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Author Topic:   Questions for William Dembski
taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4032 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 1 of 31 (420771)
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


Hello everybody!

After a zoology class last week, I saw a poster on the wall advertising a lecture given by William Dembski at my university in a week. The lecture includes a Q&A session towards the end, and I'd like to participate. I'm not terribly familiar with Dr. Dembski's work - I've never read any of his books or essays - but I do know he's a mathematician, theologian, and major proponent of intelligent design.

I don't want to be a smartass to him or anything stupid - I know he's a very intelligent man who probably knows more than I ever will. But I don't want to kiss his ass, either - I want a tough question. For instance, I've heard that there has never been a peer-reviewed, scientific paper describing intelligent design. And I don't understand if IDists are advocating supernaturalism in science or not - I assumed that science was wholly naturalistic. Maybe this will be an opportunity to learn something about intelligent design from one of it's most formidable advocates.

So what do you think I should ask? Anyone out there who's more familiar with his work and wants to ask him something? Thanks for any input!


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AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 31 (420788)
09-09-2007 3:23 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Taz
Member (Idle past 1400 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 3 of 31 (420790)
09-09-2007 3:28 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


The Dream World of William Dembski's Creationism by Mark Perakh

Here is what it's about. Read the rest at the link.

quote:
The inordinately well-financed Center for Science and Culture of the Discovery Institute of Seattle is the home of the new anti-evolution gang. They fight for modifying the school curricula by inserting creationism as an alternative to evolution, or for what they euphemistically call "teaching the controversy," yet shrug off the label of creationism, calling themselves instead Intelligent Design (ID) theorists.

Repeated defeats of creationists by the US legal system has forced them to regroup and look for new strategies. ID advocates sport scientific degrees from good universities and often display substantial erudition and seeming sophistication much exceeding that of earlier creationists. Since ID purports to be a scientific enterprise, they need flag bearers with seemingly impressive scientific credentials, if not actual scientific achievements. Foremost among IDers is William A. Dembski, with a long list of degrees including a Ph.D. in mathematics, a Ph.D. in philosophy, and a Master's degree in theology. [1]

Dembski's many degrees and scores of published books and papers cannot conceal, however, that he has never conducted real scientific research. Moreover, Dembski's literary production contains no real mathematics but instead a lot of philosophizing, often saturated with unnecessary mathematical symbolism. As his extensive literary production is critiqued by experts, Dembski, without admitting errors, often surreptitiously shifts his position. These tactics may be handy if winning the battle regardless of means is the only goal, but they also lead to the inconsistency that has become Dembski's trademark.

In this article I shall concentrate on the most salient features of Dembski's prolific literary output, almost all of which turns out to be poorly substantiated, contradictory, and often self-aggrandizing.


In short, I'd just like to say that I'm no geologist and does not pretend to know the first thing about geology. We leave the surgeries to real surgeons. Why not leave the science to the scientists? A theologian should not have a say in science and vice versa.

Edited by Tazmanius Devilus, : No reason given.


Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6531
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003


Message 4 of 31 (420797)
09-09-2007 3:39 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


Personally, I would like to know whether any method for identifying ID has been tested on objects or systems that are already known to have been intelligently designed or produced without intelligent intervention, and of complexity similar to the biological systems that are under discussion. If so, what is the false-positive rate?


I could tell you what I've read about evolution, the big-bang, super-universes, quantum foam, and all that stuff. Eventually you'd ask a question I can't answer, then I'd have to go look it up. Even If I had the time for that shit, in the end you'd ask a question science hasn't answered yet. So let's save time and skip ahead to "I don't know." -- jhuger
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jar
Member
Posts: 30935
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004


Message 5 of 31 (420798)
09-09-2007 3:45 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


Why do we see example of piss poor design?
I would ask why we see examples of piss poor design. Why is there no padding on shins and funny bones, why are almost all attempts at reproduction failures, why has almost every life form that ever existed gone extinct.

Usually the answer is that we cannot know the Intent of the Designer. If that is the case, then the whole Concept of a Designer is worthless since we cannot predict the "Intent" of the Designer.

If he then pulls his usual Gish Gallop and tries to talk about prediction and Evolution, remind him the issue is not the TOE but rather supporting ID. Even if TOE fails at prediction, that tells us nothing about his imaginary designer.

But remember that the man is GOOD at what he does, he is experienced at deflecting reason and misdirecting the audiences attention. That is what he does for a living.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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sidelined
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 31 (420806)
09-09-2007 4:19 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


taylor 31

So what do you think I should ask?

Ask him these questions.

Do you agree with the following statement from the news website the Christian Post ?

Intelligent design is the theory that the complexity and organization of life are evidence of the living things having been designed, calling on an intelligent creator or designer that may be responsible for their complexity.

