Monday, December 05, 2005

Casey Luskin and William Dembski Dishonesty

I'd like to call attention to two recent articles over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. The first is about Casey Luskin, blogger for the Discovery Institute. The second is about William Dembski, the "Isaac Newton of information theory."

In the first piece, Brayton writes about how Luskin has referred to Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education as "Darth Vader." Brayton quotes Luskin: "In the past I've compared Eugenie C. Scott to Darth Vader because she is full of internal contradictions, knows in her heart she's lying, powerful, persuasive, and most importantly, she travels around representing the dominating power (the Empire) and fighting the good guys. All in the name of ...well, I'm not exactly sure what her motivation is yet. It's certainly not truth."

Yet Luskin provides no examples of lies or ulterior motives, and has used false statements to argue against statements she has made. In one example: "I asked her why she thinks ID isn't science. She said it isn't science because it does not refer to natural law (a reference to Ruse's testimony which he later recanted)." Brayton, speaking directly to philosopher Michael Ruse, asked him if, in the face of criticisms from other philosophers about his position on the demarcation between science and non-science (e.g., see Larry Laudan's piece in Ruse's book But Is It Science?), he holds that Intelligent Design is non-science. As Brayton writes, "He replied that it is non-science because it does not refer to natural law. If Ruse has recanted, he appears to be unaware of it."

As Brayton notes in the same piece, when he's made charges of dishonesty against William Dembski, he's backed them up--and he's done so yet again, showing that Dembski has continued to misrepresent the work of Douglas Axe. In a 2000 paper, Axe did work which focused on a particular gene which confers resistance to certain antibiotics. As Brayton summarizes the paper, "it showed that this particular enzyme could retain most of its function even if it was hit with a major mutational event that resulted in changing as many as 10 of its amino acid residues simultaneously, could retain some of its function (and thus still be capable of selection) even if a mutation resulted in as much as 20% of its total amino acid residues being substituted simultaneously, and that if 40 mutations happened simultaneously, it would stop functioning."

Dembski, however, summarizes it this way: "But there is now mounting evidence of biological systems for which any slight modification does not merely destroy the system’s existing function, but also destroys the possibility of any function of the system whatsoever (Axe, 2000)."

Brayton points out that Matt Inlay criticized Dembski for this misrepresentation on The Panda's Thumb back in February, and that Inlay has shown that Dembski has known this is a misrepresentation for at least two years. Brayton concludes:
Dembski has crossed over a line at this point, I think. I don't think it's any longer possible to maintain that he is merely an ideologue undergoing cognitive dissonance, or that he's just engaging in wishful thinking of the type we are all probably prone to when defending ideas we have a personal stake in. He is now simply lying outright, and he has to know that.

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