ID: Shaken, not stirred

By Phil Plait | December 7, 2005 7:06 pm

Rick Wood has an online series of skeptically-based interviews on his website Audio Martini (he interviewed me recently, too).

Later today (December 8, 2005), he will air — get this — a debate between noted skeptic Michael Shermer and none other than Intelligent Design apologist William Dembski! I can’t wait to hear this one.

Shermer is smart, witty, clever, and quick on his feet (and also, in the interest of transparency, a friend of mine). Dembski, on the other hand, loves making false arguments, using incorrect analogies, quote mining, misrepresenting others’ work, and is not above twisting the truth to match what he wants to see.

This should be interesting to say the least.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind

Comments (17)

  1. antipodean

    is there any way for us aussies to get this debate?

  2. antipodean

    oh, it’s done on the web, never mind

  3. Evolving Squid

    Using my psychic powers, I predict that Mr. Dembski will use the strawman tactic (and logical fallacy) to focus on tiny details of evolution that are weak and by shooting down those weaknesses, invalidate the whole. He will also try to link abiogenesis and evolution.

    How’s that for an exact prediction! :) I should quickly apply for the JREF prize :)

  4. George

    If I were Dorothy, I would use those slippers to get out of Kansas about now. :)

  5. Michelle Rochon

    I can almost hear the Mortal Kombat song playing here ūüėõ I can’t wait to listen to this.

    Good luck to Mr. Shermer, this will be a tough one!

  6. Kim

    This is an interesting debate — Dembski is hardly a fire-breathing creationist, so he sounds pretty rational and his credentials are impressive. However, I’m finding a few of his arguments to be weak:

    1) His heavy reliance on name-dropping to bolster his points. While it’s nice to have credentials, they are not necessarily good arguments. Just because a bunch of PhDs and authors support his point, does not make them right.

    2) He weirdly downplays his association with the Discovery Institute and its aims. Either he represents them or he doesn’t. His attempt to make it look like they wrote the Wedge document just to get money from crazy fundies is particularly disingenuous.

    3) In order to sound rational, he posits a “designer” that bears very little resemblance to the standard definition of god. He’s very hazy on the subject of whether the designer is natural or supernatural and seems to want to have it both ways. I think Michael Shermer hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that that Dembski’s “designer” is really just a human with more powers.

    4) The interviewer brings up the Wedge document in order to point out that the Discovery Institute’s avowed goal is to cut down science at its “weakest points” in order to fight against “materialist” culture. Dembski claims to have had nothing to do with the document (!) then recites some quotations to the effect that Darwinism has given atheists ammunition to hound all religion out of science and culture. In other words, they’re out to get us as much as we’re out to get them. Perhaps, but this is not an argument against Darwinism.

  7. Hmmm… I found it a waste of time, but then I have enough background in science to realize Dembski doesn’t know what science is. He’s no scientist. He’s a extremist christian apologist, lying and deceiving for the glory of himself and perhaps some supernatural intelligent designer as well. The more chances he gets to debate in such venues, the better he gets as deceiving others that he knows what he’s talking about.

  8. Leon

    My thoughts on it…First, I was impressed that the two guests didn’t interrupt one another (at least, for the most part).
    Also, I’d like to commend the host for being fair to his guests. He was a very impartial moderator.
    I have to say, though, that he may have been too easy on Dembski. Dembski talked a lot about the science he wanted to do, but no one tried to pin him down on what science he was doing.At one point Dembski mentioned that ID’s methods have to be statistical. But I’m unclear on how the existence of a designer can be proven statistically.
    At one point, Dembski brought atheism out as the motivator behind evolution–again, showing his hand on the religious (rather than scientific) nature of his own motivations.
    Dembski also went out of his way to name Axe as a “design theorist”, but if I’m not much mistaken, Axe has specifically stated that his work doesn’t support–or even address–ID itself.
    Well, enough for one evening. I’m going home to naturally select a beer from the fridge.

  9. Leon

    Correction…I should say that no one tried to pin Dembski down on what kind of science he proposed doing–what tests, etc. He was asked that once, but was allowed to sidestep the question.

    I was also disappointed that Dembski was allowed to talk about ID as a “theory” on a par with scientific theories. This would have been a good opportunity to make the distinction between scientific theories and the way we use the word day to day.

  10. I would say that it is my responsibility as a host to provide a forum for people knowledgable in their field to exchange ideas and debate issues. It is not my responsibility, in my view, to do the arguing for the participants. Actually, Dembski was asked several times what are the proveable tenets of ID and the predictions that could be made by applying his “science”. I think his non-answers spoke volumes.
    Thanks for listening,

  11. Leon

    Ah, see, I was speaking from my general impressions (that is, from having listened to it only once). So I think I missed that he was asked multiple times. My bad. :)

  12. George

    My thanks to Rick for the presentation. I enjoyed the debate and admired the decorum, which you helped maintain. The jabs were quite minor and few, thankfully, for such a tough subject.

    Though Rick tried to excavate ID’s claim to science, I never could get a handle on Dembski’s arguments to establish ID as a science. His downgrading of the critical science term of “predictions” to “expectations” was, probably, an expected prediction for most around here. [“ID apologist”, nice one BA.] His “two prongs” for ID did not come out in the discussion, at least for me.

    Shermer was much easier to understand and his points presented the definition of science well enough to help clarifiy the pertinent differences and conflicts between it and ID.

    Overall, I would be hard pressed to tell you who I would choose to go golfing with me of the three. Hmmmm…it would be an interesting foursome. :)

  13. Leon

    Which to go golfing with? Oh, I think that’s an easy one–Dembski! After all, you can be pretty sure he’ll never his methodology will ever lead to a birdie or an eagle. In fact, he’ll probably find that bogeys are par for his course. ;-p

  14. Leon

    WOW, that was poorly written. Sorry, folks. Let me redo that one.

    Which to go golfing with? Oh, I think that√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘs an easy one√Ę‚ā¨‚ÄúDembski! After all, you can be pretty sure his methodology will never lead to a birdie or an eagle. In fact, you√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘll probably find that bogeys are par for his course.

  15. For those of you who requested Phil’s interview, you can go to and click on the newsletter link to download the file.

  16. George

    Thanks again for your program with the BA, Rick. Nice one, too. My compliments to both of you; much ground was covered and on several planets. :)

  17. Johny

    hello everybody, i’m new to this site and this is my first post.
    this isn’t an actual science question but:
    “Do any real scientists like Dembski. also, why can’t dembski and all his other loser friends just learn to accept evolution. keep religion out of science please. it’s sadly pathetic he wastes his time trying to debunk something that’s already been proven.”


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