Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Signature in the Cell - Part 2. A digression on Dembski

In Part 1 of my review I ended by observing that Meyer is unwilling to draw any conclusions as to the nature of his proposed intelligent designer. Thankfully we have at our disposal an ID proponent relied upon by Meyer who is willing to oblige. William Dembski is a Biblical inerrantist. He believes in a global flood, a literal Adam and Eve, and Noah's ark.
"... Genesis 6–9 but also Jesus in Matthew 24 and Peter in Second Peter seem clearly to teach that the Flood was universal. As a biblical inerrantist, I believe that what the Bible teaches is true and bow to the text, including its teaching about the Flood and its universality."
"As a biblical inerrantist, I accept the full verbal inspiration of the Bible and the conventional authorship of the books of the Bible ... I accept that the events described in Genesis 1–11 happened in ordinary space-time, and thus that these chapters are as historical as the rest of the Pentateuch. (3) I believe that Adam and Eve were real people, that as the initial pair of humans they were the progenitors of the whole human race, that they were specially created by God, and thus that they were not the result of an evolutionary process from primate or hominid ancestors." (William A. Dembski, http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/AReplytoTomNettlesReviewofDembskisTheEndofChristianity.pdf)
Of greater interest to me is his affirmation above of the literal truth of Genesis 11; that the diversity of languages we currently see can be traced back to God's decision to confound the tongues of humans when they settled in Babylon and scatter these previously monolingual people to the various lands of the earth. I hope to see something from Dembski on intelligent linguistics in the coming year.

I suspect he holds these views of his own volition but it is worth noting that his continued employment in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is contingent on continuing to affirm these articles of faith:
"Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school" (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson.)
We can learn more of his attitude to science from his comments on the age of the earth and his linking of autism and vaccines.
"Has science conclusively proved its case that the earth is old? Science is not infallible, and readers of my book should not interpret it as proclaiming otherwise. My book [The End of Christianity] is not an attack on the young-earth position." http://www.baptisttheology.org/documents/AReplytoTomNettlesReviewofDembskisTheEndofChristianity.pdf
"You ask about my son eh we eh we are still working for his recovery I think eh eh we we we would attribute at least part of his problems a big part I mean the trigger that really pulled it for him to around the vaccines this is why they dispute it in eh the scientific eh literature but eh you know anecdotes when you experience the anecdotes can be quite persuasive and we saw what happened to him" (http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/17f2c64f-a163-430f-b455-30de8147b7dc.mp3, about 39 minutes in.)
It seems clear to me that his motivation is theological, not scientific:
"I think at a fundamental level, in terms of what drives me in this is that I think God's glory is being robbed by these naturalistic approaches to biological evolution, creation, the origin of the world, the origin of biological complexity and diversity. When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God's glory is getting robbed...And so there is a cultural war here. Ultimately I want to see God get the credit for what he's done - and he's not getting it."
- address given at Fellowship Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, 2004-03-07, quoted in Coyne, Jerry (11 August 2005), "The case against intelligent design: the faith that dare not speak its name", The New Republic
" The problem with materialism is that it rules out Christianity so completely that it is not even a live option. Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration." (http://www.designinference.com/documents/2005.02.Reply_to_Henry_Morris.htm)
"If we take seriously the word-flesh Christology of Chalcedon (i.e. the doctrine that Christ is fully human and fully divine) and view Christ as the telos toward which God is drawing the whole of creation, then any view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient ... I want to argue that we ... use Christology as the lens not just for understanding the whole of Christian theology ... but even more ambitiously for understanding all the various disciplines."
-Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology (1999), page 210
But does this make him wrong?

Not necessarily. Being right is in not dependant on intention and it would be wrong to dismiss his work on anything other than its merits. I'll do this to the best of my ability later in the week, but in the meantime, do mull over the motivations of the mathematician whose work underpins so much of Meyers' argument.

On to Part 3 ->

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