|Wesley R. Elsberry
Joined: May 2002
Open Letter to William Dembski (emailed 2004/03/13)
I'm aware of the challenge you've floated on ARN to identify criticisms that were not addressed in "The Design Revolution".
As a thoughtful critic, I'm working on this carefully. I don't expect to be able to give you a list immediately. You shouldn't expect to receive it immediately. After all, you are essentially calling on critics to establish a negative, which even if not impossible in principle, certainly requires a complete review of the available evidence to assure non-presence. This is tedious and time-consuming work. Complaining that a response isn't forthcoming within a couple of weeks seems a bit unfair, especially in light of how long some critics have waited for answers to previous inquiries.
As I've indicated already on the AE board, I do find the absence of various critics in the index troubling. The response that you gave that you are concentrating on criticisms rather than critics rings somewhat hollow, given that you've chosen to fill the index with names of critics (and other people) to the exclusion of listing concepts.
Listing people in the acknowledgements but not noting their work in discussion of the concepts they have raised is also troubling. For one thing, it misleads the reader. If you bring up a criticism that has been broached by many critics, but only cite a small fraction of critics who have raised the issue, it would tend to make the reader believe that the concept being discussed is somehow less of an issue, being the concern of some small number of critics. This is especially the case for those instances where you have raised a concept and reduced the number of critics cited on that concept to *zero*. This is the case for your string change such that where you previously said "falsifiability" you now say "refutability", but do not acknowledge the critics who pointed out that a problem existed in your use of "falsifiability" (Chapter 39). That list would include me, and it's one of the few places that I can see that an argument from a critic has been found convincing by you.
I'm sure that another reason to exclude certain criticisms from the list would be the recency of the critique. This would appear to be the case for the various criticisms incorporated within the essay available at http://www.antievolution.org/people/wre/papers/eandsdembski.pdf (Elsberry and Shallit 2003). There are several issues that we raised there which I have not yet found covered, either by reference or by concept, within "The Design Revolution". Whether this is simply because I haven't looked hard enough yet or because they really aren't there I cannot say... at the moment.
Of course, I'm not going to stop with just the part about finding places where whole criticisms have been overlooked. I'll be delving into the reasons why we don't "see eye to eye" on various other criticisms. I do appreciate your recent openness, as your courtesy in permitting me access to the ISCID bibliography indicates. But where we differ on the issues is precisely where we should be concentrating on making arguments that are convincing, rather than leaving issues in contention lie.
"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker