Intelligent Design

The Deflection Technique (Apprenticeship Lesson)

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Over the years, I’ve learned a few things that may usefully be imparted to bright and budding ID theorists. The lesson I’m about to impart is one I adverted to in my paper “Dealing with the Backlash against Intelligent Design” on my designinference.com website.

To illustrate the lesson, let me give an example from my graduate days in mathematics. At the end of the first year in grad school at the University of Chicago, the math students take oral exams. Depending on whom you get to examine you, this can be a stressful experience. One way to relieve the stress, when asked to prove a theorem on the blackboard, is to introduce a small inaccuracy, one that takes a bit to unravel but is easily rectifiable. The inaccuracy, depending on the professor who is examining you, will consume considerable time and energy. Yes, you will have to endure some berating. But when it’s gone on long enough, you rectify the error. By then the clock has run out and you’ve passed the exam.

Fast forward to my blog entry yesterday titled “What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote.” There I gave as my favorite Dawkins quote “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” I stated the quote this way on purpose, leaving off a little parenthetical in that sentence that doesn’t at all change its significance. I was waiting how long it would take for kneejerk Darwinists to jump on it. See for yourself at The Panda’s Thumb: “Dembski quote mining Dawkins.”

Now, you may be thinking that I’m just making this all up after the fact. Let me assure you that I’m not. Unlike the evolutionary process with which they are so enamoured, kneejerk Darwinists are supremely predictable. In the future, when I do something like this, I will provide prior confirmation with a date-time stamp elsewhere on the Internet.

By the way, in case you’re wondering what is the point of this exercise, it is to highlight that Dawkins regards evolution as an axiom that does not require empirical confirmation (note that he has made this point in other places and not just in the above quote). What’s gratifying is to see the kneejerk Darwinists at The Panda’s Thumb falling all over themselves trying to justify Dawkins’s ludicrous claim.

That was the point of the exercise. In the best Marxist fashion, Darwinism is collapsing of its own internal contradictions. What you are seeing at The Panda’s Thumb is a sign of things to come.

[P.S.: Squeamish readers of this blog may worry that I’m cynically manipulating the Darwinists. Quite the contrary. I’m doing this for the Darwinists’s benefit, giving them the reality therapy they need to exit the land of the lotus eaters and return to Ithaca. Alternatively, I’m giving them an experience in Socratic elenchus. Frankly, I doubt Socrates would have had much patience with the sophists at The Panda’s Thumb.]

41 Replies to “The Deflection Technique (Apprenticeship Lesson)

  1. 1
    bevets says:

    even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories

    Finer weasel words have never been crafted. If not for those darned creationists he would have had no need for the parenthetical clause, but he is having his cake (free lunch?) and eating it too. He wants everyone to admire the ‘rationality’ of his atheism while assuring the faithful with his ‘empirical’ saftey net.

    http://bevets.com/equotesd2.htm#rdawkins

  2. 2
    Giff says:

    Surely, though, there are better Darwinists out there than those of the Panda’s thumb.

  3. 3
    DaveScot says:

    Panda’s Thumb is like a cross between Reader’s Digest “Campus Comedy” and “The Keystone Cops”. The ringleaders Myers, Elsberry, and Van Meurs are reminiscent of Larry, Curly, and Moe. I thought at first it must be a caricature of life as evolutionists but have since come to understand it’s how they really are.

  4. 4
    Alan Fox says:

    Apart from lack of evidence that this ploy was preplanned, excellent wheeze.

  5. 5
    Alan Fox says:

    Dr. Dembski

    Amongst all the vitriol, do you ever consider there might even be one question woth answering? The claim that I see most often repeated is that you have never addressed criticism of your work directly.

  6. 6
    Alan Fox says:

    Excuse typo: should be worth

  7. 7
    DaveScot says:

    Bill, in reading your paper on dealing with backlash it’s quite enlightening to mention the legal principle of “deny everything”. The boilerplate first response to a lawsuit is to categorically deny each and every allegation in the complaint. That always struck me as unwise if there are any bits of truth to be found in the complaint where it can be later shown that you knew they were true when you denied them. Alas, the law is not rational, and points are not deducted for blanket denials. One needs to remember that the law is not rational. Likewise, one needs to remember that Darwin worshippers are not rational either. 🙂

  8. 8
    DaveScot says:

    HAHAHA! I just read your phrase “zero concession policy”. It reminds me of a massive software project that my son and I did some 10 years ago http://www.cardandboardgames.com

    Since we had tens of thousands of people using our gaming software on as many different computer platforms, and there were only two of us to deal with their problems using it, I invented what I called the “zero support policy”. It’s based on the premise that 90% or more of the users will have nothing to complain about and 90% of the potential user base is more than sufficient to successfully drive a software business. So, instead of having a dialog with a user who has a complaint we simply, with no questions asked, cheerfully refunded them anything they’d paid us and directed them to our competition (Microsoft’s Game Zone) and wished them the best.

