Pharyngula

Billy Dembski, pious and deluded

There goes Bill Dembski again, revealing both his religious delusions and his ignorance of the state of modern biology in an interview.

4. Does your research conclude that God is the Intelligent Designer?

I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

The focus of my writings is not to try to understand the Christian doctrine of creation; it’s to try to develop intelligent design as a scientific program.

There’s a big question within the intelligent design community: “How did the design get in there?” We’re very early in this game in terms of understanding the history of how the design got implemented. I think a lot of this is because evolutionary theory has so misled us that we have to rethink things from the ground up. That’s where we are. There are lots and lots of questions that are now open to re-examination in light of this new paradigm.

Keep that quote in mind for the future, next time they try to claim ID isn’t a sectarian religious belief. Also note that the the “design” he is wondering how it “got in there” hasn’t been demonstrated at all.

It isn’t a Dembski interview without an inflated ego on display:

5. How will your research affect the world of science?

It’s going to change the national conversation. I don’t see how you can read this book, if you’ve not been indoctrinated with Darwin’s theory, and go back to the evolutionary fold. The case against this materialistic, undirected evolution is overwhelming. This really goes to the worldview issues that are underlying this whole discussion: Are we the result of a blind, purposeless, material process, and is our intelligence then just this evolutionary byproduct of our need to survive and reproduce? Or are intelligence and purpose fundamental to our existence? Were we planned? Or are we an accidental happening? That’s really what is underlying this whole debate, and what this book, I think, addresses very effectively.

Intelligent design goes a long way in this culture, which is so infused with materialistic and atheistic ideology.

I’ve got the book he’s talking about, and I’m partway through it. It ain’t convincing. It’s the same old bluster that Wells and Dembski have been pounding their fists over for the last decade; there’s absolutely nothing new in it, just more rehashed chest-thumping from failed religious revolutionaries; I predict it will die a rapid death, simply because the IDers haven’t been able to come up with anything we haven’t already heard multiple times, and that has failed every time to convince anyone in the biology community with a scrap of sense.

Comments

  1. #1 MAJeff
    December 14, 2007

    I worked retail for a number of years, and it did not do my faith in “the people” any good at all.

    Having worked in retail, phone customer service, and hospitality, I concur wholeheartedly.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    5. How will your research affect the world of science?

    It’s going to change the national conversation.

    So “the world of science” is limited to “the national conversation”…?

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    5. How will your research affect the world of science?

    It’s going to change the national conversation.

    So “the world of science” is limited to “the national conversation”…?

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    (Yesss! I can has l33t HTML sgillz!!1 Thanks again, woozy.)

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 14, 2007

    (Yesss! I can has l33t HTML sgillz!!1 Thanks again, woozy.)

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?
    December 15, 2007

    That’s why I tend to agree with, um, whoever said it, that ID is (in this sense) more about bad science than religion. Of course, it’s *motivated* by religion, but that’s only relevant (given the badness of the science) in legal cases (purpose prong and all that).

    Yes, but ID often makes the step out of science. On the “Wells lies. Again.” thread a few months ago, I pointed out to the cdesign proponentsist that the existence of Stupid Design falsified ID. Not so, said he: we can’t simply say it’s stupid — after all, we don’t know what the Designer may have been thinking. So I pointed out that the Designer was ineffable, and asked the cdesign proponentsist if he felt comfortable outside of science. No answer.

    Which is, as mentioned, not surprising, given the Wedge Document.

    Why the human body is so very much just another mammalian body: Same eyes, same immune system, same blood-clotting system.

    Behe or Dembski or both accept common descent. They simply make an argument from personal incredulity that mutation and selection alone cannot have produced today’s biodiversity.

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?
    December 15, 2007

    That’s why I tend to agree with, um, whoever said it, that ID is (in this sense) more about bad science than religion. Of course, it’s *motivated* by religion, but that’s only relevant (given the badness of the science) in legal cases (purpose prong and all that).

    Yes, but ID often makes the step out of science. On the “Wells lies. Again.” thread a few months ago, I pointed out to the cdesign proponentsist that the existence of Stupid Design falsified ID. Not so, said he: we can’t simply say it’s stupid — after all, we don’t know what the Designer may have been thinking. So I pointed out that the Designer was ineffable, and asked the cdesign proponentsist if he felt comfortable outside of science. No answer.

