Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dembski and the war on ID

In a comment on a post of mine, Blue Devil Knight issued a complaint about some tactics that William Dembski admitted to using. Dembski had written:

I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. (the quote is from here).

Blue Devil Knight replied: That quote makes me sick: Dembski dresses himself in academic cloth and language, but is really a sneaky manipulative witness to Jesus (and after having read his books I know his arguments are as specious as the one about indexicals above). This kind of dissemblance sickens me: talking of 'secrets', as if it is some kind of espionage where you are manipulating, rather than directly interacting with your interlocutor in good faith. Despicable. Even if your interlocutor has a good counterargument, at least you get the last word because it is in a book (spurious, incidentally).

Now I find Dembski's comments a little distateful myself; there's nothing wrong with putting ideas on a website that are in rougher shape than what you find in peer-reviewed published work, but I must admit I would not want to talk about getting the last word. You never get the last word of course.

At the same time, while I have run into some pretty harsh criticisms of my own work, but I think I've been pretty good at keeping things civilized with people who disagree with me. But the advocates of ID, unless they are lying about what they have experienced, have really been facing an inquisition from some of Darwin's rottweilers. Consider this post by Francis Beckwith on Right Reason, who has defended not the philosophical adequacy of the arguments for ID, but rather the constitutional permissibility of teaching ID in public schools.

Is this a case where the Darwinists should remove the log in their own eye so they can see clearly enough to remove the speck from their opponents' eyes?


Dave S said...

Dembski's tactics are hardly underhanded or dishonest. He seemed to be a little tongue-in-cheek about his "secrets" and getting the "last word". It's hard to anticipate objections, so if you can get an idea of what they would be in advance, why not do so.

Blue Devil Knight is overreacting and nothing in the Dembski quote merits calling him a sneaky, manipulative witness to Jesus.

Blue Devil Knight said...

There are lots of criticisms of intelligent design creationism qua science. The constitutional issue is also extremely important, though, as the ID creationists are trying to shoehorn themselves into biology classes. As for Dembski, there exist plenty of thorough and substantive criticisms of his philosophical ideas. To point out a vitriolic post or piece which does not directly address the philosophical ideas doesn't mean it isn't done (I could do the same with some post by a Christian). For just one example, see this site. I can be quite confident in my disrespect for Dembski's ideas: I lead a 2-month reading group of his work, consisting of both outspoken supporters and critics (believe it or not, I went into it with a pretty open mind). Frankly, by the end of the group I was dumbfounded that his 'explanatory filter' was taken seriously by anyone who has a cursory knowledge of the history of science. It turns an anachronistic, pre-scientific fallacy into a logical imperative. However, since there are good criticisms of that already.

Blue Devil Knight said...

To stray from the topic, I was quite excited to read The Design Inference. I think it is an interesting problem: how should we make inferences about design? We do it all the time (e.g., Stonehenge is a product of design, but the rocks at the bottom of last night's mudslide, with the same configuration are not). You can see my review at Amazon here (May 12, 2001, reviewer name E. Thomson, title is 'Best book by a creationist I have ever read' (not meant to be an insult). I wrote it after the group was finished. I was very disappointed: is this the best they've got, I thought. I wasted a lot of time on that darn book, working through its details, after a bunch of my ID creationist friends told me it was going to give ID "mathematical foundations".

Blue Devil braces himself for a bunch of 'unhelpful' votes at Amazon. Feel free to buy me chess books from my wish list: there are at least two people here, who while I disagree strongly with their positions on mind, could kick my sorry mind in chess!

Do your chess skills transfer to the afterlife? I sure hope so. I started playing over 3 months ago and have already sunk way too much time into learning how to play better.

Victor Reppert said...

Blue Devil, I'd be interested in your feedback on my chess articles.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I'll check them out. You are clearly way out of my league in chess, so I had assumed they would be too advanced for me. I am still at the stage where I leave pieces en prise.

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