Saturday, July 3, 2010

Luskin's Double Standard

Casey Luskin, who in my mind is little more than a mouthpiece for the Discovery Institute, attempted to take to task a pair of critics of his hero William Dembski in this article "Intelligent Design Proponents Toil More than the Critics: A Response to Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit". To set the stage, you might or might not be aware that Demski has published a couple of books. Now typically they were not published in a scientific journal, but the popular press. His first little missive was published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc -- social sciences and the humanities imprint, rather than one of their scientific journals. Of course this has been a common critique of the Intelligent Design political and marketing movement since its inception. If they are so scientific, why do they continue to publish through avenues that do not require any rigor in their work.

OK, well enough of that for now and let's get back to Luskin's and his double standard. I would love to discuss how a lawyer like Luskin has the temerity to critique two actual scientists, but I guess he is allowed his opinion, misguided as it may be. His critique claims that both Elsberry (a marine biologist) and Shallit (computer scientist, mathematician, and numbers theorist) apply the concept of Design BEFORE looking for natural explanations and that is why they keep seeing 'false positives'.

Hmmm that does lead to the question, does Dembski? Does Behe? Does Meyer? Does anyone who has written a popular press book on Intelligent Design (ID) look for natural explanations before they imply ID? In a word, no!

Everything I have read on the subject makes the possibility of design the first place these folks head. Once they have established the possibility of design, which usually rests on the requirement to admit that anything is conceivably possible, they start jumping toward intelligent design without looking for a naturalistic explanation.

Look at the examples Behe wrote about in his books. Look at his testimony during the 2005 Dover Trial. Look at the work on his own examples that offer many natural explanations for bacterial flagellum, blood clotting factor, and the immune system -- to name a few. I point out Behe in particular because his work is one of the few that actually names examples. When pressed during the Dover Trial, remember that it was Behe who admitted that no one was doing the work to prove his ideas . . . No One!

Try wading through one of Dembski's books and you will see a shocking lack of detail and a bunch of mathematics that don't appear to work. Don't take my word for it, it's other mathematicians that tear up Dembski's ideas. He creates lines in the sand that don't stand up to a mild breeze let alone a stiff wind. (For one example check out:

Go back to the beginning of the modern ID movement and read Johnson's stuff and you will find material long on philosophy and light on details. Their whole argument is one of wishful thinking and conjecture and if they would do as Luskin seems to expect others to do, they should explore natural explanations first -- I mean really look at their work and you will see that at best they offer just a cursory glance like Meyer in his "Signature in the Cell". If they stood by the standard Casey is advocating then the whole movement would dry up and go away. But we know that's not going to happen because looking for natural explanations is not their line of work. They are lawyers and philosophers, historians and creationists. What they are not is scientists working on developing the support for their ideas. Just to be clear Michael Behe is a biochemist, but he's the one who said that no one was working on his ideas. The others aren't nearly that straightforward.

Oh and if you want to read the critique by Elsberry and Shallit, you can find it here, "Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski's 'Complex Specified Information' " One additional note about Jeffrey Shallit. He was scheduled to be a witness at the Dover Trial, but when Dembski dropped out, Shallit's testimony was not needed. In my opinion that is a shame. Behe at least faced off with Kenneth Miller, I thing Dembski vs Shallit would have been fascinating! Well you can read their critique for yourself, here is the abstract to whet your appetite:
"Intelligent design advocate William Dembski has introduced a measure of information called 'complex specified information', or CSI. He claims that CSI is a reliable marker of design by intelligent agents. He puts forth a 'Law of Conservation of Information- which states that chance and natural laws are incapable of generating CSI. In particular, CSI cannot be generated by evolutionary computation. Dembski asserts that CSI is present in intelligent causes and in the flagellum of Escherichia coli, and concludes that neither have natural explanations. In this paper we examine Dembski's claims, point out significant errors in his reasoning, and conclude that there is no reason to accept his assertions."


  1. Luskin is solely a mouthpiece for the Disco 'Tute; no "little more than," but just that.

  2. Luskin has no standards, double or otherwise. Notice his continual use of the term "hmmm" as though he's seized upon some flash of revelation that has escaped the rest of the world. He's not even man enough to open up News and Views to comments so that he could discourse with people who know what they're talking about. What a joke.

  3. Luskin has standards? Who would have thought? I wish he would open up News and Views to comments. That would be entertaining.

  4. If the controversy is "supposed", then why this blog?

  5. Anonymous,
    I may not have been a clear as I have been in other posts. There is no scientific controversy over the theory of Evolution. Any controversy is a contrived controversy consisting of marketing and politics.

    That is the purpose of this blog. A way of confronting this contrived debate and shining the light on it. It's my way of looking at it, researching it, and learning about it. Hopefully before the Creationists in Ohio make another stab at passing their religion off as science.