Creationist Wisdom — Example 48

WE present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Intelligent design, religion unrelated, which appears in Vermont’s Burlington Free Press.

What makes this letter-to-the-editor interesting is that the letter-writer is a fan of William Dembski. According to Wikipedia:

After completing graduate school in 1996, Dembski was unable to secure a university position; from then until 1999 he received what he calls “a standard academic salary” of $40,000 a year as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). “I was one of the early beneficiaries of Discovery largess,” says Dembski. As of 2008, Dembski serves as a senior fellow at the CSC, where he plays a central role in the center’s extensive public and political campaigns advancing the concept of intelligent design and its teaching in public schools through its “Teach the Controversy” campaign as part of the institute’s wedge strategy.

Wikipedia also says:

Dembski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and David Berlinski, “tutored” Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism. Approximately one-third of the book is devoted to polemical attacks on evolution, which Coulter, as Dembski often does, terms “Darwinism.”

Now that you know something of the letter-writer’s intellectual preferences, let’s read a few excerpts from what he has to say. The letter is too long to copy in its entirely, so we’ll give you a few of the more interesting excerpts, and as usual, we’ll omit the writer’s name and city. We may apply some bold font for emphasis, and we’ll also be adding Curmudgeonly commentary in between the excerpted paragraphs. Here we go:

The author of a recent letter (“No double standard for Stein, Dawkins,” May 9) described intelligent design theory as a “religion-based ‘theory.'” While this claim is quite common among the foes of ID, it is also quite false. ID theorists draw their conclusions from biological data, not from religious precepts. ID is committed to the following propositions (as elucidated by design theorist William Dembski in “The Design Revolution”):

Right, ID isn’t religious. Instead, it follows Dembski’s “propositions, ” which the letter-writer then lists:

1. Specified complexity is a reliable indicator of design.

2. Many biological systems exhibit specified complexity.

3. Undirected, or unintelligent, material causes do not suffice to explain the origin of specified complexity in biological systems.

4. Intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for specified complexity in biological systems.

This “specified complexity” stuff certainly sounds scientific! Here’s a Wikipedia article on it, which is a good starting point for understand what Dembski is talking about. It informs us:

Dembski states that specified complexity is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent, a central tenet to intelligent design which Dembski argues for in opposition to modern evolutionary theory. The concept of specified complexity is widely regarded as mathematically unsound and has not been the basis for further independent work in information theory, complexity theory, or biology.

We’ll leave it to you to read up on Dembski’s ideas and the criticisms thereof. His work is a wonderful example of how far from the ground a hot-air balloon can go. Let’s get back to the letter:

In their efforts to flesh out those propositions and give them theoretical and evidentiary solidity, ID theorists use probability theory, recursion theory, computer science, stochastic process theory, molecular biology, biological informatics, biochemistry, microbiology, information theory, genetics, embryology, paleontology, philosophy of science and Dembski’s explanatory filter. They make no appeals at all to any religious precepts in making the case for design in biological systems.

Wow, that certainly sounds scientific! So why isn’t there anything to show for all that hot air? The letter-writer doesn’t concern himself with such details, so we’ll just leave the question hanging out there. Let’s continue:

Design theorists argue that while certain biological data support design inferences, the data do not provide an inferential trail leading to the identity of the designer. To get from ID theory to God, one must leave the science of intelligent design behind and enter the realm of theology. ID’s lack of any commitment to the Genesis account of creation is precisely why so many creationists are either lukewarm toward the theory or actually oppose it.

We haven’t seen much opposition from openly religious creationists. Despite the careful scrubbing of ID publications to remove all overt theological references, religious creationists know what ID is all about. Here’s the letter’s final paragraph:

As someone who has read some two dozen books by design theorists, I’ve learned that critics of ID tend to base their criticisms on their biased imaginations rather than on any knowledge of ID gained from the design literature. The letter writer of May 9 demonstrated their pattern of echoing and re-echoing one another’s misrepresentations of ID.

[Writer’s name and city can be seen in the original.]

M’god! This guy has read “some two dozen books by design theorists.” With all that stupendous knowledge, we wonder why he didn’t mention a single bit of evidence in favor of his “theory.” Well, actually we don’t wonder.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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3 responses to “Creationist Wisdom — Example 48

  1. From Wikipedia: “Dembski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and David Berlinski, “tutored” Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism.”

    Just after the book was published, Coulter in a radio interview (Medved’s show, I think) admitted being an “idiot” about science. Apparently the king of chutzpah tutored her on chutzpah – as if she needed to be.

  2. In case there’s any doubt, by “king of chutzpah” I meant Dembski.

  3. I figured that out.