It’s kind of hard to watch him speak because he just seems so uncomfortable and nervous. Maybe some of it is just the fact that he can’t talk about evolutionists without getting angry. His ID revolution never came, flaws in the ID theory keep getting pointed out, he never became the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”, and now he just seems like a wounded animal who wants to lash out at “the evolutionists”. But regarding the actual content of his speech: he brings up a lot of misinformation that he wants people to believe, but simply isn’t true.
He uses the phrase “Darwinian idol” three times in 5 minutes – so many times, that you get the feeling that it was an actual talking point. Larry Moran makes the point that:
The goal of the Intelligent Design Creationists is not to promote God but to discredit evolution. Jonathan Wells published a book called “Icons of Evolution” in which he claimed that the ten main evidences for evolution are wrong.
Wells says that scientists believe in evolution because they have faith in materialism and not because of scientific evidence. This is something that Dembski believes as well. That’s why they refer to the main lines of evidence for evolution as “idols.” It’s something we worship and not something that can stand up to close scrutiny.
Throw in liberal doses of “Darwinism” and you’ve successfully conveyed the notion of a group that’s fixated on the words of a man who lived 150 years ago. Isn’t this beginning to sound like a cult?
I’m quite used to creationists and IDists referring to evolution as a religion or a cult. But, I think part of the reason he uses the word “idol” is because he wants to divide Christians into “true Christians” and “idol worshiping Christians” (i.e. evolutionists, not *real* Christians). The Old Testament comes down hard on idol worshiping Jews. In fact, it’s even encoded in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not make for yourself an idol”. I’ve also seen IDists question the sincerity of Ken Miller’s faith (Ken Miller is a Catholic and evolution advocate). By labeling evolution an “idol”, he gets to impugn the validity of Christian evolutionist’s Christianity as well as label evolution a religion.
I think what darwinists have done is really hidden behind the complexities of living systems.
It’s rather ironic that they would accuse the evolutionists of ‘hiding behind the complexities’, when it’s been a staple of the ID movement to talk about the complexities of living systems and (almost always) deny the existence or possibility of intermediate systems. In many cases, it seems like IDists/creationists simply talk about a complex system, and then simply act like their work is done – they try to lead the audience to the idea that ‘if it’s complex, it must be designed’. Which just plain odd from an evolutionary perspective, since evolution is quite capable of creating complex systems. Although, it does play on people’s misconception that ‘complex’ = ‘must be explicitly designed’.
Living systems are so complex that Darwinists do not really have a clue how these things could’ve formed by gradual, detailed, step-by-step Darwinian pathways. So, in a sense, what they do is gesture at various intermediate systems that might’ve existed and then basically say, ‘prove me wrong show me that it didn’t happen that way’. And so they put the burden of evidence on the design people when, in fact, the burden of evidence should be on them. Because these systems, by any standards, are – look like designed systems. And so, if they look designed, maybe, indeed, they are designed.
There are plenty of systems that are well understood and do have step-by-step evolutionary pathways. IDists have argued that blood-clotting represents something that could not have evolved. The evolutionists tracked down the information to show that, yes, it could’ve evolved. Even further, invertebrates’ blood-clotting systems still contain the low-level building blocks of our blood-clotting system. In contrast to Demsbki’s claim that evolutionists merely ‘gesture at various intermediate systems’ and say ‘prove me wrong’, the evolutionists seem to be the ones doing the detailed work. IDists want to believe that biological systems are irreducibly complex, and seem to be afraid to actually explore the possibility that a system could’ve evolved, so they seem to avoid researching that possibility and their reward is that they get to tell people it couldn’t have evolved (which, of course, sells well).
Now, Dembski is a mathematician/theologian/philosopher, and I think part of the problem in Dembski talking about this is that he knows all his biology from IDist biologists, and they aren’t explaining anything other than the pro-ID descriptions of biology.
