Re: Dembski's detecting

Date: Tue Jan 04 2000 - 21:27:06 EST

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    >What does Dembski's DI detect?

    MikeBGene wrote:

    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
    MB>a plan.


    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

    For the statement to be false, Dembski would have to be
    seeking out a vital force and not ways to detect an
    implemented plan. Keep in mind that I cited
    Dembki only as an example of the way the modern
    ID movement (as far as I can tell) is heeding Kant's
    warning. My posting spoke of the important role teleology
    played in the development of modern science, what
    went wrong, and whether teleology can re-emerge.

    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

    Except that Wesley overlooks that both claims
    employ the following phrase - "seek out." Seeking
    out a capability does not entail the capability is actualized.
    As I see it, Dembki is not seeking out a vital force,
    but is seeking out a way to detect intelligent intervention.
    Bottom line - that was my point.

    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
    MB>implement 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.

    Your argument is a critique of Dembki's method.
    For you to think my point is dependent on whether
    the DI is capable of detecting intelligent intervention
    is to employ a nice strawman technique, Wesley.

    >There are two claims within the sentence I quoted. I
    >addressed the second claim.

    Which, IMO, took things out of context as the two were not
    meant to be split. The two claims *together* were intended
    to illustrate the way the modern ID movement is heeding
    Kant's warning given that failure to heed this warning led
    to the demise of the teleologists. This point then fits into
    the larger context of the whole post.

    >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.

    Let me just say this. When I wrote "Bill Dembski seeks out empirical
    indicators of a mind's ability to implement a plan," I indeed meant
    "Bill Dembski seeks out empirical indicators of implemented plans,"
    Perhaps my original sentence was awkward (being a product of public
    education and all that), but that is what was honestly intended. However,
    I can now see how you would not be wrong in interpreting my original
    sentence to focus on detecting "mind's ability" rather than
    the product of mind's ability. So let me officially reword that

    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, it looks to
    MB>me as if Bill Dembski does not seek out a vital force, but
    MB>instead seeks out empirical indicators of implemented
    MB>plans (i.e., ways to detect whether intelligent intervention
    MB>has occurred.). "

    If you are trying to understand another's view, it is wise to
    grant the benefit of doubt and listen. If you simply want
    to be argumentative and score points, it is wise to pounce
    on ambiguities and mine them for all they are worth.

    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".

    My apologies for the awkward wording. But it would seem
    to me that someone taking the time to try to understand the
    larger points amidst the larger context would have found it
    odd that the argument was suddenly about Dembski being able
    to tell us something about the designer.

    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.

    My interest in this issue goes beyond any one's particular
    way of formulating an approach. Dembski can defend Dembski's
    views and I'll defend mine. So let me go back to my suspicion.
    Are you someone who thinks a design inference should be something
    close to a certain proof of design?

    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.

    Yes, I can now understand how one can interpret
    my original sentence such that it is false. But the
    important point, as I see it, is stated above where
    a design inference is about how things came to be
    and NOT about the identify/essence of the intelligent
    agent. And in keeping with my original context,
    nor is the design inference about discovering a vital

    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)
    >about discrimination.

    You are being quite argumentative. I am trying to expand,
    clarify, illustrate, communicate my views. I am not
    hoping others will make a mistake nor do I think I am
    incapable of making a mistake. If it is important for you
    for me to admit claim (2) as originally written is false,
    then fine, as you interpreted it, I will admit it is false.

    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.

    I do not approach this topic as apologetics. And I do
    not consider views less than certain to be a low
    standard. Does science employ low standards?

    >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.

    Why you want to explore Dembski's views with *me* is
    odd. My original article contained close to 3000 words.
    The *one* place I mention Dembski constitutes only 0.8%
    of that article, and only as an example of a point that is
    unrelated to whether Dembski's DI meets the standard
    Dembski says it does.

    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.

    Why must you insult me? What makes you think I am
    engaged in "convenient apologetics?" What makes you
    think I am trying to avoid "cognitive dissonance?"

    If there is any cognitive dissonance going on, I suggest
    it might be yours. You have obviously invested much
    time and energy as a critic of Dembski, thus I suppose
    it would be bothersome if someone like me comes along
    and is willing to use CSI to infer design in a way that
    renders your critiques impotent.

    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.