    Which is, as mentioned, not surprising, given the Wedge Document.

    Why the human body is so very much just another mammalian body: Same eyes, same immune system, same blood-clotting system.

    Behe or Dembski or both accept common descent. They simply make an argument from personal incredulity that mutation and selection alone cannot have produced today’s biodiversity.

  8. #8 ERV
    December 15, 2007

    David Marjanovi?– Dembski believes humans were specially created. Behe is the one DI fellow that accepts common descent.

  9. #9 Davis
    December 15, 2007

    I’m quite comfortable with the idea that we are the result of a blind, purposeless, material process. In fact, it’s far more interesting, wondrous even, than the child-like belief in some gigantic intelligence somehow making it happen. Dawkins’s Unweaving the Rainbow explains it well.

  10. #10 Sastra, OM
    December 15, 2007

    There’s a big question within the intelligent design community: “How did the design get in there?” We’re very early in this game in terms of understanding the history of how the design got implemented. I think a lot of this is because evolutionary theory has so misled us that we have to rethink things from the ground up.

    No, they are not “rethinking things from the ground up.” Building from the ground up requires cranes. They are bringing in skyhooks from above.

    ” Let us understand that a skyhook is a ‘mind-first’ force or power or process, an exception to the principle that all design, and apparent design, is ultimately the result of mindless, motiveless mechanicity. A crane, in contrast, is a subprocess or feature of a design process that can be demonstrated to permit the local speeding up of the basic, slow process of natural selection, and that can be demonstrated to be itself the predictable (or retrospectively explicable) product of the basic process.” (Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea pg. 76)

    So, if Dembski wants to answer “how did the design get in there?” using ID he’s going to have to use a skyhook — “a mind first force or power or process.” He can select from

    Psychokensis; ESP; chi energy; Vitalism; magic; the Power of the Spoken Word to Create What is Spoken; spontaneous generation; creation ex nihilio; mind force; The Secret; the Universe as a Creative Consciousness; and fairy dust.

    Ooh, I can’t wait to see what mechanism they choose to test first, to see how the design got in things!

  11. #11 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 15, 2007

    Dembski believes humans were specially created. Behe is the one DI fellow that accepts common descent.

    Ah, thanks.

    the all-powerful Biblical God?

    Be careful which part of the Bible you pick. For example, don’t pick Judges 1:19:

    “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

    Omnipotence is a pretty new concept.

  12. #12 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 15, 2007

    Dembski believes humans were specially created. Behe is the one DI fellow that accepts common descent.

    Ah, thanks.

    the all-powerful Biblical God?

    Be careful which part of the Bible you pick. For example, don’t pick Judges 1:19:

    “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

    Omnipotence is a pretty new concept.

  13. #13 Jim
    February 13, 2008

    Dembski: “The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.”

    PCS: “Am I missing something here? How exactly does he know the designer, if there is such a thing, is the ‘Christian God’? Couldn’t it just as easily be Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or even the Supreme Squid?”

    Seting aside the silliness about “Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even the Supreme Squid,” the thing you’re missing is that there is no empirical or inferential trail leading from the detection of design in the biosphere to the identity of the designer. Dembski believes that the designer implicated by ID theory is “the Christian God” (which is hardly surprising, given that he’s a Christian), but he doesn’t suppose that a design-theoretic approach to life’s evolution can prove such a thing. Like all theistic design theorists, Dembski sees the connection between biological design and God as a connection grounded in theology, not science. Design theorists routinely say (in so many words) that those who are looking for scientific proof of God won’t find it in ID theory. Even the book “Pandas” (which figured prominently in the Dover trial) openly admits that science is incompetent to investigate the supernatural. Like most ID critics, you’re confusing the theistic implications of design theory with the theory itself (which is utterly silent on the God question). If one applied a parallel manner of thinking to Darwinism, he’d have to say that “the mechanism of evolution is, ultimately, atheistic materialism.” While it’s arguably true (as Richard Dawkins famously said) that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,” that fulfillment comes from the anti-theistic (or atheistic) implications of Darwinian theory, not from the theory itself. Like ID theory, Darwinism is utterly silent on the God question.