    The zero support policy was a screaming success and we now apply it elsewhere in life where it seems appropriate. Actually I’ve employed it since childhood I’d just never before formalized it with a name. The “zero concession policy” doesn’t seem to be working so well for the Darwinistas.

  9. 9
    Alan Fox says:

    DaveScot

    It’s interesting that you see things in terms of legality and busines practice. It makes one wonder if there is a lack of merit in the scientific claims of ID, if you need to promote them thus.

  10. 10
    DaveScot says:

    Still reading “dealing with backlash”. I like the soccer analogies as I’m a devoted soccer dad. Yesterday morning was our pre-season opener. We scored in the first 10 seconds and the game ended with us winning 8-1. We make it into the central Texas semi-finals every year. Maybe this year is the one we go all the way!

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:

    I see *some* things in terms of legality and business practice.

    In regard to scientific claims I would point to the full court press (double entendre intended) by the Darwinistas in defeating ID by use (or rather, MISuse) of the 1st amendment establishment clause. Physician, heal thyself.

    So Alan, what’s it feel like being hoist by one’s own petard? 😉

  12. 12

    Alan: With regard to responding to critics directly, it’s happened on this blog (http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/103) and it’s happened on my designinference.com website (Ken Miller, Howard Van Till, Richard Wein, etc.). And then there’s my book THE DESIGN REVOLUTION. Have you read any of these?

  13. 13
    Srdjan says:

    Alan Fox said: “…do you ever consider there might even be one question worth answering? The claim that I see most often repeated is that you have never addressed criticism of your work directly.”

    If you follow this debate carefully you will notice that most questions are answered in Dr. Dembski’s books, “Design Revolution” in particular as well on his web site http://www.designinference.com

    Surely you don’t expect him to answer them individually to anyone who just want to have a bash at ID or at him personally.
    Most but not all questions addressed to Dr. Dembski show appalling ignorance towards ID claims and current status of debate. Ones that have bearing on ID issues are answered quite promptly.

    What questions did you have in mind Alan?

  14. 14
    scordova says:

    Master Obiwan, your apprentices appreciate your many apprentiship lessons, we will learn the ways of the force and become great Jedis!

    You described accurately the plight of an aspiring Jedi: “A bright young novice to this debate comes along, makes an otherwise persuasive argument, and finds it immediately shot down. Substantive objections are bypassed. Irrelevancies are stressed. Tables are turned. Misrepresentations abound. One’s competence and expertise are belittled. The novice comes back, reframes the argument, clarifies key points, attempts to answer objections, and encounters the same treatment.”

    But then you said, “The solution, therefore, is to change the context of discourse….Critics and enemies are useful. The point is to use them effectively. In our case, this is remarkably easy to do.”

    Indeed, it is easier to do than I ever dreamed. Your apprentices will continue advancing the truth, they will proclaim it in the campuses, make the cover stories of magazines, and be on nationally syndicated news programs, all the while making good use of critics and enemies in the process.

    Here is something else I found which might be useful to the apprentices. I did a little spying and discovered the Manual of Standard Operating Practices for Darwin Defenders (MSOPDD). A repackaged, politically correct copy of the original appears here:
    http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

    Salvador Cordova

  15. 15
    germline says:

    Dr. Dembski,

    You suggest that you offer advice to ID theorists: “a few things that may usefully be imparted to bright and budding ID theorists”.

    It would probably be more useful for budding theorists to learn probability theory, don’t you think ? While rhetorical tricks are certainly useful in winning public arguments, I don’t see how they are relevant to pushing the field of ID from a scientific viewpoint. One problem in ID, that could use some additional work, seems to be determining how one can decide whether or not all possible chance hypothesis (and thus, the probability under all chance hypothesis being correctly calculated) have been eliminated before making the design inference. To work on this issue, a budding design theorist would do better to also spend time learning about stochastic processes, Bayesian inference, etc. , as well as much of the evolutionary theory, such as population genetics. By doing so, one should be able to push your theories forward. For example, considering the flagellum, how does one calculate the probability of the flagellum evolving given what we know about genetic drift, recombination etc ? In short, developing more realistic models of evolution, as Behe states is necessary at the end of his Protein Science paper.

    [[Germline: You are very boring. Goodbye. –WmAD]]

  16. 16
    ajl says:

    …reality therapy they need to exit the land of the lotus eaters and return to Ithaca

    hey! whats with the Ithaca crack! (LOL) If you just read the Ithaca Journal, you don’t know the half of the vitriolic hatred for ID within this community. But you’re right – Ithaca is a beautiful community, save for the abject anger of the Neo-Deo community.

