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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thursday, August 09, 2012 Who is William Dembski and why are Darwinists afraid of him? Part Four!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Who is William Dembski and why are Darwinists afraid of him? Part Three!

The above was the previous post on Dembski, from the interview found at The Best Schools site.  WD the responses by William Dembski and TBD is the interviewer.


The Dembski responses will not be in bold.   I love the assertion he makes that "...if you're not alive, you can't be evolving."   Thus Darwinism is dispensed with logically.   But he has far more to say than that!

Now on with the interview... 

TBS: You’ve been teaching full-time at theological institutions (Southern Seminary in Louisville and Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth) since leaving Baylor in 2005. What has that been like? Have you enjoyed it? When you were working on your doctorates in mathematics and philosophy, would you have imagined that you might be teaching full-time at a conservative Baptist theological seminary?

WD: I’m grateful to Al Mohler and Paige Patterson for having hired me to teach at their institutions when just about no one else would have. You have to understand that intelligent design is not just anathema to atheistic evolutionists like Richard Dawkins, it is doubly anathema to theistic evolutionists, who see it as both bad science and bad theology.

This may sound crazy to outsiders, who see Christianity as historically teaching special creation and design, but for theistic evolutionists, who have made their accommodation with Darwin, to question evolution is to open a can of worms that, in their minds, should have been closed long ago. So, when Baylor refused to renew my contract in 2005, I had very few options. Most of the CCCU schools (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) would never hire me, or any of my colleagues known to be publicly identified with ID. That includes Wheaton, Calvin College, Westmont, Seattle Pacific, Messiah, etc., etc.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed teaching at theological institutions. In fact, the actual teaching has been thoroughly enjoyable. I’m now past 50, and there’s nothing like dealing with younger people who have fire in the belly, energy, and the passion to attempt great things. As for administrative politics, you always have that, but it’s been nowhere as extreme as at Baylor. Moreover, it hasn’t harmed me (as it did at Baylor).

If I have any reservation about teaching full-time at a theological institution, it’s that my colleagues tend to be focused on strictly theological issues. My own interests include those, but are broader. I see my life’s main work as making intelligent design into a fruitful and credible scientific research program. I’m a scientist at heart.

The seminaries at which I’ve worked have been sympathetic to that aim and even encouraged me in it (Paige Patterson, my present boss, has been terrific in this respect). But my focus on ID has meant that much of my work, even as a full-time seminary professor, has had to be conducted outside that community.

Rewind the tape fifteen or twenty years and ask me if I thought I’d be teaching at a theological seminary, and I would have said no. But it’s been a good experience. I feel enriched and I think my students have likewise been enriched.

TBS: You wear many hats. We’ve just discussed your affiliation with Discovery Institute and the theological world. You are also a senior research scientist with the Evolutionary Informatics Lab, which was formerly at Baylor. Tell us about your association with that lab? It appears that you have been publishing extensively in the peer-reviewed engineering and mathematical literature on active information. Is that work ID-related? How much attention has it  been getting?

WD: For the last four years, my main work on intelligent design has been in collaboration with Robert Marks, a very senior and high-profile engineer on the faculty at Baylor. Even though I’m teaching these days in Ft. Worth (at Southwestern Seminary), on account of family concerns, we continued to live in the Waco area, which is the home of Baylor. So, Bob and I meet regularly to discuss our research. We’ve also brought some graduate students in to help with this work.

The lab used to be one of Bob’s several labs at Baylor, but when he was interviewed back in 2007 by Casey Luskin for a Discovery Institute podcast, it became public knowledge that the lab’s research was related to ID. That was a no-no as far as then-Baylor-president John Lilley was concerned. In consequence, Bob was told by his dean (at Lilley’s instance) to disassociate the lab from Baylor by removing that work from his space on the Baylor server. When he refused, the Baylor administration did it for him. That sordid episode is recounted here, and was also featured in Expelled.

The term “evolutionary informatics” was chosen deliberately and was meant to signify that evolution, conceived as a search, requires information to be successful, in other words, to locate a target. This need for information can be demonstrated mathematically in the modeling of evolutionary processes. So, the question then becomes: Where does the information that enables evolutionary searches to be successful come from in the first place? We show that Darwinian processes at best shuffle around existing information, but can’t create it from scratch.

