Intelligent design proponents like to claim that ID is scientific. In reality, it’s anti-scientific – if you allow the hand of the designer into “science” there is no a priori reason for rejecting design in any system. Is your illness caused by a virus, or is it just the hand of “the designer”? Even if Dembski‘s explanatory filter worked (which is doesn’t), it only “proves” design when all else fails. But why constrain “the designer” to the areas where “naturalistic” explanations fail? Why limit God only to “the Gaps”?
Intelligent design is really a rejection of modernity and science. When he spoke at the University of Oklahoma, Dembski rejected common descent for humans and other apes. So, in addition to rejecting the evolution of complex structures, Dembski also appears to deny the fossil record. So what other unusual ideas does Dembski embrace? Angels!
In the introduction to Peter S. Williams‘ 2002 book The Case for Angels, Dembski writes:
Peter Williams’ The Case for Angels is a refreshing contribution to [the] culture war [between a “thoroughly secularized” high culture and a mass culture that “has tried as much as possible to hold on to” its “Christian roots”] and is emblematic of how the terms of the war are changing. In the past, the intelligentsia seemed to hold all the cards. They were in the positions of influence and authority in the culture. They seemed to have all the winning arguments. And resistance was confined to intellectual subcultures (ghettos) that had little chance of reclaiming the culture. That is now changing, and Williams’ book epitomizes the change. Increasingly, Christian orthodoxy is finding the clarity of mind and firmness of resolve with which effectively to challenge secular ideologies that undermine Christian faith. Williams and this book provide a case in point.
This all seems terribly familiar. It’s the same argument that is made by the intelligent design movement. This is consistent with the Wedge Strategy “whose ultimate goal is to “defeat [scientific] materialism” represented by evolution, “reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions” and to “affirm the reality of God.” The intelligent design movement is part of a broader movement to undo the Enlightenment and usher in the return of the Dark Ages, where superstition trumps knowledge. Dembski continues:
Although the book is ostensibly about angels, less than half of it is directly concerned with angels. Instead, much of the book is concerned with clearing away conceptual stumbling blocks that prevent people from taking angels seriously. Sheen’s intelligentsia have been marvellously successful at placing stumbling blocks in the way of Christian orthodoxy. For many intellectual, these stumbling blocks are decisive and remove any possibility of Christianity being true, and in the case of angels, their being real. Williams identifies the key stumbling blocks that render angels implausible to out intellectual élite and successfully refutes them. Not surprisingly, the biggest of these stumbling blocks is naturalism, and Williams deals effectively with it.
Replace creationism with angels and you have a summary of the intelligent design movement. And, based on what Dembski considers “successful refutation”, it’s pretty safe to conclude that Williams does nothing of the sort.
Update: Amazing coincidence – PZ blogs about the same five-year-old-book, at the same time as I did…totally by chance! Looks like PZ is stealing thoughts out of my brain. A miracle! Well, either than or we both got email from the same person, pointing out Dembski’s intro to Williams’ book. Nah, that doesn’t sound terribly likely.