Mark Perakh posted Entry 774 on January 31, 2005 11:30 AM.
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I normally do not read posts on Access Research Network (ARN). Sometimes, though, some of my colleagues point to certain curious posts there and in such rare cases I briefly look them up.  Such was the occasion a few days ago when a contributor to ARN advised about a funny exchange of posts on ARN with the participation of William Dembski.

That consistency is not William Dembski’s forte is not news.  However, once in a while this inordinately prolific propagandist for intelligent design offers notions that are so obviously contrary to others of his own notions that one wonders whether Dembski is serious or his opuses are spoofs designed mainly to attract attention to his voluminous output.  Also, it is funny that there is a bunch of Dembski’s admirers (such as, for example, Salvador Cordova) always ready to spin his notions in a positive light, often doing that in a truly acrobatic manner.

The case in point is the recent article by Dembski titled “Irreducible Complexity Revisited” at which invoked the mentioned discussion on ARN.  In this paper, Dembski endeavors to redefine (once again) Behe’s irreducible complexity (IC). Additionally, Dembski posted several messages on the ARN discussion board in response to critical comments signed by RBH (see;f=13;t=001884;p=0). 

In this discussion the contributor to ARN (as well as to this blog) who signs his posts as RBH offered critique of Dembski’s paper. In particular, RBH has pointed out that Dembski’s new definition of IC means in fact “the death” of IC because it adds an impossible condition for a system to be recognized as IC. This condition does in fact require proving a universal negative: to be IC, the system, according to Dembski’s new definition, must be such that its function cannot be performed by any other simpler system. With this requirement no system can ever be asserted to be IC because it is impossible to assert that there is no other, simpler system anywhere in any form that can perform the job, even at a lower level of fitness. If we can’t point to such a simpler system, it does not mean it cannot exist; the possibility that such a system exists but we simply don’t know about it can never be excluded.

Although, to my mind, RBH’s critique of Dembski’s new definition of IC is very pointed and logical, there are some additional points related to Dembski’s paper in question which seem worth mentioning.

Recall that in his book No Free Lunch Dembski devoted many pages to a justification of Behe’s irreducible complexity concept. In particular, Dembski claimed there that Behe’s definition of IC was “neither exactly correct nor wrong.” He suggested a “salvaged” definition differing from Behe’s original definition in some respects; for example, he introduced the sub-concept of an “irreducible core” of the system; he also slightly modified the view of Behe’s concept of a “basic function” which is lost if a system’s irreducible core loses at least one of its components.

As I argued in my book Unintelligent Design, Dembski’s “salvaging” modifications of Behe’s original definition have no principal significance and are essentially a casuistic attempt to get out from under the fire coming from critics who denounced Behe’s idea.

Before reviewing Dembski’s newest rendition of IC, let us note that if a system is IC this means it lacks self-compensatory mechanisms. This is a serious shortcoming. A well designed system normally is expected to have reserved paths to be taken if the regular path becomes unavailable. Being IC means that any accidental damage to the system makes it unusable. Cars normally carry a spare tire to be used if a regular tire blows up. IC systems by definition have no spare parts - if a part is missing, the system ceases to function - that is how Behe defined an IC system.

If such a system has evolved naturally, there is nobody to blame for its serious drawback. If such a system is a product of design, then it testifies to the designer being stupid, inept, or deliberately making fools of his believers.  I have discussed this point at length in my book. (BTW, neither Dembski nor Behe have ever responded to my critique in any form, shape, or manner).

A relevant point regarding Dembski’s newest discussion of IC is how, in his book, he tries to defend Behe’s endlessly recycled model of an IC system  - the mousetrap. Behe maintains that a mousetrap is an example of an irreducibly complex system. If any of its five parts is missing, says Behe, the mousetrap becomes dysfunctional.

