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The Great Debate – Dembski & Behe vs. Miller & Pennock

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A few weeks ago, the NCSE’s youtube channel uploaded a 2002 debate featuring our very own William Dembski and Michael Behe, each of whom presented a short description of their contribution to the science of ID, before being cross-examined by Michigan State University philosopher Robert Pennock, and Brown University biologist, Kenneth Miller. The debate was chaired by the ever-impartial Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Miller brought up the traditional arguments which he has become so renowned for, alleging that Behe’s claims regarding irreducible complexity were false on the basis that 10 proteins homologous to a complement of those present in the flagellar system could be found in the Type-III Secretary System. When Behe attempted to explain why such a discovery offered no traction to neo-Darwinism, Miller insisted that he only respond to the question which was being asked (which was, apparently, the legitimacy of Miller’s substantially tweaked definition of irreducible complexity, rather than the causal mechanism of evolution and its explicative powers to produce the powerful illusion of design in biological systems).

Pennock, meanwhile, repeatedly confused the concept of a theoretical basis for design detection (which ID proponents are unanimously in agreement on) and a theory of design implementation (which we are currently lacking unanimity on).

Here’s the debate:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Miller and Pennock must be used to mischaracterizing the positions of individuals that they disagree with in front of a keyboard, where they can do so at leisure, rather than in the personal presence of those individuals, a circumstance in which they stand to be immediately corrected. Neither could allow that to happen – not even at the cost of appearing as adolescent boors barely able to restrain a "high five" – perhaps because of the professional and even personal chagrin that they would suffer if they failed to come out on top. Who knows? But more self-evidently, Miller and Pennock were forced to insist upon their mischaracterizations in the face of all protests from those being mischaracterized, because they had not only prepackaged the debate's conclusion, they had even prepackaged the line of reasoning that the debate would take. To both of which, no surprise, their mischaracterizations turned out to be vital. Writing a paper by one's lonesome and engaging with other sentient beings in oral debate happen to be two different – what psychologists call – "skill sets." As for any such versatility on the part of Miller or Pennock, quite obviously, "When your only tool is a hammer, every job looks like a nail." jstanley01

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