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  Topic: Uncommonly Dense Thread 4, Fostering a Greater Understanding of IDC< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4387
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 29 2012,00:26   

Stephen Barr asked Barry Arrington over on "First Things" whether Dembski had ever responded to the essay on CSI by me and Jeff Shallit. Interestingly, Arrington's statement on UD about the exchange bypasses that question and simply says that our 2003 article can't be considered a response to a 2009 article by Dembski and Marks.

The DI's John West put an oar in, saying that, yes, a response existed. He linked to a rant by Casey Luskin on the DI site.

So I put up a response in the comments over there.


John West refers readers to a rant by Casey Luskin as a response to the essay by Jeff Shallit and me. Casey Luskin is nothing if not prolific, but he rarely backs up his prolixity with careful comprehension of the subject matter. Luskin’s eagerness to seize upon imaginary faults in the work he critiques is a well-known failing of his.

For an example that may be simply explained in this format, consider section “III” of Luskin’s rant.


In the previous section, we saw that Elsberry and Shallit prematurely allowed their own preconceptions to dictate what ought to be designed. They claimed that ID is “unfalsifiable,” and then claimed an overall naturalistic paradigm of origins is treated as falsifiable, stating, “Contrary to Dembski’s assertions, design is not arbitrarily ruled out as an element of scientific investigation.”

This is an odd claim because there are many examples of ID critics trying to dismiss ID by defining it as outside of science. These critics arbitrarily refuse to even consider ID. In fact, Dr. Elsberry’s former employer, the NCSE, convinced Judge Jones to do just that in the Dover ruling. It’s difficult for me to accept Elsberry and Shallit’s claim given that evolutionists have said things like these:

[quotes used by Luskin deleted -- WRE]

It’s hard to take Elsberry and Shallit seriously when they claim that many evolutionary scientists don’t reject ID as unscientific by definition. [...]

Unfortunately, Luskin’s entire argument here is simply equivocation, as may be confirmed by reference to just a bit more of what we actually wrote.


Dembski pleads for more consideration of design as a scientific explanation, but he seems to be of two minds concerning this. On the one hand, he claims “science has largely dispensed with design” and science “repudiates design” [19, p. 3]; on the other hand, just three pages later he cites archaeology [19, p. 6] as an example of a science that is based in part on inferring design. Contrary to Dembski’s assertions, design is not arbitrarily ruled out as an element of scientific explanation, even in biology.

Scientists, however, are reluctant to infer “rarefied” design, a design inference based on ignorance of both the nature of the designer and regularities that might explain the observed phenomenon. But this reluctance is well-grounded. Empirically gained knowledge of designers and the artifacts which they create permit us to recognize regularities of outcomes, leading us to make an “ordinary” design inference in such cases. With an “ordinary” design inference, a designer becomes just another causal regularity. This is not so with a “rarefied” design inference, which Dembski urges us to make in ignorance of the properties of any putative designer and also of other causal regularities which may be operative. For more details, see [94].

We were at pains to distinguish the kind of design that is welcome in scientific inquiry from the invalid and unsupported sort that Luskin and his colleagues insist be treated as if it were the same thing. Luskin treats the rejection of invalid and unsupported rarefied design claims as a counter to our statement, when it is nothing of the sort.

None of the rest of Luskin’s screed rises above the poor showing he made in this part.

Contrary to West’s assertion, the 2003 essay is not outdated: Dembski has neither retracted nor even amended most of the concepts that we discuss and critique there. In fact, it stands without substantive (from Dembski) or competent (Luskin, for reasons outlined and exemplified above) response as of yet.

Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on Feb. 29 2012,00:27

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

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