Posted by PvM on March 24, 2007 01:03 PM

On Red State Rabble, Pat Hayes shows the vacuity of Dembski’s ‘arguments’. Dembski had blogged on his Uncommon Descent website a quote from Darwin’s Descent of Man. What follows is Pat Hayes fisking Dembski’s comments.

Dembski wrote:

Darwin wrote:

The reckless, degraded, and often vicious members of society, tend to increase at a quicker rate than the provident and generally virtuous members. Or as Mr. Greg puts the case: “The careless, squalid, unaspiring Irishman multiplies like rabbits: the frugal, foreseeing, self-respecting, ambitious Scot, stern in his morality, spiritual in his faith, sagacious and disciplined in his intelligence, passes his best years in struggle and in celibacy, marries late, and leaves few behind him. Given a land originally peopled by a thousand Saxons and a thousand Celts—and in a dozen generations five-sixths of the population would be Celts, but five-sixths of the property, of the power, of the intellect, would belong to the one-sixth of Saxons that remained. In the eternal ’struggle for existence,’ it would be the inferior and less favoured race that had prevailed—and prevailed by virtue not of its good qualities but of its faults.”

Sounds pretty damning, doesn’t it? But is it?

Pat Hayes wrote:

Before we decide, let’s do what Dembski and his readers didn’t. Let’s read the passage in context. Here’s a link to the Project Gutenburg online text of Descent of Man.

As you can see, the first sentence cited by Dembski (The reckless, degraded…) is Darwin summarizing the views of Greg and Galton. The rest of the paragraph is Darwin quoting Greg.

Does Darwin do this because he agrees with Greg and Galton? No. He cites their arguments in order to refute them. They argue that if evolution were true, the Irish would “multiply like rabbits” and the good frugal Scots would, by their habit of marrying late, become extinct. In effect, Greg and Galton are making a powerful argument against evolution in man.

Darwin goes on in succeeding paragraphs to offer a number of arguments against this line of thinking – which after all, challenges the validity of his theory of evolution.

Nothing in the paragraph, not one word, reflects what Darwin believed.

So perhaps Dembski was trying to be funny but so far his best attempt at ‘humor’ has been ‘farting sounds’. So perhaps Dembski did not really read Descent of Man carefully enough and was just quote-mining it?

Pat Hays ends with some helpful reminders for Dembski

So, here’s our advice to Dembski. To be funny like Colbert, we have to know you’re not serious. In this case, your history of quote mining works against the notion that you expected us to get the joke. We’re left believing that you’re just cynical, and that’s a bad thing in a theologian.

Stick to the fart noises, it’s what you know.

Dembski once remarked that “Theology is where my ultimate passion is and I think that is where I can uniquely contribute”. I have to agree theology is probably the only remaining area where Dembski could attempt to have a unique contribution.