Behe’s model has been shown to be in fact readily reducible without losing its function, albeit with a lower fitness. There are several such demonstrations, one of the most spectacular suggested by Professor of biology John H. McDonald
( ) who has shown (with animation) how parts of the mousetrap can be removed on by one, the remaining contraption preserving its ability to catch mice, even if not as successful as the full five-part mousetrap.
Any scientist who adheres to the common rules of intellectual honesty, if confronted with such a spectacular show of having insufficiently thought through his example, would promptly admit its fallacy. Instead, Behe persists in defending his example, inventing various ad-hoc explanations (for example, emphasizing the requirement that parts of an IC system must be “well-matched,” otherwise it is not an IC system; unfortunately, Behe did not suggest criteria distinguishing “well-matched” parts from “not-so-well-matched”).  So Dembski came to Behe’s rescue, devoting a lengthy discussion in his book to an attempt to dismiss McDonald‘s demonstration of the inadequacy of Behe’s example.

The main argument offered by Dembski was that MacDonald’s reducible mousetraps are an invalid illustration because in each step of removing the mousetrap’s parts one by one, the mousetrap’s functionality is preserved by modifying the shapes of the remaining parts. According to Dembski, the definition of an IC system implied the requirement that the removal of any part of an IC system results in losing its function only if the shape of the remaining parts is not altered.

In fact, no such requirement was indicated anywhere in Behe’s original definition. Moreover, such a requirement would make the entire concept of IC irrelevant for biology.

Evolutionary biology recognizes evolutionary processes wherein at every step of evolution, adaptation and/or excaptation take place wherein changes of various characteristics of evolving system, including changes of its parts’ shapes, occur routinely.

Dembski’s argument in his book was an ad-hoc quasi-argument employed to save not just the ID concept but also Behe’s unsuccessful example, perhaps because admitting the fallaciousness of a highly propagandized example would be a major embarrassment.

So, let us summarize the above story: In his book No Free Lunch Dembski maintains that a system which, upon losing a part, cannot preserve its function unless the shape of the remaining parts is altered, is IC.  Otherwise it is not IC.  In particular, a mousetrap is IC.

Switch now to Dembski new discourse, titled “Irreducible Complexity Revisited.”
This time Dembski approaches the matter from a different angle and offers an example. This example is a three-legged stool.  Its function, says Dembski, is to provide an elevated platform as a seat. OK. Let us accept this notion. If any of the three legs is removed, the stool loses its function.  (As RBH has noted, besides the legs, also the seat itself is an indispensable part of a stool whose removal renders the system dysfunctional as well; Dembski forgot about the seat). Each of the four parts (the three legs and the seat) is indispensable. Obviously, according to Behe’s original definition, such a stool is IC.

Not so, says Dembski in his new article.

Before discussing Dembski’s new example further, it seems proper to point out that the example with chairs having various numbers of legs was suggested in my book (in chapter 2 which is about Behe’s ideas).  Of course, Dembski’s forgetfulness of whatever his predecessors may have discussed is not news either.  He seems to have lost his memory on many occasions, forgetting both what his co-travelers and what his detractors have written before. Moreover, in this case it seems worth mentioning that an example with chairs (or stools) was suggested, before my book, by Dembski’s colleague in the anti-evolution crusade, David Berlinski (to whom I referred when discussing the example with chairs).  Apparently it makes no difference for Dembski whether he ignores a predecessor who is sympathetic to his ideas or somebody who has been critical of his ideas. The main point for him seems to claim as many notions for his own as possible. He does not stop if asserting his superiority entails diminishing the status of a colleague (such as Behe).

So, what is his new thesis? Now he asserts that a three-legged stool is not IC. Why? Because there are other, simpler systems which can take over the stool’s function. For example, a concrete slab can serve as a seat.

What a fine idea! And what then about mousetraps? A mousetrap, according to Dembski, is IC because its function can be preserved upon removing a part only if the remaining parts change their shape. Only if the function could be preserved without changing these shapes, would the mousetrap be deemed not IC.

Where is the difference between the reduced mousetrap and a concrete slab serving as a seat? Indeed, remove three out of the four parts of the three-legged stool (two legs and the platform). To preserve function, change the shape of the remaining leg, making it thicker so it would stand on its own and its upper butt end would serve as a seat.  Now, according to Dembski’s new idea, the stool is not IC because there is a different, simpler system with the same function. This system, however, is obtained from the original stool by removing three of its four parts and then altering the shape of the remaining part (and also, if desired, changing its material from wood to concrete, although it is optional).  Exactly the same procedure was performed by MacDonald with mousetraps.