    [[Wrong Ithaca! –WmAD]]

  17. 17
    MGD says:

    From The Odyssey, by Homer:

    “I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the
    sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,
    who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to
    take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore
    near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company
    to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they
    had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among
    the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the
    lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring
    about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened
    to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the
    Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,
    though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made
    them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at
    once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting
    to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with
    their oars.
    http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~joelja/odyssey.html

  18. 18
    jimpressario says:

    Anyone else notice the lowering of standards on this board over the last few days?

  19. 19

    Lighten up Jim. I’m going on The Daily Show tomorrow and need some practise. Serious work will resume in due course.

  20. 20
    crandaddy says:

    I’m not sure I understand the analogy, Bill. Wouldn’t introducing an inaccuracy to your proof render it incorrect and, thus, count against you? I just don’t see how it could help relieve stress, or maybe I just don’t understand the testing protocol.

    David

  21. 21
    DaveScot says:

    NeoDarwinists are now denying microevolution.

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/arc.....d_sme.html

    Incredible.

  22. 22
    n.stathopoulos says:

    Doctor Dembski,you know perfectly well how much i admire your scientific work and hope for your professional success.But let me express my personal opinion that citing quotes from people like richard dawkins is not going to promote your plans.The only thing that you can accomplish this way is making yourself a target of these people and giving them a chance to abuse you in the pandasthumb weblog.With all due respect,Nikolaos s. Stathopoulos.

  23. 23
    Alan Fox says:

    Sridian

    My previous response seems to have disappeared. I would like to know if the explanatory filter has been successfully applied to a biological system. I am also wondering how you define the boundary of such a system. For example the bacterial flagellum. Does one focus on the structure in a cell, the cell, a culture of cells, the phenotype of a particular bacterium or is it more abstract?

  24. 24
    Srdjan says:

    Alan, as I mentioned above, Dr. Dembski or anyone else cannot serve as your research assistants. Answers to your questions are given more than three years ago (if my memory serves me) and are compiled in “The Design Revolution”. You may want to have a look at chapters 11 and 12 in the book, to have a good understanding of the issues involved (one being important to me is that Explanatory Filter does NOT separate design, chance and necessity as mutually exclusive). Also this paper is informative http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_explfilter.htm

    At http://www.arn.org and http://www.iscid.org you’ll find many interesting papers on the subject. Good hunting.

  25. 25
    JaredL says:

    The analysis Fox asks after is in chapter 5 of No Free Lunch.

  26. 26
    crandaddy says:

    DaveScot: “NeoDarwinists are now denying microevolution.”

    I read the article. I don’t think they’re DENYING microevolution; I just think they’re touting it as something bigger than it really is. That’s really nothing new. They just keep playing the same old pittiful cards because that’s the hand they’re stuck with, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    David

  27. 27
    DonaldM says:

    Alan Fox wrote: “Amongst all the vitriol, do you ever consider there might even be one question woth answering? The claim that I see most often repeated is that you have never addressed criticism of your work directly.”

    One trend I’ve noticed among Darwinists is that they are never satisfied with any response and continually whine that “so and so has never answered his/her critics.” What that charge boils down to is that responses did not meet the unspoken expectations of the critics or that they didn’t like the answer they got. Rather than respond on the merits of the response, the Darwinists (of the Panda’s Thumb variety) continue to misrepresent the case and claim that “Dembski hasn’t responded to his critics” or
    “Behe has never answered so and so” or my favorite “[some big Darwinian name] has totally eviscerated Dembski (or Behe or Wells or some other ID proponent).” Whenever I see language like that, I know someone is bluffing big time.

    As has already been pointed out, the most signifcant questions have been answered. The Design Revolution is the best source for starters. Read my review of it posted at Amazon.com.

    Donald M

  28. 28
    Alan Fox says:

    Sridian

    Thanks for the link. However the paper is dated 1996. I would have thought a successful application of the explanatory filter to a biological system would be an event of some importance, a milestone in ID’s progress. I’ve read the paper, and I’ve read through the bulk of Salvador Cordova’s material at ARN. Unless I’ve missed something, there is nothing to indicate such an event.

    Donald M

    Wouldn’t a FAQ be a simple way to counter the Darwinist claims. You only need to post the answer once. You can revise it as matters progress. What is the problem with that. It would render the charge of never answering awkward questions invalid.

  29. 29
    Alan Fox says:

    I was directed to this link about the EF

    http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs.....rtoil.html

  30. 30
    DonaldM says:

    Alan Fox writes: “Wouldn’t a FAQ be a simple way to counter the Darwinist claims. You only need to post the answer once. You can revise it as matters progress. What is the problem with that. It would render the charge of never answering awkward questions invalid.”

