Saturday, February 09, 2013

Darwin's Dead Idea and the Man Who Helped Kill It

A new book has just been published. The title is "Darwin's Dead Idea and the Man Who Helped Kill It." Here's the description on Amazon.
"Darwin’s Dead Idea and the Man Who Helped Kill It" makes for highly engaging reading. Witness the fascinating journey of a smart, inquisitive adolescent rejecting his school’s ask-no-questions religious indoctrination into a mathematician, philosopher, and scientist of the highest order, one who today is powerfully and persuasively challenging academia’s reigning answer to the questions that haunt us all: Where did we come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? A leading spokesman for the scientific theory that is shattering materialist assumptions about reality and the origin of life, Dr. William Dembski responds to probing questions from James Barham, general editor of That interview forms the core of DDI. Dembski’s forthright and humbly restrained responses reveal the courage, perseverance, and original thinking that have made him a lightning rod in the scientific community. The heated controversy surrounding intelligent design theory dramatically confirms Machiavelli’s observation that there is nothing more difficult to carry out nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. DDI introduces readers to one of the stellar lights of the new order of things now emerging on the horizon.
I'm speechless.


  1. I am speechless in that they claim to be breaking new ground, but what they are really doing is trying to revert to pre-modernism.

  2. From what is visible it seems that this is exactly the same interview published by the interviewer John Barnham on his thebestschools blog. So why should anyody buy a book when much of its content is freely available and the rest has been repeated by Dembski and his fellow idiots again and again?

    If you want even more concentrated TARD you may have a look into William Dembski's teaching material and his latest lecture.

    1. Why in the world is a theologian teaching a class about Evolutionary Biology (and intelligent design)???

    2. I'm sure many people are already aware of this, but this is part of the requirements for Dembski's course:

      "(P)rovide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 3,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade)."

      You read that that right: He gives credits for trolling.

    3. LOL, he pays per kilo-word of rubbish. Little wonder Gish Gallop has become so popular.

  3. But cmon, Dr. Dr. Dembski is "the Isaac Newton of information theory".

  4. The interview on The Best Schools blog is interesting (and removes the need to buy the "new" book). But on an absolutely critical point it says nothing. Dembski talks about his use of Specified Complexity in his Design Inference argument, says that after the original book The Design Inference in a multi-author volume he laid out his argument concerning natural selection.

    But in this interview he gives no hint of how that works. As far as I can see it uses his Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information to argue that organisms inherently cannot become substantially better adapted, natural selection or no, The validity of the LCCSI and/or of that use of it is absolutely critical.

    But it is not addressed in the interview. If it were, Dembski would have to explain whether the LCCSI has been proven (it hasn't been), or whether, even if proven, it can accomplish the goal of ruling out natural selection as a source of major adaptation (it can be shown that it can't). Crucial points, but quite absent from the interview. So on that matter, nothing new.

  5. a mathematician, philosopher, and scientist of the highest order

    How the fuck is Dembski a scientist?

    Even a low-order scientist? Dembski's never done an experiment, never suggested a testable original hypothesis, never acquired data that might be used to test a hypothesis!

    If he's a scientist, I'm the Pope. Do these assholes think they can redefine 'scientist'? Yes. Yes they do.

    Dembski’s forthright and humbly restrained responses

    I will believe God turned dirt into the human genome before I believe in a humble William Dembksi.

    reveal the courage

    Courage. Like when Dembski wrote something honest (happened once) and said that Noah's Flood was not global, and his boss threatened to fire him. And he knuckled under lickety-split and said, hey, maybe Noah's Flood was global after all!

    Yeah, courage! Like when he ran away from Dover without testifying.


    Perseverance? Like the perseverance Dembski showed when he ran away from Dover?

    Like the perseverance Dembski showed when he knuckled under to his boss' threat of firing and said, hey, maybe Noah's Flood was global after all!

    1. Diogenes, I have never published an experiment (I did do a few of them as a student), never suggested a testable original hypothesis, never acquired data that might be used to test a hypothesis. Nevertheless I think there's reason to believe that I'm a scientist.

      So maybe you went overboard there.

