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« Is Earth Day dead? | Main | ’Expelled’ is doing well. No, really. »

April 22, 2008

Dawkins Recants after ’Expelled’

In Expelled, as Jeff Clinton recounts, Richard Dawkins does an unexpected turn-about...or does he? After stating that he didn’t know how life went live on earth, he suggests that it may have been jump-started with the help of super-advanced aliens—in other words, intelligent causation! But I thought that intelligent design was not a scientific theory—at least according to Judge John Jones and Darwinian evangelists like Dawkins.

Was Dr. Dawkins serious or did he misspeak? (He seemed, to this reviewer, quite uncomfortable at this point in the interview with Stein.)

According to Dawkins himself, he was merely handing an “olive branch to these people by pretending to take their ‘space aliens’ political ploy seriously.” Yep, that’s his story and he’s stickin’ to it.

I’m sorry, but that dog just won’t hunt.

Dawkins suggests that the intent of his “olive branch” was to contest ID “by setting up its most plausible version and dismissing it.” Problem is, he never dismissed the ET theory in the interview—without prompting by Stein, he offered it as a possible solution to the origin-of-life question without reservation or qualification.

In rapid retreat from his Expelled disclosure, Dawkins explains:

“Entities capable of designing anything, whether they be human engineers or interstellar aliens, must be complex—and therefore, statistically improbable. And statistically improbable things don't just happen spontaneously by chance without an explanation trail.” (Emphasis added.)

Dr. Dawkins, I think you’ve finally got it!. Wait, but no…

“In fact, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process…”

Huh? Quite the contrary, Dr. Dawkins. As long as natural selection is fed by random variation (genetic shuffling and mutation) it remains very much a chance process.

“…and it [natural selection] is the only ultimate explanation we know for complex, improbable things.”

We “know"? I think you mean we trust.

“Even if our species was created by space alien designers, those designers themselves would have to have arisen from simpler antecedents—so they can't be an ultimate explanation for anything.”

Maybe you've got it after all! For since those "simpler antecedents," be they quarks, neutrinos or the quantum potential, have proven unable to account for the arrival of the first gene on earth, they can’t be the ultimate Explanation either.

Looks like that ET theory is not only a dog that won't hunt, but is one that has turned on its master.

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Comments

Gerry

For those people that claim there is no Intelligent life that created the world they have to accept that matter has always existed. For us to exist without an intelligent creator matter as we know has to have always existed. Well, if you believe that matter has alway existed why is it so hard to believe that God has always existed.

I think evolutionists need a lot more faith than I do to believe in their theory.

Regis Nicoll

Gerry--You ask, "if you believe that matter has alway existed why is it so hard to believe that God has always existed?"

Because "matter" confers no moral duty on its "creations."

LeeQuod

Since when does Dawkins want to hand olive branches to anyone, particularly people he considers to be dangerous idiots worthy of his abuse?

And I'm wondering if we'll get a "just so" story of infinite regress, with each preceding batch of intelligent aliens arising from seeds cast by prior intelligent aliens, ... (What's that equilibrium cosmological theory, where each Big Bang is followed by a Big Crunch, in an infinite series? Lots of empirical evidence for that one, too.) Occam's Razor should shave this idea, eventually.

Seems that if Dawkins is going to maintain his speaking engagements and book sales, he'll need to add more spin. He could claim that he said this whole thing only after he'd been waterboarded for hours in a back room by the film's producers, I suppose.

Rolley Haggard

If you go backwards in the evolutionary model far enough you reach the point where stuff, and the unspeakably complex mathematical laws governing that stuff, had to be in a state of absolute, inert simplicity.*

So what disturbed that state to enable simplicity to begin its long evolutionary trek to present day complexity? Even the evolutionary model demands some supernatural impetus to get it going. Regis, do you agree?

*(Otherwise, things were always complex, which contradicts the theory of evolution).

LeeQuod

Rolley wrote: "(Otherwise, things were always complex, which contradicts the theory of evolution)."

Really, Rolley? :-) I'm surprised. I thought evolution was all about adaptation to the environment that permit larger and larger populations of a species, and that complexity was strictly optional.

And to gargle-but-not-swallow with the waters of postmodernism, I thought that "complexity" itself was in the eye (har de har) of the beholder. Single-celled organisms are arguably quite complex. Unless by "complexity" you mean "interdependence among differentiated cells".

Or do you refer to information theory a la Shannon?

The lovely thing about the term "evolution" is that its definition keeps evolving... :-)

Lightnin

"and that complexity was strictly optional."

You're right, a number of organisms have evolved to become less complex, like endoparasites (e.g. I think Tapeworm is an example).

"The lovely thing about the term "evolution" is that its definition keeps evolving... :-)"

It's the wonderful thing about science in general. Newton's mathematical definition of gravity was wrong, though still a very useful model (used to launch the apollo rockets).

LeeQuod

Lightnin wrote: "It's the wonderful thing about science in general."

That it evolves? Recall that the most widely accepted definition of "evolution" is "adaptation to the current environment by random change, with no guiding intelligence whatsoever."

