William Dembski Addresses Forthcoming Intelligent Design Research that Advances ID and Answers Critics
Our recent podcast interview with Robert Marks, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, discusses his new Evolutionary Informatics lab at Baylor University. Additionally, Mario Lopez recently has posted an interview with William Dembski at the IDEA Center's website discussing Dembski's research with Baylor's Evolutionary Informatics lab. Dembski thinks the lab's research puts ID “in a position to challenge certain fundamental assumptions in the natural sciences about the nature and origin of information.” Dembski’s work has long-been a lightning rod for ID-critics who take a science-stopping approach to ID by alleging that areas of Dembski’s continued ID-research actually represent unsolvable problems for the science of ID. In essence, some of Dembski’s critics have taken an approach that goes like this: “If Dembski hasn’t yet finished the research to provide what I consider would be a full answer to my objections, then I’m going to engage in character assassination against Dembski.” Some ID-critics have even tried to actively shut down Dembski's research programs: then-NCSE staff member, Molleen Matsumura (also a “past Vice President of the Internet Infidels”) was part of the group that recommended shutting down Dembski’s previous Michael Polanyi Research Center he was trying to start at Baylor to do ID research! Nonetheless, Dembski continues to do research, as he describes in the interview:
CA: Dr. Dembski, ID has come a very long way since its inception, and ID proponents are making inroads in a vast array of scientific disciplines such as astronomy, biology, and chemistry. How has your own work in mathematics (namely, The Design Inference and No Free Lunch) helped or influenced the development of novel ways of doing science?The full interview can be read here.
WD: It’s too early to tell what the impact of my ideas is on science. To be sure, there has been much talk about my work and many scientists are intrigued (though more are upset and want to destroy it), but so far only a few scientists see how to take these ideas and run with them. There’s a reason for this slow start. My work in The Design Inference was essentially a work on the philosophical foundations of probability theory, trying to understand how to interpret probabilities in certain contexts. This led naturally to some ideas about information and the type of information used in drawing design inferences. My book No Free Lunch was a semi-popular overview of where I saw the ID movement headed on the topic of information. The hard work of developing these ideas into a rigorous information-theoretic formalism for doing science really began only in 2005 with some unpublished papers on the mathematical foundations of intelligent design that appeared on my website (www.designinference.com). With the formation of Baylor’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab just this month and work by me and my colleague Robert Marks on the conservation of information (several papers of which are available at www.evolutionaryinformatics.org), I think ID is finally in a position to challenge certain fundamental assumptions in the natural sciences about the nature and origin of information. This, I believe, will have a large impact on science.
CA: Your critics (such as Wein, Perakh, Shallit, Elsberry, Wolpert and others) seem unsatisfied with your work. They charge your work as being somewhat esoteric and lacking intellectual rigor. What do you say to that charge?
WD: Most of these critics are responding to my book No Free Lunch. As I explained in the preface of that book, the aim of this book was to provide enough technical details so that experts could fill in details, but enough exposition so that the general reader could grasp the essence of my project. The book seems to have succeeded with the general reader and with some experts, though mainly with those who were already well-disposed toward ID. In any case, it became clear after that publication of that book that I would need to fill in the mathematical details myself, something I have been doing right along (see my articles described under “mathematical foundations of intelligent design” at www.designinfernece.com) and which has now been taken up in earnest in a collaboration with my friend and colleague Robert Marks at Baylor University’s Evolutionary Informatics Lab (www.evolutionaryinformatics.org).
CA: Are you evading the tough questions?
WD: Of course not. But tough questions take time to answer, and I have been patiently answering them. I find it interesting now that I have started answering the critics’ questions with full mathematical rigor (see http://web.ecs.baylor.edu/faculty/marks/Research/EILab/Publications.html) that they are strangely silent. Jeff Shallit, for instance, when I informed him of some work of mine on the conservation of information told me that he refuse to address it because I had not adequately addressed his previous objections to my work, though the work on conservation of information about which I was informing him was precisely in response to his concerns. Likewise, I’ve interacted with Wolpert. Once I started filling in the mathematical details of my work, however, he fell silent. Perhaps the most striking instance of silence is that of Thomas Schneider, whose article on the evolution of biological information in Nucleic Acids Research (2000) claims to refute my colleague Michael Behe. When Robert Marks and I recently showed that his evolutionary program was equivalent to a neural network and that it works worse than pure chance (http://web.ecs.baylor.edu/faculty/marks/T/ev2.pdf), he too fell silent though in the past he would reply in a day’s time on his own website to any challenge from me. I have found that Darwinists make a habit of staying quiet about problems with their theory and ignore the best criticisms of it.
(Mario Lopez’s An Interview with Dr. William A. Dembski)