    That’s exactly what “The Design Revolution” is. Note thesubtitle: “Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design”. In other words, TDR is a FAQ of sorts, and a much better one than most. But still the Darwinists aren’t satisfied and still they make the bogus claim that the “tough” questions haven’t been answered. It isn’t that those questions haven’t been answsered; its that the Darwinists don’t like the answers.

  31. 31
    Alan Fox says:

    DonaldM

    You’re referring to a book. Does it contain an answer to my question above? I repeat:

    “I would like to know if the explanatory filter has been successfully applied to a biological system. I am also wondering how you define the boundary of such a system. For example the bacterial flagellum. Does one focus on the structure in a cell, the cell, a culture of cells, the phenotype of a particular bacterium or is it more abstract?

    Why not have a FAQ site that can be updated and easily cited and referenced.

  32. 32
    JaredL says:

    Dear Mr. Fox,

    The flagellum does not arise from bacterial populations lacking one via any known deterministic law; the flagellum has extremely small probability of arising due to chance (see chapter 5 of No Free Lunch); the bacterial flagellum is specified (conforms to a pattern detachable from the object itself); hence, it exhibits specified complexity and induction tells us it was designed.

    However, that is a criticism I have heard, and I don’t know where Dembski has formally analyzed the flagellum according to the EF, so I guess the criticism is valid. It mirrors my own criticism of Dembski in that he doesn’t provide the baby-stepped analysis and application of IC or the EF to any biological structure. But the astute reader might do such an analysis himself.

  33. 33
    DonaldM says:

    Alan Fox: Just go to the library and check out TDR. And why are you complaining over at Panda’s Thumb about the responses to your posts here? That’s playing games.
    Personally, I request you stop that practice. Did you think no one would notice?

  34. 34
    mynym says:

    They just keep playing the same old pittiful cards because that’s the hand they’re stuck with, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    Apparently they can deny that “Darwinism” can be defined as Darwinism and deny that a distinction between “macroevolution” and micro even exists. In fact, it is rather amusing that some Darwinists are condemning the very definitiion of using the terms macro and micro as something that only ignorant Creationists would do. Yet these terms are used in the writings of Darwinists themselves.

    I think I’ll stick with “Darwinists”…although given the urge to merge typical to Darwinists they will probably keep trying to definition in some way. Another example of such avoidance is the reliance on a pollution of language like the blurred term “evolution” which merges all mythological narratives of Naturalism in with basic facts like, “When some organisms die then there may be more of these other ones and stuff.”

  35. 35
    Alan Fox says:

    DonaldM

    I never made a secret of the fact. I made the fact known myself. I am pleasantly surprised that I am still permitted to post here. This refutes the allegation that Dr Dembski censors all criticism.

  36. 36
    Alan Fox says:

    And as someone else noted, the posting rate here has increased.

  37. 37
    Alan Fox says:

    JaredL said “But the astute reader might do such an analysis himself.”

    Well, where do you start? What aspect of a biological system do you consider? Keeping with the prokaryote flagellum, do you consider its structure in terms of the types and number of proteins from which it is constructed, how it develops in the daughter cell after cell division, does the genetic encoding for its structure enter the equation? What about its functionality, the energy input for the “motor”? Defining the boundary of the (biological) system you propose to analyse doesn’t seem that straightforward to me.

  38. 38
    JaredL says:

    May I suggest, again, you read No Free Lunch chapter 5? Then we might skip a lot of preliminaries which are time consuming and which have already been done. Thanks.

  39. 39
    TomG says:

    Alan Fox, you asked,

    “I would like to know if the explanatory filter has been successfully applied to a biological system.

    Who is defining success here? ID theorists are saying yes–and they’re inviting others to work the same question, asking only that they have an open mind to what they may find. Ask anyone at Panda’s Thumb, and you’ll get a quick knee-jerk “no.” As Donald M said so well in comment # 27,

    “One trend I’ve noticed among Darwinists is that they are never satisfied with any response and continually whine that “so and so has never answered his/her critics.” What that charge boils down to is that responses did not meet the unspoken expectations of the critics or that they didn’t like the answer they got.”

  40. 40
    JaredL says:

    TomG – Where has the EF been applied rigorously to a system in a published work? I haven’t gotten a response from Dr. D on that, nor on where it was rigorously shown that any biological system is IC according to his revamped definition of IC in NFL chapter 5, though I have asked several times. I too would like to have something to point to.

  41. 41
    Alan Fox says:

    JaredL

    I promise to read NFL chapter 5 (revised)if you read this article:

    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/jello.cfm

    I am unaware that the criticisms therein have yet been addressed. And I second your request to TomG.

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