You're saying that all science is unintelligent guesswork and blind experimentation? Wow.

Regis Nicoll

But according to the Magisterium (the NAS), the move to increased complexity is the inexorable end of evolution. ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080317171027.htm )

...Except for the inconvenient truth that the most evolutionary fit organisms (in number, fecundity and robustness) are the most simple: bacteria, viruses, ants, roaches... life forms that will endure even in the aftermath of a scorched-earth holocaust.

LeeQuod

(Gina, the URL in Regis's comment includes the right-parenthesis.)

I had to laugh when I read "What’s astonishing is that hardly any crustaceans have taken this backwards route." and visualized crabs, shrimp and lobsters all scuttling backward.

Regis wrote: "inconvenient truth".

Regis, if you collaborated on "Expelled: The Sequel", I'd be the first one in line to buy a ticket.

Rolley Haggard

Go for it, Regis. I’ll work with the theatre managers to replace their stock of Smarties with Rolaids. No one will notice. It'll be our little secret. And the skeptics may avoid heartburn long enough to learn something.

Regis Nicoll

Gee fellas--Just the thought of doing Expelled: The Sequel gives ME the urge to reach for the Rolaids. ;-)

Gina Dalfonzo

The link should be okay now.

Don

It's an argument he's trying to evolve, but he seems to be confusing himself. He seems to have given up on any notion of a scientific testable model and resorting to bitter rhetoric. A worrying trend with the man.

Steve

You lot sound like a bunch of simpletons. It's a good thing the author of this article is no-one important or worthwhile. You should perhaps try and read your article without the silly parochial Christian viewpoint to realize that even after selectively quoting Prof Dawkins you still come up with a mangled mess. If science was left in the hands of you and those of your ilk, we'd be lucky to be still in the Stone Age. It was particularly satisfying to see in Expelled how proper scientists were systematically rubbishing and throwing out pseudoscientific gibberish that is the ID theory and its muddleheaded proponents. Long may it continue!

Regis Nicoll

Steve--When the Darwinian faith is propped up with visions of alien "Johnny Appleseeds" and crystal piggy-backers by its most celebrated votaries, it should be a clue that it is more akin to Scientology than science. As to the Stone Age--yes, we'd still be there if it weren't for men like Bacon, Ockham, Kepler, Galilieo, Newton, Dalton, Pasteur, Kelvin, Mendel, Farady, Ohm--all men of faith, the Christian faith.

Steve (SBK)

So many Steves, so few who toe the party line...
Seriously Regis, the above "Stone Age" Steve isn't interested in conversation or exploration, but in myopically holding on to an indefensible narrow mindset, and bludgeoning others into submission, like the cave-men of yore. (Don't take my words too seriously there Steve-o)
God Bless you and your writings Regis.

LeeQuod

Yes, this latest random "Steve" doesn't sound at all like our own dear Dr. Steve, M.D.; this one appears to be British (or perhaps Australian).

But, SBK, this new Steve does indeed carefully tow the party line - the *Darwinian* party line. He's willing to invent any kind of explanation (or better, to seize onto someone else's) to get Dawkins out of this problem.

He has faith in Dawkins, you see.

Gina Dalfonzo

I once worked at an organization that had six Bobs. No joke. I wonder if, in similar fashion, The Point is becoming a gathering place for Steves?

Steve

"Entities capable of designing anything... must be complex—and therefore, statistically improbable. And statistically improbable things don't just happen spontaneously by chance ...."

I've seen Dawkins do this before. His grasp of probability is like my two-year old's comprehension of a laptop computer - a source of entertainment, perhaps, but with no comprehension of how it works or what it is capable of doing.

Statistically improbable things happen all the time. Suppose you were compelled to draw 10 letters of the English alphabet out of a bucket and lay them down in order. No matter what letter arrangement results, the probability of that particular arrangement occurring is one in 14 trillion. Highly improbable, but certain in every case. There's no surprise here; there are 14 trillion possibilities and ONE of them has to happen.

That doesn't concede anything to Darwinists, as there are a lot of reasons why the simple metaphor fails. For starters, you don't die if you draw the wrong letters.

With an interloper in our midst, I think, like LeeQuod, I shall have to consider a new nom de guerre. No, Darwin has not suddenly appeared to me in a vision on the road to Boston.

Rolley Haggard

Steve (I mean the "real" Steve) --

For your new nom de guerre, try drawing 10 letters of the English alphabet out of a bucket and laying them down in order. The odds of the other Steve coming up with the same name are, like, one in 14 trillion. I've got it on good authority.

Yours truly,

MXYZPTLK IV

singer

His backpeddling is proof for that "Expelled" is correct. It is dangerous to "doubt the darwinian theory". Apparently open discussion is not allowed in education or science. This is also shown in the attitude on the writers of this blog. Name calling and put downs have no place in free dialogue.

Trey

Steve - isn't that 26^10, which would be 141.17e12 (i.e., 141 trillion)? Probably a minor point... - tg

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