We’ve done this in various theoretical articles, published in such places as Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics. And we’ve done it in various application articles, where we look at concrete computational scenarios proposed by evolutionists (such as Avida or Tierra) and demonstrate where the information needed for them to be successful is inserted (rather than generated from scratch). This work has also been published and presented in standard engineering venues, such as IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers---ed.] journals and conferences.

I see this work as providing the theoretically most powerful ID challenge against Darwinian evolution to date. As for the attention this work has garnered, there has been some, but Darwinists are largely ignoring it. I’m justified in thinking this is because our methods leave them no loopholes. We’re not saying that evolution doesn’t happen. We’re saying that even if it happens, it requires an information source beyond the reach of conventional evolutionary mechanisms.

Here’s an irony. Jeff Shallit, a former professor of mine (in computational number theory) at the University of Chicago, spent the better part of one of his sabbaticals going after my 2002 book, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased without Intelligence. That book had a few minor errors and infelicities, which I will be correcting in an expanded second edition. In any case, Shallit harped on these errors, such as a probability calculation that was numerically wrong, but whose right answer was still within the universal probability bound that I had established, thus not changing the validity of my argument.

In any case, when I presented Shallit with some of this newer work on evolutionary informatics, he emailed me back saying he wasn’t even going to look at it because I hadn’t responded to his prior critiques. My Wikipedia bio, which prominently cites Shallit’s criticisms of me, last I looked, also says nothing about my publications on evolutionary informatics or the significance of that work, merely mentioning my association with the lab and its expulsion from Baylor. Indeed, I’ve tried to get the Wikipedia bio corrected on a number of points, but always in vain. Wikipedia is fine for lots of things, but on controversial topics with biased editors, it can be quite bad.

Although it would seem that this work on evolutionary informatics is getting ignored, I wonder whether in fact it is being taken quite seriously, only left unmentioned publicly lest it receive legitimacy simply by being on the mouths of our critics. I’ve seen this before. Robert Pennock, for instance, in a Nature article purporting to show how, in the Avida computer simulation, evolutionary processes can build complex structures and functions, omits any reference to Michael Behe and his work on intelligent design.

And yet, in my 2004 Cambridge UP collection, coedited with Michael Ruse and entitled Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, Pennock, who has an article there, gloats that this work refutes Behe. Why didn’t he make that point in the Nature article? Obviously, because citing Behe there would have given Behe another mention in the science citation index and thus further legitimized his efforts to advance intelligent design. I’ve seen the same thing with my own work, which is clearly in the background of some scientific discussions, but doesn’t get cited lest it be legitimized.

Another thing that makes me think that maybe this work is having an impact is that after it started gaining momentum, Michigan State University, home of Pennock’s Digital Evolution Lab, received a huge $25 million NSF grant in 2010 for BEACON (Bio-computational Evolution in Action CONsortium). I suspect that at least part of the rationale for the NSF giving our tax dollars to fund this boondoggle is the threat to Darwinian evolution posed by the Evolutionary Informatics Lab.

TBS: In a debate with Christopher Hitchens in 2010, you cite Boethius in saying that goodness is a problem for the atheist in the same way that evil is a problem for the theist. We would like to hear more about both sides of this interesting observation. First, the problem of evil, which is a main topic of your recent book The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (B&H Academic, 2009). For the sake of our readers: The “problem of evil” is basically the apparent incompatibility of evil with the omnipotence and goodness of God. In a nutshell, could you tell us about your personal take on this perennial problem?

WD: My basic line on the problem of evil is the very traditional Christian view that God allows evil temporarily because of the greater good that ultimately results from having allowed it. My entire prepared remarks in the debate with Hitchens are available online. I encourage readers of this interview to look at it.

What I was dealing with in The End of Christianity is a more narrow problem, namely, how to account for evil within a Christian framework given a reading of Genesis that allows the earth and universe to be billions, rather than merely thousands, of years old. I’m an old-earth creationist, so I accept that the earth and universe are billions of years old. Young-earth creationism, which is the more traditional view, holds that the earth is only thousands of years old.

The reason this divergence between young-earth and old-earth creationists is relevant to the problem of evil is that Christians have traditionally believed that both moral and natural evil are a consequence of the fall of humanity. But natural evil, such as animals killing and parasitizing each other, would predate the arrival of humans on the scene if the earth is old and animal life preceded them. So, how could their suffering be a consequence of human sin and the Fall? My solution is to argue that the Fall had retroactive effects in history (much as the salvation of Christ on the Cross acts not only forward in time to save people now, but also backward in time to save the Old Testament saints).