Moreover, if a stool can be replaced by a concrete slab, which is a much simpler system, likewise a mousetrap can be replaced by a much simpler system - a small spot on the floor covered with glue with a piece of cheese in its middle.  However, with Dembski’s habitual irreducible inconsistency, the mousetrap is claimed to be IC but a stool is not.

In this case Dembski seems to have disproved his own thesis with charming simplicity.
Of course, there are many more possible ways to state mutually incompatible notions, and with Dembski’s ingenuity it would be intriguing to see the next variation of his assertions negating his own earlier statements. Perhaps we can expect many more hilarious events stemming from William Dembski’s inventive philosophical flexibility.

We also can expect that Dembski’s devout Sancho (sorry, Salvador) will promptly spin Dembski’s blunder to the delight of his fans.

I also was amused seeing in the posts to ARN by Dembski’s supporters, such as Salvador Cordova, references to “excessive complexity” which Salvador construes as a marker of intelligent design.  Recall that neither in Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box where  irreducible complexity was suggested as a sign of intelligent design, nor in Dembski’s book No Free Lunch wherein the definition of irreducible complexity was “salvaged” was excessive complexity ever mentioned. So why does this concept suddenly emerge now in posts by Dembski’s supporters? I take the liberty of providing a plausible explanation.

Excessive complexity was discussed in my book Unintelligent Design which appeared at the end of 2003. In fact, however, I introduced this term and the concept it relates to in my essay critical of Behe’s work posted to the web back in 1999 ( ). I believe this term was first used there (although I may not know of its prior use by somebody else; it is hard to suggest a term that was never before suggested by somebody else, perhaps in another context).  In a little different way a similar concept of “redundant complexity” was discussed (also in 1999) independently by Niall Shanks and Karl H. Joplin (Philosophy of Science, 66, 1999, no 2, 268-77).

Both Dembski and Behe ignored my essay, possibly because they were unaware of it, or for any other reason. However now, when my book has been published and dozens of its reviews have appeared both in print and on the web, the ID advocates have apparently decided that it would be more gainful for them to appropriate the concept in question and to adjust it to their goals rather than to continue ignoring it. In their usual manner, though, they do not deem it useful to refer to the work of a predecessor, and more so when the predecessor, like myself, was their adversary.

This all is good and nice, but one should remember that excessive (or redundant) complexity (EC) is the opposite of irreducible complexity (IC). However, Salvador construes both EC and IC as markers of design. Well, there is nothing surprising in that because it is not uncommon for universal conjectures like ID being so flexible that notions contradicting each other can be equally deemed supporting it. Such contradictory notions, however, hardly carry evidentiary value  (see also by Elsberry where this item is discussed from the standpoint of Popper’s falsifiability criterion). 

Now I’d like to add a few words about another case wherein, though, it was not Dembski himself who offered a strong critique of some of his notions. In this case it was Henry Morris of the Institute of Creation Research, the well known young earth creationist - see (see also Wesley Elsberry’s post at where Morris’s essay is discussed). In his essay Morris expressed appreciation of intelligent design ideas but also his strong opposition to the ID advocates’ attempts to hide their religious roots.

For example, Morris quotes Dembski:

“Intelligent design is a strictly scientific theory devoid of religious commitments. Whereas the creator underlying scientific creationism conforms to a strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible, the designer underlying intelligent design need not even be a deity.3 “

Then Morris concludes:

“Dembski himself may not believe such nonsense…. “

Isn’t this quote entertaining?  It seems to show that sometimes (although not very often) even YEC advocates may utter a correct statement (of course, if it does not cast shadow on their own ideas).