    Now, is there anyone here who has an argument against ID that amounts to something more substantive than a sneer?

  14. #14 386sx
    February 14, 2008

    Seting aside the silliness about “Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or even the Supreme Squid,”

    Nothing silly about it. It could just as easily be all or any of those gods as it could be the Christian god. That was the point he was making in case you missed that one. Maybe it was both Zeus and the Christian god. Who knows.

    Dembski believes that the designer implicated by ID theory is “the Christian God” (which is hardly surprising, given that he’s a Christian)

    Yes it is surprising, because he doesn’t even know if there is a Christian god or not. Even if there were a Christian god, Dembski would have no idea about what it does or doesn’t do.

    Now, is there anyone here who has an argument against ID that amounts to something more substantive than a sneer?

    I dunno. Go read The Panda’s Thumb or something. Maybe you missed some of the articles there. Happy holidays.

    Even the book “Pandas” (which figured prominently in the Dover trial) openly admits that science is incompetent to investigate the supernatural.

    To the contrary. It’s not that science is incompetent, it’s that the supernatural is incompetent. I would be quite skeptical about anything that the book “Pandas” “openly admits.” Have a nice day.

  15. #15 Rey Fox
    February 14, 2008

    “the thing you’re missing is that there is no empirical or inferential trail leading from the detection of design in the biosphere to the identity of the designer.”

    So it’s basically a worthless dead-end of a hypothesis. Nice.

    “Even the book “Pandas” (which figured prominently in the Dover trial) openly admits that science is incompetent to investigate the supernatural.”

    Yep, we gotta start reading the tea leaves if we want to learn any more!

    “Now, is there anyone here who has an argument against ID that amounts to something more substantive than a sneer?”

    Maybe once ID brings anything substantive to the table then I’ll muster up something more substantive in response, but right now I think a sneer is adequate.

  16. #16 Kseniya
    February 14, 2008

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Is Jim trying to restart that umpty-hundred-post thread from last fall, in which he calls the wedge document “unfortunate” and proves himself to be intellectually impermeable?

    Apparently… Yes.

  17. #17 Owlmirror
    February 14, 2008

    Now, is there anyone here who has an argument against ID that amounts to something more substantive than a sneer?

    Hey, all you have against Zeus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a sneer. Got anything more substantive?

    Actually, the most substantive argument against ID, besides the whole issue of the design of the designer, is this:

    There’s no metric to distinguished “designed” from “non-designed” life. None. You’ve got nothing but a vague hunch that maybe some organisms or components of organisms are “too complicated” to have evolved — but you can’t provide an actual theoretical method to distinguish and define them.

    And “specified complexity” won’t wash, because no-one can even define what that phrase means (other than as a 40 dollar synonym for “really too complicated”).

    There’s nothing there, and never was, and, I’m willing to bet, never can be — because the ultimate effort is to prove the unprovable; to show the supernatural as natural. That’s a blatant and fundamental contradiction in terms.

  18. #18 Owlmirror
    February 14, 2008

    Is Jim trying to restart that umpty-hundred-post thread from last fall,

    Assuming it’s the same Jim — well, remember the Zamboni of time.

  19. #19 Jim
    February 14, 2008

    386sx: “Nothing silly about it. It could just as easily be all or any of those gods as it could be the Christian god.”

    Lots of mature adults take the Christian God seriously, but I dare say that no mature adult takes the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Supreme Squid seriously. If you want to argue (as you apparently do) that design in the biosphere could just as easily be the handiwork of the Supreme Squid as it is the handiwork of the Christian God, you shouldn’t be surprised if most people think you’re being silly.

    Me: “Dembski believes that the designer implicated by ID theory is ‘the Christian God’ (which is hardly surprising, given that he’s a Christian)…”

    386sx: “Yes it is surprising, because he doesn’t even know if there is a Christian god or not.”

    It shouldn’t be necessary (but apparently it is) for me to point out that believing and knowing are not the same thing.

    386sx: “Even if there were a Christian god, Dembski would have no idea about what it does or doesn’t do….It’s not that science is incompetent, it’s that the supernatural is incompetent.”

