Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Heartland Institute on NAS Climate Report

Your tax dollars being used against you: ————————————— NAS Climate Report: ‘Partisan, Closed Minded’ The National Academy of Sciences Thursday reasserted its opinion that the Earth’s climate has warmed to crisis levels and that human activity – the burning of fossil fuels – is the primary cause. In its 869-page report, the NAS, a group of American researchers that advises the U.S. government, urged Congress to adopt specific policy measures to halt the undesirable effects of global warming. James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute, finds the NAS membership is fatally comprised of global warming activists who are pursuing a political agenda and ignoring competing scientific data. Taylor was project manager for the Fourth International Read More ›

“First cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome”

Big news at Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics: Summary: Link 1 Press Release: Link 2 The rhetoric is interesting. What they’ve done is stuck a synthetic genome inside a nonsynthetic cell. Nonetheless, they’ve slipped into talking of a “synthetic bacterial cell.” Indeed, one headline reads “The First Self-Replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell.” This is hype. If something is going to be called “synthetic,” shouldn’t the whole of it be synthesized and not merely a minuscule portion of it? Also, does such a cell knowably signal design and, if so, why wouldn’t cells untouched by Synthetic Genomics do the same, i.e., implicate design?

Francisco Ayala: “You’re a heretic and blasphemer, but don’t ask me what I am.”

Francisco Ayala has taken an aggressive theological stance against intelligent design, even using words like “blasphemy” and “atrocity” to characterize it (go here). But if Ayala feels entitled to make such strong accusations against ID, one might wonder what Ayala’s own theological views are. I therefore emailed him and copied Michael Ruse: Dear Prof. Ayala, I’m writing to inquire whether in any of your writings you lay out your present religious faith (and, if so, where?). I’m copying my friend Michael Ruse because I find his criticisms of ID parallel your own, and yet he makes clear that he himself is an atheist. You, on the other hand, regularly cite your background in the Roman Catholic Church as a priest. Read More ›

2009 Darwin Day Videos, University of Chicago

The University of Chicago has released some videos of the lectures given on Darwin Day 2009:  Jerry Coyne (University of Chicago)–Speciation: Problems and Prospects Paul Sereno (University of Chicago)–Dinosaurs: Phylogenetic Reconstruction from Darwin to the Present David Jablonski (University of Chicago)–Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology: The Revitalized Partnership Neil Shubin (University of Chicago)–Great Transformations in Life: Insights from Genes & Fossils Robert J. Richards (University of Chicago)–Darwin’s Biology of Intelligent Design

Lord Monckton’s Climate Testimony Before Congress

Here’s an enjoyable piece of testimony from May 6th, 2010 by Lord Christopher Monckton before Congress. For the pdf of his testimony, go here. His point about science not being a matter of consensus is well taken and was stated even more eloquently by Michael Crichton in his 2003 Caltech Michelin lecture (go here). Also important is the point Monckton made about science functioning as a monopsony (one buyer for many sellers; in monopoly there’s one seller for many buyers). The buyer, according to him, is the public, but properly speaking it’s the government funding agencies that take our tax dollars. As effectively the only funder, it can dictate the type of product made, in this case, climate research that supports anthropogenic Read More ›

Francisco Ayala — But does he really believe what he’s saying?

Here’s an excerpt (translation follows) from a remarkable interview with Francisco Ayala by one of the most prominent media outlets in Spain. One wonders how a Catholic priest, even a former Catholic priest, can actually believe all this. In his book Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion he calls me (a mathematician by training) a “sociologist.” Given his remarks below, apparently anyone who is not the right sort of scientist is, in Ayala’s view, a sociologist. Great to see the Templeton Foundation supporting him. Source:  http://www.abc.es/20100506/ciencia-/barbaridad-culpar-dios-disenado-20100506.html Entrevista realizada al biólogo Francisco J. Ayala Diario ABC, Madrid, 6 de Mayo de 2010 Entrevista: A. Grau, Nueva York  -Usted ha recibido muchos premios y reconocimientos en EEUU por su lucha sin cuartel contra el llamado creacionismo. ¿De Read More ›

Baylor’s New President Meets Baylor’s New Super-Genius Professor

Baylor incoming president Ken StarrBaylor professor Robert MarksBelow is an op-ed by me that appeared yesterday in the Baptist Press. It revisits the persecution by Baylor administrators of Robert Marks and his work on ID (for the history of what happened, go here). Specifically, it addresses the challenge that Marks’ work on ID is likely to pose to incoming Baylor president Ken Starr. Interestingly, today’s New York Times (go here) hints at the same issue:

Dr. Sloan [Baylor’s former president] angered faculty with his leadership style, and he hired William A. Dembski, a proponent of intelligent design who found little favor with the school’s science departments (and has since left). Dr. Sloan resigned in 2005. Since then, Baylor has had another president and an interim president.