Then Morris writes that the main concepts of ID championed by Dembski and his colleagues are in fact not new at all, as they were suggested by YEC advocates, including Morris himself, a long time ago. One such notion is the “specified complexity” vigorously promoted by Dembski as one of his most important discoveries and as such one of the main components of his theory.  Morris asserts that he had already suggested this concept many years ago under the label of “organized complexity,” which, in Morris’s view, was a better rendition of the concept in question. Morris also points out that he suggested a long time ago a quantity which is an exact analog of Dembski’s “universal probability bound” of about 10-150 with the sole difference that his suggested value was 10-110.  Morris also says that he and his fellow YECists have suggested  bacterial flagellum as an example of design a generation earlier than Dembski.

However contrary to science Morris’s biblical literalism is, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the above claims.  It is just one more confirmation of what we know about anyway: Dembski habitually plays at Alzheimer regarding his predecessors, not only those who are critical of ID, but often also those who share his views.

As to Morris’s characterization of Dembski’s position as nonsense, it jibes with what we have known anyway - ID advocates’ pretension that their ideas have no religious roots but are rather purely scientific, is a propagandistic trick which hardly can deceive anybody who has at least a rudimentary knowledge of the real situation.
While both YEC and ID “theories” have all the features of crank science, ID advocates, unlike YEC people, additionally are trying to hide their real religiously motivated agenda.
It all would be funny if it were not really sad.

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Comment #14682

Posted by PvM on January 31, 2005 11:56 AM (e)

Sal, whom I consider to be the evolutionist’s best friend under the assumption that the enemy of my enemy must be my friend, seems to have given up on trying to use logic and arguments and instead has chosen to accuse critics of ID of misrepresentation.

In the mean time Sal can be seen complaining that his ‘rebuttal’ of Shallit and Elsberry (no rebuttal really…) has been censored on PT. Nothing is further from the truth, PT does not censor links and comments but if inappropriate for the context, they are placed in the bathroom wall thread.

ID has been reduced to a lot of whining how the media and the critics misunderstand or misrepresent its claims. If only ID could spent a fraction of the effort spent on whining on developing an actual theory of ID….

Instead all we have is Salvador’s Explanatory Filter proposal… Guess what: Pattern recognition…

Comment #14691

Posted by asg on January 31, 2005 1:13 PM (e)

Great post

Comment #14693

Posted by Bob Maurus on January 31, 2005 2:05 PM (e)


You said, “Recall that neither in Behe’s book Darwin on Trial - - -.”

Wasn’t that Johnson?

Comment #14695

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on January 31, 2005 2:30 PM (e)

Admittedly, my pass through the ARN thread was quite swift, but I seem to recall that Dembski attempted to salvage his embarrassing gaffe by claiming that the “simpler replacement” had to be along similar lines as the original. In other words, the “glue-spot” is NOT a simplified version of the mousetrap because it functions in a different fashion

Of course, that would mean the “box, stick, rope, cheese” mousetrap that so amused the Looney Tunes animators would also not be acceptable.

But I admit, his overall position is now exceedingly confused.

Comment #14696

Posted by Mark Perakh on January 31, 2005 2:38 PM (e)

Bob Maurus: Thanks for pointing to my error in the reference. I meant to refer to Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, but instead wrote Darwin on Trial which is Johnson’s book which has no relation to my thesis. Sorry.

Comment #14697

Posted by Mark Perakh on January 31, 2005 2:44 PM (e)

Bob Maurus: I have corrected the reference to Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. Thanks again.

Comment #14702

Posted by JBird on January 31, 2005 4:12 PM (e)

What I thought was telling was that Dr. Dembski, known for his infrequent hit-and-run postings, posted a response to the thread just 40 minutes after it was started. Whether he was alerted by an ARNie or he lurks ARN often enough to catch the thread as it opened, it must have struck a nerve.

Comment #14703

Posted by Steve F on January 31, 2005 4:27 PM (e)

I seem to recall him doing something similar when the google wars thread appeared here. How sweet.

Comment #14704

Posted by steve on January 31, 2005 4:38 PM (e)

It all would be funny if it were not really sad.

I wouldn’t read it if it weren’t funny. Excessive Complexity? Come on. These guys are clowns. It is very funny to watch. If Dover goes far, I’ll cook some popcorn and watch the DI institute implode. A multi-year, multi-million dollar program of lies, ruined by some rubes who wanted to take a stand fer Jaysis.

