"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Response to Darrick Dean

Dear Darrick

A while ago, I responded to a post about Intelligent Design on your R2's Sciencewatch blog. I've recently found an answer to my post. The thread in question is now closed for further comments; but I'd like to respond anyway. It seems to me that you have some very strange ideas about ID Theory and what it says. Please do prove me wrong if you can.

When I've written to you before, you've either ignored my answers or simply deleted my posts. I very much hope that you'll take the time, however, to answer me this time.

Darrick Dean: Let me relieve you of your fantasy land:

Given what follows, this is a rather bizarre statement...

PTET: [If there is a process which we cannot
explain, the only reasonable position to take
is that we cannot explain it. Instead, ID presumes
that the explanation must be an "intelligent cause".]

Darrick Dean: No ID shows an intelligence is the
cause through science. It shows empirically why
there is no other possibility. If you actually
read about it, you’d know there are no
presumptions are involved.

That is not even wrong.

This is from the Intelligent Design movement's FAQ on the ARN website:

"Specified complexity is displayed by any
object or event that has an extremely low
probability of occurring by chance, and
matches a discernable pattern. According
to contemporary design theory, the
presence of highly specified complexity
is an indicator of an intelligent cause."

There is nothing there to say that "empirically... there is no other possibility" than intelligent design. The noted ID theorist William Dembski says:

"Now it can happen that we may not know enough
to determine all the relevant chance hypotheses.
Alternatively, we might think we know the relevant
chance hypotheses, but later discover that we
missed a crucial one. In the one case a design
inference could not even get going; in the other,
it would be mistaken. But these are the risks of
empirical inquiry, which of its nature is fallible.
Worse by far is to impose as an a priori requirement
that all gaps in our knowledge must ultimately
be filled by non-intelligent causes."

(Dembski "No Free Lunch, 2002, p123, quoted at TO)

Of course, as TalkOrigins's "Index to Creationist Claims" points out, science makes no such "requirement" about non-intelligent causes - and Dembski himself seems to have an a priori requirement that ultimately everything must have an intelligent (as opposed to as-yet-unexplainable) cause.

If you don't agree, Darrick, I think its reasonable for me to expect you to quote something from the ID movement to suggest that "there is no other possibility" than Intelligent Design...

PTET: [Indeed, the philosophical biases of ID
create the entirely ludicrous situation that
ID-theorists go to great lengths to avoid talking
about the aspects of mainstream science which
they *do* secretly agree with - such as the
extreme age of the universe, and the evolution
of species over time]

Darrick Dean: This is a dead give away you don’t
know what you’re talking about. Virtually no ID
theorists hide their agreement with the age of
the universe. Virtually none agree with evolution
of species over time. Those whom do things
are in the minority.

There are two claims here: (a) that IDer's are pretty much united in accepting an "ancient" universe; and (b) that they are pretty much united in rejecting common descent. Again, these claims are contradicted by ID's leading lights.

ARN author Phillip Johnson (quoted approvingly on the front page of your blog) wrote in 2004 that the "age of the earth" is most definitely not settled amongst ID as a movement:

"I have consistently said that I take no position
on the age of the earth, and that I regard the
issue as not ripe for debate yet. I have also
rejected all suggestions that I should denounce
the YECs and instead have said that I regard
high-quality YECs like Andrew Snelling as
respected allies."
(Quoted at Panda's Thumb)

I am quite happy to accept that Johnson rejects the idea of common descent!

On the other hand The leading ID Biologist Michael Behe seems to accept an "old earth" and the evolution of species over time in his central work Darwin's Black Box:

"For the record, I have no reason to doubt that
the universe is the billions of years old that
physicists say it is. I find the idea of common
descent (that all organisms share a common
ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no
particular reason to doubt it. I greatly
respect the work of my colleagues who
study the development and behavior of
organisms within an evolutionary framework,
and I think that evolutionary biologists
have contributed enormously to our
understanding of the world. Although
Darwin's mechanism--natural selection
working on variation--might explain many
things, however, I do not believe it
explains molecular life."

(Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, p. 5, quoted here)

This line is followed in an statement made in an article from the Kansas City Star in April 2002, reprinted on the Discovery Institute website:

"Calvert, a lawyer from Lake Quivira, thinks
a third possibility exists to explain life and
its diversity: "intelligent design," the theory
that everything in the universe was designed,
not the result of natural processes. Intelligent
design adherents don't disagree with evolutionists
over the age of the Earth or many other tenets
of evolution, such as natural selection."

Of course my original point was that IDers are slippery about what elements of mainstream science they actually believe in. This way they ensure the maximum possible base of support - even if it leads to a lot of confusion amongst ID adherents (and everyone else) about what ID actually says.

Reading the ARN FAQ, you'd never know that Behe supported much of "common descent" in Darwin's Black Box:

"...the scientific literature shows that the rock
record, far from supporting neo-Darwinism, has always
been something neo-Darwinists have had to explain away.
What the evidence shows is not gradual change, but
sudden appearance and stability: Most fossils species
appear all at once, fully formed, and exhibit no
directional change throughout their stay in the rocks"

That is, of course, wholly wrong about the fossil record... And Behe may have changed his position on Common Descent since Darwin's Black Box. Who knows... He never says for sure. It seems to me, however, that ID supporters don't really care... All that matters is that "evolution is wrong".

PTET: [You ignore that the vast majority of
*Christian* scientists - and in particular
biologists - hold no truck with ID. Their
numbers vastly outweigh the number of ID-theorists.]

Darrick Dean: Says who? Your talking points
from the teacher's union?

Erm, no... It's reasonable conclusion from these facts:

  • We know that the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that mankind evolved from less advanced forms of life...
  • Organisations
    representing more than
    of the world's Christians and Jews accept the scientific view of evolution...
  • Over three thousand Christian clergy have signed up to a recent statement supporting evolution as understood by mainstream science...
  • Project Steve demonstrates that evolution has vastly more support amongst scientists than creationism and ID
Further, evolution as understood by mainstream science is taught in every non-religious University in the world - and a great many religious Universities too. Which Universities teach ID as science?

I think your problem, Darrick, is that you've swallowed hook, line and sinker the old creationist lie that "evolution" equates with atheism.

PTET: [You ignore that evolution - as it is understood
to have occurred by mainstream science - has a vastly
greater & broader level of support than ID.]

Darrick Dean: So did Nazism, did that make it right?

My statement was in answer to the following quote from an ID supporter: "The leaders and most promoters of ID are well-credentialed scientists of different religious and philosophical backgrounds."

Are you saying, Darrick, that appeals to authority are valid when they are supporting ID, but not when they oppose it?

Or are you just arguing for the sake of it?

To say that ID supporters have a wider religious and philosophical range than non-ID supporters is more than wrong. It's dishonest.

PTET: [You - again - dishonestly equate
evolution with atheism.]

Darrick Dean: Ah, no. Most of the most ardent
evolutionists are atheists. Nice try.

This argument goes something like this:
Darrick: All evolutionists are atheists!
PTET: What about the Christian evolutionists?
Darrick: Yes, but all real evolutionists are atheists!
Shall I warm the bagpipes up?

This seems to be a major block to your thinking. You equate evolution with "materialistic science". Since your arguments are refuted by the support of Christians for evolution as understood by mainstream science, it seems to me that you have no choice but to ignore them.

PTET: [However, ID claims to be able to see
design in biological functions which we have
not got the first clue how to build ourselves.
ID is seeing patterns in the clouds. Do they
exist? They might - but there are any number
of other possible explanations.]

Darrick Dean: There is a difference between natural
patterns and designed features. For a technical
discussion of the difference, see Dembski’s book,
Intelligent Design.

A technical discussion, huh? Well, I've already quoted Dembski saying that there is a risk of "false positives" in detecting design. How does he propose we tell the difference? By making presumptions. Which contradicts your earlier remarks on the subject.

As Dembski wrote in 1999 (quoted here): "...if things end up in the net that are not designed, the criterion will be useless..."

PTET: [In you conclusion you state: "Evolution
has become so infected with naturalistic
presuppositions and unreasonable science,
it has failed to meet any of these goals." Says who? ]

Darrick Dean: Says the science. Nice try. If you
want to ignore science and logic, don’t bother
wasting my time.

Well, Darrick, I have to say that I don't see any science and very little logic in your writings as quoted above... But if you disagree, I very much hope that you take the time to explain why.

Kind regards


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