From: Morgan Grey <>
To: <>
Reply-to: <>
Date: Fri Oct 12, 2001 9:54 am
Message: 21889
Subject: ID-Commentary: "Disbelieving Darwin..."

This is my fourth commentary on texts written by
leading IDers. My last such post can be found at

This week, I'm commenting on Dembski's "Disbelieving
Darwin -- And Feeling No Shame!", posted to Metanexus
(also online at

In this article, Dembski speculates about dogmatism in
science, the public's alleged refusal to accept
Darwinism, and also shares a few thoughts about
evangical Christianity's new poster-child, Intelligent

027: Disbelieving Darwin and Feeling No Shame, by
William Dembski
Metaviews 027. 2000.03.16. Approximately 2150 words.

BG> Below is a column from William Dembski from the
BG> Polanyi Center at Baylor University with the
BG> title "Disbelieving Darwin - And Feeling No
BG> Shame!" Dembski makes a compelling inductive
BG> argument from past scientific failures that we
BG> should be skeptical about Darwinism. He presents
BG> the dominant biological orthodoxy as dogmatic and
BG> out of step with the public and the evidence.
BG> Dembski develops a tentative case for moving
BG> beyond Darwinism.
BG> In the end, Dembski presents Intelligent Design
BG> Theory as THE alternative to Darwinism, but there
BG> are other possibilities to be considered. I would
BG> also like to see the terms "intelligent"
BG> and "design" defined in a rigorous manner.
BG> Finally, one wonders whether the radical
BG> skepticism that Dembski advocates for science
BG> would also be applied to his religious beliefs and
BG> how. All in all though, we have a poignant
BG> counterpoint to Michael Shermer's recent thread.
BG> -- Billy Grassie
WAD> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- From:
WAD> (William A. Dembski)
WAD> Subject: Disbelieving Darwin -- And Feeling No
WAD> Shame!

Dembski starts out by praising the tentativeness of
science and warning us of letting dogmatism replace
commitment to a certain theory. All well and good, and
hopefully something that scientists on both sides of
the issue can agree with.

And since everyone can read this for themselves in the
original document, I have snipped the beginning of
Dembski's essay without further comment.

WAD> I open with these general remarks about
WAD> tentativeness and dogmatism in science because
WAD> their importance is too frequently neglected in
WAD> discussions of biological evolution. It hardly
WAD> makes for a free and open exchange of ideas when
WAD> biologist Richard Dawkins asserts, "It is
WAD> absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody
WAD> who claims not to believe in evolution, that
WAD> person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked,
WAD> but I'd rather not consider that)." Nor does
WAD> philosopher Michael Ruse help matters when he
WAD> trumpets, "Evolution is a fact, *fact*, *FACT!*"
WAD> Nor for that matter does Stephen Jay Gould's
WAD> protegă Michael Shermer promote insight into
WAD> natural selection when he announces, "No one, and
WAD> I mean *no one*, working in the field is debating
WAD> whether natural selection is the driving force
WAD> behind evolution, much less whether evolution
WAD> happened or not."

Let me be entirely clear on this: Dembski has a point.
In presenting the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution to
the public, many scientists *have* (and still do)
presented evolution dogmatically and without the
tentativeness that Dembski advocates (and with which I
absolutely agree).

However, I also believe that this rests as much on
YEC's as on evolutionary biologists. In their
oft-repeated claims that "evolution is just a theory",
they have forced the scientific community to make
clear that common descent (and to a certain degree the
process of evolution) is supported by overwhelming
evidence. In doing so, many scientists have emphasized
the evidential suppport of the theory to the point of
presenting it as something that simply *cannot* be
false. Needless to say, members of the ID movement
have seized on these statements, pressing the opposite
point: That the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, as
the only scientific theory, is being presented as
something *other* than "a theory".