If not ask him to clarify since he himself has said as much. If yes then ask him

Is the intelligent designer is more complex and organized than his "design" in the same way that we are more complex and organized than our designs.

If not then ask him how this could be so.
If yes , then ask him what intelligence designed the intelligent designer that designed the world.

I am betting that he cannot answer and will try to divert the focus away from the question. Do not allow him to weasel out of it.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin

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Replies to this message:
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RAZD
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Posts: 19816
From: the other end of the sidewalk
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Member Rating: 10.0


Message 7 of 31 (420865)
09-09-2007 7:54 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


the prokaryote world
I'd ask why, once life was initially designed 3.5 billion years ago, that it took over another 1 billion years to get beyond the simple prokaryote form of bacteria to the next model, eukaryotes, including why a concurrent total redesign of the atmosphere of the earth from reducing to oxidating atmosphere was needed,

and then that since this type of bacteria still makes up half the entire biomass of the earth and that since most of the other newer forms of life (eukaryotes) seem to be just concentrated feeding grounds for prokaryotes, that wouldn't it appear that the major beneficiary of the designed world is the prokaryotes?

Enjoy.


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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4018 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 8 of 31 (420896)
09-10-2007 4:55 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by sidelined
09-09-2007 4:19 PM


I don't know side. It seems that one is all too easy to weasel out of by simply asserting that the designer(s) was/were uncaused. Either that, or if he really wants to make the creationists angry, he could simply say that we don't know anything about the designer(s), so we can't determine if he/she/it/they needs designing or was designed or by whom. And seeing as people at Q&A sessions don't usually get more than one question, I don't think you could prevent it.


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

What do you mean "You can't prove a negative"? Have you searched the whole universe for proofs of a negative statement? No? How do you know that they don't exist then?!


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sidelined
Inactive Member


Message 9 of 31 (420906)
09-10-2007 7:18 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Doddy
09-10-2007 4:55 AM


Doddy

It seems that one is all too easy to weasel out of by simply asserting that the designer(s) was/were uncaused.

No problem there because we can just as easily say {via Occam's razor} that the universe was also uncaused.

Either that, or if he really wants to make the creationists angry, he could simply say that we don't know anything about the designer(s), so we can't determine if he/she/it/they needs designing or was designed or by whom.

By the same line of reasoning though we cannot say intelligent design is therefore meaningful as a hypothesis now can we?

And seeing as people at Q&A sessions don't usually get more than one question, I don't think you could prevent it.

True, but you could get together with others to continue the line of questioning.

Edited by sidelined, : No reason given.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin

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Percy
Member
Posts: 18371
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 10 of 31 (420908)
09-10-2007 7:33 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


I'll second Chiroptera's suggestion, minus his follow-up question:

Chiroptera writes:

Personally, I would like to know whether any method for identifying ID has been tested on objects or systems that are already known to have been intelligently designed or produced without intelligent intervention, and of complexity similar to the biological systems that are under discussion.

This alone is plenty and cuts to the core of Dembski's specified complexity and information theory claims.

--Percy


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Doddy
Member (Idle past 4018 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 11 of 31 (420911)
09-10-2007 7:50 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by sidelined
09-10-2007 7:18 AM


sidelined writes:

No problem there because we can just as easily say {via Occam's razor} that the universe was also uncaused.


But the designer isn't explaining the universe. It is explaining 'specified complexity', specifically that of living organisms.

This is true, but they don't so much care about meaning or predictions. It just has to be shown to be true enough to be an alternative to evolution.


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

What do you mean "You can't prove a negative"? Have you searched the whole universe for proofs of a negative statement? No? How do you know that they don't exist then?!


This message is a reply to:
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taylor_31
Member (Idle past 4032 days)
Posts: 86
From: Oklahoma!
Joined: 05-14-2007


Message 12 of 31 (421057)
09-10-2007 10:07 PM


Thanks for the suggestions, everybody; they were all great.

Taz writes:

In short, I'd just like to say that I'm no geologist and does not pretend to know the first thing about geology. We leave the surgeries to real surgeons. Why not leave the science to the scientists? A theologian should not have a say in science and vice versa.

I agree wholeheartedly, but I think this may be a little too personal: It might sound like I'm saying he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. And regardless of whether he does or not, I don't want to become too confrontational.

Chirop writes:

Personally, I would like to know whether any method for identifying ID has been tested on objects or systems that are already known to have been intelligently designed or produced without intelligent intervention, and of complexity similar to the biological systems that are under discussion. If so, what is the false-positive rate?

That sounds really interesting, but I need to make sure I understand the question first. Is this meant to show that IDists have no real methods for testing intelligent design? And what are some examples of complex, unintelligent features that rival biological systems? This would be a great question to ask, but I want to make sure he doesn't blow smoke and not address it.

jar writes:

why has almost every life form that ever existed gone extinct.

