Friday, January 11, 2008

Let's talk Dembski

I have tended to hit on Micheal Behe pretty hard, for his irreducible complexity idea. I know I've mentioned Dembski, but let's get a little more specific.

William Dembski is a proponent of Intelligent Design, a mathematician and apparently a philosopher. It's interesting to note that aside from his popularly published works on his idea of Specified Complexity, he doesn't seem to have done much. Now if you want to read about his problems at Baylor and other issues, read his Wikipedia biography. I want to focus on my understanding of "Specified Complexity."

Specified Complexity is defined as a property of living things that show the information contained is both specific and complex and cannot have come about through any natural process. In my layman's term he [Dembski] defined a point at which the mathematical patterns of a living organism, such as the arrangement of proteins in bacterial flagellum, could not have come to through natural means. He defined a probability number and says if the probability exceeds this, there had to have been a designer.

Let's see if I understand this. So if 40 elements exist in a biological mechanism that joined together to perform a specific function, the probability of those items coming together cannot exceed this level he's assigned. If it does, it must be designed, if not, then evolution might have played a part.

So far anyone else have a problem with this? So he drew himself a line in the sand, that has not been proven, and says that if you cross this line you must have been designed!

What was interesting was delving into some of his supposed proof. I do have on complaint . . .OK, many, but one to address here. I believe he bases his mathematics on Michael Behe's concept of irreducible complexity. Let me word it this way, he says this probability number is based on the collected probability of all the part coming together to perform a specific function. This is an artificial idea. If a biological mechanism is not irreducibly complex, then the pieces and parts would have come to being not in a single unified arrangement with an impossibly high probability, but in smaller pieces with much lower probability pieces. Without a mechanism being irreducibly complex, there can be no probability that appears to exceed evolutionary studies.

I think what he sees is a large picture and he computes, based on his suspect line in the sand, what it would take for the large picture to appear through evolutionary theory as a complete picture all at the same time. He doesn't seem to recognize a picture is made up of many parts that came about over time. It's like the monkeys and Shakespeare analogy, if you give a monkey a typewriter and let him type for an infinite amount of time sooner or later he will type a Shakespearean sonnet. In Dembski speak the only probability computed is where the monkey types out the entire sonnet in one shot, in perfect order. If the monkey typed it one stanza at a time, the probability would be less, but he discounts that as a possibility.

OK, so I see his work based on Behe's and since Behe has admitted his work isn't even a real attack on Evolution, what does that say about Dembski's? Critics have lambasted his mathematics, which hasn't seemed to result in a meaningful dialog. He doesn't seem to accept any criticism at all. The arguments address his math, his conclusions, and even his connection with irreducible complexity. These are not isolated critiques, but it seems everything he has wriitten has been pretty well torn apart!

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