Asked about Baylor’s tumult, Mr. Starr, who knows from tumult, was circumspect.

“A lesson learned is the need for the conversation in the community to remain very vibrant,” he said, a bit vaguely, when asked about the Sloan years. “I want to be very clear that I am not laying any blame at the feet of any of my predecessors,” he added.

Yes, “circumspect” is the right word. In any case, here is my op-ed:

FIRST-PERSON: Vindication for I.D. at Baylor?
William A. Dembski | Posted on May 6, 2010


FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Baylor University remains a proving ground for SBC controversies. Former Baylor president Robert Sloan’s “2012 Vision” continues, at least for now. This vision rests on two pillars, seeking to establish Baylor both as a top research university and as a school faithful to its Christian heritage. Secularized faculty, who are in the majority at Baylor and forced Sloan’s removal (he is now president of Houston Baptist University), see Baylor’s Christian heritage as a liability and would like to make the university’s slide into secularization complete.

Ken Starr, who becomes Baylor’s new president June 1, therefore faces a crucial test: Will he continue the full Baylor 2012 Vision, advancing not just Baylor’s academic distinction but also its Christian faithfulness, or will he give up on this second pillar of the vision? Starr’s commitment to academic excellence is not in doubt. During his tenure as dean of Pepperdine Law School, he significantly raised its academic standing. The question is what he will do regarding Baylor’s Christian identity.

Starr, no stranger to controversy, seems poised to do the right thing. But good intentions are one thing, decisions and actions are another. Baylor will be sure to test Starr’s mettle. Indeed, his first test is likely to come from an unexpected source, an online college resource known as College Crunch (www.collegecrunch.org). Organizations like this draw traffic to their website (and thus earn their keep) by posting items of interest to prospective college students. One such item, first appearing on the site in March, lists “The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors.” On this list is Baylor professor Robert J. Marks II. Here is College Crunch’s description of him (www.collegecrunch.org/…/the-20-most-brilliant-christian-professors): Read More ›

Intelligent Design Uncensored hot off the press

My newest book, Intelligent Design Uncensored, co-authored with Jonathan Witt, is now available. You can purchase it here at Amazon.com. It provides a nice overview of the scientific issues at stake but then also deals with the cultural spillover as it relates to both the theistic and atheistic evolutionists.

Introducing New ID-Relevant Peer-Reviewed Journal: BIO-Complexity

Check out this new ID-relevant [“ID-friendly” is too strong — ID proponents will get no preferential treatment] peer-reviewed journal: BIO-Complexity. The Evolutionary Informatics Lab (www.evoinfo.org) has an article under submission there. Editor in Chief Matti Leisola, Enzymology and Enzyme Engineering; Helsinki University of Technology, Finland   Editorial Board David Abel, Origin of Life; The Origin-of-Life Science Foundation, United States Douglas Axe, Protein Structure–Function; Biologic Institute, United States William Basener, Statistics and Population Modeling; Rochester Institute of Technology, United States Michael Behe, Biochemistry and Biological Complexity; Lehigh University, United States Walter Bradley, Origin of Life; Baylor University, United States Stuart Burgess, Biomimetics and Biomechanics; University of Bristol, United Kingdom Russell Carlson, Biochemistry; University of Georgia, United States William Dembski, Mathematics and Information Read More ›

Correction re Veritas Forum

I reported here that, since 2005, the Veritas Forum seems to have gone exclusively theistic evolutionist. I’ve been reliably informed that this is not so. Names of people who have done Veritas events since 2005 include: Michael Behe Alvin Plantinga Fritz Schaefer Walter Bradley Guillermo Gonzalez Jay Richards Scott Minnich Fazale Rana

Francis Collins at Veritas Forum

It’s now five years since I used to get invited to speak at these Veritas forums. My debate with Niall Shanks, sponsored by Veritas and moderated by Dallas Willard, took place at UCLA in 2004 and was recorded by CSPAN. I also did Veritas forums at NYU and Columbia in 2005. All that has changed. I give the theistic evolutionists credit for seeing to it that ID proponents are ostracized from such events. This is backfiring as donors are asking themselves why are these ministries now exclusively evolutionist and thus are putting their money elsewhere. [[Correction 4.30.10: Although there has been resistance to ID in some Christian circles, the Veritas Forum seems still open to it — see here for Read More ›

Does ID presuppose a mechanistic view of nature?