The book is a piece of speculative theology, and I’m not convinced of all of its details. It’s been interesting, however, to see the reaction in some Christian circles, especially the fundamentalist ones. Ken Ham has gone ballistic on it—literally—going around the country denouncing me as a heretic, and encouraging people to write to my theological employers to see to it that I’m fired for the views I take in it.

At one point in the book, I examine what evolution would look like within the framework I lay out. Now, I’m not an evolutionist. I don’t hold to universal common ancestry. I believe in a literal Adam and Eve specially created by God apart from primate ancestors. Friends used to joke that my conservativism, both politically and theologically, put me to the right of Attila the Hun. And yet, for merely running the logic of how a retroactive view of the Fall would look from the vantage of Darwinian theory (which I don’t accept), I’ve received email after email calling me a compromiser and someone who has sold out the faith (the emails are really quite remarkable).

There’s a mentality I see emerging in conservative Christian circles that one can never be quite conservative enough. This has really got me thinking about fundamentalism and the bane it is. It’s one thing to hold views passionately. It’s another to hold one particular view so dogmatically that all others may not even be discussed, or their logical consequences considered. This worries me about the future of evangelicalism.

When I first began following the conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists more than a decade ago, I applauded it. You have to understand, I did my theological education at Princeton Seminary, which was representative of the theological liberalism that to my mind had sold out the faith. The pattern that always seemed to repeat itself was that Christian institutions and denominations that had started out faithful to the Gospel eventually veered away and denied their original faith.

With the Southern Baptists, that dismal trend finally seemed to be reversed. Some of the Baptist seminaries were by the late ’80s and early ’90s as liberal as my Princeton Seminary. And yet, the Southern Baptist Convention reversed course and took back their seminaries, reestablishing Christian orthodoxy. But Christian orthodoxy is one thing. A “canst thou be more conservative than I?” mentality is another. And this is what I see emerging.

What’s behind this is a sense of beleaguerment by the wider culture and a desire for simple, neat, pat solutions. Life is messy and the Bible is not a book of systematic theology, but to the fundamentalist mentality, this is unacceptable. I need to stop, but my book The End of Christianity has, more than any of my other books (and I’ve done over 20), been an eye-opener to me personally in the reaction it elicited. The reaction of Darwinists and theistic evolutionists to my work, though harsh, is predictable. The reaction of fundamentalists was to me surprising, though in hindsight I probably should have expected it.

Why was it surprising to me? I suppose because during my time at Princeton and Baylor, I myself was always characterized as a fundamentalist. “Fundamentalist,” typically, is a term of abuse (Al Plantinga has had some funny things to say about this, but I digress). But I intend fundamentalism here in a very particular sense. Fundamentalism, as I’m using it, is not concerned with any doctrinal position, however conservative or traditional. What’s at stake is a harsh, wooden-headed attitude that not only involves knowing one is right, but refuses to listen to, learn from, or understand other Christians, to say nothing of outsiders to the faith. Fundamentalism in this sense is a brain-dead, soul-stifling attitude. I see it as a huge danger for evangelicals.

As for the “problem of good,” it poses an obvious and devastating refutation of the materialist position the moment one reflects on it. Whence the indignation of the New Atheists against the injustices and evils in the world, if the world is without value, if it is, as Dawkins puts it, a place of “pitiless indifference”? What is pitting these New Atheists so passionately against the objects of their outrage? Good? The Good? The Platonic form of Good? The goodness of God? The irony gets compounded when they need to explain holocaust rescuers or a Mother Teresa.

I purposely ended my formal remarks in the debate with Christopher Hitchens by citing Mother Teresa. I knew this would be like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Hitchens had done a documentary and then written a book claiming she was a fraud. True to form, Hitchens went on a rant against her once I brought her up, which did not help him in the debate. Hitchens is not the only atheist who needed to explain away Mother Teresa’s acts of charity. E. O. Wilson has done the same.

In a world so filled with evil, why go after Mother Teresa? Because, despite her faults, if her goodness is left unchallenged, it challenges a materialistic worldview that at bottom has no substantive values. It’s fine, on such a view, for values to be explained as culturally or evolutionarily conditioned. But real goodness that transcends such relativism is unacceptable.

