Uncommon Dissent

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Question for George V. Coyne (6 comments)

Is randomness the hidden hand of God, or truly unguided? We'll let the clergy settle their own ontological and epistemological differences.

Filed under: Roister in the Cloister.

Elephants Evolving (3 comments)

Read more!

Filed under: Power to the People

Friday, December 02, 2005

“SETI and Intelligent Design” (4 comments)

I knew I had heard of Dembski before--he was a minor character in The Princess Bride. Some of his more memorable lines:

Dembski: SETI searches for alien signals without using the criterion of specified complexity? INCONCEIVABLE!
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Dembski: I am the Isaac Newton of Information Theory.
Westley: You're that smart?
Dembski: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
Westley: Yes.
Dembski: Morons.

Dembski: A word, my lady. We are but poor, lost street theater performers. Is there a village nearby?

Dembski: Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Westley: You've made your decision, then?
Dembski: Not remotely! Because iocaine comes from Australia, as everyone knows. And Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Westley: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
Dembski: Wait till I get going!
Dembski: Where was I?

Filed under: As You Wish....

ID Spreads Like Mold Over the Planet (1 comments)

Ronald Numbers defines ID rightly:
"Numbers said that at heart, the proponents of intelligent design 'want to change the definition of science' to include God, an issue he predicted would end up in the Supreme Court.

'One of the most successful PR campaigns we've seen in recent years,' he added, 'is intelligent design.'"
Since it builds on work established by (angry, resentful) creationists, this should come as no surprise.

Filed under: And now, the rest of the story...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Darwinism ID and the Culture of Contempt (2 comments)

Answering contempt with contempt, stereotypes, and a slight touch of homophobia. Brilliant.

"Look to the Brits for the best examples of snootiness." --Bill Dembski

"the Queen of condescension, Eugenie Scott" --havoc

"It’s bulls*** like this that makes me question my belief in free speach." --David, a.k.a. "crandaddy"

"Dene Bebbington is a girly man. As such no one should take his limp wristed opinions seriously." --DaveScot

Filed under: Amen Chorus

How's this for an apology? (0 comments)

Paul Mirecki is an ass.

Filed under: Somebody had to say it.

Interesting Refutation of George Will and Charles Krauthammer on ID (4 comments)

George Will has made one accurate criticism of the idea he so dislikes: "The problem with intelligent design is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis." This is true; but he should have added that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is not falsifiable either. Darwin's claim to fame was his discovery of a mechanism of evolution; he accepted "survival of the fittest" as a good summary of his natural-selection theory. But which ones are the fittest? The ones that survive. There is no criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. Whatever happens, it is the "fittest" that survive — by definition. This, just like intelligent design, is not a testable hypothesis.

Someone needs to do a little reading.

(But then, you already knew that.)

Filed under: Back to School

A Muslim Perspective on ID (0 comments)

Blah blah blah, evolution turns us into moral relativists, why doesn't Madonna put some clothes on, Darwinism is atheism, same tripe, different day.

Filed under: The Culture Bores

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why I don't ruthlessly edit comments on this blog (3 comments)

1. I like self-assured, smug, smarmy opponents. They make me feel righteous.
2. I don't have that many commentators, and they're damned fine people anyhow.
3. I'm a corpse.
4. Something about intellectual honesty, fair play, all points of view, all those other trivial matters.
5. Dembski does. I am the anti-Dembski. When he and I collide, the universe will explode in a blast of energy, most of it heat, very little light.
6. I'm a frickin' corpse.

Filed under: Heat must be gettin' to me.

Leo Kadanoff on Complexity (2 comments)

Thanks, Dembski, for linking to a critique of your life's work in one simple, easily understood slide show--by your former thesis advisor, no less!

Recall that Dembski imagines evolution as a process of searching a long list, without a clue as to the list’s contents or ordering, looking for a possible improvement in one’s species. However, the bag of biochemical compounds that were our remote forebearers were exactly a part of the nature around them. And if nature had a tendency to make things more complex, as does our heat engine, these bags could work in concert with the nature around them--and themselves become more complex.

Our experience with natural things tends to show that they have a tendency to produce complexity. We have even seen how that happens. Physical situations, and the mathematics that describes them, naturally grow structures. Because the structure growing may be chaotic the structures may arrange themselves in complex patterns. Complexification seems to be a natural tendency of nature....

Behe and Dembski start from a different presupposition. They do, I think, believe in a Creator and then find this Creator in their studies. Their main conclusions are not, as I see it, compelling--- but they are possible. However, in my view, as we shall understand more about complexity, Behe’s examples and Dembski’s arguments will become less and less convincing.