The Nature of NatureThomas and Aristotle have loomed large on this blog recently. I would like to have weighed in on these discussions, but I have too many other things on my plate right now. I therefore offer this brief post.

One critic, going after me directly, asserts that I’m committed to a mechanical view of nature and that I develop ID in ways inimical to an Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of nature, according to which nature operates by formal and final causes. Life, according to this view, would be natural rather than artifactual. ID, by contrast, is supposed to demand an artifactual understanding of life.

I don’t think this criticism hits the mark. I have to confess that I’ve always been much more a fan of Plato than of Aristotle, and so I don’t quite see the necessity of forms being realized in nature along strict Aristotelian lines. Even so, nothing about ID need be construed as inconsistent with Aristotle and Thomas.

ID’s critique of naturalism and Darwinism should not be viewed as offering a metaphysics of nature but rather as a subversive strategy for unseating naturalism/Darwinism on their own terms. The Darwinian naturalists have misunderstood nature, along mechanistic lines, but then use this misunderstanding to push for an atheistic worldview.

ID is willing, arguendo, to consider nature as mechanical and then show that the mechanical principles by which nature is said to operate are incomplete and point to external sources of information (cf. the work of the Evolutionary Informatics Lab — www.evoinfo.org). This is not to presuppose mechanism in the strong sense of regarding it as true. It is simply to grant it for the sake of argument — an argument that is culturally significant and that needs to be prosecuted.

This is not to minimize the design community’s work on the design inference/explanatory filter/irreducible-specified-functional complexity. ID has uncovered scientific markers that show where design is. But pointing up where design is, is not to point up where design isn’t.

For the Thomist/Aristotelian, final causation and thus design is everywhere. Fair enough. ID has no beef with this. As I’ve said (till the cows come home, though Thomist critics never seem to get it), the explanatory filter has no way or ruling out false negatives (attributions of non-design that in fact are designed). I’ll say it again, ID provides scientific evidence for where design is, not for where it isn’t.

What exactly then is the nature of nature? That’s the topic of a conference I helped organize at Baylor a decade ago and whose proceedings (suitably updated) are coming out this year (see here). ID is happy to let a thousand flowers bloom with regard to the nature of nature provided it is not a mechanistic, self-sufficing view of nature.

This may sound self-contradictory (isn’t ID always talking about mechanisms displayed by living forms?), but it is not. As I explain in THE DESIGN REVOLUTION: Read More ›

College Crunch honors Robert Marks for Work on ID

Here’s an article that appeared today in my local paper. It will be interesting to see what the incoming Baylor president Kenneth Starr does about the Marks case when he arrives June 1st, especially in light of this recognition by College Crunch. For Prof. Marks to have his lab and research (see evoinfo.org) recognized and reinstated by Baylor as legitimately part of his job description would, perhaps, constitute a truer vindication of his work on evolutionary informatics. Even so, the College Crunch list, designating Marks as one of the “20 most brilliant Christian professors,” is a foretaste of good things to come.


Professor Robert Jackson Marks IIBaylor faculty member named one of ’20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors’

[alternative title in local paper: “In the Spotlight, Again: BU Professor Marks Nets Honor for Research in Evolutionary Informatics”]

[PHOTO CAPTION: Marks was named one of “The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors” by CollegeCrunch.org (link here).]

By Tim Woods Tribune-Herald staff writer
Thursday April 15, 2010

Robert Marks, Baylor University Distinguished Professor of electrical and computer engineering, once again finds himself in the spotlight.

Less than three years ago, Marks was at the center of an intelligent design-related controversy at the school.

But Marks now is being honored for his work, notably his research in the area of evolutionary informatics.

CollegeCrunch.org, a college resource Web site, named Marks as one of “the 20 most brilliant Christian professors.” Read More ›