TBS: With respect to the “problem of good,” we understand why you raise this as a problem for atheists who are physicalists, reductionists, Darwinists, and others who deny the existence of either purpose or value in any objective sense. Let us call such people “metaphysical naturalists”—they look to the natural sciences, rather than our everyday experience, to tell us what exists. However, all nontheists are not metaphysical naturalists. What would you say to someone—like Aristotle, G.E. Moore, Max Scheler, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hans Jonas, or Thomas Nagel—who is not a traditional theist, but nevertheless believes, on the basis of common sense and introspection, that purpose and value are inherent properties of our universe?

WD: I would say, “We’re on the same page when it comes to purpose and value being objective. Now let’s examine their ultimate source.” It seems to me that Christian theism gives a better account of these, and I would argue as such. I would bring in intelligent design and I would bring in historical evidence for the truth of Christianity. Not surprisingly, I feel much more commonality with Aristotle et al. than with the metaphysical naturalists.

TBS: How do you explain suboptimal or bad design? Do you have a scientific explanation for such instances of design?

WD: The reason we put the adjective “intelligent” in front of the noun “design” is not to stress that the design we find in nature is optimal or good or morally acceptable. Rather, it is to underscore that the design we find in biology and in the universe more generally is actual. Richard Dawkins opens his book The Blind Watchmaker by stating “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

For Darwinian biologists, all such design is merely an appearance. The “intelligent” in “intelligent design” underscores that we’re not just dealing with an appearance of design, but rather with actual design.

So while the question of suboptimal or bad design may be interesting, it is not central to intelligent design as a scientific program, which in the first instance is interested in looking for evidence of design ├╝berhaupt. That said, it will be helpful to bring some clarifications to this discussion, especially since the problem of bad, and even malevolent design, is such a stumbling block for many people in accepting ID.

First off, let’s be clear that design is rarely, if ever, optimal. The problem is that all designs involve compromise among competing objectives. They are multicriteria optimization problems, and the problem with multiple criteria is that there is no unique way to rank criteria.

Take a coat hanger. What is the best coat hanger? One that is strong, resilient, and extremely light. Okay, try a titanium coat hanger. But now you’re paying a lot of money for the coat hanger. If one of your criteria of optimality is cost, then you’ll probably forgo titanium and go with the plastic Walmart specials.

Leaving aside the issue of multicriteria optimization, one might still point to certain biological systems and argue that they could have been designed better. But even this is typically far from clear. One Darwinian favorite is the inverted retina of vertebrates. The wiring is backward, and any self-respecting designer, we are told, would have designed it differently.

Whenever I hear such criticisms, however, what I don’t hear is a concrete redesign plan that, when implemented, actually demonstrates the superiority of the new design. It’s one thing to speculate about how to make something better. It’s another thing to actually do it. Evolutionary biologists are notorious for mounting arguments from imagination, where it’s enough to imagine some improvement without actually implementing it. And for them, such an argument always trumps design.

With the inverted retina, there are actually good functional reasons for it. I recount that in my book The Design of Life, coauthored with Jonathan Wells (Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 2007). Briefly, a visual system needs three things: speed, acuity, and sensitivity. To achieve sensitivity, retinal cells need a copious blood flow. Putting nerves and blood vessels in front of the light sensitive cells allows for just that. Nor does this block light, because M├╝ller glial cells serve as fiber optics that bring the light without distortion to where it needs to be.

Okay, what about parasites and nasty critters that inflict pain on others? Even here, one finds that the designs are quite remarkable—the parasites seem designed to do a number on their hosts. Yes, but what sort of designer would have done this? Read my book, The End of Christianity. Natural evil is a problem, but it is a problem for theology and not for intelligent design per se.

TBS: Next, we would like to press you a bit on your conception of ID. First, let’s agree to some terminological conventions, which will allow us to pose our questions more precisely. Let us call the claim that present-day life forms have descended from ancient life forms the “common-descent hypothesis,” and the claim that the neo-Darwinian theory of natural selection adequately explains common descent, the “selection-mechanism thesis.” Our first question, then, is this: What degree of epistemic warrant would you ascribe to the common-descent hypothesis? What degree to the selection-mechanism thesis? What are the main biological observations of complexity that the selection-mechanism thesis is simply unable to answer or explain?