This seems to be a simple question and it sounds great. But what exactly is the percentage of extinct species in relation to the total number of species that have lived on Earth? I've heard around 97%, but I'm not too sure about that. Anyway, it sounds like the "Intelligent Designer" wasn't the most competent technician, but maybe he'll have an answer.

sidelined writes:

If yes , then ask him what intelligence designed the intelligent designer that designed the world.

Sorry, but I pretty much agree with Doddy here: He'll simply spout off the usual "God is outside space and time" garbage. And, because I probably won't get to ask a follow-up question, he'll look like he adequately defended his position against the argument.

And besides, I never was very impressed with this "who made the Designer" argument, anyway, even with Richard Dawkins making it the centerpiece of his case against theism. Maybe someday I'll recognize it's validity, but right not I don't think it's terribly convincing. Thanks for the input, though.


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sidelined
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 31 (421069)
09-10-2007 10:36 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Doddy
09-10-2007 7:50 AM


Doddy

It is explaining 'specified complexity', specifically that of living organisms.

It just has to be shown to be true enough to be an alternative to evolution.

The hypothesis of intelligent design applies to whatever designer they would employ for whatever explanation. Since complexity is the key word the hypothesis must apply to any designer.


It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin

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Chiroptera
Member
Posts: 6531
From: Oklahoma
Joined: 09-28-2003


Message 14 of 31 (421201)
09-11-2007 2:13 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by taylor_31
09-10-2007 10:07 PM


Oops. Sorry that I forgot to answer this.

Is this meant to show that IDists have no real methods for testing intelligent design?

Pretty much. Behe relies on looking at things and seeing that they are "obviously" irreducibly complex; Dembski has an "explanatory filter" that he claims detects intelligent design. But most, if not all, of Behe's examples have been shown to be not "irreducibly complex" (at least not in a sense that would be unevolvable), and so far Dembski is all talk and no show.

-

And what are some examples of complex, unintelligent features that rival biological systems?

And that is a good question. I suspect that these "methods" have never been tested because a rigorous control group has never been identified. What we need are very complex systems that we know arose naturally (and I bet no IDer will admit that such exists, meaning that there is no control group), and then see how often these methods give false positives.

Another question, is there any complex biological systems where they have figured out possible evolutionary pathways? If these "ID detection methods" are used on these systems with the state of knowledge before the pathways were figured out, would these "ID detection methods" have figured out that they were not necessarily intelligently designed?

Another question is to use whatever the preferred ID detection method is and make a list of all the complex biological systems and denote which ones were definitely designed and which might have natural origins. Then, as the science progresses, compare the two lists to see if more on the "definitely designed" list defy explanation than on the other list.

Of course, you can't actually ask all this during a Q&A session; this is getting to be a more complex conversation. But hopefully you can see the intent of these questions.

-

This would be a great question to ask, but I want to make sure he doesn't blow smoke and not address it.

Yeah, I realized when I made my suggestion that I'm not very good at wording these things very clearly, or in a way that wouldn't invite obfuscation.

But at least, if you word it well enough the audience should recognize that Dembski is avoiding the real intent of the question.


I could tell you what I've read about evolution, the big-bang, super-universes, quantum foam, and all that stuff. Eventually you'd ask a question I can't answer, then I'd have to go look it up. Even If I had the time for that shit, in the end you'd ask a question science hasn't answered yet. So let's save time and skip ahead to "I don't know." -- jhuger
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bluegenes
Member (Idle past 585 days)
Posts: 3119
From: U.K.
Joined: 01-24-2007


Message 15 of 31 (421228)
09-11-2007 4:16 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by taylor_31
09-09-2007 2:17 PM


You could try:
quote:
Why, in your opinion, do the designers seem to design close to or within the parameters of evolutionary possibility, and always over the kind of time scale that evolution would require? Do you think that they are deliberately trying to conceal themselves, and make it appear to observers that evolution is the story?

The words "close to" in the first sentence are a polite allowance for his view that there are some complex features that could not evolve, but you're not actually conceding the point.

Saying that might be regarded as being "smartass to him", as you put it, but it's a damn good question, because there's absolutely no reason at all why intelligent designers of life on any planet should proceed in a manner that could possibly give the planet a definite appearance of having an evolutionary history. There's nothing to stop them doing something like, say, a marsupial elephant, which, if found, would blow the present evolutionary view right apart. And they don't need to do amphibian-like fish before they do amphibians, or reptile-like amphibians before they do reptiles, or reptiles with mammal-like characteristics before mammals, etc.

IMO, our intelligent designers must be designing with intent to deceive.

Unless, of course, evolution is the story.;)


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