Monday, November 22, 2010

God Needs A Quality Control Department 2.4

This is Part IV 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 continue reviewing Dembski's opening remarks (I've linked to Dembski's prepared comments here).

I goofed in my previous video, saying that Dembski has ten minutes. He actually has 15. He has used three of his 15 minutes telling lies and making irrelevant points. He spends another two minutes spewing out jargon concerning the vertebrate eye in an attempt to show that the eye is actually quite well designed. He's hoping that his audience will miss the point that even if the eye does look like a good design, it still shows all the signs of having evolved from earlier structures. In other words, point out all the cool bells and whistles you like, educated and qualified scientists see no reason to introduce a supernatural explanation.

<Clip 03 - 03.00 - 03.05 - Easily deconstructed>

Hey, he told the truth: straw men are easily deconstructed. The chapter is not about proofs of evolution. Dembski demonstrates quite well the lopsided morality of Jesusianismists: it's rude to say a word like "fuck," but it's not rude to sit and insult your audience's intelligence for five minutes straight, provided that you never say a word like "fuck." Dembski wastes more of our time "deconstructing" the straw man born of his lies. He goes on a bit more about the vertebrate eye but moans that Hitchens, in his chapter on the arguments from design, didn't go into the details of embryology and the construction of neural pathways. Then he latches on to a comment that the book makes almost in passing, about computer models. He claims that Hitchens "praises loudly" a computer model that suggests an evolutionary path for the vertebrate eye. Nothing new, Dembski is setting up straw men left and right, but I just have to point out this detail. The chapter is some 23 pages long. What does it say that counts as praising loudly? "Sophisticated computer models have been developed which have tested the theory and shown that it actually 'works.'" Dembski is a shyster. How can Jesusianismists act like they have any kind of moral high ground?

<Clip 03 - 04.27 - 04.31 - Underwhelming>

Most of the time when Jesusianismists say inexcusably ignorant things like this, I tell them that they need to read a book, or visit a museum. There are mountains of very clear evidence for evolution and natural selection. But Dembski knows better. He is a liar, lying in the name of Jesus, to schoolchildren, no less.

<Clip 03 04.42 - 04.46 - Atheism demands>

This is absolutely false. Borrowing an idea from YouTuber NonStampCollector, atheism is an "ism" like not collecting stamps is a hobby. Atheism simply means that you don't believe that any god exists. The fact of not believing in a god doesn't demand anything.

<Clip 03 04.51 - 04.57 - Unthinkable>

Again, entirely untrue. If there were even a shred of an indication that a god exists, any rational person, including Hitchens, would look into it with an open mind. Disbelief is not a choice. You can't choose to believe that 2 + 2 = 5. Disbelief is simply the result of never having seen anything to make a plausible suggestion that there is a spirit realm. He goes on to claim that this unthinkability (which he has invented) puts the atheist in a straitjacket. He again argues incorrectly (and rather pointlessly) that being an atheist leaves evolution as the only option, attempting to suggest that being a theist is better because it leaves you two options.

<Clip 03 - 06.34 - 06.41 - Selective concern for truth>

Even if this were a legitimate charge, I'd have to say that a selective concern for the truth is far better than Dembski's utter disregard for it. But the charge is obviously false, not to mention irrelevant to the point that Dembski claimed that he would address.

<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 their lack of knowledge, and in this particular case, their fledgling critical thinking skills, given that they're just school kids.
  • Science isn't to be trusted because it's often wrong.
  • Darwin was wrong because he didn't know how complex cells were
  • Pretends that complexity implies design
  • Intelligent Design has a scientific foundation
  • 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 show that complexity implies design.
  • 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
That's Part II(e). Thanks for watching.

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