WD: Common descent seems to me not all that well established. Certain fossil and molecular evidence suggests that a fair amount of evolution may have taken place (perhaps to the level of families, orders, or even classes), but the grand picture of evolution (“monad to Man,” as Michael Ruse calls it) seems to me unsupported. Indeed, the evidence seems to be against it. Illustra Media recently did an interesting video titled Darwin’s Dilemma, focusing on the Cambrian explosion, which challenged Darwin’s theory back in his day and continues to do so today. Jonathan Wells and I devote a chapter to this in our book, The Design of Life.

My skepticism about common descent is not universally shared in the ID community. Michael Behe, for instance, holds to the common-descent hypothesis. But that has not resulted in any rift between him and me. We are both convinced that the selection-mechanism thesis fails. For the sake of argument, I’ll often allow that common descent may be true, even though I personally reject it. But the ID community is convinced that the selection-mechanism thesis is not just unwarranted, but ascertainably false.

In saying this, we are not denying that natural selection operates. Indeed, it does. But we are denying that its range and power are anything like what the Darwinists claim. And the evidence, we would contend, is all on our side. This is probably not the place to rehearse such arguments. I refer readers to The Design of Life. I would also refer readers to an article I coauthored with Bob Marks entitled “Life’s Conservation Law: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information.” This paper can be found in The Nature of Nature anthology, cited earlier.

As for the types of systems that the selection-mechanism thesis is unable to account for, I would point to the irreducibly complex systems to which Michael Behe first drew our attention, but with a twist. Many of the systems that Michael Behe examined in Darwin’s Black Box (Free Press, 1996) are dispensable to life in the sense that organisms can be alive without them. Nonetheless, some systems, such as the protein synthesis apparatus, are not just irreducibly complex, but also indispensable to life.

This strengthens Behe’s argument for the unevolvability of these systems, because simplifying them does not merely render unrecoverable their function, but also precludes life as such—and if you’re not alive, you can’t be evolving. The loophole that Behe’s critics have always cited against him is that irreducibly complex systems might evolve from simpler systems with different structures and functions. Thus, the function of the irreducibly complex system in question would have to be acquired later in the game. But if the function is indispensable, this loophole is closed.

Think of the bacterial flagellum. It is irreducibly complex, yes, but it is also dispensable in the sense that bacteria can get by without this motility device. But protein synthesis, which is irreducibly complex, is also indispensable. Evolve into it from something that can’t perform protein synthesis, and you’re dead.


This is the next-to-last installment on the Dembski interview.   Notice that Dembski is now presenting some of the most compelling arguments of Intelligent Design from the overview perspective.   ID does not speak to the idea of First Cause for the Universe or for life.   Instead, it focuses on what can be deduced and tested and presented as real science in observing organisms today,  in real time, as well as taking the deductions coming from operational science today and then looking at the evidence available for the composition of organisms found in the fossil record.

It is regrettable that some Young Earth Creationists are not willing to comprehend the work Intelligent Design is doing in the world of science and especially the criticism of Dembski for his speculations concerning the Framework Hypothesis and a view of a world in which both Christianity and Darwinian evolution were truth.  For Dembski to explore that concept and write about it is an exercise in critical thinking and not really an attack on Christianity or YEC.    Dembski personally holds to the traditional view that there was a literal Adam and Eve and also a genuine Fall in the Garden of Eden that brought sin and sin's consequences into the world.   But he was unafraid of the exploration of tertiary concepts that are not standard thinking among either Christians or Creationists.

My personal view of the "problem" of an apparently old age for the Universe is that we have to take positions based on worldview and from those positions we then examine the world.   Therefore I have decided to adhere to a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.   I have decided that the Bible will always be correct about those issues it speaks to but the Bible does not make specific statements on every single issue.

 My worldview can be summarized like this:

I am a Creationist first because I am a Christian and believe in the God of the Bible. The Bible states that God created. As it happens, the evidence supports that statement. But the wise Christian stands on the Word and looks at the evidence as it goes by. What the world calls "fact" keeps changing. What God calls Truth never changes!

Now, that was not my position as a new Christian.   I was certainly a Darwinist and a believer in a very old Universe at that time.   A combination of learning and believing the Bible along with a study of the work of Creationists such as Dr. Henry Morris caused me to question Darwinism and more study of the evidence and my own work in the field studying sedimentary rock formations led me to reject Darwinism as untenable mythology.   Subsequently new discoveries concerning DNA and the Solar System and the apparent design of organisms as well as the concept of Fine Tuning solidified my position as a Young Earth Creationist.