I applaud their work: Good skeptics make good science. Behe and Dembski’s work will drive further studies of complexity. However, many of their followers want their work to replace science in the school curriculum. I cannot applaud that.

Filed under: Fair and Balanced--and Devastating

Harvard Crimson on ID (0 comments)

Michael Behe sticks up for the rubes.
"As a democratic country, even evangelical, unsophisticated people have a right to voice their opinions on how governmental institutions should be run," Behe says. "I find it distasteful [how] people look down their noses on people who want to participate in government."
The masses also believe in spooks and ghoulies. No wonder Behe sides with them.

Filed under: With friends like these...

Blaise Pascal on the Intelligent Design Movement (1 comments)

[From a dead fellow-traveler]

Le creationist a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.

[The creationist has reasons reason knows nothing of.]

—Blaise Pascal

Filed under: Comme ci, comme ca.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Designer’s “Skill-Set” (1 comments)

Dembski feels the need to smack down the satirists.
The designer responsible for biological complexity, by contrast, need only be a being capable of arranging finite material objects to display certain patterns. Accordingly, this designer need not even be infinite. Likewise, that designer need not be personal or transcendent (cf. the “designer” in Stoic philosophy).

Bottom line: Jon Stewart & Co. are funny people, but their one-liners are no substitute for clear thinking.

Problem is, neither is Dembski. Instant replay, Mr. Brayton:
But in fact, we don't even need to do this analysis to show that, by Dembski and the DI's reasoning, the designer must be transcendant and supernatural. Dembski himself did the analysis for us in The Act of Creation: Bridging Transcendence and Immanence when he wrote:

"The fine-tuning of the universe, about which cosmologists make such a to-do, is both complex and specified and readily yields design. So too, Michael Behe's irreducibly complex biochemical systems readily yield design. The complexity-specification criterion demonstrates that design pervades cosmology and biology. Moreover, it is a transcendent design, not reducible to the physical world. Indeed, no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life."

This is yet another example of the Janus-like nature of the ID movement, presenting one face to one group when it is convenient to do so, then the opposite face to another group when that is convenient. The thing that astonishes is how brazen Dembski is about it.
It no longer astonishes this reanimated corpse.

Bonus: Dembski is back to his censoring ways.

Filed under: Let your Yes be No and your No be Yes

Software is Eternal (0 comments)

But free tech support expires in a year's time.

Filed under: Zing!

The Scientific and Medical Network (0 comments)

Sez Dembski, "Let me encourage you to think seriously about supporting this organization."

Holy shit. No, really, there's no better description.

Read the member testimonies:
I would call myself a 'sensitive' and where I can, I inform researchers within the Scientific and Medical Network of any experiences which appear to be outside of normal consciousness....


I am also keen for a more enlightened approach to research into homoeopathy, focussing not on whether it 'works' but on what is actually happening when a remedy is prepared, when it is added to a biological system and thus understanding how homoeopathic remedies might have an effect....


My research area is in the field of non-locality of Consciousness. The emerging new models describing an active Aether can begin to account for many phenomena such as Healing, Synchronicity, Psychometry etc, currently not even considered in mainstream Science. The open mindedness implicit in the SMN philosophy is what Science should truly be about....
Or check out their recommended readings. Includes Al Gore's Earth in the Balance!

Seriously, Mr. Dembski, do you really support this organization, or do you just link to anyone you think is sympathetic, no matter how fringe, "out-there," or plain old loony they are?

Filed under: Cranks of a Feather

Monday, November 28, 2005

"Ode to the Code" (2 comments)

Cambion takes on all comers:

“if something is actively selecting things out of a group, it must have purpose and meaning.”

What do you mean by this? I can take a magnet and pass it over a group of objects, and the magnet will ‘actively select’ those objects that have the opposite charge. Does the magnet have some ‘purpose’ or ‘meaning’ that I am not aware of?
While jay splits into a false dichotomy and asks a loaded question:
Now it’s realized that the genetic code is optimized for error reduction. And it’s all due to Darwinian evolution?

Darwinian evolution is also purported to explain non-optimal “apparent” design in nature, too? Which is it? And why wouldn’t Darwinian evolution make a trade-off between error minimization and some other property, such as overall speed of replication, as is done with error detection and correction codes by humans programmers?
(Of course, jay proffers no evidence that DNA's speed of replication is in fact optimal.)

