What does Dembski's DI detect?
MB> For example, Bill Dembski does not seek out a vital force, he
MB>seeks out empirical detectors of a mind's ability to implement
WRE>What I have read of Dembski does not indicate this.
MB>It doesn't? I'm afraid you've lifted my quote out of
MB>its context to raise another issue.
The statement I quoted contains two claims which are not
modified by the context of the paragraph from which that
statement is taken. My quote is not "out of context".
The issue I raise is that the statement as given is
MB>I was not talking about the validity of TDI.
Mike's statement about Dembski involved what DI is
capable of telling us. Mike raised the issue that I
MB>Here's the entire quote:
MB>" The modern ID movement is heeding Kant's warning
MB>and does think of teleology as a plan of organization
MB>and not a vital life force. The software is just as
MB>important as the hardware and the boundary conditions
MB>are just as important as the differential equations.
MB>These are valid insights and are being carried forward
MB>by those in the ID movement. For example, Bill
MB>Dembski does not seek out a vital force, he seeks
MB>out empirical detectors of a mind's ability to
MBimplement a plan."
MB>I simply used Dembski as an 'example' of a
MB>modern teleologist who focuses on the detection
MB>of an implemented plan rather than the life
MB>force of vitalism. Whether Dembski succeeds
MB>was not the point.
I didn't say that Dembski's success or lack of it was
the point. Nice strawman technique, Mike.
There are two claims within the sentence I quoted. I
addressed the second claim. I will split them out so that
Mike can see what I am talking about.
1) Bill Dembski does not seek out a vital force.
2) Bill Dembski seeks out empirical indicators of a mind's
ability to implement a plan.
I did not address the first, but there is evidence that it,
too, is false. Notice that the second claim treats Dembski's
work as assessing the capabilities of a mind behind a design.
That is incorrect, and no amount of bluster is going to make
it a correct statement. Specifically, trying to act as though
claim (2) was actually "Bill Dembski seeks out empirical
indicators of implemented plans" rather than "Bill Dembski
seeks out empirical indicators of a mind's ability to
implement a plan" will be rejected as any falsehood should be.
MB>Now, as for the separate issue of the validity of
MB>TDI, Wesley writes:
I was exploring what DI does or does not do, which is relevant
to Mike's claim (2) that Dembski's DI should yield up
information about "a mind's ability to implement a plan".
It was not a "separate issue".
WRE>Dembski's TDI proposes that we can detect the "design"
WRE>which an intelligent agent has left behind,
MB>I agree, as long as we approach the topic in
MB>a provisional fashion. I hope Wesley is not another
MB>design critic who believes a design inference
MB>should be a certain proof of design.
I hold Dembski's DI to the standard that Dembski sets out: DI
as a reliable marker of intelligent agent causation that makes
no false positive identifications with no possibility that
further information can change the identification. If Mike
can show that Dembski has relaxed this standard somewhere, I
would appreciate hearing about it.
WRE>but Dembski's Design Inference tells us precisely zip
WRE>about the intelligent agent.
MB>This is not relevant, as a design inference is an
MB>inference about how things came to be and not
MB>about the identity/essence of the intelligent agent.
It *is* relevant to the claim (2) that Mike wrote in
his original sentence. If Dembski's DI does not tell
us something about the designer's mind, then Mike's
claim is *false*. And Dembski's DI does *not* tell
us about the designer's mind.
MB>Intelligent intervention can and does indeed shape
MB>the world. It's detection is not dependent on any other
MB>assumption other that the agent being intelligent and capable of
MB>intervention (like humans). Dembski attempts to
MB>look for fingerprints of such intervention - dynamics
MB>that 'capture' and 'freeze' mind's intervention.
Detection and discrimination are two different activities.
Mike addresses detection in the above, and apparently hopes
that others will mistake this as support for his claim (2)
WRE>IMO, DI does not even get us as far as knowing that an
WRE>intelligent agent existed, much less acted.
MB>This may be important for people who need to "know,"
MB>but if you don't have a need for certainty, it is not.
Some people do have rather low standards for apologetics.
But as I mentioned above, I am simply exploring whether
Dembski's DI meets the standard that Dembski says it does.
By my examination, it would appear not.
