Re: Dembski and CSI

Bill Hamilton (
Wed, 5 Mar 1997 15:03:08 -0500

Burgy wrote:
>Bill hamilton wrote:
>>Subject: Re: Dembski and CSI [was Re: NTSE Note #5
>>>At 11:08 PM 2/28/97, Brian D Harper wrote:
>>>(2) My initial reaction to the above was that Newton's Laws (NL)
>>>would be "fabrications" since they were discovered after the fact
>>>by finding patterns in "information" that had already been actualized.
>>Agreed. And in this case the patterns as originally [postulated] weren't
>>even accurate, in the sense that they are first-order approximations that
>>break down at relativistic velocities and in the quantum realm.
>I think I don't agree with either you or Brian at all on this.

I'm admittedly nitpicking here, and your suggestion below that we test the
archer's claims by asking him to hit additional targets (and implicltly
accept that some corrections to incorporate newly discovered things like
quantum and relativistic effects (the archery example sounds absurd with
these corrections, doesn't it? :-)) is reasonable. Not only reasonable --
it's exactly why science has been as successful as it has. However, some
observers would be very restrictive in how much leeway they would give the
archer to correct his aim. Michael Bauman in comparing the frequently
tortuous development of scientific theories to the rapid development and
relative stability of Christian theology scores science because old
theories are invalidated by new theories, and specifically mentions
Newton's laws. Bauman wouldn't give the archer any leeway at all. [Bauman,
Michael, "Between Jerusalem and the Laboratory: A Theologian Looks at
Science", Man and Creation: Perspectives on science and theology,
Hillsdale, MI, Hillsdale College Press, 1993, pp 247-267] Perhaps Brian is
making a point about the attitudes of some creationists and ID advocates.

What bothers me about Dembski's paper is the implication that the pattern
discovered must be specified in advance. In his example I can draw the
target and watch while the archer shoots at it. However, in scientific
investigations Dembski apparently finds himself having to decide whether a
particular pattern discovered now was specified (by whom?) in advance at
some unknown time in the past or outside of time. Perhaps evolution would
be rejected while Newton's laws would be accepted. In any case if a
dispute arises about whether a discovered pattern is CSI or not, it would
seem the dispute would turn on whether or not a Designer that one disputant
believes in and the other may not specified it before the foundation of the
earth. I see no way to resolve such a dispute. Maybe I'm being too hard
on Dembski. Perhaps I should wait for his monograph.

Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr, Ph.D. | Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems | General Motors R&D Center | Warren, MI
810 986 1474 (voice) | 810 986 3003 (FAX) | (home email)