[asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: Rich Blinne <rich.blinne@gmail.com>
Date: Thu Jan 01 2009 - 03:09:39 EST

In the latest PSCF Doug Groothuis opines:

> William Dembski has done more than anyone to theoretically ground
> the ID movement in a bona fide scientific strategy. The details of
> Dembski’s thinking—which often reach a high theoretical level—cannot
> be pursued at length here. Dembski lays out a method for detecting
> design in nature by means of an empirical strategy that makes use of
> rigorous criteria. This method of detecting intelligent causes is
> already accepted in several areas of science, such as archaeology,
> forensic science, intellectual property law, insurance claims
> investigation, cryptography, random number generation, and the
> search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI). ID simply employs
> these methods used for detecting or falsifying design and applies
> them to the natural sciences as well.
> Design is detected through the use of an “explanatory filter” which
> checks for the marks of contingency, complexity, and specificity. An
> event or object may be reckoned the result of an intelligent cause—
> as opposed to a non-intelligent, material cause—if it exhibits all
> three of these factors. In other words, each factor by itself is a
> necessary, but insufficient, condition of design. However, if all
> three factors are combined, then this threefold cluster becomes a
> necessary and sufficient indicator of design.

But there is a critic of the explanatory filter that Groothuis needs
to deal with, Bill Dembski. On Uncommon Descent


Dembski said, "I’ve pretty much dispensed with the EF. It suggests
that chance, necessity, and design are mutually exclusive. They are

So far as the explanatory filter being widely accepted, it is no
longer accepted by its proponent! But then again Dembski trips up
Dembski in the same issue:

> Bartholomew argues that my method of design detection as outlined in
> The Design Inference is fatally flawed because it presupposes design
> to identify the rejection regions I use to *eliminate chance and
> infer design*. Thus my method of design detection is supposed to
> constitute circular reasoning. But Bartholomew never engages my key
> notion of specification, which extends and enriches the traditional
> statistical understanding of a rejection region...

By Dembski trying to acquit himself of circular reasoning he shows
himself guilty of another logical fallacy, the false dichotomy. If you
eliminate chance, you can only infer design if chance and design are
mutually exclusive which Dembski admitted otherwise on UcD. It doesn't
matter that Dembski's concept of specification is hopelessly flawed,
making a hash out of Kolmogorov complexity and causing information
theorists to wretch. This is because even if his so-called rejection
region is not poorly specified, it nevertheless fails to make design
necessary and is the reason why Dembski's hope that CSI will save him
won't do the trick. By admitting that chance, necessity and design are
not mutually exclusive, in my opinion he gives up the whole farm. This
leaves the so-called design inference far short of the "rigorous
criteria" that Groothuis credits Dembski with. At best it's a
probabilistic argument and that is neither a "necessary or sufficient
indicator of design". Even here another admission by William Dembski
shows that you cannot make even a probabilistic argument, "The
challenge for determining whether a biological structure exhibits CSI
is to find one that’s simple enough on which the *probability
calculation can be convincingly performed* but complex enough so that
it does indeed exhibit CSI." A full decade after the The Design
Inference and we still don't have a single decent example. Young
people have a phrase for this: epic fail.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Thu Jan 1 03:10:19 2009

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