Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Another Mild Ticking Off for Dawkins from Pigliucci

In the latest edition (volume 31, Issue 4) of Skeptical Inquirer, Massimo Pigliucci offers Richard Dawkins a mild ticking off for his lack of philosophical subtlety in The God Delusion.

Pigliucci notes that: 'Dawkins received an especially large share of criticism... with theologians and biologists alike telling him that he made fundamental mistakes in both theology and science.' Pigliucci thinks that: 'By and large, he did neither, but he can be criticised for a somewhat sloppy philosophy.' The reason Pigliucci thinks that Dawkins didn't make basic mistakes in theology (by and large) is the same as Dawkins' response to this criticism, namely, that theology isn't a subject and therefore not something one can be mistaken about! Need I really say more? Responding to Jim Holt's complaint that Dawkins dismisses the ontological argument without engaging with any of the sophisticated modern versions that are harder to refute than Anselm's version, Pigliucci displays a Dawkins-like propensity not to deal with the substantive issues: 'the reason why the ontological "argument" for the existence of God... is difficult to reject logically is because it is fundamentally nonsensical, similar to asking what the color of triangles is.' The only professional critique of the ontological argument that comes close to Pigliucci's statement is an argument by J.N. Findley, an argument subsequently soundly trounced by Norman L. Geisler. Even if Pigliucci were right, he expresses himself all wrong! To suggest that the ontological argument is nonsensical is not to suggest why it is 'difficult to reject logically', but rather it is precisely to suggest that it is logically refutable with reference to the logical incoherence of the argument! It is not. What atheists will question about the ontological argument is the truth of the premise that God's existence is possible (for the argument - as given by Plantinga - is that if God's existence is possible then it must be actual, because by definition God has necessary existence if he exists.)

Pigliucci again: 'The problem is that Dawkins... is no fan of philosophy, repeatedly displaying the all-too-common attitude of intellectual smugness shared by other scientists... for example, Dawkins invents an imaginary moral philosopher in order to mock the whole idea that philosophy has something to contribute to our understanding of morality. Bad move, because it turns out that Dawkins' argument throughout The God Delusion is, in fact, a very compelling philosophical argument.' Apart from the 'very compelling' (and suspicions to the contrary might be sparked by the observation that Dawkins so blatantly contradicts himself), I agree.

Pigliucci ends by asserting that: 'to believe in anything despite the complete lack of evidence is, in fact, irrational.' Interesting. What is your evidence for that?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Extra-Solar Planet with Water Found: Intelligent Design Theory Makes Another Verified Scientific Predicition

Listening to BBC Radio 4 this morning I hear the announcement that scientists had found an extra-solar planet with water. I immediately thought two things.

The first was that this announcement would be followed by the simplistic suggestion that this discovery make the odds of finding extra-terrestiral life better than before (water being a necessary but not sufficient pre-condition of life).

The second was a prediction grounded in a 'rare earth' subset of intelligent design theory, to wit, that this water (a necessary condition of life) would have been discovered on a planet lacking some other necessary condition of life - i.e. that the planet with this water would be in some way an unsuitable abode for life, at least for complex and/or intelligent life.

So what happened to my predictions? I was pleasantly surprised to find that my first prediction was falsified. I was not surprised to find my second prediction verified - and verified so spectacularly as to explain why my first prediction was fasified. Consider the following news report from Science Daily (I've italicised the verification of my ID prediction):

'PARIS, July 11 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency announced Wednesday the first conclusive evidence of the presence of water vapor in the atmosphere of an extra-solar planet.
The discovery was made by analyzing the transit of the gas giant HD 189733b across its star in the infrared. Giovanna Tinetti, an ESA fellow at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, and colleagues used data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Spitzer Space Telescope to target planet HD 189733b, discovered in 2005, 63 light-years distant in the constellation Vulpecula. Analyzing the planet's atmosphere as it transited in front of its star, the astronomers, among other things, determined it absorbed less infrared radiation at 3.6 micrometers than at other wavelengths. "Water is the only molecule that can explain that behavior," said Tinetti. The scientists cautioned the presence of water vapor doesn't necessarily make a planet a good candidate for life. HD 189733b is located 2.7 million miles from its star. In comparison, Earth is 93 million miles from the sun. Also, HD 189733b's atmospheric temperature is about 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. The findings are reported in the journal Nature.' (

As ID led me to predict, HD 189733b is far from being another Earth: it is a gas giant, orbiting much closer to its sun, with a higher atmospheric temp - and some water vapour. Chalk up yet another verified scientific prediction for the Rare Earth sub-set of Intelligent Design Theory!

Monday, July 02, 2007


Rev'd Dr E.C. Lucus endorses specified complexity criterion

Reading an old Faith & Thought Bulitin for April 1999 (Number 25) I came accross an article by Rev'd Dr E.C. Lucus, debunking 'The Bible Code' - basically the claim that the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament contains hidden fulfilled prophecies that can be decoded by a certain search pattern such as reading every tenth letter. I agree with Lucu's that the Bible Code is unsound - but it is interesting to observe that if the Bible Code were sound it would be an example of what design theoriests call 'specified complexity', or 'complex specified information' (CSI). And the reason Lucus gives for not taking the Bible Code seriously is basically that while the specifications of names etc. can indeed be found in the Hebrew Text when searched for using certain patterns, the probabilities associated with these specifications are too low to implicate design:

'That the Bible Code doess exist, in the sense that by the use of a computer programme using ELS [equidistent letter sequences] one canfind groups of words that can be constued as hidden messages is clear' (p. 4), says Lucus. That's specification (albeit not particularly tight specification). However, 'What is not clear is the significance of this. This is where statistics becomes important.' (p. 4) The rest of Lucus' paper is a review of statistical problems with the Bible Code claims. For example:

'calculations... conclude that in a piece of writing as long as the book of Genesis in Hebrew one would expect, purely on the basis of chance, that a particular seven letter word [specification] would occur some 5-10 times. Words shorter than severn letters will occur more frequently, longer words less frequently... So the finding of a single word by use of ELS will only be significant if it occurs a lot more often than one would expect by chance [complexity].' (p. 4)

Hence here is yet another example of a scholar outside the ID movment (Lucus is a theistic evolutionist) implicitly endorsing CSI as a design-detection criterion.

It is also interesting to note Lucus noting that Bible Code proponent M. Drosnin, whilst (wrongly) convinced of the design inference from the Bible Code, is not convinced of an inference to theism from the same data:

'Despite being convinced of the reality of the Bible Code, Drosnin has not come to believe in God. He says, "I am persuaded only that no human could have encoded the Bible in this way... that some intelligence outside our own does exist, or at least did exist at the time the Bible was written." (p. 50). He has not been moved to take the spiritual and moral challenge of the surface meaning of the Bible seriously, only to become worried that the world might end with a nuclear holocaust in 2000 or 2006, because that is what he thinks the Bible Code says.' (p. 12.)

As design theorists have consistently observed, even a sound design inference does not amount to the same thing as a sound argument for theism (even if it can form the starting point of a theistic argument).

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