May 9, 2005

Dembski's progressively tenuous grip on reality

At his Design Inference website William Dembski has posted a piece called TOC, Foreward, and Preface to Johnson Festschrifth. It contains a co-written preface to a new book celebrating Phil Johnson's "contributions" to the ID debate. Dembski's transition to the dark side is nearly complete.

A few tidbits,
"That spring, David Hull, one of the premier philosophers of biology, gave a seminar that I attended. One day, during the seminar, he mentioned Darwin on Trial and remarked that an editor at Nature had contacted him about writing a negative review of that book. [Darwin on Trial] Hull, a convinced Darwinist, was only too happy to oblige, duly delivering the requested hatchet job. Hull told the story with pride, as though he had done a good deed. To this day, I find Darwinian naturalists exhibiting this same means-justifies-the-ends mentality where just about any otherwise morally despicable action is deemed permissible so long as it stops those evil design theorists from undercutting Darwinism."
Dembski grows more and more incapable of exercising the restraint required to filter out his whining and sarcasm. He is apparently unable to describe events without the paranoid spin, and now, like most other ID scribes, thinks the whining and the spin constitutes an actual point. Consider the above. How likely is it that the Nature editor was unaware of Hull's position on Johnson's book. Would they have needed to ask Hull to write a "negative" review? Perhaps Dembski used that qualifier for the persecution value? He describes Hull as a "convinced Darwinist." Looking past the usual attempt to tar an "evolutionist" with that somewhat nebulous epithet, wouldn't Hull, as such, be expected to write a negative review? Wouldn't Hull's action be "morally despicable" if he wrote a favorable review, thus hoping to achieve some particular end, regardless of the dishonest means?

Additionally, wouldn't any scientist or philosopher, recognizing the threat to science and education posed by PJ's ignorance, believe that he had "done a good deed" by exposing this? Dembski continues his descent into the pit of self-reference that renders him and many like him incapable of perceiving the issues from the perspective of the other side. He is no longer interested in being right, just righteous, and sees all of his flaws in his opponents. This kind of deluded projection is all too typical of the over-the-top persecuted Christian mentality ("you discriminate against me by not letting me force my religion upon you").
"As a consequence, there are no secret handshakes or initiation rites needed to join Phil's club. The ID movement is a big tent and all are welcome. Even agnostics and atheists are not in principle excluded provided they can adopt this open attitude of mind. In practice, however, agnostics and atheists have their minds made up. Agnostics know that nothing is knowable about a transcendent reality. And atheists know that no transcendent reality exists, so again nothing is knowable about it. Accordingly, agnostics and atheists tend not to join the ID movement. Johnson is a radical skeptic, insisting, in the best Socratic tradition, that everything be put on the table for examination. By contrast, most skeptics opposed to him are selective skeptics, applying their skepticism to the things they dislike (notably religion) and refusing to apply their skepticism to the things they do like (notably Darwinism). On two occasions I've urged Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, to put me on its editorial board as the resident skeptic of Darwinism. Though Shermer and I know each other and are quite friendly, he never got back to me about joining his editorial board."
What kind of impenetrable resistance to rationality must it take to be unable to see the problem here? Even accepting for the moment the validity of a concept such as a "resident skeptic of Darwinism" what logic would lead one to conclude that an incredibly outspoken non-biologist theologian with a huge axe to grind would be a good candidate for that position? I like my "resident skeptics" to have an ability to at least feign objectivity, as well as a smattering of understanding of that which they propose to evaluate (the scene: Michael Shermer initially reacts with uncontrollable laughter, then, upon seeing Dembski's expression, gathers himself and says, "oh, were, um, you were serious?").

And coming from the guy who described ID as a "ground-clearing operation for Christianity" all of that disingenuous nonsense about "open attitudes" and "atheists are not in principle excluded" and Johnson putting everything "on the table for examination" is nothing short of hilarious.
"The trouble with Darwinian naturalism is that it turns nature into an idol, making brute material forces rather than the all-wise God into the source of creativity in nature. Moreover, it tries to justify this idolatry in the name of science. To the Darwinian naturalist, Johnson the prophet says, "Your idol cannot support itself because it is founded on a false philosophy and a biased construal of scientific evidence." Moreover, to the theistic evolutionist, Johnson the prophet says, "You have avoided turning nature into an idol, but at the cost of requiring God to act hiddenly in nature; yet what if nature reeks of design and our best scientific understanding confirms this, demonstrating that design is manifest in nature?" Like Francis Schaeffer a generation before him, Phillip Johnson has put his finger on the key place where our generation has forgotten God. For this generation, it is the place of our origin. To a generation that regards God as increasingly distant, with nature as all there is and humans as mere appendages of nature, Johnson the prophet points us to the true God, the one in whose image we are made and to whom we must ultimately render account."
  • Radical Darwinist theists worship nature over the one true all-wise God
  • The Darwinist idol (nature) is founded on false prophesy and biased understanding of evidence
  • The foolish theistic evolutionist, in accepting scientific evidence ("biased construal") demeans God
  • It is possible, despite two hundred years of science pointing toward natural processes, that our "best scientific understanding" confirms "intelligent design"
Is he kidding? Dembski obviously doesn't even consider a brief, if insincere, nod to serious-minded discourse important anymore. This is all about winning the political battle for his version of truth.

Is there anyone left out there who still believes ID is not entirely about religion?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One day, during the seminar, he mentioned Darwin on Trial and remarked that an editor at Nature had contacted him about writing a negative review of that book...."

What I find interesting about Dembski's view of events is that if it were reversed, it would be justified and lauded by Dembski. In other words, if we were talking about popular pro-evolution book, and an IDist had the opportunity to write a negative review of it, Dembski would probably describe it as an "intelligent critique of the obvious problems in evolution", "an important expose of Darwinian blindness", it would be heralded as an important sign of IDs growing strength, and an indicator that more and more scientists are taking ID seriously.

6:30 PM  

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