I’ve had reason to discuss Francis Beckwith before. Now over at the BioLogos website, he presents a two part statement of the philosophical weakness of core ID arguments. I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but am passing the links on none-the-less. I expect a fulmination from Dembski …
Back in December 2006 I referred to Francis Beckwith as an ID supporter. This resulted in he informing me that he “has never been much of fan [of] design arguments, ever [and that his] interest in the debate focuses on the jurisprudential questions involving the First Amendment and what could be permissibly taught in public schools under that amendment.” At that time I retracted and removed any reference to Beckwith as a supporter. More recently, Beckwith has objected to others referring to him as a creationist and an ID supporter. Tim Sandefur has replied, and now Barbara Forrest has offered her reply. You be the judge.
Peter Irons has made it known that Frank Beckwith (Baylor) resigned as a fellow of the Discovery Institute in July.The event went without notice from either Beckwith or the DI. Beckwith’s has in the past stated that he "has never been much of fan [of] design arguments, ever. My interest in the debate focuses on the jurisprudential questions involving the First Amendment and what could be permissibly taught in public schools under that amendment."
Obviously one can speculate as to Beckwith’s reasons – was it related to his recent conversion to Catholicism, or perhaps to the asinine activities of Dembski and his ilk, or even to disagreement with the strategies being used in the DI’s media campaign? Who – other than Beckwith – knows? That said, his disappearance is of note.
Twelve months ago I offered a roundup of the "advances" made by the intelligent design movement in 2006, a month-by-month roundup which differed significantly from the assessment of John West. I had started to do the same for this year, but quickly realized that the ID movement achieved absolutely nothing over the past twelve months. They had achieved so little, I was actually not posting much on the subject. Seriously. Sure, I discussed West getting destroyed in public by historian Mark Borrello, and Frank Beckwith quitting the DI, but by and large the year was filled with … nothing. The Disco Institute spent the end of the year either beating the dead horse that is Gonzalez’s tenure rejection, blathering on about Expelled or cheerleading Antony Flew’s conversion. (Of course the latter doesn’t mention Flew’s apparent eugenic sympathies.) Put bluntly, ID has not moved forward as a science one iota since this time last year. Depressing really. I mean, you’d like the opposition to at least try, otherwise the victories are just too damned easy.
To be fair, Bill Dembski gave three predictions for 2007 (wording and screaming capitals are his own) that did actually come true:
- A new ID friendly research center at a major university. (This is not merely an idle wish — stay tuned.)
- The publication of Michael Behe’s book with Free Press: THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION.
- The publication of the sequel to OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE, authored by Jonathan Wells and me and titled THE DESIGN OF LIFE: DISCOVERING SIGNS OF INTELLIGENCE IN BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.
At the time, I predicted that the "ID friendly center" would be at Baylor and no biology would be involved. Lo and behold, the Evolutionary Informatics Lab appeared at Baylor … and then promptly disappeared from Baylor. In July, it comprised of Dembski, Robert Marks (an electrical & computer engineer), and two students. By September, the wholly virtual "lab" consisted of Marks, Dembski, Tomas English, and William Basener. Currently it is Marks, Dembski, Basener, Granville Sewell, and Gil Dodgen – an engineer, three mathematicians, and a programmer. Dembski’s prediction needs to be modified to "a new ID friendly webpage."
I predicted that Behe’s book would offer no new science and would fail to address previous criticisms. Reading the reviews by scientists of The Edge of Evolution validates my prediction and even within the creationist community, the book has been received with deafening silence – perhaps because of Behe’s admission that the design perspective indicates that malaria was intentionally designed. Tom Woodward’s claim that "in the next six to twelve months, Darwinism will go into a steep nose dive as the result of Behe’s new book" is looking more and more laughable as time passes.
And then we have The Design of Life, a book that I predicted would be re-badged Pandas and People without any positive science of design. The book has turned out to be an abject failure, rehashing the same old talking points and reusing much of Pandas. It’s not going to convince anyone in the biological community that intelligent design offers anything of worth. But then again, it’s not meant to – it is aimed at the general public.
So, at risk of sounding like a broken record, let’s see what we didn’t get from the intelligent design movement this year:
- A peer-reviewed paper by Dembski, Wells, Nelson, Meyer …
- Or for that matter, a single peer-reviewed article offering either (a) evidence for design, (b) a method to unambiguously detect design, or (c) a theory of how the Designer did the designing, by any fellow of the DI.
