Non-scientist manicstreetpreacher presents his case against “Intelligent Design Theory” following William Dembski’s debate against Lewis Wolpert – Unbelievable?, Premier Christian Radio, 2 January 2009.
Lewis Wolpert (whose discussions with Russell Cowburn I reviewed here) sounded rather irate in last Saturday’s edition of Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? and frankly, who can blame him? The South African born atheist embryologist and author of Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast was in conversation with William Demski, American fundamentalist Christian who is also a leading proponent of “Intelligent Design” and author of The Design Inference and No Free Lunch.
I won’t give a blow my blow account of the debate itself, but there are a few points which Dembski needs to be hauled up on (no doubt for the umpteenth time which will not make the slightest difference, but it’s the principle that matters!).
Firstly, “complexity” and “improbability” appear to be Demski’s favourite words in the English language, which of course make him no different than all other creationists or people who argue from design. Apparently, the complexity that we see in biology is just so incredibly complex, that there comes a point when the zeros after the decimal point become too many and we can infer that it was The Thing That Made The Things For Which There Is No Known Maker.
So what if it’s all enormously complex and improbable? I have heard it said that the probability of the first self-replicating carbon based cell arising on Earth is greater than the number of atoms in the known universe. Fine. What the hell, let’s say that it’s TWICE the number of atoms in the known universe. It’s no use ruling out natural events on the arbitrary notion of low probability. You have to compare it with the probability of the alternative you contend is more likely. What’s the probability that the laws of nature are violated? What’s the probability that an invisible and undetectable designer – natural or supernatural – created it? I’ve never heard a creationist or “design theorist” answer these questions and Dembski disappointed me yet again. Perhaps the improbability of design is even greater, and what data does Dembski have to make the calculation? None I would say, because there is no evidence of a designer whatsoever.
This reasoning also fails on the basis that low probability events happen all the time. If you crunch the numbers in relation to your own birth (i.e. the probability that a particular sperm united with a particular egg multiplied by the probability that your parents met and repeated the calculation back until the beginning of time), you will get a fantastically low probability. Theistic evolutionary scientist Francisco Ayala reinforced the point during his recent debate against Christian apologist William Lane Craig on whether Intelligent Design was a viable alternative to evolution. Ayala remarked that there’s no need to argue against Dembski and Co, because their very existence on this Earth is so mind-bendingly improbable that they were never born!
For the Bairnsfather view of Dembski’s thinking, I can do no better than the introduction to P Z Myers’ lecture at the AAI Conference 2009. Dembski, Behe, Simmons etc.: “Here is biology. It’s very complex. Incredibly, unbelievably complex in fact. Complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity, complexity… DESIGN!!!!!!”
Secondly, Dembski repeated the common straw man that scientists in Darwin’s day knew nothing about the inner workings of the cell, and thought that they were mere “blobs of protoplasm”. Well, Dembski should take a look this drawing out, which was made by Darwin himself:
See, they show the inner workings of the cell and clearly show its complexity. Scientists in Darwin’s time, in fact, had quite a good understanding of what cells were, and they were not simply “blobs of protoplasm”. This is yet another creationist hoax which is easily debunked.
Shame on you, Billy!
Third and finally, some ID theorists out there may resent my description of Demski as a “fundamentalist Christian” or think that this has nothing to do with his “science”. However, they may wish to know that Dembski teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Below are a series of extracts from assignments and exam papers that are set for students which came to my attention after a thread was posted on RichardDawkins.net.
Make your best argument against theistic evolution. In other words, if you were in a debate situation and had to argue against theistic evolution, how would you do it?
Lay out your own view of the relation between science and theology. Are they in conflict or consonance? Should they be compartmentalized? Do they support each other? Is it important to harmonize them? Etc.
Have advances in the natural sciences over the last 40 years made it easier or harder to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist? Explain.
Trace the connections between Darwinian evolution, eugenics, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. Why are materialists so ready to embrace these as a package deal? What view of humanity and reality is required to resist them?
You are the Templeton Foundation’s new program director and are charged with overseeing its programs and directing its funds. Sketch out a 20-year plan for defeating scientific materialism and the evolutionary worldview it has fostered if you had $50,000,000 per year in current value to do so. What sorts of programs would you institute? How would you spend the money?
You just learned that your nephew or niece is going off to study theology at a liberal seminary. You suspect the place is teeming with “Homer Wilsons,” i.e., professors intent on eroding any real faith of the seminary students. Write a letter to your nephew or niece outlining the pitfalls that they are likely to face and how they should protect their faith from eroding.
According to Richard Dawkins, faith is believing in the absence of evident [sic]. By contrast, Nancy Pearcey argues that the attempt to remove Christian faith from the realm of knowledge and evidence has led to Christianity’s cultural captivity. Make the case that Christian faith is a matter not of subjective opinion but of objective knowledge.
No amputees are recorded as having been healed in the New Testament (i.e., no one with a missing limb is said to have grown back the limb in response to a prayer by Jesus or one of the Apostles). Indeed, throughout Church history it appears that no such miracle has occurred (if you know of a wellconfirmed [sic] case, please cite it). Atheists therefore argue that if miracles really happened and gave evidence of God, God would have performed a healing like growing back the limb of an amputee. Do atheists have a point here? How do you maintain that miracles are real in the face of such criticism?
For more academic travesties on a par with Liberty University’s natural history museum labelling dinosaur fossils as being 3,000 years old, including online debate forum postings comprising a substantial proportion of students’ final grades (!), click here:
AP410 This is the undegrad [sic] course. You have three things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 40% of your grade); (2) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 40% of your grade); (3) provide at least 10 posts defending ID that you’ve made on “hostile” websites, the posts totalling 2,000 words, along with the URLs (i.e., web links) to each post (worth 20% of your grade).
AP510 This is the masters course. You have four things to do: (1) take the final exam (worth 30% of your grade); (2) write a 1,500 to 2,000-word critical review of Francis Collins’s The Language of God – for instructions, see below (20% of your grade); (3) write a 3,000-word essay on the theological significance of intelligent design (worth 30% of your grade); (4) provide 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).
Aside from this, Wolpert correctly pointed out that Dembski’s reasoning is a mere language game. Even if the designer was eventually discovered and observed, this would not change the way Dembski carries out his science one iota. The man hasn’t proved anything and never will. Even if Darwin’s theory is completely wrong, even if the evolution of Homo sapiens we observe today is more improbable than the number of atoms in a billion universes that is still not evidence for either design or a designer.
The Intelligent Design movement is nothing more than racket and a Wedge Strategy (download PDF) to bring creationism into school science classrooms by the back door. As a wise man has observed of late, it may be designed but there’s nothing intelligent about it.
Listen to the debate in full if you must.
Tags: AAI, Atheist Alliance International, blobs of protoplasm, cell, charles darwin, Christian idiocy, complexity, Creationism, Discovery Institute, Evolution, improbability, Intelligent Design, irreducible complexity, lewis wolpert, natural selection, No Free Lunch, On the Origins of the Species, p z myers, premier christian radio, religious lunacy, six impossible things before breakfast, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, specified complexity, The Design Inference, unbelievable, Wedge Strategy, William Dembski