Let me add that not all scientists have fallen to the
temptation of presenting the theory as something it is
not, as these few examples will hopefully show:
"It would be folly for evolutionists to
claim that they have a complete and accurate
understanding of the history of life and of
the processes that produced that history. Too
many major paradigms in science have been
overturned for any statement of such absolute
confidence to be wise. We should consider
alternatives and we should consider the
possibility that we might be wrong in at least
some parts of the basic framework of
evolutionary thinking. And this consideration
of alternatives is, in fact, going on in the
1980s with challenges from within evolutionary
biology itself to the neo-Darwinian model as
it is applied to macroevolution (Lewin 1980)."
(Raup, D.M., "The Geological and
Paleontological Arguments of Creationism", in
Godfrey, L.R. (ed.), 1983, "Scientists
Confront Creationism", pp. 161)
"Science does not claim to discover the final
truth but only to put forward hypotheses based
on evidence that is available at the time of
their presentation. Well-corroborated
hypotheses are often treated as facts, and
such a fact is that of organic evolution. If a
hypthesis is fairly general in its
presentation, it is difficult to test, but a
detailed hypothesis like that of organic
evolution is readily suspectible to disproof.
The evidence for evolution is overwhelming,
and there is no known fact that either weakens
the hypothesis or disproves it." (Campbell,
B.G., 1966, "Human Evolution", pp. 1)
WAD> Such remarks, and especially the attitude behind
WAD> them, do nothing to settle the ongoing
WAD> controversy over evolution. Gallup polls
WAD> consistently indicate that only about ten percent
WAD> of the U.S. population accepts the sort of
WAD> evolution advocated by Dawkins, Ruse, and
WAD> Shermer, that is, evolution in which the driving
WAD> force is the Darwinian selection mechanism. The
WAD> rest of the population is committed to some form
WAD> of intelligent design.

Dembski is doing some serious word-spinning here.
Gallup's poll doesn't even use the term "Darwinian
selection mechanism", so any claims of the "population
accept[ing]" "evolution in which [this is] the driving
force" must come from Dembski, not from Gallup.

According to
the poll asks people to chose the following statement
that best describes their view:

"Human beings have developed over millions of years
from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this

"Human beings have developed over millions of years
from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part
in this process."

"God created human beings pretty much in their present
form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

Of the people asked, 37% agreed with the first
statement, 12% with the second, and 45% with the

Since statement no. 2 is tantamount to atheism, it is
not at all surprising that only a small minority of
the American public agrees with it. In fact, only 1%
of the people referring to themselves as
"creationists" agreed with this statement.

And that the 45% agreeing with statement 3 "is
committed to some form of intelligent design" is also
well beyond dispute, given that they are most likely

However, when Dembski choses to classify the 37% who
agreed with the first statement as being "committed to
some form of intelligent design", he is simply
imposing *his own* opinion about how "God guided this
process", in order to make it appear as if the public
somehow supports the ID-movement.

For example, all Christians who hold some version of
theistic evolution, teleological evolution, or fully
gifted creation would hardly like being told that they
are "committed to some form of intelligent design",
especially after Dembski told them that "intelligent
design is incompatible" with their position, and that
it "[t]heistic evolution takes the Darwinian picture
of the biological world and baptizes it" ("Intelligent
Design", pp. 110). And as far as Gallup is concerned,
those 45% "selected a statement that can be seen as
compatible with the scientific findings of
evolutionary scholars".

There is absolutely no evidence that the public is
particularly committed to the views espoused by
members of the ID-movement. In fact, Alan G. Padgett,
writing for Christianity Today, a magazine that
characterizes itself as believing that "the Scriptures
are the inspired Word of God and that the gospel is
the power of God unto salvation", does "not think that
the intelligent-design folks will win the day", and
even "accept[s] the notion that life will some day be
explained through natural causes":
"For my part, if I had to predict today how a
future Angelic Doctor will reconcile theology
and science, I would throw my hat in with
O'Hear and Swinburne. I do not believe the
intelligent-design folks will win the day. In
other words, I accept the notion that life
will some day be explained through natural
causes, while insisting that God is the origin
of all natural things, natural causes, and
natural laws. In this way design and evolution
are not opposites. Rather, evolution is based
upon natural regularities, which in turn are
created by God. Evolution is based upon
design." (Padgett, A.G., 2000, "Creation by
Design", Christianity Today,
I am not claiming that the public is particularly
hostile to the ID-movement, or that the majority holds
those versions of theistic evolution that are
compatible with neo-Darwinism, since the options
presented by the Gallup-poll are so vague. However, I
strongly resent Dembski's attempt to twist those
results in order to claim that the majority of the
population "is committed to some form of intelligent

I have hear snipped several paragraphs, in which
Dembski advances speculations about "why the public
rejects Darwinism". I found these speculations
irrelevant until Dembski can *show* that "the public
rejects Darwinism", and have therefore not commented
on them.