      Dembski trained in mathematics, in philosophy, and in theology. He has put forward some scientific arguments. Mostly they don't work, and when called to account for that, he does not seem to have responded. I'm not sure he could be said to be a scientist, but he has made some scientific arguments, which have to be dealt with. And which have been dealt with.

    2. Actually, we have an expert's report containing a thorough review of Dembski's contribution to maths and science, and concluding that whatever work he has done can only be classified as pseudomathematics and pseudoscience:

    3. I'm happy to concede that many IDiots are scientists (using the word "scientist" in this context to mean working in the fields of biology, physics etc.). They are just bad scientists. Turns out that many atheist scientists are also bad scientists.

    4. PS For me the decisive factor is the fact that Dembski has never published any serious research in scientific journals, shows contempt for the peer-review process, and doesn't respond to criticism. That places him outside the scientific community.

    5. Hold on a second, Joe.

      Aren't you the "sequence alignment" Felsenstein, the guy who's work all of us bioinformatics types cut our teeth on? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you designed important sequence alignment algorithms, right?

      If so, then is it not true that scientists use algorithms based on yours maybe a million times a day?

      So yes, you have generated vast quantities of data used in testing hypotheses.

      You, Joe, are a scientist by my definition. Debmski is not, by the same definition.

      I will concede that Behe is a scientists, and Doug Axe is, and maybe you could argue that Jonathan Wells was in grad school. Maybe you could argue some IDers are scientists.

      But not Dembski. Dembski was never a scientist, not by any reasonable definition.

      Now you say, Joe, Dembski has made scientific arguments. I've studied them as much as you have (yes I read your papers).

      All of Dembski's arguments are based on either:

      1. Redefining the scientific method ("explanatory filter")
      2. Factually false statements ("Law of Conservation of Information", the rape of information theory, etc)

      Raping Claude Shannon's information theory does not make you a scientist.

      No, making a scientific argument does not make you a scientist. If that is true then Flat Earthers and geocentrists and anti-relativity cranks and Hans "Cosmic Ice Theory" Horbiger and Imanuel Velikovsky are scientists too.

    6. Aside from the issue of whether designing methods is the same as collecting data, I am not arguing that Dembski is a scientist. I am sayng that he has put forward some scientific arguments. Bad ones, but scientific arguments.

      And by the way, the sequence alignment algorithms you are thinking of were due to people like Needleman and Wunsch, Smith and Waterman, David Sankoff, and Des Higgins. Now phylogeny algorithms, that's a different matter ...

  6. This is evidence that sometimes propaganda becomes a crime against humanity.

  7. Has anyone actually paid the $5 and bought the eBook? After reading over the interview I am puzzled as to how they made it stretch out to 74 pages. Even with big type I can't see how they could make it be more than 12 pages.

    Also in the Look Inside This Book selection, they do link to the full interview and refer to it as the "unedited interview". So the 74-page version is the edited version? Maybe they edited it to make it longer?

    I wonder if there is supplementary stuff included. Can anyone tell me whether it is there.

    Also exactly what is "Darwin's dead idea"? Natural selection? Common descent?

    It is, however, an interesting interview as an account of Dembski's background and the way he sees his work, even if does not answer any of the major criticisms of it.

  8. There is not much more than the interview which when displayed with Kindle on my laptop indeed consists of 76 pages. It is preceded by 8 pages consisting of a Cover page, table of contents (which 4 items: The participants, Foreword, The Interview, An Afterword), an additional title page, 2 pages with the introduction of James Barnham, William Dembski and the editor, Linda Montgomery Buell, and a short description of the The forward fills another 2 pages.

    The interview seems to be identical to the one published online. I only found two differences:
    At the time of the interview Dembski was expecting that the proceedings of the secret meeting of ID-creationists at Cornell University would be published by Springer. Luckily, this didn’t happen and they thus skipped Dembski’s following statement:
    ”For instance, I have a very substantial anthology coming out with a major academic publisher, but I’m not at liberty to say where until it actually comes out, because Darwinists have the disturbing habit of trying to get publication agreements for ID-friendly literature revoked.”

    The other difference is a note added by the editor regarding Dembski’s remark regarding Dover:
    “With this preamble, let me answer your questions directly: I don’t see free and open debate regarding evolution coming anytime soon—not until the Darwinists, kicking and dragging, are forced to acknowledge that there is a problem with their view. This may happen with another court case (the Dover case was a loss for ID, but it did not go to the Supreme Court; so, I could see another case reversing Dover). [Editor’s note: As the actual story behind Dover is more wider known, the case may ultimately prove to be a win for ID. That story is available at The Untold Story of the Kitzmiller Trial].”

  9. The afterword likely authored by Barnham consists of 11 pages. There is nothing stated what "Darwin's dead idea" would be. It rather contains the usual ID talk:
    Complexity, chance, C.S. Lewis and ID as a valid theory that deserves being discussed:
    “We're talking about scientific theorists whose ideas have and are gaining the respect of literally scores of credible, reasonable, highly trained and educated professionals who, though not necessarily agreeing with ID theory, believe ID theorists are raising important questions and deserve a hearing. Can we not expect mutual respect from both sides?”
    The author emphasizes junk DNA (2 pages):
    “We see the seeds of this future in the rapidly changing consensus about "junk" DNA. [...] Yet the "junk" hypothesis always had its skeptics, and biologists both within and outside the ID community have long theorized that the 98% of the human genome that appeared to be useless would in fact prove to be functional. The 2012 publication of the ENCODE Project papers revealing "a landscape that is absolutely teeming with important genetic elements - a landscape that used to be dismissed as “junk DNA"' (Scientific American, September 18, 2012), hardly come as a bombshell to those original skeptics. [...] Significantly, a year prior to the ENCODE Project papers, Jonathan Wells published The Myth of Junk DNA (Discovery Institute, 2011). […] What is particularly noteworthy here is the obvious fact that the findings of the ENCODE Project validate Wells' own research and writing, while at the same time Wells' research puts the lie to Dawkins' claims about evolution's DNA garbage dump.
    It is a remarkable fact that Ewan Birney of the European Bioinformatics Institute in Camebridge, England and coordinator of the work of the 400+ ENCODE scientists told an interviewer for Scientific American, "People always knew there was more there than protein-coding genes. It was always clear that there was regulation. What we didn't know was just quite how extensive this was" (Stephen S. Hall, "Hidden Treasures in Junk DNA, Scientific American, September 18, 2012 ). Always knew? Always clear? No wonder Birney acknowledges in the same interview, "lt's slightly depressing as you realize how ignorant you are. But that is progress." Remarkable.”

    Another two pages are reserved for the late Anthony Flew and his conversion to Christianity.
    They cannot finish off without mentioning Galileo and the inquisition, Solzhenitsyn and portraying themselves as victims:
    “Whether accepted, rejected, or ignored, the idea animating ID theory simply will not die, no matter the forces contending against it. […] Today's Inquisitors- the militant Darwinists – equally confident of the rightness of their beliefs and of their methods, continually take on their own "heretics." But the evidence less and less on their side, their materialist paradigm is in its twilight giving way to the dawn of a new (and ancient) idea, one in sync with and at home in the universe as it apparently and actually is.”

    1. If today (Feb. 10, 2013) you were to ask knowledgeable scientists (i.e. those who have actually studied the evidence on genome organization) how much of our genome is junk, I suspect that a majority would still say more than 50%. Those scientists know that the Ewan Birney and the ENCODE publicity stunt misrepresented their own data. That data did NOT show that most of our genome was functional.

    2. SPARC, thanks for the summary. Ewan Birney, Galileo, and Anthony Flew? Quite a combination. Anyway, they couldn't be bothered to use any of the filler to refute any of the arguments against Dembski, or even to explain Dembski's arguments.

    3. SPARC,

      Darwinists are "today's Inquistors"?

      I was expecting to be called a Nazi-- but no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      Do you have a page number for this quote?

      “Whether accepted, rejected, or ignored, the idea animating ID theory simply will not die, no matter the forces contending against it. […] Today's Inquisitors- the militant Darwinists – equally confident of the rightness of their beliefs and of their methods, continually take on their own "heretics." But the evidence less and less on their side, their materialist paradigm is in its twilight giving way to the dawn of a new (and ancient) idea, one in sync with and at home in the universe as it apparently and actually is.”

    4. Unfortunately not because kindle doesn't provide page numbers. The numbers I've mentioned before only count for the magnification with which I've read it.

  10. sorry for the deleted comments but I had some formatting problems

  11. So, Dembski has been reduced to working as a adjunct professor at a North Carolina Bible college and charging five bucks to read year-old blog postings.

    Some revolution!

    (Also, to close the circle, ed. Linda Buell (and Jon Buell) is with the Foundation for Freedom and Ethics who produced "Of Pandas and People," the star of the Kitzmiller trial. Creationists and turtles all the way down.)

  12. I think that Dembski's rantings are the ID equivalent of declaring victory and going home. They have no hope of making inroads in scientific circles, and so have to keep the hype alive for the general public by making such bombastic statements. The Amazon blurb talks about ID as a "new order of things". Please - they are just dusting off Paley's Watchmaker and dressing the notion up with sciency language. When you have no evidence to aid your fight, you have to resort to tactics.

  13. It's probably worth mentioning that the "Isaac Newton of Information Theory" has now admitted that he believes that the Genesis accounts of six day creation and Noah's flood are literally true. (I don't know if he's ever made his views known on the age of the earth.)

  14. This was a well put and accurate portrayal of a leader in a revolution that is the origin for this blog and many others.
    Its a real change in the order of things be strived for.
    ID/YEC has truly become the talk of the town.
    Everyone who deals in sciency subjects to the public or organized research must present their position on this revolution.
    It shows how certain subjects really were being used to say God or genesis was not true.
    They were wrong and now close attention is being applied to all the origin subjects.
    There will be winners and losers.

    We live in important intellectual times.
    A challenge has been made to a existing theory that it is wrong.
    The games have commenced.
    Let the better, probably smarter, man win.

    1. You do realize, don't you, that outside of the USA almost nobody cares about Intelligent Design Creationism?

      The vast majority of scientists have no idea what you're talking about.

    2. Having had many discussions over the years with Robert via the internet, I think I can say with confidence that no one has any idea what he is talking about. Least of all Robert himself.

    3. Larry,

      outside of the USA almost nobody cares about Intelligent Design Creationism?

      I don't think that's true. There are a lot of fundamentalists in the UK now using creationist arguments. They are less absolute separatist "culture warriors" than the fire-eaters of America's Calhounian Bible Belt, but they're fundamentalist all right.

      The YouTube commenter, Potholer54, who makes excellent, concise, hilarious videos against creationism and global warming, has opened up to me a world of British IDiots I didn't know existed.

      The founder of Flood Geology, George M. Price, was Canadian (an Adventist). Thanks for that, Canada.

      Of course Ken Ham is Australian, and Ray "banana man" Comfort is from NZ.

      In the Muslim world, creationists in general have a lot of power to suppress dissent, and they use it to threaten people. In Turkey professors can be in serious danger if they teach evolution.

    4. I said, "... outside of the USA almost nobody cares about Intelligent Design Creationism?"

      Diogenes responded, "
      I don't think that's true. There are a lot of fundamentalists in the UK ..."

      Do you see that little word "almost"? It's important. :-)

  15. YEC/ID is a reflection of Evangelical Christianity and a general Christian sceptism of subjects in science claiming to prove this or that is not true about God/religion.

    It would be this way if the past and present intellectual leadership of mankind and so science was always from the english-speaking world and especially North America.
    If evolution etc was wrong one would predict this leadership would be the slowest to originally have embraced the "idea" and the quickest to oppose it.
    Why would it be Russia?

    Anyways counting on Europe or the rest to save science from ID/YEC is a sign of the times.
    15 years , I think, will decide these things.

    1. Christian sceptism is an oxymoron.

      Science actually doesn't give a rat's patootie about your invisible friends, the voices in your head and the accompanying bronze age moral system except when religious wackjobs make factual claims.

      Then science is forced to wipe the epistemological drool from your faces, change your diapers and in general clean up your mess thus wasting valuable time and resources that would be better spent improving our understanding of reality with concomitant increase in human well being.

      But you don't care about that, do you ?