Monday, May 22, 2006


Dembski's Filter Failure

Intelligent design "theorist" William Dembski believes says he can detect the evidence for design -- aka, the hand of God -- in certain natural phenomena.

Dembski is famous for making abstruse mathematical arguments asserting that patterns, such as those found in the genetic code, exhibit what he calls specified complexity. He claims that specified complexity is a reliable indicator of design by an intelligent agent.

(Up at the Discovery Institute in Seattle they refer to this intelligent agent as "He who must not be named.")

Now you know an egghead like Dembski, a mathematical genius who employs rigorous methods to test his belief that design can be inferred from nature, could never fall for anything so simple as an Internet hoax. Especially not an internet chain letter, right?

And yet, unaccoutably, it's happened.

DaveScot, now part of the ID braintrust over at Dembski's blog, Uncommon Descent, has published a picture of Marines said to be bowing their heads in prayer and reports an unnamed ACLU spokesman as saying:

“These are federal employees, on federal property and on federal time. For them to pray is clearly an establishment of religion, and we must nip this in the bud immediately.”
In a comment appended to the post -- better view it quickly before it disappears -- Dembski adds his own pithy endorsement: "Right On!"

It's already been debunked by Hoax Slayer, here, and the ACLU, here. In fact, it was already old when we saw it over a year ago. It's been circulating since at least 2003. Urban Legends exposed it as a fraud in Nov. 2005.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars is, as usual, all over it. We hear Andrea Bottaro is writing something for Pandas Thumb, as well.

A few years back, Dembski -- and Phillip Johnson -- fell for the Bible Code Hoax. Now, he's been taken in by a hoary, old internet chain letter hoax, as well.

Funny, we thought Dembski's explanatory filter could chew through false positives like a chain saw. What do you suppose happened?

Hat tip to Richard Hughes for calling it to our attention.


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