And jimbo proves that a background in information systems doesn't equate to knowledge of evolutionary processes.
Can someone (Maybe Cambion) explain to me how an organism could survive a “mutation” in it’s genetic code? Wouldn’t that completly scramble every gene in it’s genome? It’s like reading ASCII with an EBCDIC translator - all you’d get is gibberish.

Filed under: Fun With Comments

Molecular Motors at the Limits of Nanotechnology (0 comments)

Mr. Argument-from-Ignorance saith, "Ask yourself, Why do biological systems exhibit molecular machines at the smallest level permissible by the properties of matter? 'Evolution' provides less and less a convincing answer."

I'm going to hazard a guess: it involves energy constraints, especially since, as far as anyone can tell, life began small. A second guess: it's being worked on in a lab somewhere.

(Interested biologists or physicists, feel free to correct me on either point.)

Filed under: Theory? What theory?

The Former President of Cornell — Also a Darwinophile (1 comments)

Amazing, how much the substance of Frank Rhodes's op-ed against "creation science" is completely relevant to its latest incarnation, Intelligent Design.

Filed under: Shaking the Family Tree

Saturday, November 26, 2005

ID on Paula Zahn Now (1 comments)

To pre-empt any whining: notice that the ID discussion was arranged by the Religion / Values reporter.

Notice also the cheery assessment that IDers look like they're having more fun.

If only style points mattered in determining what gets labeled "science." Yowza--that tie!


CharlesW's comment takes cake, eats it, and regurgitates it.
What really gets to me is the repeated attacks on the honesty of the ID proponents. The accusations that Dembski censors or that Behe ignores evidence are nothing more than lies by people who feel a need to compensate for a lack of any real evidence supporting their side. Behe is an honorable man. Dembski is an honorable man. They are all honorable men.
That Dembski censors isn't an accusation. It's a fact, one that even Dembski admits. That Behe ignores evidence is also irrefutable. What's telling is the use of "honorable men." One doesn't have to be a dead Britisher to recognize the deep Shakespearean irony in the phrase.

Filed under: It's science, promise!

A Crisis in Credibility? (1 comments)

Ought we accept the truth defended by angry scientists, or the hokum purported by "honorable men," or the rantings of a mediocre cartoonist?

Filed under: As if science is a matter of taste

ID T-Shirts (1 comments)

Filed under: Unintelligent Delusion

Friday, November 25, 2005

IDEA Clubs (2 comments)

To lead a local chapter of an IDEA club, you must be a Christian.

(You know, 'cause it's not about religion.)

Filed under: Shrinking the Big Tent

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Unveiling of New ID Website in Australia (2 comments)

Dembski points us to a new website, Intelligent Design Network Australia. Standard ID boilerplate except for one tiny phrase.

"We are not a religious group and we have no affiliation with any such group."

Not religious I can accept as theoretically possible, if doubtful.

But no affiliation?

Why are they hawking a "fabulous resource," Unlocking the Mysteries of Life, which is being mailed to Australian schools by Campus Crusade for Christ, and produced by a religious organization that has tried to hide behind two different names?

As a reviewer cited on IDNet writes,
UTMOL does not present as a proselytising documentary, but rather as a documentary which raises intriguing questions. For UTMOL to have real credibility however, there needs to be a totally transparent revelation as to who the major agencies were behind the making of UTMOL. If these should be Christian, then I do not believe there should be any attempt to disguise this fact....

If the distribution of UTMOL was to be undertaken by Christian organisations, I think this might compromise its acceptance, for it could be interpreted as proselytising. It would be good to have UTMOL endorsed by a secular organisation such as the Federation of Teachers, MCEETYA, or the Association of Independent Schools (AIS). If they were to endorse it and facilitate its distribution, it would greatly enhance its credibility and acceptance within Australian schools.
Oops--too late.

Filed under: The Thunder Down Under

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

KU’s New Class — Creationism, Intelligent Design and Other Religious Mythologies (1 comments)

Dearest Dr. Dembski,

I note you haven't heeded my advice (after all, costing so little, what can it be worth?), and are still posting emails without spell-checking.

The more interesting parts of the missive--where the writer complains about not having both sides presented fairly (even though you yourself have granted that ID isn't a full-fledged research program), or gripes about the use of the word 'mythology,' or notices the paradox created by years of evangelical "You ask me how I know he lives / he lives within my heart" reason-trashing--are made laughable by some choice misspellings.

State-spoonsored. Relligious Mythologies. Illigical.

A Dawkins "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL" joke might fit in here somewhere.

