Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski

From: John Walley <>
Date: Thu Jan 01 2009 - 22:09:12 EST


If we say that ID is a valid probablistic argument and that they should just not be so certain, then that effectively endorses Dover. I think the mistake was theological. I think God resists attempts to try to prove Him and that is what we should have avoided.

I think the contribution that Thaxton, Behe, Dembski etc have made has been invaluable to church, but it was a mistake to let it get politicized by YECs. Possibly that extra publicity just spread the word more. It is a good thing that the church has come to learn of all the complexity and order in life that defy atheism.

Also, it is wrong to say forensics is about human conduct. An example my buddy uses is that a body is found with no apparent cause of death so it comes to him for tests for poisoning. It may have been poisoned but it is not known for certain going in. And even if a poison is found, say anthrax, it could have been from exposure to a naturally occurring source. Neither of these scenarios neccessarily involve humans. Only in the case where a poison was found in abnormally large quantities or with evidence of it being administered would there be an indication of human involvement. Sometimes humans are ruled out.

I think there is just as much subjectivity around forensic science as there is around Dembski's ID arguments so it is not fair to totally dismiss it. I think there Mount Rushmore and Easter Island arguments are valid as well. I think the complication comes in when we try to translate our inference of human design onto God. Yet even though I don't think the bacterial flagellum implies fiat creation by God I do think it implies design by God.

Thanks for the reference, I will check it out.


--- On Thu, 1/1/09, David Opderbeck <> wrote:

> From: David Opderbeck <>
> Subject: Re: [asa] Doug Groothuis v. William Dembski
> To: "" <>
> Cc: "Rich Blinne" <>, "" <>
> Date: Thursday, January 1, 2009, 9:53 AM
> Rich mentioned that an explanatory filter "at best [is]
> a probabilistic
> argument." In my view, that's one key difference
> between Dembski's approach
> and the evidence offered by a forensic scientist at trial.
> The "beyond a
> reasonable doubt" standard we use in criminal cases is
> not an absolute
> standard. It's a probabilistic standard. We convict
> people of capital
> crimes based on probabilities, not complete certainty!
> "Beyond a reasonable doubt," of course, is
> intended to be an exceptionally
> high degree of probability, to the point of practical
> certainty. But this
> is a particular kind of practical certainty, because it is
> obtained in the
> context of a court proceeding that is constrained by rules
> of evidence and
> procedure that never allow a universally exhaustive search
> for the Truth.
> Even a capital case can't go on forever -- the judicial
> system doesn't have
> the resources for never-ending trials.
> In fairness, most ID advocates do often cabin their
> arguments a
> probabilistic, but they seem to act like they have acheived
> absolute
> certainty.
> The other important difference between a design inference
> in nature and the
> work of a forensic scientist in a criminal case is that
> criminal trials are
> all about *human* conduct. Here we get into the
> theological questions: to
> what extent is there an analogy between God's
> attributes and the creation
> sufficient to draw an inference of divine design from an
> artifact of nature
> that looks designed to a human. This is the question of
> the "analogia
> entis," which has been hotly debated in theology for a
> long time (see here:
> Those
> theologians who speak of God being "hidden" are
> taking an essentially
> Barthian (negative) view of the analogia entis. ID
> advocates seem to take a
> very strong view of the analogia entis. Is there a middle
> way between
> extremes?
> David W. Opderbeck
> Associate Professor of Law
> Seton Hall University Law School
> Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
> On Thu, Jan 1, 2009 at 8:49 AM,
> <
> > wrote:
> >
> > Thanks for this update. I find this discussion very
> interesting. I tried to
> > follow this analysis below but it quickly reminded me
> of Vizinni trying to
> > choose which goblet of wine to drink in the Princess
> Bride. :)
> >
> > But stepping back for a second, don't we agree
> that there has to be some
> > valid explanatory filter for the examples of science
> you mention below to be
> > valid? If it is valid for forensic science then why
> wouldn't it be valid
> > for ID? Excepting for a moment that we don't know
> anything about the
> > designer because that seems to apply to me in
> forensics as well.
> >
> > I have an acquaintance that is a a big ID proponent
> and he is also a
> > forensic scientist ptofessionally and he makes this
> argument all the time
> > and I have not yet satisfactorily resolved this in my
> mind. His scientific
> > findings and testimony in his field of forensic
> toxicology convict people of
> > capital crimes in the court of law, how can we say
> that there is not some
> > valid way to infer design or at least intent?
> >
> > We have also spent a good deal of time on this list
> discussing Wayne
> > Williams who was convicted of several counts of murder
> in the 80's based on
> > probability arguments of carpet fibers found on the
> victims and matching
> > that of William's house and car. This is another
> example that my friend uses
> > since it was his office and colleagues that ran this
> investigation and he
> > has intimate knowledge of it.
> >
> > I am now convinced from theological reasons that it is
> a mistake to try to
> > prove that we can detect a Designer from nature but
> due to the examples
> > above I'm curious how we can rule out that we
> can't detect a designer? I am
> > now thinking that we may have to give Dembski some
> credit here because this
> > does seem logical to me to be able to infer design in
> the bacterial
> > flagellum or the eye even if we don't try to make
> the irreducible complexity
> > argument.
> >
> > How do others on the list reconcile this I'm
> curious?
> >
> > Happy New Year
> >
> > John
> >
> >
> >
> > Rich Blinne wrote:
> > > 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
> >
> said, "I've pretty much dispensed with the EF. It
> suggests that
> > chance, necessity, and design are mutually exclusive.
> They are not." 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 * p robability calculation can be
> convincingly performed* but
> > complex enough so that it does indeed exhibit
> CSI." A full decade after the
> > The D esign Inference and we still don't have a
> single decent example.
> > Young people have a phrase for this: epic fail. Rich
> Blinne Member ASA
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > To unsubscribe, send a message to
> with
> > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of
> the message.
> >


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Received on Thu Jan 1 22:09:30 2009

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