Friday, May 2, 2008

Dembski's Predictions on the Impact of Expelled (starring God!)

On the day Expelled premiered, William Dembski wrote an article for The Baptist Press, which aside from the amusing predictions (inaccurate as always), also revealed once again how Intelligent Design is all about the religion, not the science. He isn't even subtle:

"Who likes it? People who think God may have had something to do with our being here and therefore find it reasonable that God may have left tangible evidence of His involvement in creation. Who hates it? A science, education and media elite who prefer that God had nothing to do with it and think that nature must do all its own creating."

Wow. For someone promoting a theory wherein we are not supposed to inquire into the nature of the designer, Dembski sure doesn't have any problem doing so. It's not some mysterious intelligence, or aliens. It's the Christian God, as we all knew all along.

I guess it should not surprise us too much that people who are so anti-science would have such a hard time understanding how the internet works. They seem to think they can say "science, science, science" to scientists and the press, but "God, God, God" to the faithful and no one will notice. Dembski's pat response to this criticism is to claim he is wearing his "theology hat" when he says things like "Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory". And were Dembski talking politics or theology, he could get away with this. But in science, that just isn't the way things work. You don't get to change your position depending on your audience in science. Your theory either says the designer is the Christian God, or it doesn't.

Worse yet, his statement is inaccurate on its own terms. People like Father Coyne, Francis Collins, and Ken Miller have no problem with God The Creator, and they have a lot of company. But like all cranks, the Expelled crew had to cherry pick the featured interviewees in the film to make it appear that the battle is between atheists and Christians, when it is really just a minority of Christians vs everyone else. Thus Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers were in, and the group above was out. As one of the Expelled crew noted, having the Millers, Coyne's and Collins' of the world in there would have "confused" the message of the film.

There is the anti-science attitude of the IDers laid bare. Where a scientist sees contrary evidence requiring revision of his hypothesis, the IDer sees something that needs to be censored so as to not confuse the hypothesis. As if that wasn't bad enough, Dembski puts the nail in the ID-is-science coffin with this humdinger:

"Who's right? That's the wrong question."

The Hell it is Billy boy. That's a religious statement, not a scientific one. In science, who (or more accurately, "what") is right is ALWAYS the question. The fact that scientific theories undergo periodic revision only slightly alters the question to "who is rightest?" One does not get to go all postmodern simply because science does not yield perfect information as if from on high.

Dembski then dives headlong into the favorite red herring from IDers, conflating evolution and abiogenesis. But even then Dembski's lack of understanding of how science works betrays him:

"Take some organic chemicals, slow cook them, give enough time, and out pops life? This isn't a scientific theory. This is an article of speculative faith."

Nooooo, it is a speculative hypothesis based on the best available evidence, and one that will be discarded the minute a hypothesis with solid evidence comes along. Faith doesn't enter into it. But to Dembski's unscientific mind, one either has absolute truth, or anything goes. And here, of course, "anything" is ID, which by Dembski's bizarro reasoning somehow isn't practicing speculative faith when it asserts that the designer is Yahweh.

So really, in the end, as always, ID boils down to "I can't see how abiogenesis occurred, therefore God", which is what dooms Expelled. Creationism's cheap tux is wearing thin. But don't try to tell Dembski that. Like the doomsayers of old, no matter how many times his predictions of the collapse of the scientific world fail to transpire, he is undeterred in his zealotry:

"Expelled's impact will be felt immediately. But its long-term impact will be even greater...The day Darwinism and Intelligent Design can be fairly discussed without fear of reprisal represents the removal of a barrier even greater than the Berlin Wall. When future intellectual historians describe the key events that led to the fall of "Darwin's Wall," Ben Stein's Expelled will top the list.

Oh yeah? I've got a bottle of single malt scotch that says when intellectual historians look back on the significant events of 2008, and you mention "Expelled" to them, their response will be: "What?".


alex said...

"Wow. For someone promoting a theory wherein we are not supposed to inquire into the nature of the designer, Dembski sure doesn't have any problem doing so. It's not some mysterious intelligence, or aliens. It's the Christian God, as we all knew all along."

I'm sorry, but I scoured the article you linked to, and not only did I not see any hint as to a proposal of a "Christian" God, but Dembski didn't even inquire into the nature of the designer.

Did you review the wrong article or something?

ScienceAvenger said...

I was about to ask you the same thing. Dembski's discussion has "God" all over it, and he's made it clear in the past that the god he has in mind is the Christian God. This isn't exactly news, but I like bringing to light just how must theology there is to his view of evolution.

alex said...

"he's made it clear in the past"

Ahhh, in the /past/. I didn't catch that from your post.