Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hah! You Are A Christian!! I Knew It! That Means You Can't Do Science!!!

William Dembski was interviewed by This was part of the 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.

No doubt the usual suspects will pick this up like Palestinians do the entrails of slain Israeli soldiers and have themselves a merry little jig with it. Of course, they'd be equally justified and civilized in doing so.

Immediately one of them pipes in in the comments:

Silly old me, I was always under the impression that ID was cold, hard science. ID had nothing to do with god. Time and time again Demski and others have denied religious motive. Oh well, guess I was wrong.

More interestingly, is the fact that the book, presents nothing more then the old ID arguments [as if the old arguments had ever been adequately answered].

PZ Myers (gasp!) says “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”

A commenter named kairosfocus then lays out a very good response:

First, before accusing us of “Creationist” tactics of attacking the man, kindly first examine the behaviour of leading philosphers and scientists on the evolutionary materialist side of the ID debates:

Exhibit 1: Ms Barbara Forrest, in her presentations and claims at Dover and in related book and speeches etc. She insistently will not even get the basic defintion of ID straight, nor can she seem to distinguish between a worldview level opinion and a scientific statement.

Exhibit 2: Mr Richard Dawkins’ notprious and insisted upon asserion that those who differ with his evolutionary materialism are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

Also, I think you need to do your homework first before coming to the site here and demanding that we drop a discussion while we bring you up to speed on the points and issues, ins and outs of the debate over ID.

I suggest that for starters you could try reading the IDEA site’s FAQs and primers.

My own introductory summary on the issue from my own information theory and stat thermo-D based take on the issue — which is always linked to my posts through my handle — may also be helpful in seeing why for instance AussieID confidently observes that the old arguments had yet to be properly addressed by PeeZed [BTW that’s how we read it over in the Caribbean, too.]

On the issue of Dr Dembski’s statement:

1] I, too, would have preferred a more cautious, hard to twist wording; given the known hostile rhetorical context.

2] But then, let us remember there are other sides the the overall issue than just science. On science, Dr Dembski is in his own right a PhD level mathematician with serious skill, experience and knowledge in areas relevant to the empirically based inference to design from complex, specified information.

3] Equally, he is a PhD level philosopher and holds an MDiv in Theology. So, on a worldviews level, comparative difficulties based assessment across live options, he has every qualification and right to stand up as an academic and state his own broader conclusions; which doubtless contribute to the fact that he is a Christian.

4] Having said all of that, this is likely to become a re-hash of the situation where Ms Forrest twisted Dr Dembski’s earlier remark on the link between the scientific programme of ID and the theology of the LOGOS in Jn 1, where “in the beginning was THE WORD.” That is, he adverted to the fact that the Christian worldview has always been that Information and Reason Himself are foundational to and informed the origin and structuring of reality as we experience it.

5] Science now empirically supports that. [cf my always linked on pervasiveness of information, on OOL, on body plan level biodiversity and on the fine-tuned organised complexity of the life facilitating cosmos we inhabit.]

6] So, a fully qualified research-level Scholar who happens to be a Christian has every right to observe based on his professional level work, that this rather risky claim made ever so long ago by one of the theological founders of the Christain faith, circa 90 - 95 AD, has been astonishingly supported by empirical scientific findings over the past 50 or so years.

7] To see the force of that, consider what evo mat advocates would be saying if it had tuned out that life did not exhibit functionally specified, fine-tuned complexity at cellular levels, or that body-plan level innovations were not based on huge injections of information [not to mention appearing characteristically suddenly in the fossil record, e.g the Cambrian revolution], or that the physics of the cosmos was not fine-tuned etc. (Ms Forrest’s stragatems read like “heads I win, tails you lose” rhetorical tactics to me!)

8] As to motivation changing [with hints of hidden agendas], I simply point out that when one does science as science, one argues to best, empirically well-warranted best explanation. Here, one knows that chance, necessity and agency all act as causal factors. So, on IBE, which factor[s] best explain[s] OOL, body plan diversity and cosmological fine tuning?

9] So soon as one imposes methodological naturalism as a cut-off to the obvious best explanation for CSI, agency, one is on question-begging philosophical grounds. The rebuttal to that is a philosophical exercise [as is addressed and further linked on in my always linked].

10] So phil is inherently a part of the issue, and so also, the worldviews which phil sets out to analyse. In that broader context, Dr Dembski is perfectly in order to state his considered, empirically anchored wordview level, theistic opinion and conclusion.

11] That is not a matter of motivation-level bait and switch tactics, but instead it is a mature reflection on the wider issues implicated in scientific research programmes — which as Lakatos reminds us, have a belt of theories and the like surrounding a worldview level core.

Yeah, whatever kairosfocus. Dembski is a Christian! So he's obviously wrong about everything!

Another good comment:

I have not yet read the book, and so how can I, or anybody else here who has not read it, answer your question?

If you want to know if I am surprised that PZ Myers did not like the book, well, I am not surprised. Guess why?

I don’t know if the book gives new arguments. Probably not, because it seems to be a summary of the presently known arguments, and of course I think that we, on this blog, should know them well. But that’s not true of everybody.

What Myers calls “the same old bluster that Wells and Dembski have been pounding their fists over for the last decade” are in reality the strict and absolutely convincing arguments of ID. They are true, strong, scientific and undeniable. They have never been really addressed by Myers and the like of him.