WAD> The public need feel no shame at disbelieving and
WAD> openly criticizing Darwinism. Most scientific
WAD> theories these days are initially published in
WAD> specialized journals or monographs, and are
WAD> directed toward experts assumed to possess
WAD> considerable technical background. Not so
WAD> Darwin's theory. The locus classicus for Darwin's
WAD> theory remains his *Origin of Species*. In it
WAD> Darwin took his case to the public.

Dembski is here "forgetting" the fact that in Darwin's
time, there was few to none scientific publications
dealing with biology, in which Darwin could have
published his theory. In fact, Darwin practically
*founded* biology as a science, eventually making
possible the publication of biological journals like
NATURE and SCIENCE, in which studies regarding
evolution are published.

WAD> Contemporary Darwinists likewise continue to take
WAD> their case to the public.

There is nothing wrong in "tak[ing one's] case to the
public." What is usually advocated is that one *also*
"take[s one's] case to the" scientific community. So
far, the ID-community has not published anything in
the scientific litterature, offering any evidence for
their claims that certain things (the universe, life,
etc.) is intelligently caused.

Perhaps Dembski, in his next writing, will assure the
public that it "need feel no shame at disbelieving and
openly criticizing" Intelligent Design-theory?

WAD> The books of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett,
WAD> Stephen Jay Gould, E. O. Wilson, and a host of
WAD> other biologists and philosophers aim to convince
WAD> a skeptical public about the merits of Darwin's
WAD> theory. These same authors commend the public
WAD> when it finds their arguments convincing. But
WAD> when the public remains unconvinced, commendation
WAD> turns to condemnation.
WAD> Daniel Dennett even recommends "quarantining"
WAD> parents who teach their children to doubt
WAD> Darwinism (see the end of his *Darwin's Dangerous
WAD> Idea*).

In his "Intelligent Design" (pp. 289) Dembski makes
the same charge, specifying the reference to page 519
in Dennett's book. I assume that Dembski is referring
to the following paragraph:
"We should not expect this variety of
respect to be satisfactory to those who
wholeheartedly embody the memes
[fundamentalist Christianity] we honor with
our attentive -but not worshipful-
scholarship. On the contrary, many of them
will view anything other than enthusiastic
conversion to their own view as a threat, even
an intolerable threat. ... But we have no
reasonable alternative, and those whose
visions dictate that they cannot peacefully
coexist with the rest of us we will have to
quarantine as best we can, minimizing the pain
and damage, trying always to leave open a path
or two that may come to be seen as
acceptable." (Dennet, D.C., 1995, "Darwin's
Dangerous Idea", pp. 519)
Unless Dembski thinks that "teach[ing one's] children
to doubt Darwinism" "dictate that [one] cannot
peacefully coexist with" other people, it seems as if
we have another example of Dembski misrepresenting his
opponents' views.

WAD> Whether intelligent design is the theory that
WAD> ultimately overturns Darwinism is not the issue.
WAD> The issue is whether the scientific community is
WAD> willing to eschew dogmatism and admit as a live
WAD> possibility that even its most cherished views
WAD> might be wrong.

This is, IMHO, a *non*issue. Dogmatig-sounding
statements from popularizers of science
notwithstanding, there is absolutely no reason for
assuming that "the scientific community is" *not*
"willing to eschew dogmatism and admit as a live
possibility that even its most cherished views might
be wrong."

WAD> William Dembski
META> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Footer
META> information below last updated: 1999/12/10.
META> Copyright 1999, 2000 by William Grassie. Copies
META> of this internet posting may be made and
META> distributed in whole without further permission.
META> Credit: "This information was circulated on the
META> Meta Lists on Science and Religion
META> <>."


"Evolution is to the social sciences as statues are to
birds: a convenient platform upon which to deposit badly
digested ideas." (Steve Jones, 2000, "Darwin's Ghost", pp.

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