    Interesting. You claim that Dembski has no idea what God can or can’t do, but you do.

    386sx: “I would be quite skeptical about anything that the book ‘Pandas’ ‘openly admits.'”

    Have you read it? Or have you allowed others to read it and do your thinking for you? In any event, why would you be skeptical of the claim that science is incompetent to investigate the supernatural?

  20. #20 Jim
    February 14, 2008

    Me: “…the thing you’re missing is that there is no empirical or inferential trail leading from the detection of design in the biosphere to the identity of the designer.”

    Rey: “So it’s basically a worthless dead-end of a hypothesis. Nice.”

    By the standard of scientific worth you set here, Big Bang theory is worthless. Why? Because astronomers can’t identify the cause of the Big Bang. Indeed, by your standard of scientific worth, all of science is worthless. Why? Because scientists can’t identify the cause(s) of physical laws.

    Rey: “Maybe once ID brings anything substantive to the table then I’ll muster up something more substantive in response, but right now I think a sneer is adequate.”

    I’m going to speculate on the books by design theorists that you’ve read. Let me know if I’ve got it wrong. Here’s the list:

    1. None.

    If you’ve not bothered to inform yourself on ID by reading the works of its theorists, how can you know that ID brings nothing substantive to the table? (Note: You won’t acquire a familiarity with ID by reading the persistent misrepresentations of it that are so characteristic of blogs like Pharyngula.)

  21. #21 Jim
    February 14, 2008

    Owlmirror: “There’s no metric to distinguished ‘designed’ from ‘non-designed’ life. None. You’ve got nothing but a vague hunch that maybe some organisms or components of organisms are ‘too complicated’ to have evolved — but you can’t provide an actual theoretical method to distinguish and define them.”

    To characterize ID theory as “nothing but a vague hunch that maybe some organisms or components of organisms are ‘too complicated’ to have evolved” is the kind of persistent misrepresentation of design theory I mentioned above. This is the kind of thing written by poorly informed ID critics who echo and re-echo the misrepresentations of ID made by other poorly informed (or dishonest) critics. The whole purpose of ID is to develop the theoretical, logical, evidentiary, and mathematical tools needed to detect actual design in the biosphere. How successful ID will be remains to be seen, but it’s been my experience that few critics of ID deal with design theory as it is, rather they deal with the straw men they make of it. Having no interest in arguing against straw men, I’m going to bow out, with complete confidence that Pharyngula will continue to serve the browsing public by putting the sadly dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology on display.

  22. #22 Owlmirror
    February 14, 2008

    To characterize ID theory as “nothing but a vague hunch that maybe some organisms or components of organisms are ‘too complicated’ to have evolved” is the kind of persistent misrepresentation of design theory I mentioned above.

    Absolutely false. If there was anything other than a hunch, then Kitzmiller vs. Dover would not have been decided the way it was. The ID team had every opportunity to present anything resembling their so-called “theoretical, logical, evidentiary, and mathematical tools needed to detect actual design in the biosphere” to a religious Republican judge — and failed resoundingly.

    Having no interest in arguing against straw men, I’m going to bow out,

    Buh-bye. Just as a suggestion, you might try picking up a genuine book on modern biology.

    with complete confidence that Pharyngula will continue to serve the browsing public by putting the sadly dogmatic condition of mainstream evolutionary biology on display.

    Mainstream evolutionary biology has the evidence, therefore it wins.

  23. #23 MartinM
    February 14, 2008

    To characterize ID theory as “nothing but a vague hunch that maybe some organisms or components of organisms are ‘too complicated’ to have evolved” is the kind of persistent misrepresentation of design theory I mentioned above. This is the kind of thing written by poorly informed ID critics who echo and re-echo the misrepresentations of ID made by other poorly informed (or dishonest) critics. The whole purpose of ID is to develop the theoretical, logical, evidentiary, and mathematical tools needed to detect actual design in the biosphere. How successful ID will be remains to be seen, but it’s been my experience that few critics of ID deal with design theory as it is, rather they deal with the straw men they make of it.

    Right. So there’s a coherent body of ID work worth engaging with…but you’re not going to tell us what it is. And you have the gall to accuse us of promulgating dogma.

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