Friday, September 29, 2006

Dembski sets the record straight

When reading this post, keep in mind some of my recent complaints about the ID movement.

Today on his blog, Dembski responds to criticisms coming from Ken Miller.

Dembski offer three points "for the record."

The first is that he did not withdraw from the Dover case, he was fired. That may be technically correct, I don't know. However, the evidence indicates that the overall treatment of the IDers on the Dover school board by the ID movement was reprehensible. As soon as the writing was on the wall, the trains out of Dover were booked. The patsies on the school board must have felt like the Bay of Pigs invaders: Where's our air support? Where are the Marines? You promised!

One thing Dembski never abandons is his bravado. Not long before Dover he wrote:
I'll wager a bottle of single-malt scotch, should it ever go to trial whether ID may legitimately be taught in public school science curricula, that ID will pass all constitutional hurdles.
And in this latest post:
I was frankly looking forward to being deposed by the ACLU and staring them down at the trial.
The post-Dover ID movement talking point is something along the lines of "we never wanted or promoted the idea of ID in the science classroom." This is in spite of the fact that three of the Movements most recognized names wrote Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook. The conclusion of that document:
Local school boards and state education officials are frequently pressured to avoid teaching the controversy regarding biological origins. Indeed, many groups, such as the National Academy of Sciences, go so far as to deny the existence of any genuine scientific controversy about the issue. Nevertheless, teachers should be reassured that they have the right to expose their students to the problems as well as the appeal of Darwinian theory. Moreover, as the previous discussion demonstrates, school boards have the authority to permit, and even encourage, teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution-and this includes the use of textbooks such as Of Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design.
You would have to, it seems to me, spin this as "we don’t think ID belongs in the science classroom, but just in case you do, here is a guidebook. Did I mention, that we don't think it belongs in the classroom?”

The second of Dembski's "record straightening" points is related to the timing of his so-called Vise Strategy. If you have never read the Vise Strategy (or enjoyed its graphics) you can find it here. In that document, Dembski plays the lawyer. He presents questions that should be asked in a trial "when interrogating Darwinists with the goal of opening up discussion in the high school biology curriculum about evolution." So, reminiscent of the Guidebook described above, we have an ID leader being mighty helpful for a cause that has been denied: getting ID in the science curriculum.

Here I want to pause. To my readers who, like myself, see ID as a wonderful and powerful way to strengthen one's awe in Christ as the creator of all things, I urge you to read the "Vice Strategy" (and the Guidebook) and ask yourself: does formulating and participating in strategies such as what is outlined therein resemble anything I want to be associated with in terms of my evangelism? I'd be interested in your honest answer, yes or no.

Dembski's third point is that the ID Movement is not dead or dying. He writes (boldface added):
For a movement that is [allegedly] in its death throes, I, as one of its principal advocates, am looking at more speaking engagements than I can fulfill and very generous honoraria (I suspect more than Ken Miller receives). A good gauge for when a movement enters death throes is when people stop talking about it being in death throes and simply ignore it as something that is of no consequence and indistinguisable from something that doesn't exist. In short, when Ken Miller stops giving public talks against ID, we'll know that the movement is in its death throes (that, or he'll have converted to our side).
Here I was amazed about two things: the first is the tone of the reference to his monetary compensation. This, I would point out, is consistent with recent criticisms I have made about the ID movement: it is part cottage industry and some of its royalty are making a living off the movement (not unlike TV evangelists) rather than doing science. But the more amusing point Dembski made was "A good gauge for when a movement enters death throes is when people stop talking about it being in death throes."

This from a man who makes apocalyptic, Hal Lindsey-like forecasts regarding the death of evolution:
In the next five years, molecular Darwinism - the idea that Darwinian processes can produce complex molecular structures at the subcellular level - will be dead. When that happens, evolutionary biology will experience a crisis of confidence because evolutionary biology hinges on the evolution of the right molecules. I therefore foresee a Taliban-style collapse of Darwinism in the next ten years. (W. Dembski, Touchstone Magazine, 17(6), pp. 60-65, 2004).
Dembski can't stop talking about the death of evolution (he makes other predictions which I can point you to, if you are interested) and just several posts earlier on his blog he lauded Jonathan Wells's essay entitled: "Why Darwinism is Doomed," and yet he can, apparently with a straight face, argue that a movement whose imminent demise is discussed too often is one that is in no danger of collapse?

I have been urged by several people I respect to reconsider my objections to the ID movement. Fair enough. However, I would ask in return the same soul-searching from my fellow Christians who stand behind the movement as it now exists. Can you find any biblical support that justifies the tactics of the ID movement? Can you read the documents and the essays and the litigation strategies and say to yourself: this is a place where God wants me to be?

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