WRE>Dembski has recently been struggling with the issue of what
WRE>evolutionary computation can do, and has introduced the
WRE>concepts of "actual CSI" and the "appearance of CSI" into the
MB>I simply view CSI as positive evidence of intelligent
MB>design thus there is no need for me to respond to anything
MB>else Wesley writes.
How true. When convenient apologetics are adopted, it really
is best to avoid cognitive dissonance.
MB>I will mention, however, that we should distinguish between
MB>abiogenesis/the origin of life from non-life and evolution/the
MB>origin of one life form from another. When this distinction
MB>is made, all of Wesley's evolutionary computations become
MB>irrelevant since the issue (for me) is how life itself,
MB>endowed with CSI, arose ultimately from non-biotic processes.
The god-of-the-gaps nature of IDC belief is well-known, but it is
nice to see it acknowledged one more time.
MB>To exclude intelligent design is to credit the dumb universe,
MB>which shows little or no evidence of generating CSI, for the
MB>most impressive and extensive example of CSI ever known -
MB>life. If we proceed to evolution, and grant that natural
MB>selection can generate CSI from previously existing CSI, then
MB>the design inference simply becomes more fuzzy, not inherently
Like I said, DI becomes at best an apologetic for Deism.
Would that have been the section about Dembski's
bait-and-switch on complexity measures? Mike offers no
comment there. What is Mike's position on the right way to
measure complexity? Should the same yardstick be used for all
events, or should two different yardsticks be used, and you
choose whichever one favors DI-as-apologetic?
WRE>I mentioned proximate causation above, and that also is
WRE>interesting in connection with Dembski. Even if we were to
WRE>grant the claim that the Design Inference can identify
MB>Sure it can.
Not reliably. It can mistake the products of natural selection
for agent causation. See my review of TDI.
WRE>the Design Inference is incapable of
WRE>distinguishing between CSI proximately caused by an
WRE>intelligent agent and CSI that was ultimately caused by an
WRE>intelligent agent removed one or more steps from the event
WRE>Even if Dembski is right about what his
WRE>Design Inference does, Dembski has done no more than provide
WRE>another argument for Deism.
MB>So? The design inference is not supposed to be an argument
MB>for Christian montheism, Buddhist pantheism, or Greek
MB>polytheism. It is simply about detecting the intervention
MB>of an intelligent mind. If Dembski can get us only as far as
MB>deism, then anyone who wants more will have to invoke
MB>more than TDI.
If anyone wants some "empirical detectors of a mind's ability
to implement a plan", they will *also* have to invoke more
than Dembski's DI. Which was my point.
As for what the DI means in terms of theology, it is clear
that the Discovery Institute fellows, Dembski included, have
learned much about the legal issues surrounding the inclusion
of religion-based materials in public classrooms. It is
important to them to be able to plausibly deny a direct link
between DI and any religion. And whenever anyone outside the
"true believing" group notices such a link, it gets
vociferously denied. And yet in interview after interview,
the impression that sympathetic reporters receive is that
IDC tenets are aimed at demonstrating the action of the
Christian God in life's history. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Now, I will return to Mike's claim (1) which I did not examine
in my previous message. Is Dembski seeking a "vital force"
or not? Let's review a little of Dembski's writing...
Information-the information that God speaks to create the
world, the information that continually proceeds from God in
sustaining the world and acting in it, and the information
that passes between God's creatures-this is the bridge that
connects transcendence and immanence. All of this information
is mediated through the divine Logos, who is before all things
and by whom all things consist (Colossians 1:17). The crucial
breakthrough of the intelligent design movement has been to
show that this great theological truth-that God acts in the
world by dispersing information-also has scientific
content. All information, whether divinely inputted or
transmitted between creatures, is in principle capable of
being detected via the complexity-specification
criterion. Examples abound:
The fine-tuning of the universe and irreducibly complex
biochemical systems are instances of specified complexity, and
signal information inputted into the universe by God at its
Predictive prophecies in Scripture are instances of specified
complexity, and signal information inputted by God as part of
his sovereign activity within creation.
[End Quote - WA Dembski,
I think that the link between Dembski and the "vital force" of
the Christian God comes through quite clearly in the above
quote. Dembski is comfortable with linking DI and Christian
apologetics; why isn't Mike?
My Dembski link page points to commentary on Dembski.
If anyone has further suggestions for links, please send
them to me.
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