Tuesday, November 23, 2010

God Needs A Quality Control Department 2.5

This is Part V of my thoughts on the debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Dembski on November 18, 2010, in Plano, Texas. The focus of the debate is this question: does a good god exist? In this clip I'll finish my review of Dembski's opening remarks and then take a look at Hitchens' first rebuttal.

<Clip 03 - 06.49 - 06.59 - Outrage>

Can you believe this guy's chutzpah? He's describing his own methods: lie constantly if it advances your cause, and cynically take advantage of your audience's lack of knowledge, and in this particular case, their fledgling critical thinking skills, given that they're just school kids. Rather than torturing you further with Dembski's time-wasting, I'll summarize the next eight minutes or so of his speech.
  • Science isn't to be trusted because it's often wrong; he leaves out the point that science corrects its errors, while religion never does.
  • Darwin was wrong because he thought that cells were simple blobs of protoplasm; this is a lie. Chromosomes were well known (if not understood) in Darwin's day.
  • Complexity implies design; a bald assertion with no support whatsoever.
  • Intelligent Design has a scientific foundation; then why aren't they publishing in peer-reviewed journals?
  • Mentions his 1998 statistical paper; remember the expert testimony provided in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial? Dembski's work "is not regarded as significant by information theorists, mathematicians, statisticians, or computer scientists."
  • Talks about the movie Contact to suggest that complexity implies design; he leaves out the fact that we first look for natural causes before jumping to the conclusion of design, and even if we did provisionally assume design we'd still be open to a natural explanation. In fact, this is exactly what happened with evolutionary theory. At first, people assumed design. Then, as they saw natural explanations popping out all over the place, they moved away from the design assumption. If, after investigating the strange signal from space, Ellie Arroway had begun to find natural causes for it, she would have had less confidence in the possibility that the signal originated with an intelligence.
  • Mentions "specified complexity." Remember the expert testimony again: Dembski's inventions, "'specified complexity' and 'complex specified information' are neither valid nor accepted notions."
  • Complains for a minute about how he can no longer get a job in the mainstream academic world. Blames it on his attempt to apply his notions to biology, but again, recall the expert testimony: his work is not regarded as significant by anyone outside of biology either.
  • Complains about his treatment by academia; maybe he should try another field?
<Clip 03 - 14.34 - 14.42 - Big stretch>
<Clip 04 - 00.00 - 00.04 - Case closed>

He really expects his audience to believe that he has made a case for the existence of his god? Lies, deceit, straw men, irrelevant points, nothing at all of any substance, and he declares to his audience that he has succeeded. He goes on for another three minutes, but it's just more of the same, nothing remotely useful or enlightening.

I can't find anything to complain about in Hitchens' ten-minute rebuttal. I don't think of myself as a sycophant, but any of you religious people out there, please feel free to show me Hitchens' errors. He makes one point about eyeless cave creatures on which I'd like to elaborate just a bit.

<Clip 04 - 09.01 - 09.04 - Salamander>
<Clip 04 - 09.14 - 09.16 - It had eyes>
<Clip 04 - 09.19 - 09.25 - Indentations>

I want to highlight this, just in case its significance is lost on anyone. When forming a hypothesis, you ask yourself what the premises of your hypothesis might imply, and what might be implied if your premises are false. Take the premise that all creatures were specially created by a deity. If that's true, then we might expect that this cave salamander would just have a smooth head. The fact that it has these indentations causes us to wonder. Why would an intelligent entity create an eyeless animal with these indentations? It causes us to be suspicious. On the other hand, take the premise that rather than being specially created, these creatures are the result of evolution from ancestors that did have eyes. We wouldn't be surprised at all by the indentations. This is what Hitchens means when he says that everything works without the assumption of a deity.

You've probably already seen the debate, or plan on seeing it, and Hitchens says it all better than I do. I have nothing further to say about his rebuttal, but I just have to show you my two favorite highlights.

<Clip 05 - 00.17 - 00.31 - Squawking chicken>
<Clip 05 - 00.49 - 01.01 - Take nothing on faith>

That's part II(f). Thanks for watching.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think Prestonwood have put the debate up yet,if they have i cannot find it.Maybe even they found Dembski less than persuasive too.