Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Matrix, ruffling ID Inc.’s feathers

The ID world never ceases to amaze.

Mike Gene as a new book out called The Design Matrix. I have received a review copy, and am looking forward to reading it.

On UD, Bill Dembski has posted some quotes from the The Design Matrix, including this:

"The vast majority of scientists do not view Intelligent Design as science and I happen to agree with them." (pg. xi)

and this:

"I should make it explicitly clear from the start that I did not write this book to help those seeking to change the way we teach science to our kids. I do not argue that design deserves to be known as science. At best, Intelligent Design may only be a nascent proto-science and thus does not belong in the public school curriculum. Nor does this book argue that evolution is false and deserves to be criticized in the public school curriculum. If the truth is to be told, I oppose such actions." (pg. xi)

Anyone who knows me knows that, as far as these two quotes are concerned, I agree with Mike Gene.

Now, the significance of Mike Gene's statements is not the revelation that "The vast majority of scientists do not view Intelligent Design as science." That goes without saying. (I have no data but I'd bet dollars to donuts that the statement "The vast majority of Christian small-s-scientists do not view Intelligent Design as science" is also true. I can only say that in my experience, anecdotally, it is. ) The significance is that he is yet another scientist sympathetic to ID (and so, I'm guessing, a theist of some form or another) who acknowledges that ID is not science.

It was interesting to read the comments on UD.

Someone named NoChange wrote:

proto-science? That's a slap in the face. People have been doing work on intelligent design for nearly 2 decades, right? It's gone well past being a proto-science, and well into being an established (if controversial) science.

I think it's time to move into the next phase, and do some applied intelligent design work!

The problem here is that UD, unfortunately, is populated with sock-puppets, no doubt due in large part to the fact that the UD moderators routinely banish commenters they don't like. NoChange might be a sock-puppet. If not, one wonders what planet he lives on. ID is not science. It publishes nothing, predicts nothing that is testable, and researches nothing, although it does boast many websites.

Granville Sewell, well known for writing incorrectly about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is fairly insulting:

Interesting. Gene says he does not view ID theory as science, but the quotations you produced seem to suggest he views ID theory as correct. Probably he feels he had to include some anti-ID statements to get the book to be taken more seriously in academic circles.

He accuses Mike of pandering. He is also wrong, logically speaking. ID might be correct (in fact, I certainly think that life was intelligently designed) but that doesn't make it a science. In fact, its correctness has nothing, or little, to do with whether it is a science. In physics we have many conflicting bleeding edge theories—some or all of them are wrong. But they all are science, if they make testable predictions.

But the strangest comment comes from Dembski himself, who wrote, responding to another commenter's claim that German ID supporters are Mike-Gene-esque, that is they do not claim ID is science:

Although I like much about Mike Gene's book, he is an amateur at the philosophy of science. Thus I find those who like Mike try to argue that ID is valuable but not science as engaged in misconceived philosophy of science. I'll probably write a paper on this sometime — when I get time off from my scientific research with Bob Marks's Evolutionary Informatics Lab ( Forgive me for slipping this in, but where is the outcry from your colleagues about the suppression of this work?

Based on publications, Dembski is also an amateur at the philosophy of science, mathematics, and especially biology—but that does not prevent him from arguing about the philosophy of science, mathematics, and biology. He seems unwilling to extend the same courtesy to Mike Gene (whose credentials, as far as I know, are unknown.) One cannot help but to suspect that Dembski's problem with Mike Gene is not based on Mike Gene's lack of multiple Ph.Ds, but with the fact that he has taken the unpardonable ID-isn't-science stand. Furthermore, if Dembski actually cared about such matters, he should be berating most of the commenters on UD, for there is, as far as I can tell, nary a scientific expert among them. Hey Graville, Dembski should shout, stop talking about thermodynamics. You're no physicist.

Ironically, in the UD post just two entries prior (chronologically) to the one in which Dembski chastises Mike Gene for daring to venture into a field for which he is not credentialed, UD contributor GilDodgen argues just the opposite—that formal training is not required to make a contribution to a specialized research area.

But what really struck me about the comment was the "vintage Dembski" expertly packed into a few short blurbs. There is the ubiquitous threat made with bravado—my computer simulation will demolish the competition; my testimony will win the day; I'll bet a bottle of single malt scotch; My science will supplant evolution in just a few years. Here we have: Thus I find those who like Mike try to argue that ID is valuable but not science as engaged in misconceived philosophy of science.
I'll probably write a paper on this sometime.

Don't hold your breath.

In this case, Dembski lived up to his "Isaac Newton of Information Theory" honorific. For he was able to compress all the ID-victimhood meme into his comment. What about the suppression of his research? Why, how can serious research proceed when a scientist is told to move his website to another server? Thank goodness Newton, Maxwell, or Einstein never had to host their websites on another machine—think of the consequences!

Now, I don't always disagree with Dembski. When he's right, he's right. As when he stated:

I believe God created the world for a purpose. The Designer of intelligent design is, ultimately, the Christian God.

Well said.

Again, I am looking forward to reading Mike's book. I have always enjoyed his blog, Telic Thoughts. I know that Mike favors the front-loaded variant of ID, something I know little about. Also, Mike, like most IDers, argues that you do not have to know something about the designer to infer design. I have never been prepared to agree with that statement, so it will be interesting to see if he convinces me.

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