About Dembski’s inconsistency. I don’t think Dembski is inconsistent. If you read all his writings, including the theological ones, it is pretty clear that he has always believed that the designer is the Christian God. That’s his opinion, and he has a right to it. If he feel like expressing that opinion in an interview, I respect his right, although he could probably have made some more clear distinctions.

But Dembski is not the leader of a movement, so his opinions are just that: his opinions. His scientific work, instead, belongs to us all, and is in no way dependent on his opinions.

You cite: “ID research is carried out “without speculating about the nature of the intelligence.” That’s true. It has always been true, and will always stay true. The great lie of darwinists is that a scientific research may be disqualified by “motivations”. Scientific arguments are disqualified only by errors, not by motivations. Science is about the research for truth. If a researcher, for his own beliefs, is convinced that truth is in some way, and he investigates reality to verify if some hypothesis, compatible with his general view of reality, may explain scientific facts better than another one, that does not disqualify his work in any way, if his work is scientifically sound.

This game of accusing people because of their “motivations” is really bad. It is not only anti-scientific, but also against any principle of respect of human values. Motivation are absolutely personal, and should not be used to criticize actions. Please, Myers and co, have the courage to criticize actions and ideas for their own merit, and not for “motivations”. I will never criticize Myers if, let’s say, he reaches some great scientific acoomplishment (not likely, but possible), only because he is an atheist and probably his atheism is a strong motivation of his actions. Or some other because he accomplishes his research only for the love of money, ot to be liked by girls. If their accomplishment are scientifically good, I am not interested in their motivations.

So, Dembski has done a terrific work in science. His analysis of CSI and of design inference is of fundamental importance to contemporary thought, and not only to biology. If his christian faith has been his motivation, I am very happy of that. If he feels like declaring it, he is welcome.

ID is not a political movement. It is science. Dembski is not a leader. He is a very respected thinker. I love his scientific work, and respect his theological work, but I am interested only in the former, not in the latter.

Ah, and please, when you become aware of some “new” argument from PZ, please let me know. I have become a litlle bit tired of his old non-arguments.

And this one by StephenB:

——alext: “in Dembski’s case, he’s approaching science from an extremely assumption based point of view, and the interview pretty much hammers home the point that Dembski is approaching science with a conclusion already in mind. this is extremely important.”

Excuse me, but this is total nonsense. He did not say that the the Creator “is” the Christian God.

You have to wonder what has happened to free speech in the western world when a man cannot even make a simple declaration of faith without getting all of this flak. What exactly would you folks have him do when someone asks for a straight answer to a straight question? Is this your scenario: “Well, gosh , if I tell the truth, one of my psychotic enemies will maliciously take the quote out of context and use it to develop another conspiracy theory, so I better just either shut up or lie.” Or, how about this: “If I give an honest answer, someone will say, ‘aha, I told you ID wasn’t really science.’” Now there comes a time when all this idiocy has to stop. We really do need to transcend all this political correctness and start looking at the big picture.

Truth comes to us as a hierarchy. Theological truth illuminates philosophical truth, which in turn, illuminates scientific truth. So naturally, one would expect to find, as WAD [Dembski] does, some similarities between sound theology and sound science. Indeed, in his case, he is qualified to comment on the matter in an official capacity because he is an expert in all the relevant areas. His educated opinion (not his scientific conclusion) is that the same God who reveals himself in Scripture also revealed himself in nature. In other words—scandal of scandals—his world view hangs together.

Competing against him and his coherency, we find the very popular, media friendly scientists who posit the “schizophrenic” perspective concerning the relationship between theology and science. I won’t mention any names, but you all know who they are. Let’s call them the Christian Darwinists. They want their God and their Darwin too; but they want a quiet God and a loud Darwin. To believers they say, “Hey, I am a Christian.” leaving the convenient impression they believe in a purposeful, mindful creator. To the academy they say, “Don’t worry, I am first and foremost a Darwinist, so I really believe in a purposeless, mindless process that has no need of a creator. I you don’t believe me, just watch how I slander and smear the ID people.” Not only are these people doing a disservice to the public, they are doing bad science.

To do good science is to take a risk, to subject one’s world view to the test. Thus, the ID scientist opens up the investigation to allow for the possibility that his world view is in error—to take the intellectual gamble that those among you who are committed to agnosticism, or enthusiastic about extra-terrestrials, or attracted to immanent agencies, or settled on a Deistic God may be on to something—that you are right and that he is wrong. Thus, he is on your side because he is ready to go where the evidence leads, even if it goes in your direction. In fact, WAD has stated publicly, that he may be wrong. Have you ever heard anything like that from his ideological competitors? Neither Creation scientists nor Darwinists will provide you with that same open investigation; both have decided, in advance, what the answer is going to be. CS has decided that the Creator is the Trinitarian God—no matter what; methodological naturalism has decided that such a God, or any god for that matter, simply cannot be—no matter what.

Thus, we have a man who A) believes that the God created the universe and B) has developed a scientific method that can help illuminate the matter either way. By stating both points without apology, he is teaching the world that strong faith is no detriment to good science. He has counted the cost in advance, which is exactly what his faith asks of him. Clearly, none of the other great Christian scientists of the past allowed anyone to intimidate them. Can you imagine Sir Isaac Newton saying, “Wow, I had better back off from all this God talk, Barbara Forrest has been keeping a journal on me.” Good grief! If we don’t learn this lesson and get it settled here and now, good scientists will be walking around on egg shells for the next hundred years. Wise up folks!

The whole comment thread is pretty good.

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