Home » Podcastss » Podcasts in the intelligent design controversy

Podcasts in the intelligent design controversy

Abuses of Power in Science: An Interview With Darwin Skeptic David Berlinski

Mathematician and novelist Berlinski, interviewed here, is always fun. His Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its scientific pretensions is both sharp and funny. As a secular Jew, he is not arguing for religion, but rather making the point that science is not atheism’s best friend by any means:

•Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.

•Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

•Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

•Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

•Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

•Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

•Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

•Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

•Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.

To me, the main question is not why some out there try to co-opt science to support the new atheism, but why they get disproportionate attention.

Once Richard Dawkins told Expelled‘s Ben Stein that maybe space aliens started life on Earth but not God, I would have thought that ended the matter of who and what to believe. I gather Francis Crick entertained the same idea. Carl Sagan must have been flirting with it when he wrote Contact. And we need this?

Here, Berlinski talks about the problem of how to address dissent in science. Personally, I have a simple rule: If it can’t be disconfirmed, it isn’t science. That’s how I knew Darwinism was not science – I was always being told that the evidence for natural selection acting on random mutation as a source of intricate machinery was overwhelming when it was quite obviously underwhelming. Disconfirmation was simply not allowed. Scientists had to slirt very carefully around any suggestion that their research suggested it wasn’t true. And that’s only the stuff that got published. Vast amounts of time and energy have been put into shoring up this unbelievable belief. Well, the nice thing for me as a traditional Christian is that, in general, this scandal at least can’t be laid at our door.

Meanwhile, here’s Bill Dembski on new peer-reviewed paper, “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success,” published in IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans.

Listen in as Dr. Dembski shares how his research provides accounting practices for checking out where the information in evolutionary processes is being inserted and expressed, thus holding evolutionists accountable to the fact that information is coming from an outside source.

Here is the paper. I remember when Baylor University tried to get rid of the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. This could be one reason why. With any luck, there will be others.

Lastly, here

On this episode of ID the Future, Logan Gage interviews professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook Michael Egnor. Dr. Egnor discusses his current research into cerebral blood flow and the buffering of the brain from the force of blood pumped by the heart. Dr. Egnor’s approach to this problem is that of an engineer, using the design inference to understand how the brain protects itself from the pulsatility of the arterial blood flow of the heart.

So just think, if it rains, you can listen to podcasts instead of raking leaves.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

8 Responses to Podcasts in the intelligent design controversy

  1. As a secular Jew, he is not arguing for religion, but rather making the point that science is not atheism’s best friend by any means:

    It is a better friend to atheism than belief.

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close.

    “Inexistence”? ‘Non-existence’ is the more common usage, surely

    In any event, the burden of proof is assumed to rest with the claimant.

    Although some go further and deny the existence of a god, atheism is usually defined as the lack of belief in any god.

    Believers, on the other hand, are uniformly claiming the existence of whatever is their preferred deity. They get no comfort from science, however, as it has found no evidence for any of them.

    Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close.

    True enough.

    Quantum theory has really only provided an unparalleled insight into the world at a sub-atomic level and has proven to be capable of some phenomenally accurate predictions.

    Apart from that, what have the Romans – sorry – what has quantum theory ever done for us?

    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close.

    No? Well, I suppose Douglas Adams wasn’t a scientist but he came up with the best answer to that little conundrum:

    “. . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

    As for:

    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough.

    Kenneth Miller, Francis Collins, Paul Davies?

    How many signatories now on the Dissent from Darwin list?

    There are plenty of scientists who are believers of sorts. The good ones still follow Hume’s simple principle though:

    A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

    Next we come to an old favorite:

    Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough.

    No? By whose standards?

    The Golden Rule is a rational principle -’do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ – although you might want to be a little careful around sado-masochists.

    There’s also a favorite of mine, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.

    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good? Not even close to being close.

    I thought we were talking about science being a friend to atheism?

    Trading statistics on body counts tells you little apart from which group had the more efficient means of killing.

    Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences? Close enough.

    If someone has a radical new theory then, if they want us to believe it, they’d better have some evidence to back it up. We are under no obligation to believe something just on someone’s say-so. If that’s narrow and oppressive orthodoxy then so be it.

    Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even ballpark.

    Is it rational to believe in something for which the only textual support is both riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions and of uncertain provenance?

    Belief in that sense is arguably the negation of rationality.

    Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.

    There are some – though far from all – believers whose views deserve nothing but contempt and there are many believers who would agree with atheists about that.

    There are also some – though by no means all – atheists who are contemptuous of all religious belief. There are agnostics and atheists do not agree.

    Intolerance is a problem on both sides.

    Once Richard Dawkins told Expelled’s Ben Stein that maybe space aliens started life on Earth but not God, I would have thought that ended the matter of who and what to believe. I gather Francis Crick entertained the same idea. Carl Sagan must have been flirting with it when he wrote Contact. And we need this?

    Richard Dawkins indulges in some otherwise unremarkable speculation about the possibility of space aliens and is mocked unmercifully.

    On the other hand, William Dembski can write:

    ID is not an interventionist theory. Its only commitment is that the design in the world be empirically detectable. All the design could therefore have emerged through a cosmic evolutionary process that started with the Big Bang. What’s more, the designer need not be a deity. It could be an extraterrestrial or a telic process inherent in the universe.

    or Michael Behe can write:

    Thus while I argue for design, the question of the identity of the designer is left open. Possible candidates for the role of designer include: the God of Christianity; an angel–fallen or not; Plato’s demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being. Of course, some of these possibilities may seem more plausible than others based on information from fields other than science.

    but these speculations pass without comment.

  2. How does one ‘slirt’?

  3. Personally, I have a simple rule: If it can’t be disconfirmed, it isn’t science.

    Would you then argue that ID isn’t science? Design could have been implemented by an omnipotent being, in such a way that it would look like evolution. So, how can you falsify design?

  4. Seversky:

    Richard Dawkins indulges in some otherwise unremarkable speculation about the possibility of space aliens and is mocked unmercifully.

    On the other hand, William Dembski can write:
    or Michael Behe can write:
    but these speculations pass without comment.

    [* various statements about non-deity types of intelligence including aliens]

    You seem to find an inconsistency, but there is none. Were you supposing that the criticism of Dawkins was because of something inherently absurd about aliens? If so, you’ve missed the point.

    The explanation is quite simple. Dawkins is criticized for being inconsistent. He treats the inference to intelligent agency as being absurd and beyond serious consideration (as long as it might be God), but then he is quite willing to entertain the prospect of intelligent agency (provided we are not talking about God, but only aliens).

    His inconsistency exposes his bias. The real issue was clearly not an ID inference to intelligent agency. It was his ideological commitment against letting any divine foot in the door.

    Behe, Dembski and many others are being consistent in recognizing that an inference to intelligence does not, by itself, require (or exclude) that the intelligence is God. This is why it is truthful, and not a dodge, that ID in general does not imply or identify a particular intelligent agent, but rather points to intelligent agency.

  5. Seversky,

    “If someone has a radical new theory then, if they want us to believe it, they’d better have some evidence to back it up. We are under no obligation to believe something just on someone’s say-so. If that’s narrow and oppressive orthodoxy then so be it.”

    Hahaha. What evidence do you have to back this up? I am under no obligation on just your say-so. :) That is narrow, to be sure.

  6. 6

    PaulT:

    How does one ’slirt’?

    According to the Urban Dictionary, by being both a slut and a flirt.

  7. William Dembski announces a follow-up paper to “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success” in his interview.
    Where – and when – will this article (“The Search for the Search”).
    I’m quite interested in it, as W. Dembski declares that it contains some powerful results and that it will really nail things down.

  8. Found it – at least a draft :-)

    Could someone clean up the references’ section? The errors in it seemed to be just copied from the version of the previous paper (e.g., it should be
    S. Christensen and F. Oppacher, ”What can we learn from No Free Lunch? A First Attempt to Characterize the Concept of a Searchable Function,” Proceedings of the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation (2001). )

    And please, when referencing a book, please, please state the relevant page numbers.

Leave a Reply