folks there to read what you have to say.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    January 14, 2006

    Eh. Hill’s work isn’t that interesting, and the fact that someone has done Nobel caliber work does not mean that they aren’t a crackpot (Mullis and Shockley, anyone?). I’ll cite the earlier example of Cairn’s work: when people start babbling about directed mutagenesis, they usually aren’t taking into full account the complicated behavior of populations, observer bias, or the general effect of a non-specific increase in mutability.

    I’m not worried about doing “damage control” on Hill. He’s at least doing real work; his results will either fizzle away into oblivion, or he’ll come up with something substantial and new and replicable, and science will be a little richer. Right now, he’s got nothing — but he’s also not trying to get his fuzzy and unvalidated ideas taught in the high schools.

    Yeah, Cromer’s website is funny: coincidences and Sheldrake. I think he ought to try and publish his ideas. I recommend Fate magazine.

  15. #15 Unstable Isotope
    January 14, 2006

    So, 20 yrs. from now will we have another trial about “Intelligent Evolution?” What makes me really sick is a dumbass like Dembski making lots of money on his stupid ideas.

  16. #16 Dick Durata
    January 14, 2006

    IE is a perfectly acceptable term for general use, but it stands for Ignorant Evolution.

  17. #17 craig
    January 14, 2006

    See, he’s not too smart – if he really wants to fly under the radar he needs to drop the “intelligent” part because that obviously means “Sky Wizard.”

    They need to rebrand it “Directed Evolution.” That’ll work.

    But if they trademark it and sell plushies I demand royalties.

  18. #18 Monado
    January 14, 2006

    Bite back! Advocate teaching the controversy about the historicity of Jesus and the probability that miracles could occur, given the laws of science.

  19. #19 Name
    January 14, 2006

    If this were YOUR bread and butter, what would YOU do?

  20. #20 pastordan
    January 14, 2006

    I don’t even argue the scientific points anymore. It’s not about science, it’s about politics and demographics.

  21. #21 Heathen Dan
    January 14, 2006

    I’d buy a Dr. Steve Steve plush toy. :D

  22. #22 Keith Douglas
    January 14, 2006

    And I thought IE was “Internet Explorer” :). If Dembski’s IE is like that it will be obquitous and horribly broken and braindead in some crucial but subtle ways. I don’t know if that’s an improvement, even by his own standards or goals.

  23. #23 craig
    January 14, 2006

    “And I thought IE was “Internet Explorer” :). If Dembski’s IE is like that it will be obquitous and horribly broken and braindead in some crucial but subtle ways. I don’t know if that’s an improvement, even by his own standards or goals.”

    Hey, you’re on to something here…
    “It’s not evolution, those are just security updates!”

  24. #24 Alon Levy
    January 15, 2006

    I certainly hope there isn’t going to be a 40-billion-dollar juggernaut behind Dembski’s IE…

    As for gender differences in cognition, they exist, but are nearly trivial in almost all instances. The only area in which they are known to have any real effect on society independent of discrimination is language evolution, which is guided by women a lot more than by men.

  25. #25 The Rev. Schmitt.
    January 15, 2006

    Dembski would be terrifyingly, perhaps unstoppably insidious if he could help himself from publicly gloating about how clever each and every bloody step he takes to push creationism into schools is.

    -The Rev. Schmitt.

  26. #26 steve s
    January 15, 2006

    obquitous?

  27. #27 Monado
    January 16, 2006

    Speaking of “teach the controversy,” Iran is planning to hold a conference in which they’ll examine the evidence for the Holocaust. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, is on record as saying it’s a myth.

    See “we’re just debating the evidence.”

  28. #28 just john
    January 16, 2006

    Ha! A couple weeks ago on the previous version of this very blog, I asked what they’d re-name ID to, next!

  29. #29 Matthew Cromer
    January 17, 2006

    That’s the difference between you and me PZ.

    You believe things because they have a lot of popular support among your chosen sociological in-groups (atheists, liberals, professional scientists). I look at the evidence for propositions and if there is a lot of congruent evidence for them I find them more likely than not to be true, always tentatively so upon the weight of new evidence.

    Your problem is that you confuse the sociology of the beliefs of scientists for the scientific method. Science is a method of inquiry, not a set of popular dogmas held by people bearing the name “scientist”. What you practice is not different in kind from the kinds of truth-seeking practiced by those you ridicule, the fundamentalist literalists.

    If you want to learn what is real, you need to learn to look at your epistemology with a critical eye.

    I like Rupert Sheldrake’s formulation: “I am skeptical of people who believe they know what is possible and what is not. This belief leads to dogmatism, and to the dismissal of ideas and evidence that do not fit in. Genuine skepticism involves an attitude of open-minded enquiry into what we do not understand, and this is the approach I try to follow.” I don’t think anyone would mistake Pharyngula for open-minded inquiry.

    Feel free to laugh at the ideas presented on my blog which contradict the dogmas you hold as true. But don’t fool yourself that you are practicing science, in the meaning of an open-minded inquiry into the nature of reality. You’re just bloviating for a set of consensus dogmas, one which has been sadly incorrect in the past and will be shown sadly incorrect in the future. (see http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2005/10/how-to-become-crackpot.html)

  30. #30 Matthew Cromer
    January 17, 2006

    sorry, last url has an appended closing paren. Here it is again:

    http://amethodnotaposition.blogspot.com/2005/10/how-to-become-crackpot.html

  31. #31 Torbjorn Larsson
    January 18, 2006

    “You believe things because they have a lot of popular support among your chosen sociological in-groups (atheists, liberals, professional scientists).”

    What is your evidence for that?

    And moving behind that, if we know that one area of inquiry has never provided a positive answer within a reasonable amount of effort, like psi, the information of support within science goes into the knowledge base for saying that it is a crackpot concept (“going against accepted science”). Otherwise it would merely be a kook concept.