Re: "Design up to Scratch?" (The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Roberts)

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu May 01 2003 - 13:24:41 EDT

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    A couple of quick comments for now: You say,

    > I sometimes
    > feel that many here use these weaknesses of ID proponents' rhetorical
    > strategy as arguments that negate their global premise. I do not agree with
    > the latter approach.

    If you wish to study the details of my critique of Dembski's work, go to and click on the link to "Dembski and Van
    Till on Intelligent Design."

    For the moment, I'm content to make the point that the "global premise" of
    the ID movement -- especially as it is represented by its chief theorist,
    Bill Dembski -- is that they have empirical evidence that certain biotic
    systems could not have been assembled for the first time without
    non-natural, form-conferring interventions by an unidentified, unembodied

    If you are interested in my evaluation of that as a scientific claim
    (especially as Dembski employs it in regard to the bacterial flagellum) see
    the lengthy essay on the AAAS web-site listed above. Furthermore, you will
    see there that my evaluation of Dembski's rhetorical strategy is not merely
    that it has weaknesses, but that it is vacuous.

    > While many feel it unneccesary to appeal to direct action of God,
    > I don't mind remaining open to such possibilities.

    OK, that's fair.

    > -These quotations highlight great reservations concerning the use of
    > Dembski's filter for developing an argument about the existence of God.

    In my evaluation of Dembski's work I have come to the conclusion that his
    Explanatory Filter is radically incapable of doing any such thing.

    > 2. Our only use for such a filter does not have to be with making
    > inferences that Dembski has dedicated them to.

    But it seems to me that Dembski's filter is "designed" to do only one thing,
    and that it fails to do even that.

    > We all agree with design, yet we differ strongly between "
    > pre-planning by a Mind" (PPM) and " inferring occasional form-conferring
    > interventions" (OFCI).

    You understand, of course, that you are now using "design" in a way quite
    different from Dembski's most common usage.

    Re PPM and OFCI you ask:

    > How could we distinguish between
    > the two in a more rigorous fashion? To me, a great way would be to
    > quantitate the probability and causative effectiveness of various laws and
    > creaturely capacities, to determine whether or not OFCI is required.

    This is what Dembski has claimed to do. In my judgment he has completely
    failed to do so. For details, see my AAAS essay.

    Howard Van Till

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