All my best,


a foolish inconsistency (3 comments)

Poor DaveScot. First he calls another commentator a "conspiracy loving computer illiterate moron."

Then he makes baseless accusations while putting down PZ Myers. "PZ, you're small potatoes compared to Eugenie Scott et al at NCSE for conspiring to ruin Rick Sternberg's career."

Now who's the conspiracy-lover?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Machines That Can Deny Their Maker (0 comments)

A corny little play by a professed former atheist, who has written elsewhere,
I remember being annoyed when I learned that my atheism was also a "religion," and that there is really no such thing as not being religious, unless perhaps you're inanimate or turn off your brain totally when it comes to the great questions in life. Take the question of God's existence. How could I flatly deny it, say God couldn't exist, unless somehow I was omniscient? But omniscience is an attribute only of the God I denied. The non-existence of God could not be proven, and science and logic both fail when one looks closely at these issues. This left either agnosticism or belief in God.
Coming from someone with advanced degrees and a host of publications, this dubious "reasoning" is more than a little disappointing.

(Her evangelistic "talk" isn't much better.)


DaveScot thinks the play is "above my head" because I didn't deign to offer a point-by-point refutation. If I thought the play were really worth your (or anyone's) time, I might, but I point out the stupidity of its reasoning by citing a typical passage.
Random evolution works in theory, but in practice it is impossibly slow. This is not to say that I cannot shape it to be useful for generating minor variations on my designs.
Picard doesn't only dismiss every bit of genetic and developmental and paleontological research from the last century, and repeat a common creationist canard (micro- versus macro-evolution), but also offers two falsehoods: 1. that evolution is random, and 2. that it isn't fast enough to account for life's variety. The whole play is like this--oversimplification, false analogy, misrepresentation. Blech.

Filed under: Theists of a feather

The Design Filter: A Helpful Illustration (1 comments)

finally noticed (5 comments)

The Amen Chorus at Uncommon Descent has finally noticed my humble efforts.
off topic, but can someone say nutcase stalker?...

this sort of childishness seems to be very common among the NDE side. most people would see that as an indicator of which side of this debate is unhinged…im voting on the stalker site that makes a post for every post bill makes then rants like a 10 yr old about how evil, stupid, moronic, lying, etc. bill supposedly is.

gotta love kids.

Comment by jboze3131 — November 22, 2005 @ 5:59 am
Now, I may call Dembski names every now and then. ("Evil" isn't one of them.) But no one seems to notice that their Grand Poobah is a name-caller, too. According to Dembski, PZ Myers is The Foghorn Leghorn of Evolutionary Thinkers. Mark Perakh is The Boris Yeltsin of Higher Learning. Evolutionary proponents are girly-men or Darwhiners. Need I say more?
You’d think this guy would want to come here and engage in discussion and debate instead of hiding out on some parody site. But then, he’d have to employ some actual argumentation, which probably makes him break out in hives!
Been there, tried that, got kicked off the site without word or warning. If linking every post to the original is "hiding out," then I'm the Invisible Man. Of course, their hypocritical insistence on throwing stones from afar (rather than debating on this site) is duly noted.
Jboze, thanks for sharing that. Wow. I never realized how much time people have on their hands. What a sad existence.

Comment by ajl — November 22, 2005 @ 9:23 am
Ask yourself, ajl, why Bill Dembski has the same amount of time to blog, being such a paradigm-shifter and all. Mostly, I don't post until he does. Is his existence equally pathetic?
it looks as tho this guy links to every single post then comments with childish insults to everything that is said. lets set up a fund to buy him an xboc 360 maybe. :) hell have a hobby then.

Comment by jboze3131 — November 22, 2005 @ 4:21 pm
Sounds good to me.

CNN Xes Cheney — Design or Accident? (2 comments)

It turns out that Dembski's "Design Inference" does have applications: for one, it's useful to "prove" conspiratorial crankpottery.
Let me humbly suggest that CNN puchase a copy of my book The Design Inference (Cambridge University Press, 1998) to determine whether its explanation for the “X” that flashed over the VPs face during his speech holds up. In particular, what are the odds that this program glitch just happened to kick in right as the VP spoke, no sooner or later, with the “X” marking his face having the appropriate size and thickness and occupying just the right position?
And let me humbly suggest that Dembski's design inference won't give us any help in the matter.

Filed under: Delusions of humility

ID will be taught — the only question is how (0 comments)

And the answer is "not as science."

It would seem more suited for a course on epistemology and how religious conservatives have hijacked the language of postmodernism , but I won't complain.

Filed under: Pyrrhic Victory