Comment #14708

Posted by TimI on January 31, 2005 4:55 PM (e)

What Dembski’s new and radical reformulation of IC and his subsequent comments reveal is that he has very little familiarity with experimental science. In particular, I do not think he has a good feel for the questions one can reasonably expect to answer in practice.

As they say:
The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice, they’re different.

Comment #14709

Posted by Steve F on January 31, 2005 4:57 PM (e)

If anyone lacks the time to read the above essay and discussion, I’ll briefly sum up; he’s making it up as he goes along.

Comment #14710

Posted by Paul King on January 31, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

Behe’s “well matched” criterion was not just vague - it was an error. If Behe’s argument failed to cover the case where “poorly matched” parts came together to form an system which functioned adequately, how could he argue against evolution improving the match between the parts ? Surely this is exactly the sort of thing that he accepts that evolution can do ?

So Behe would have done far better to leave the “well-matched” criterion out of his definition since it opens up a hole in his argument.

Comment #14721

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 31, 2005 6:54 PM (e)

Obviously, according to Behe’s original definition, such a stool is IC.

Stool. Heh.

Now he asserts that a three-legged stool is not IC. Why? Because there are other, simpler systems which can take over the stool’s function. For example, a concrete slab can serve as a seat.

Or, for Dembski, a hot poker.

Comment #14725

Posted by John Wendt on January 31, 2005 7:25 PM (e)

As to Salvador’s very strange idea of “excessive complexity”: I was once in some sort of class that touched on mechanical design. The instructor asked why the early copy machines of a well-known manufacturer broke down so often. Some one volunteered, “Too many parts!” This had been exactly my impression from looking over the shoulders of repair technicians, and the instructor agreed. (I think they’ve fixed that problem.)

Comment #14727

Posted by PvM on January 31, 2005 7:48 PM (e)

Salvador on ARN

And I showed that one of the supposed “thorough refutations” by the critics was a charade. The Forbidden URL has been periodicaly and occasionally systematically censored at PandasThumb. The critics can’t win on the facts but must resort to misrepresentations and starwmen.

Since PT has not censored the URL and in fact the ‘forbidden URL’ does little of what Salvador claims, one may wonder why Sal still repeats this…

Comment #14733

Posted by RBH on January 31, 2005 9:46 PM (e)

Thanks for the expansion and extension, Mark. Well done.

Rilke’s Granddaughter wrote

Admittedly, my pass through the ARN thread was quite swift, but I seem to recall that Dembski attempted to salvage his embarrassing gaffe by claiming that the “simpler replacement” had to be along similar lines as the original. In other words, the “glue-spot” is NOT a simplified version of the mousetrap because it functions in a different fashion

Of course, that would mean the “box, stick, rope, cheese” mousetrap that so amused the Looney Tunes animators would also not be acceptable.

But I admit, his overall position is now exceedingly confused.

Specifically, in his drive-by posting in response to my ARN post Dembski said

But basic function, as I define it, also includes the way in which the function is performed. Thus, it is no simplification of the bacterial flagellum to substitute a paddle, say, that doesn’t spin, that propels the bacterium through its watery environment, and that is simpler. Any simplification of the bacterial flagellum would have to be a bidirectional motor-driven propeller. (Italics added)

That merely adds another level of subjective slop to Dembski’s already confused conception. What principled guidance is there to determine the “way” in which the function is performed? None. If one defines the function of the flagellum as “to provide multi-directional motility,” rather than “to provide multi-directional motility using (among other things) a bidirectional motor-driven propellor”, then Dembski’s in the soup. But there’s no way to decide which is correct. The latter, of course, is begging the question of whether a simpler system can perform the function. In the stool case, any old solid block that keeps one’s bottom off the floor performs the function of the stool well enough to render the stool non-IC, but in the case of the flagellum only a very specific “bidirectional motor-driven propellor” will do. Dembski has basically given himself yet another subjective wormhole to slither through.


Comment #14735

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on January 31, 2005 10:11 PM (e)

Behe does not give credit to Henry Morris.

