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  Topic: Dembski's "The Design Revoluion", Critical notice...< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4966
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 27 2004,22:13   

The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design

William Dembski's new book is now available at bookstores (the link above will take you to the page at Barnes and Noble).

Over on the ARN forum, Dembski called on "thoughtful critics" to let him know if he had overlooked any topics of criticism.

The index of his book doesn't help much with this task. While Richard Wein's one positive comment about Dembski's "No Free Lunch" was that it had an excellent index, the same cannot be said of "The Design Revolution". Perhaps I haven't closely scrutinized every entry, but every one I have scrutinized is a person's name. I haven't found even one entry that relates to a concept (e.g., "argument from ignorance", "specification", "flagellum").

Perhaps Dembski addresses certain criticisms without reference to the critic who raised the criticism. There are certainly critics of Dembski's arguments who are not listed in the index. It is difficult to compile a complete list, since it requires someone who knows that a certain critic has commented on Dembski's arguments and a bit of effort to confirm that the person is not listed in the index (Why, for example, is there an entry for "Thomas Aquinas" in the T's, and not "Aquinas, Thomas" in the A's? This necessitates checking a couple of different parts of the index.). Here are some of the critics who were passed over completely by Dembski:

Chiprout, Eli
Edis, Taner
Eells, Ellery
Fitelson, Branden
Kitcher, Philip
Matzke, Nick
Perakh, Mark
Pigliucci, Massimo
Ratzsch, Del
Rosenhouse, Jason
Shallit, Jeff
Shanks, Niall
Stephenson, Christopher
Tellgren, Erik
Wein, Richard
Young, Matt

It could be argued that a few of these critics made their criticisms more recently than could be expected to appear in the manuscript for this book. For others, though, that excuse obviously does not hold. Why is there no mention of Eli Chiprout's criticisms of "The Design Inference", for example? (For that matter, why is there no mention of the critiques I made in my review of "The Design Inference"?)

Other critics get an entry in the index, but very short shrift in the text. The list as I have it now is:

Schneider, Tom
Wolpert, David

I'll likely be expanding this list as I become more familiar with the text. In the cases above, Schneider is only mentioned as an "offender" in claiming that evolutionary computation yields specified complexity, and Wolpert is only mentioned as one of the mathematicians who proved "No Free Lunch" theorems rather than in regard to his very sharp criticism of Dembski's deployment of NFL concepts.

I may be adding my name to the list. Despite a fairly voluminous amount of material I've written in criticism of Dembski's arguments, Dembski has chosen to address only a part of one article that I co-authored with John Wilkins.

Edited by Wesley R. Elsberry on Feb. 27 2004,22:16

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

charlie d

Posts: 56
Joined: Oct. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 29 2004,17:16   

Is Lenski in the book's index?

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4966
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 29 2004,20:44   

No, Lenski does not appear in the index. Tote up another one...

"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posts: 4966
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2004,15:19   

Open Letter to William Dembski (emailed 2004/03/13)

I'm aware of the challenge you've floated on ARN to identify criticisms that were not addressed in "The Design Revolution".

As a thoughtful critic, I'm working on this carefully. I don't expect to be able to give you a list immediately. You shouldn't expect to receive it immediately. After all, you are essentially calling on critics to establish a negative, which even if not impossible in principle, certainly requires a complete review of the available evidence to assure non-presence. This is tedious and time-consuming work. Complaining that a response isn't forthcoming within a couple of weeks seems a bit unfair, especially in light of how long some critics have waited for answers to previous inquiries.

As I've indicated already on the AE board, I do find the absence of various critics in the index troubling. The response that you gave that you are concentrating on criticisms rather than critics rings somewhat hollow, given that you've chosen to fill the index with names of critics (and other people) to the exclusion of listing concepts.

Listing people in the acknowledgements but not noting their work in discussion of the concepts they have raised is also troubling. For one thing, it misleads the reader. If you bring up a criticism that has been broached by many critics, but only cite a small fraction of critics who have raised the issue, it would tend to make the reader believe that the concept being discussed is somehow less of an issue, being the concern of some small number of critics. This is especially the case for those instances where you have raised a concept and reduced the number of critics cited on that concept to *zero*. This is the case for your string change such that where you previously said "falsifiability" you now say "refutability", but do not acknowledge the critics who pointed out that a problem existed in your use of "falsifiability" (Chapter 39). That list would include me, and it's one of the few places that I can see that an argument from a critic has been found convincing by you.

I'm sure that another reason to exclude certain criticisms from the list would be the recency of the critique. This would appear to be the case for the various criticisms incorporated within the essay available at (Elsberry and Shallit 2003).  There are several issues that we raised there which I have not yet found covered, either by reference or by concept, within "The Design Revolution". Whether this is simply because I haven't looked hard enough yet or because they really aren't there I cannot say... at the moment.

Of course, I'm not going to stop with just the part about finding places where whole criticisms have been overlooked.  I'll be delving into the reasons why we don't "see eye to eye" on various other criticisms. I do appreciate your recent openness, as your courtesy in permitting me access to the ISCID bibliography indicates. But where we differ on the issues is precisely where we should be concentrating on making arguments that are convincing, rather than leaving issues in contention lie.


"You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." - Dorothy Parker

  3 replies since Feb. 27 2004,22:13 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


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