    Why do you think I was employing a god-of-the-gaps argument?
    I was not. As I mentioned, I view CSI as positive evidence of
    intelligent intervention. There is a clear link between intelligent
    intervention and CSI, as you demonstrate when you reply to me
    through this medium. Your argument appears to be that evolutionary
    mechanisms can generate CSI too. The key word is "too" because
    your argument is not that evolution *only* is able to generate CSI.
    Okay, fine. But when we speak of abiogenesis, you lose your
    alternative explanation. We are then left with CSI that is not
    explained by evolutionary mechanisms. It is NOT a god of the
    gaps argument to attribute this CSI to intelligence given that
    CSI is positive evidence of intelligent intervention and also
    because it has no serious rival mechanism at this point.

    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.

    Even if true, it doesn't matter. Is the DI supposed to be
    apologetics for something else? Do you approach origins
    from an apologetic angle?



    >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?

    I told you why I offer no comments, remember?-->

    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.

    Please make up your mind.

    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
    WRE>intelligent agency,

    MB>Sure it can.


    >Not reliably. It can mistake the products of natural selection
    >for agent causation. See my review of TDI.

    First of all, note that the problem is that the DI "can" make a
    mistake. How terrible. This shows that Wesley demands the
    DI to be perfect, which shows that he expects what I suspect,
    namely, that a design inference must be an absolute, certain
    proof of the Truth (for only this could not possibly make
    a mistake).

    Secondly, recall that *I* distinguish between abiogenesis
    and evolution. The likelihood of such a mistake here
    is minimal, since natural selection is a mechanism
    of evolution. And I consider CSI a very reliable indicator
    (not to be confused with perfectly valid) of intelligent
    intervention when natural selection is pushed off the stage.

    Thirdly, your problem cuts both ways. As I posted to this
    list several months ago:

    "After life exists, you seem to be saying that both the intervention
    of an intelligent agent and natural selection can explain similar
    attributes. Your argument then boils down to 'we can't tell.'
    Thus, if we cannot surely say that some feature exists because of
    intelligent intervention (because it could be due to natural selection),
    we can't surely say that some feature exists because of natural
    selection (because it could be due to intelligent intervention).

    Now, how is it that you infer the causal activity of natural selection
    behind some biological feature that originated in the distant

    If your whole case against the design inference is that it can
    make mistakes, why think I would be impressed?

    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>being analyzed.


    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.

    I'm afraid this just shows how Wesley missed the whole point
    of my posting by focusing on one non-essential sentence
    among a 3000 word posting. Inferring design has a history
    that goes far, far beyond the Discovery Institute. It involves
    a 2500 year old debate between teleologist and nonteleologists
    that is bigger than any one expression of the debate. Whether
    the Discovery Institute has a hidden agenda matters not me.
    I am not a member of the Discovery Institute; I am simply
    one who does not pooh-pooh design out of some parochial
    sense of history and ill-informed, over-inflated views of
    what a non-design approach delivers. I think there might
    be real potential in an approach that employs intelligent
    intervention as a causal explanation and am happy to explore
    that which is ignored by most. My posting was about
    whether the teleological approach is dead and gone, not
    whether religious apologists are found among those who
    invoke design. I don't care if one approach in inferring
    design can make mistakes, nor do I care if the Discovery
    Institute was a secret extension of the The Christian Coalition.
    The issue is FAR more interesting than all of this stuff.


    >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...

    This posting is much too long, so I'll glady concede any
    point that is important to you (perhaps my problem is
    in projecting my own views to "the ID movement.")
    So I will simply rephrase that section from my
    posting (again) in the interest of maintaining my

    Can It Be Fixed?
    The reason I think teleology will eventually re-assert
    its position in science is that vitalism is simply not
    entailed by teleology no more than pantheism is
    entailed by monotheism. A modern ID movement
    can take a form that is not simply a religious reaction
    against Darwinism. Nor need it entail simply replaying
    old failed versions of teleology.

    A modern ID movement could heed Kant's warning
    and think of teleology as a plan of organization
    and not a vital life force. The software is just as
    important as the hardware and the boundary conditions
    are just as important as the differential equations.
    These are valid insights that can be carried forward
    by those in this ID movement. ID theorists would not
    seek out a vital force, but instead seek out ways to
    detect whether an intelligent mind was likely associated
    with how certain things on this planet came to be.
    [continue with rest of posting]"



    >Dembski is comfortable with linking DI and Christian
    >apologetics; why isn't Mike?

    I am not comfortable with linking any design inference
    to any religious apologetics because I happen to think
    a design inference must remain a tentative inference
    and must take place in an open-ended fashion. If
    Christians want to give the design inference a Christian
    interpretation, that is their right. After all, many Christians
    (including you, I think) already give Darwinian evolution
    a Christian interpretation. But the act of giving a design
    inference a religious interpretation no more taints the
    inference than the act of giving Darwinian evolution a
    religious interpretation.

    The real question is why you think I was supposed to
    be comfortable?


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