Morris, _Scientific Creationism_ 2nd edition p 59 wrote:

This issue can actually be attacked quantitatively, using
simple principles of mathematical probability. The problem
is simply whether a complex system, in which many com-
ponents function unitedly together, and in which each com-
ponent is uniquely necessary to the efficient functioning of
the whole, could ever arise by random processes.

Behe, _Darwin's Black Box_ p 39 wrote:

“By irreducibly complex I mean a single system
composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that
contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one
of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”
[emphasis in original]

Meanwhile, Dembski changes the definition of Behe’s clever term every other week, and seems to believe that in so doing he renders whole classes of thing unevolvable by his words. Behe’s claim was preposterous enough to start with; Dembski makes it worse with each revision.

It is understandable that Henry Morris, not a scientist, would include this idea among his many ‘refutations’ of evolution; for Behe to believe it is a strange thing. What goes on in his mind? {speculation alert} It is as if he understands subconsciously that co-adapted parts, including molecular ones, are a natural result of evolution, and this in combination with all the fossils spells the end of creationism. But this is unacceptable. And so the solution that wells up is to tackle the problem head on by declaring victory right the point of honest defeat, and to insist so convincingly that he can remake reality. /speculation

The present situation is that Behe, when he gives talks, won’t even define IC because he doesn’t know how Wild Bill is defining it this week. So he just says it is “like a mouse trap”. I suspect that Behe has enough grasp on reality to question Dembski’s, but this must be kept private.

Comment #14746

Posted by Rilke's Grand-daughter on February 1, 2005 10:15 AM (e)

Thanks, RBH - but what does ‘way it is performed’ really mean? I’m having a hard time culling that from Dembski’s words. What is the ‘way’ a stool works? Isn’t a stool merely another ‘arch’? In which case, a concrete block does NOT replace the stool, right?

Comment #14749

Posted by Dene Bebbington on February 1, 2005 10:51 AM (e)

Dembski has already decided that IC systems can’t come about through evolution. The guff he continues to churn out is just a brazen attempt at trying to define evolution out of IC. Like Laurel & Hardy, the more he tries to fix something the more difficulties he creates and gets entangled in. L&H knew they were only making comedy though.

Comment #14758

Posted by Ginger Yellow on February 1, 2005 1:16 PM (e)

Surely the only definition of IC is that it can’t come from evolution. That’s the only meaning the transparently meaningless term has. As has been noted above, it’s really quite pathetic when ID/IC promoters are reduced to saying, effectively: “Evolution must be wrong because something couldn’t have evolved if you don’t allow most of the mechanisms of evolution.” Somewhat circular, no? It would be like me saying: “Democracy doesn’t work because George W Bush couldn’t have been elected president if Republicans weren’t allowed to vote.”

Comment #14762

Posted by theophylact on February 1, 2005 2:43 PM (e)

Actually, even a one-legged stool has its usefulness:

For example, the early manufacture of nitroglycerin was a batch process. Operators watched a single gauge to ensure the process remained in the safe operating range. Occasionally operators fell asleep, resulting in a search for a replacement operator. Accident investigation identified the operator going to sleep as the root cause. The solution was to provide the operator a one-legged stool.

Comment #14765

Posted by Ginger Yellow on February 1, 2005 3:21 PM (e)

My parents own several one legged stools. They’re very good for open air music festivals and the like, where you need to be high enough to see, but can’t be bothered to stand unsupported for hours.

Comment #14767

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant on February 1, 2005 3:29 PM (e)

Did someone mention a one-legged stool?

Comment #14771

Posted by Mark Perakh on February 1, 2005 5:35 PM (e)

As I understand the example with a three-legged chair as it was originally suggested by David Berlinski (in his article in Mere Creation anthology) he meant a chair with symmetrically situated legs. If one (or two) leg(s) is(are) removed, the remaining piece is unusable because the remaining leg(s) is (are) not symmetrically situated any longer. On the other hand, one-legged stools in theophylact’s (comment 14762) and in Ginger Yellow’s (comment 14765) examples have their sole legs situated in the center of the seat and are therefore usable. Such a one-legged stool is equivalent to a wooden slab used for a seat (which can also be made of any other material including concrete). As per Dembski’s idea, a stool is not IC because after one or two legs are removed, the remaining parts have to be re-arranged and the entire “body-plan” of it is changed, which is even a more serious change than a simple alteration of parts’ shape. Why the case of a mousetrap is different, ask Dembski. All of this is of course inconsequential for biological systems.