In William Paley’s day, the eye – the mammalian eye – was as good an example of design as you could find. And he made a design argument based on the eye. Along comes Darwin, along come his successors and they say, ‘look, there are all these different eyeballs out there in organisms. Slap them down on a table, draw arrows between them – those that are less complex to more complex. It evolved. End of story. That’s it.
It’s funny sometimes to hear people misrepresent your own ideas – they leave out details, rewrite the argument, and make changes in an attempt to attack the idea. The problem is this: IDists like to claim that the eye (and they always want to talk about the complex, mammalian eye – which is what the average person always thinks of when you say ‘eye’) is irreducibly complex. Take away the spherical shape, and it doesn’t work. Take away the lens, and it doesn’t work. Take away the light-sensitive cells, and it doesn’t work. The idea that they want you to believe is that the eye is valuable when all components exist and precisely fit together, or it is almost completely useless. That description might be true for mammals and they way we use our eyes. However, it completely ignores the role that eyes play in other organisms.
Evolutionists say that the primitive eye didn’t need to do all the tasks that we use our eye for. In fact, there are simpler eyes that work quite well for creatures — which conflicts with the IDist’s desire that people believe the mammalian eye is somehow the only eye that is valuable. For example, jellyfish have eyes that don’t allow it to perceive clear images – because of the optical properties of their eyes, they can only perceive blurry images. But, then, jellyfish lack a complex brain to make sense of clear images, so it probably wouldn’t be useful anyway. The stepwise progression from a simple eye in primitive creatures could’ve evolved through blurry intermediates into the complex system that is the mammalian eye. That doesn’t mean ‘prove me wrong’, it simply means that IDists are wrong when they assert that only the full, modern, complex eye is useful.
And you see this, actually, there’s a book that was derived from the PBS’ evolution series that came out in 2001 – Carl Zimmer, “The Triumph of Evolution”. That triumph is not going to be around too much longer. If you look at the cover, there are all these different eyeballs there, and the implication is: obviously, the eye evolved. Now the eye is so complex – I mean, multicellular layers and layers of complexity. How are you going to get a handle on that evolutionarily?
It’s funny how Dembski always has to lash out at evolutionists with little “that triumph is not going to be around too much longer” comments. I really think he’s angry that ID hasn’t been embraced like he hoped. This started years ago – most notably when he took pictures of a Darwin doll in a vise and put them on his website. He says, “If you look at the cover, there are all these different eyeballs there, and the implication is: obviously, the eye evolved.” The image is an illustration of the idea that the eye evolved into many different forms, but the message is not “obviously, the eye evolved.” No evolutionist looks at the image and thinks it represents some obvious proof that the eye evolved – this is just Dembski falsely attributing a view to evolutionists to try to make them look clueless.
Well, the Darwinian mechanism it’s a divide and conquer strategy. You take a system – if you can find a subsystem of that system, which performs some function – hey you’ve divided the problem. Clearly it evolved – the more complex global system involved from that system which is embedded in it. End of story. No need to do any engineering work, or any design work or anything. That’s enough. It’s enough to point to these intermediate systems. But not give any detailed, testable, step-by-step scenario for how point A could’ve evolved by gradual means into point B.
Well, that’s simply false. Evolutionists do plenty of work trying to find how these systems could’ve evolved stepwise. For example, it was evolutionists who discovered and detailed the formation of an anti-freeze gene in fish. IDists are afraid of these explanations, they like to make claims that this or that system couldn’t have evolved, they don’t seem to do any work trying to figure out how they could evolve – because they want more and more arguments for theism. Pointing out the existence of intermediate systems are an important step in that eroding bombastic IDist’ claims about a system’s irreducibility.
From their perspective, design is a non-starter — it’s unthinkable, so this is the only way it could’ve happened.
Dembski brings up the canard that science has illegitimately barred the possibility of design, so scientists cannot see all the wonderful evidence for design all around them.