- An exposition of Nelson’s theory of "ontogenetic depth" (promised in March 2004)
- An article by Nelson & Dembski on problems with common descent (promised in April 2005).
- Nelson’s monograph on common descent (currently MIA since the late 90’s).
Funny. That list is identical to what we didn’t get last year. Wow. It’s like 2007 never happened.
But let’s end on a high note. The ID community did provide us with some fun things; LOLcreationists (see my own contributions – LOLDembski and LOLBehe), a strong candidate for Word of the Year ("egnorance"), and ICON-RIDS "an international coalition of non-religious ID scientists & scholars" which Dembski felt would cause problems for nasty evilutionists. ICON-RIDS turned out to be the brainchild of William Brookfield, a professional solo musician and entertainer, founder of the Brookfield (Saba) Institute of Transparadigmic Science, major advocate of Plesurianism, and founder of a company "specializing in high quality sexual products." Needless to say, ICON-RIDS soon disappeared from the ID radar.
So what does next year hold for us? I predict more political action from DI flacks, a movie – Expelled – that will make nary a ripple, a quixotic attempt to get Gonzalez tenure that will fail (and result in his being condemned to teach in some place like Liberty University), and the non-appearance of the five desired items above. Stay tuned!
I have a student currently working on conservative reactions to the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling. As part of the preparations, I’m having him read Larry Arnhart’s Darwinian Conservatism [amaz] and John West’s response, Darwin’s Conservatives [amaz]. Over at his blog, Arnhart has made the following trenchant observation that I felt was worth sharing:
I claim that intelligent design is mostly a negative argument from ignorance with little positive content. That is to say, the proponents of ID attack Darwinian science for not satisying the highest standards of proof, and then they conclude that if the Darwinian arguments fall short of absolute proof, then ID wins by default. The sophistry here is that the proponents of ID set up standards of proof for Darwinian science that they themselves could never satisfy if they had to make a positive case for ID.
I say that for ID to have some positive content, its proponents would have to explain exactly where, when, and how a disembodied intelligence designed “irreducibly complex” structures like the bacterial flagellum. West responds by saying that the proponents of ID don’t have to do this. They can infer that there is an intelligent designer without explaining exactly where, when, or how the designer works. But that confirms my point! The proponents of ID cannot do what they demand that the Darwinists must do–provide detailed, step-by-step explanations of exactly how these “irreducibly complex” mechanisms are constructed.
Be sure and browse through Arnhart”s blog - he has had some interesting exchanges with Discovery Institute Fellows such as West, Francis Beckwith, and Richard Weikart.
Update: In an earlier version of this post, I referred to Francis Beckwith as an “ID supporter”. Dr Beckwith informs me that he ”has never been much of fan [of] design arguments, ever. [His] interest in the debate focuses on the jurisprudential questions involving the First Amendment and what could be permissibly taught in public schools under that amendment.” I apologize for any confusion caused.
Since I am busy, I thought I’d post this oldie from April of last year. The book in question, now titled “Darwin’s Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement” will, according to Dembski, ship soon. I will offer a real review when I can.
Over at his website, Bill Dembski had published the front matter [pdf] for A Man For This Season: The Phillip Johnson Celebration Volume to be published by InterVarsity Press in 2006, and edited by Dembski and Jed Macosko. The volume is a festscrift for PEJ that stems from the celebration that was held at the opening of the Intelligent Design and the Future of Science conference that was held in Biola in April 2004. This is the conference, you will remember, that PEJ received the first Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth “honoring lifetime achievements of an individual who has expanded the scope of academic freedom and truth-seeking.”
Dembski is known to all, Jed Macosko perhaps not so. Macosko holds the PhD in chemistry from UC Berkeley, and in his portion of the introduction he recounts living in Johnson’s basement for a period while in grad school. He is an ISCID fellow, and was a DI/CSC fellow between 2001 and 2003. He is currently an assistant professor (of biophysics) at Wake Forest University. Unlike most ID supporters, he seems to actually publish peer-reviewed scientific research, though none of it appears to offer a theory of intelligent design or any explicit discussion of design.
Below the fold, I offer some thoughts on the volume and its constituent papers. This is – obviously – not a review as I have not read the book and I will no doubt comment more when I do so next year.