Comment #14776

Posted by Dr Zen on February 1, 2005 8:12 PM (e)

It seems to me the root of the problem with Dembski/Behe is that they think things *have* purposes and functions rather than that they *are fit for* purposes and functions.

But having a purpose *implies* having a designer. Stools are *for* sitting on. That’s what we make them for. Concrete slabs are not. Neither are stones, tree trunks or even hot pokers. But all can be used for sitting. Flagella are not *for* motility. They’re not *for* anything. They just happen to be useful for it.

Dembski is simply groping towards a sufficiently scientific way of formulating the former when the latter is in fact all that is, or could be, claimed for evolution. His argument boils down, in every instance, to “Look, this is clearly *for* this purpose, so there must be a designer”. It’s amazing that so much time and effort is spent on showing how fallacious this is. If the rubes didn’t eat it up, no one would bother.

BTW, many pubs have onelegged stools with big plates on the bottom to spread the load. Clearly they have a selection advantage over onelegged stools with no baseplate.

Comment #14778

Posted by pennathur on February 1, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

Mark’s posting was hilarious. Dembski delivered an address around the turn of 2003-04 that was dressed up to be a review of the successes past and the triumphs that lay ahead all in the face of vastly more powerful ‘establishment’. It was pompous like much else that Dembski writes (and totally unlike the ineffectual and confused debater he becomes in public). This time we are seeing another equally valueless piece of thinking.

Comment #14779

Posted by Bob Maurus on February 1, 2005 8:40 PM (e)

At some point in the near or distant past, I remember descriptions of a one-legged stool specifically designed for use by sentries on night duty at their various posts. If they fell asleep, they’d topple and be rudely wakened. Without delving too deeply, this might be evidence of an Irreducibly Complex Unauthorized Entry Inhibitor.

Comment #14781

Posted by RBH on February 1, 2005 9:43 PM (e)

Pete Dunkelberg wrote

It is understandable that Henry Morris, not a scientist, would include this idea among his many ‘refutations’ of evolution; for Behe to believe it is a strange thing.

Actually, to be fair, Morris has a Ph.D. in hydraulics, or something like that, from the University of Minnesota.


Rilke’s G’daughter wrote

Thanks, RBH - but what does ‘way it is performed’ really mean? I’m having a hard time culling that from Dembski’s words. What is the ‘way’ a stool works? Isn’t a stool merely another ‘arch’? In which case, a concrete block does NOT replace the stool, right?

That’s my point, as I suspect you know: There’s no principled way to tell what “way it is performed” really means, so it’s operationally useless.


Dr. Zen wrote

It seems to me the root of the problem with Dembski/Behe is that they think things *have* purposes and functions rather than that they *are fit for* purposes and functions.

That’s as succinctly and clearly as I’ve seen it put. Thank you!


Comment #15003

Posted by Richard Wein on February 5, 2005 1:53 AM (e)

In case anyone’s interested, here’s a critique I wrote of the original version of Dembski’s article, about a year ago: The Designer-of-the-Gaps Revisited. Whereas Mark’s post concentrates on the problems with Dembski’s definition of IC, I concentrated on pointing out that, even if he could demonstrate that some biological structure were IC in his sense, this would do him no good, as he has failed to give any coherent reason why IC should be considered evidence of ID. By the way, I haven’t read the new version to see what’s changed (once was enough!), but it appears from Mark’s post that Dembski has added a lot more on the subject of his definition.

Comment #15019

Posted by Mark Perakh on February 5, 2005 11:10 AM (e)

Thanks, Richard, for reminding about your excellent article on Talk Reason (see comment 15003). It is highly recommended as it clearly and convincingly shows the fallacy of Dembski’s position. Too often we all forget previous publications and arguments. Btw, Dembski never responded to Richard’s post in question.