Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

All of you, I'm sure, are aware of my long-standing interest in intelligent design* and my penchant for following Uncommon Descent, the blog of Wild Bill Dembski and friends. I've written quite a bit on intelligent design and have even whipped up some pretty snazzy explanations for why it's kinda stupid. Hell, once I actually blew a few afternoons arguing with a creationist on the blog to- you guessed it- no avail. It is unfortunately the case that arguing with full-blown creationists rarely leads to the outcomes you might prefer:

So, I have gotten used to the idea that intelligent design "theorists" and creationists generally just will not admit that they're wrong, even when it's glaringly apparent.

And that takes us back to Wild Bill. See, he has long pushed forward this thing he calls an "explanatory filter". And the basic purpose of this critter is to allow us to deduce when something is designed by agency rather than produced through some other process. It basically works like this: when you encounter a new phenomenon you ask, did this occur by chance? If the answer is no, then you ask, did this occur due to the regularity of natural law? If the answer is still no, then you conclude it must be the result of design by an intelligent agent.

No, I'm not kidding.

The obvious problem is that this makes design the logical complement to "chance" and "regularity."** And, of course, that has the effect of labeling any process we don't understand yet as the product of intelligent agency. Put more simply: If we don't understand it, god done it, and that's the end of it. As allegedly scientific explanations go, that one sucks pretty hard. Nevertheless, Dembski has defended it as a logical and useful principle.

Until now.

In a recent comment on his blog, Dembski said the magic words:


(1) I’ve pretty much dispensed with the EF. It suggests that chance, necessity, and design are mutually exclusive. They are not. Straight CSI is clearer as a criterion for design detection. [emphasis added]

So, in other words: Dembski just admitted he was wrong. He buried the admission in comment 169 to a post on his own blog but, hell, we gotta take what we can get! As you can guess the usual suspects are pretty damned excited about this and I don't blame them.

Looks like a Christmas miracle to me!

* Or, in the parlance of my father-in-law, "ecclesiastical design."

** Ignoring for a moment the amusing fact that our understanding of the probability of events depends upon understanding the natural processes that give rise to them. To see what I mean, tell me the probability that Geerg on planet Ingmar will farzoozle its heyule before the next goouyer. You can't do it because our complete ignorance of any of those things (including whether or not any of them exist) makes the calculation of a probability completely impossible.

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Blogger Ted Herrlich said...

So . .without his "EF" how does CSI indicate design? I thought that was the whole pitch, use the EF to determine some level of CSI and if it passed some undefined and undefinable numeric variable, it had to be design?

So he's tossing aside one supposed tool and still standing by his guns that CSI is reliable? I think I am more confused than ever!

Friday, December 05, 2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your article is excellent, but why use the same dishonest language the creationist retards use? Instead of "intelligent agency" why not call it what it really is, "magic god fairy".

Friday, December 05, 2008 1:08:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Ted: I'd try to answer, but the CSI concept itself is such a clusterfuck that I could never do it. Honestly, Dembski's comment is a little like remarking, "Instead of wasting our time talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, we really need to tackle the question of how many demons can dance on the head of a nail."

Bobxxx: Honestly? Because I like to be understood and Google is more likely to point a genuinely interested person to "intelligent design" than "ecclesiastical design." I don't think die hard creationists will be swayed by what I write, but I like to imagine that it makes the curious and undecided think a bit.

Friday, December 05, 2008 1:29:00 PM  

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