Dembski: ‘Why does science hate ID?’

William Dembski has taken issue with an article by E.O. Wilson published in New Scientist.

Wilson explains that Intelligent Design…

…is in essence the following: there are some phenomena that have not yet been explained and that (most importantly) the critics personally cannot imagine being explained; therefore there must be a supernatural designer at work.

…which is a fairly straightforward and accurate description of the latest re-branding of creationism, and he also offers the following observation:

Flipping the scientific argument upside down, the intelligent designers join the strict creationists (who insist that no evolution ever occurred) by arguing that scientists resist the supernatural theory because it is counter to their own personal secular beliefs. This may have a kernel of truth; everybody suffers from some amount of bias. But in this case bias is easily overcome. The critics forget how the reward system in science works. Any researcher who can prove the existence of intelligent design within the accepted framework of science will make history and achieve eternal fame.

Dembski responds:

Two comments:

(1) ID does not argue from “Shucks, I can’t imagine how material mechanisms could have brought about a biological structure” to “Gee, therefore God must have done it.” This is a strawman. Here is the argument ID proponents actually make:

Premise 1: Certain biological systems have some diagnostic feature, be it IC (irreducible complexity) or SC (specified complexity) or OC (organized complexity) etc.

The problem is that irreducible complexity, specified complexity and organized complexity are not used by the scientific community (and by biologists in particular) in the way that ID theorists like Dembski use them. The notions of SC/IC/OC espoused by Dembski have been dismissed as junk mathematics by information theorists and mathematicians. Strike 1.

Premise 2: Materialistic explanations have been spectacularly unsuccessful in explaining such systems — we have no positive evidence for thinking that material mechanisms can generate them.

So what Bill is saying is that biological features not fully understood at this point will never be explained by Darwinian evolution. Not too long ago creationists held up the eye as a biological feature which could never be explained by evolution, and look how wrong they were. Add to this the fact that this all rests on Dembski’s faulty Premise 1 above. Strike 2.

Premise 3: Intelligent agency is known to have the causal power to produce systems that display IC/SC/OC.

This is all well and good for mechanical systems (for example). We know that a car or a jumbo jet is the end result of an intelligent agent. But we’re talking about biological systems, and Darwinian evolution explains how natural selection ‘designs’ organisms to suit their environments, in a completely natural and unconscious fashion. Strike 3.

Conclusion: Therefore, biological systems that exhibit IC/SC/OC are likely to be designed.

Given the fault-ridden premises offered, we can safely dismiss this. There is no evidence that biological systems are designed by a conscious intelligent agent.

(2) Wilson’s claim that proving “the existence of intelligent design within the accepted framework of science will make history and achieve eternal fame” is disingenuous. The accepted framework of science precludes ID from the start. Wilson and his materialistic colleagues have stacked the deck so that no evidence could ever support it.

The cat is well and truly out of the bag now. ID proponents insist that their theory holds its own fair and square in the scientific realm, but then Dembski complains that “the accepted framework of science precludes ID from the start”, meaning that science should be re-defined in some form of affirmative-action program so that ID gets a fair go.

ID is science and science as we know it currently excludes ID. Hmm.

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~ by Sammy Jankis on November 26, 2007.

3 Responses to “Dembski: ‘Why does science hate ID?’”

  1. Assume for a second that there is some sort of intelligent design. Couple of questions. How much intelligence does it take? Are there beings or life forms with more intelligence?

  2. The accepted framework of science precludes ID, young earth creationism, astrology, the collective unconscious, telekinesis, clairvoyancy, telepathy, ghosts and poltergeists. The accepted framework of science defines science as the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena. You want your supernatural explanation for natural phenomenon x accepted as scientific? First rule out absolutely the possibility of a natural explanation ever being offered for said phenomenon. Too hard? Too bad. I don’t see why goalposts need to be shifted to accommodate religious dogma.

  3. How much intelligence does it take? Are there beings or life forms with more intelligence?

    The second of these questions is the real killer. If there is an intelligent designer, then who or what designed the designer? And who or what designed that designer? And so on, and so forth.

    It is at about this point that ID advocates are bound to shed their “ID is strictly secular” cloaks, and resort to religious apologetics. (e.g. the cosmological argument)

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