War of the God Killers
I just finished listening to a podcast of the Audio Martini debate between William Dembski (who has the dubious honour of being a previous Midweek Cuckoo here) and Michael Shermer, champion of skeptics. The debate topic was naturally evolution vs. intelligent design, and took place last december. At the time, the Bad Astronomer predicted that Dembski would display the usual tactics of “making false arguments, using incorrect analogies, quote mining, misrepresenting others’ work, and … twisting the truth to match what he wants to see.” Believe me, BA was not disappointed. Dembski trotted out all the usual engineering analogies, the circuitous arguments designed to avoid the actual question, the mined quotes to support his position as if arguments from authority (even quoted out of context) were real arguments, and consistently failed to give the host, Rick Wood, a straight answer when asked for even one provable tenet or prediction of the ‘science’ of intelligent design.
There were two things that interested me about his debate: firstly, that Michael Shermer sounds a little like Kermit the Frog, and secondly that Dembski came across as a lot less of a frothing maniac than usual. I think this may largely have been due to the forum – i don’t think bufallo bill had the time to build up the head of righteous steam he often does in writing. Mostly, the debate was civil, with very few jibes thrown, and almost no talking over the other participant. However, as the debate progressed and the host began to bring out the Wedge document, the Dover trial, etc, Demski became increasingly flustered. His cool slipped a little, and that sheen of civility began to lose some of its lustre. He ducked, he dodged, he dived, and in the end it was very very obvious he was doing so. Apparently there was a more recent live debate between them, and Dembski did exactly the same thing.
Overall this is no big surprise – debates are not really the forum for discussing scientific questions, and neither are court rooms. At the end of the day it is the science that must speak for itself in the scientific arena, and in the case of intelligent design, there is no science to speak of. As far as the scientific community is concerned, there is no controversy to debate. I would agree with Richard Dawkins on this: there is no point to debating ID supporters, because in the end it comes down to whose rhetoric is better, not who has the facts. Nevertheless, Shermer does an admirable job and should be commended for at least trying.
Now i come to the reason for the title of this post: Shermer and Dembski both brought up points that have made me realise there is a similarity between IDiots and evolutionists that has nothing to do with their intended purpose, but everything to do with the inevitable results of their work.
Firstly, IDiots see evolutionists as having just as big a religious motivation behind their work as IDiots themselves. Dembski threw out a number of quotes to support this, but it’s obvious that it’s more about colouring evolutionists with the ID crayon than about any truth. ID is backed by a religious objective, so obviously evolutionary biologists must be backed by an equally sinister anti-religious objective. Biologists’ only goal, in the eyes of ID, is to kill God. Whether this really is their intention (and for the vast majority it is not), Dembski is right in that it will be the result of showing creation to be a natural process needing no outside interference.
But here’s the flip side of the coin: Shermer stated that if ID succeeds, it can only do so by reducing God to a piece of the natural world, no better than an alien from Vega, a smarter human, a tinkerer. Dembski doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but i would put money on the fact that there are a lot of theologians out there who would not be happy with the metaphysical God being reduced to atoms and forces and physical laws, and his behaviour being that of an engineer and not a benevolent beard in the sky. On the other hand, if ID does succeed in developing real and reliable methods for detecting design in nature, and then do not detect any design at all, they will in the minds of many people, religious and atheist alike, have scientifically disproven the existence of God. In essence, if ID does the job it’s meant to do, no matter what the outcome, its only real result will have been to reduce God to either little or nothing. They, too, are god killers.
So at the end of the day, all a debate about Evolution vs. Intelligent design really is, is a debate about which method of killing the God of the Faithful is more scientifically correct.
I love it.