Weird Dembski Post

Dembski has a completely substanceless post on his blog about Chris Mooney, where all he does is quote from a brief bio of Mooney prior to one of his appearances. He writes, "Yes, this is the same Chris Mooney who attacks ID and has written THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE" and proceeds to quote the following:

Chris Mooney '99 recently spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Campus Freethought Alliance (CFA). Mooney, who is copresident and a founding member of the Yale College Society for Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics, addressed the issue of discrimination against those who don't believe in God. Mooney interned with the CFA over the summer, where he helped draft the organization's "Bill of Rights for Unbelievers."

What on earth is the point of that, other than to point out that Mooney was a member of a group of humanists and atheists? This is very similar to the tactic by the Thomas More Law Center at the Dover trial to make a big deal out of the fact that Barbara Forrest was on the board of an atheist group (and the DI goes out of their way to mention that constantly as well). But what's the relevance of that, other than that their simpleminded followers think atheists are evil and therefore if you can point out that someone is an atheist, it makes their followers automatically discount anything they say?

That's the only possible reason I can think of for why he would bother pointing out only that fact in a blog post all its own. There's not a single bit of information in the post that has any bearing whatsoever on the truth or validity of anything Mooney has ever said or written. So the only possible implication is, "See, Mooney is an atheist. Now you don't have to listen to anything else he says about science. He's one of Them, an unbeliever."

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Judging by the comments there, his tactic seems to be working according to plan.

Well...yes. And given the audience, that's hardly surprising.

no no, you got it all wrong: he's not saying that atheists are "evil", he's saying that atheists are "eeeeeevvviiiil" with a stress on the pinky finger

A "Substanceless Post"? Dembski? Say it ain't so, Ed. Given his Shao Lin "scientific" chops, has there ever been a substantial post on his blog?

Perhaps he dreams of a religious test for scientific office- and of Texas, always of Texas.

I would say that Dembski is playing the religious card most likely to insulate the base from criticism. You have to remember, atheists are the really feared even among those more moderate of folk that may not take ID seriously. So, it may have some persuasive power. I think, however, that what is really happening is that the power brokers of the religious masses have done a stellar job of making their followers immune to criticism. They label the media liberal and left-wing extremists. They call judges that don't agree with them activists. They call any and all politicians that aren't out for reconstruction liberal. They label all religious moderates and not truly a "christian." And they can instantly discredit any intellectual criticism of their agenda by labeling the person an atheist. I doesn't matter if they can't address the material present by any of these because the minute they are able to pin the label on these people/institutions, their supported are able to tune out and ignore whatever was said. They don't have to defend themselves. Its something that I think we in the sciences haven't done a good job of dealing with (not that I know how to even start).

By Scott Reese (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink

I blame my inability to type coherently on the disease currently afflicting my body. Hopefully, you can still get the jist. I apologize, its all the viruses fault.

By Scott Reese (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink

Too be exceedingly fair to Dembski, people have been pointing out his religious affiliations -- such as his working at a seminary -- and comments -- such as his "logos expressed in information theory" (or however it goes) quote.

Perhaps from Dembski's point of view, pointing out that Mooney is in bed with the Atheists (hissssss) shows that Mooney is a partisan, and not just interested in the well being of Science, in the same way that Dembski's foes try to do to him.

There are reasons why there is a difference between those two things, but Dembski may not appreciate them (or finds it politically expedient to pretend not to).

Once again, Dembski demonstrates that ID is "all about the science" by bringing up the (non) belief status of a notable pro - science personality. Yup. That really gives ID some cred.

Gee, Billy, can you say "Strawman"?

By ZacharySmith (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink

Dembski spoke at a college with which I was recently affiliated...after repeated questions about why his supposedly "scientific" talk was being sponsored by campus religious organizations, he finally got exasperated and quoth: "I'm a flaming Christian...get over it."

I find it rather ironic that the same group will shriek bloody murder when an ID advocate's religious views are brought to bear on the question of their positions.

"See, Mooney is an atheist. Now you don't have to listen to anything else he says about science. He's one of Them, an unbeliever."

Exactly. What, you think that poisoning the well is a fallacy, or something?

Funny how capitalizing words like "right" and "truth" (in the comments) is supposed to give them some extra-special meaning. I guess atheists are supposed to be able to handle the "TRUTH".

If one compares the arguments offered by the DI with those offered on say the Panda's Thumb, the former is much more heavily ladened with ad hominem attacks and personal labels. That this is so is inherent in their logic and is further reflected in their hiring the PR firm that created and pushed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Yes, the rhetoric is targeted at their loyal followers but they also hope to tar biology, biologits, and those who accept evolution as somehow out of the mainstream and inherently evil. Such tactics have a long history, deriving as they do from fundamentalist theology. If one doesn't accept the word of the Bible as interpreted by the "knowledgable" then one must be evil and working in concert with the devil.

On another point, I disagree with jpf's defense of Demski in claiming that he's attacked for his religious affiliations. In his case he's the one who raised it and brought his religious affiliations into the debate over what he argues is a scientific issue. If the issue it truly scientific, then he has no business injecting the "logos of St. John" (or however his assertion goes) or his belief in god or Christ. All are irrelevant to evolution. But he can't have it both ways.

jpf wrote:

Too be exceedingly fair to Dembski, people have been pointing out his religious affiliations -- such as his working at a seminary -- and comments -- such as his "logos expressed in information theory" (or however it goes) quote.