The evidence now for both the age of the Earth and the Solar System is overwhelmingly in favor of thousands of years rather than millions.   The only "problem" for a Creationist is the apparent age of the entire Universe.   While secularists pretend that they have a solution in place that explains the beginning of the Universe and why it is what it is now, their Big Bang hypotheses all have massive holes in them.   Most of any one equation that seeks to "explain" the Universe mathematically will be fudge factors.  All secular explanations for the existence of the Universe contain special pleadings, inexplicable and unscientific stories that I usually describe as *poof* because they always lack evidence to support them.

There are several working hypotheses being considered by Creationists to find a way to bring the apparent old age of the Universe and the Biblical assertions of a six-day creation week together logically.   The difference between Big Bang and Big God explanations begin with the idea that God is explicable and does provide an actual First Cause to existence, while Naturalism does not have such an explanation that is historically supported or observable.

William Dembski is simply thinking critically and presenting various hypotheses to the world of science.   His essays, papers and books on Intelligent Design are great contributions to the world of science.   His speculative thoughts on a world where Darwin and God co-exist should not be viewed by Christians as a threat.  All scientists explore possibilities and try to weed out the bad ideas and wind up with good ones.   

Questions should not worry Christians.   Ken Ham has a fine ministry, but he needs to consider why William Dembski does what he does.   Dembski has become a Christian believer but he also remains a scientist and he seeks to get the scientific questions out there and answered.   The man is a critical thinker and is in favor of starting or engaging in real questions that science has not answered.   He is also doing his best to point out that science HAS answered some questions that Darwinists refuse to acknowledge.

There have been too many so-called fundamentalists of whatever stripe who refuse to even consider the possibility that they can be wrong.   For this reason my first pastor now calls himself a "Conservative Evangelical" in order to distance himself from some of the excesses, hypocrisy and mule-headedness of many who are classified as Fundamental Christianity.   Too many people would rather be right than to know what is right.   There are Darwinist Fundamentalists.   There are Atheist Fundamentalists.  When the definition of "fundamentalist" means that you are certain there is nothing left to learn then being a fundamentalist is wrong.

I may disagree with William Dembski as to whether there could be a retroactive Fall.   Adam and Eve were not God and did not transcend time.   Jesus Christ was God before He took the form of a man and He is still God today.    Christ could accomplish things that transcend time.    Adam and Eve could not.   This would be my assertion in a dialogue with Dembski about a retroactive Fall.    But why should we decry the inquisitive mindset of Dembski?   We should instead applaud it!   If all of science was as willing to examine core beliefs and consider alternative ideas and apply the tools of science and logic to every problem area, then we would be far better off.   Darwinism would have been discarded many years ago.  

Stay tuned for part five of the series, which will be the final installment.  I hope that William Dembski's thoughts will cause the readers to think critically about every area in which he has opined in the course of this interview.   I hope that at the end of the series the reader will have respect for the work Dembski has done to advance the knowledge of mankind through his work in the field of Intelligent Design and also have some respect for the reasons that he is willing to explore various concepts concerning Origins.   I also hope the scrutiny of the reader will also focus on the Discovery Institute,  the site containing Dembski's online publications and as well.  Reconsider the assertion of Dembski concerning Intelligent Design and the inability of Darwinists to counter the argument:

"As for the types of systems that the selection-mechanism thesis is unable to account for, I would point to the irreducibly complex systems to which Michael Behe first drew our attention, but with a twist. Many of the systems that Michael Behe examined in Darwin’s Black Box (Free Press, 1996) are dispensable to life in the sense that organisms can be alive without them. Nonetheless, some systems, such as the protein synthesis apparatus, are not just irreducibly complex, but also indispensable to life.

This strengthens Behe’s argument for the unevolvability of these systems, because simplifying them does not merely render unrecoverable their function, but also precludes life as such—and if you’re not alive, you can’t be evolving. The loophole that Behe’s critics have always cited against him is that irreducibly complex systems might evolve from simpler systems with different structures and functions. Thus, the function of the irreducibly complex system in question would have to be acquired later in the game. But if the function is indispensable, this loophole is closed.

Think of the bacterial flagellum. It is irreducibly complex, yes, but it is also dispensable in the sense that bacteria can get by without this motility device. But protein synthesis, which is irreducibly complex, is also indispensable. Evolve into it from something that can’t perform protein synthesis, and you’re dead."  - William Dembski

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