I thought that for a second too, but let's remember that Dembski is a psuedo-scientific hack whose arguments are well known well-refuted by the scientific community. His work is highly dubious and, while it's anyone's guess why he's pursued such a vacuous idea so singlemindedly, his religious affiliation certainly seems to be a good explanation. Particularly because his religion just *coincidently* uses the same explanation for the origin of life that his grand theory does.

Basically, if his arguments had any scientific merit we wouldn't have to try to explain them by pointing to his religious affiliation. ;)

Too be exceedingly fair to Dembski, people have been pointing out his religious affiliations -- such as his working at a seminary -- and comments -- such as his "logos expressed in information theory" (or however it goes) quote.

And when Mooney says something like "Evolutionary theory is just "Religion is the opiate of the masses" restated in biological terms", then Dembski might have a point. Until then it's completely irrelevant. The reason people point out those things about Dembski is that they demonstrate that even IDers admit that ID is a religious position, when they don't think scientists are listening.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 11 Oct 2006 #permalink

I blame my inability to type coherently on the disease currently afflicting my body. Hopefully, you can still get the jist. I apologize, its all the viruses fault.
See, the Truth is that viruses are all atheists..I'm looking into if any of them have interned with CFA.

"See, Mooney is an atheist. Now you don't have to listen to anything else he says about science. He's one of Them, an unbeliever."

This is standard in pseudoscience. Psychics and alternative medicine gurus pull this one all the time, because they can't lose. On Larry King, so-called psychic Sylvia Browne responded to James Randi's relevant and pointed critiques on her ability to talk with angels and diagnose illnesses through intuition with "Mr. Randi, do you believe in God?" Sooner or later, they all seem to get around to asking this.

If the answer is "yes," then we grant upfront that the universe is magic, miracles can happen, and there are "ways of knowing" which science can't touch, so why draw the line here? The audience knows we have conceded to the ground of competing theologies.

If the answer is "no," then it's "now we don't have to listen to anything you say about science, since you don't know where to draw the line between reason and religion." The audience has been alienated. It's not just that atheists are seen as evil or "'eeeeeevvviiiil' with a stress on the pinky finger" (great phrase, matthew.) We're extremists with an agenda and no sense of proportion.

Too be exceedingly fair to Dembski, people have been pointing out his religious affiliations -- such as his working at a seminary -- and comments -- such as his "logos expressed in information theory" (or however it goes) quote.

"If my religious viewpoint biases my attitude toward science, therefore everyone else with a religious viewpoint must be equally biased with regards to science also"? Well, I'm not sure which logical fallacy that is exactly, but I guess at least it's probably not well poisoning.

Coin, I'd guess that's a "Tu Quoque" Fallacy -- "Oh yeah, but what about YOU?"

A more sophisticated variation is the respected "I know you are but what am I?"

"If my religious viewpoint biases my attitude toward science, therefore everyone else with a religious viewpoint must be equally biased with regards to science also"? Well, I'm not sure which logical fallacy that is exactly, but I guess at least it's probably not well poisoning.

Whatever it's called (I propose "gutter dragging" if it isn't yet named), it's a common tactic among IDists/creationists (and other cranks). If you don't have anything of substance with which to support your claims, level the playing field by attacking the very epistemological foundations of the entire discussion. Hence wanting to allow supernatural events into science, or in this case, implying that arguments built on facts and logic don't matter, only political alignment does.

Ed's befuddled at what the point of Dembski's post was other than to get his followers to hate Mooney because he's an evil Atheist. But it's more than that. Dembski's trying to turn the discussion from one of science -- where he's got nothin' -- to one of politics -- where Mooney is just another partisan aligned with the Darwinian Liberatheist Party. This mode is advantageous to people like Dembski who are purely political animals, entirely comfortable dealing in relativism, and who are preaching to a choir that never really liked science that much anyway.

That Dembski has been the target of "look at all his Christian connections" attacks in the past only makes it easier for him to do this since it gives him the cover of "hey, they started it." The (not so) subtle differences between the two cases will get lost in a political battle.

You'll be seeing more of this now that their "no, we really are Scientifical" plan failed in Dover.

Coin wrote:

"If my religious viewpoint biases my attitude toward science, therefore everyone else with a religious viewpoint must be equally biased with regards to science also"? Well, I'm not sure which logical fallacy that is exactly, but I guess at least it's probably not well poisoning.

This is totally unnecessary but I'm gonna do it anyway...

In syllogistic logic, an error of this type would be a result of having a universal conclusion from particular premises.

Eg:

My religious views bias my attitude about science.
Some other people have religious views.
Therefore all other people's religious views bias their attitudes toward science.

It's like saying all fish are salmon. Other than that I'd just call it a non-sequitor.

I think it's only tu quoque only if he's defending his own position because of what Mooney does.

But anyway- since no one really knows what (if anything) lurks in the dark recesses of Dembski's mind, it seems likely that we'll never be able to put a name on it.

Speaking of weird Dembski posts, what's up with
this one ? The poster is complaining about the "rift" between ID and young-earth creationism. Maybe I missed it, but I thought they were sticking to the story that ID is a scientific theory with no relationship to creationism ...

In syllogistic logic, an error of this type would be a result of having a universal conclusion from particular premises.

That sounds good to me.

From what I understand, Mooney himself is not a scientist and does not have a science background from University. But to his credit, he does seem to understand science and the scientific method(s) quite well. I suppose that, if Dembski and his associates were to actually present evidence to support their ID claims, Mooney might sit up and listen. (I certainly would.) But since Dembski and his associates have not presented any evidence to support their ID claims, it seems quite reasonable for Mooney (and me) to ignore them, whatever Mooney's (or my) religious beliefs.