Saturday, April 21, 2007


What Does William Dembski Really Believe About Common Descent?

At the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, we are often treated to long, multipart disquisitions on what intelligent design "theorists" believe and don't believe, and how "Darwinists" and assorted media types perpetually distort those views.

Casey Luskin, in particular, likes to point out that not every Discovery fellow believes the earth is just 6,000 years old. Few Discovery fellows, if Luskin is to be believed, spend their Sundays speaking in tongues, their holy spirit antennae raised to the sky. There are some, if not many, who believe in certain limited aspects of evolution. There are even a few daring enough to believe in common descent.

The list of names invoked by Luskin of those who hold these enlightened views -- views marginally at odds with orthodox young or old earth creationism -- is invariably limited. The usual suspects almost never extending much past Michael Behe, David Berlinski, Anthony Flew, or William Dembski.

That's why RSR perked up when we read this post by Dembski on his Uncommon Descent blog about a poster held up by student protesters at the recent Discovery Darwin vs. Design road show at SMU:

The poster read “Why do the ribosomes (protein synthesizing machinery) in our mitochondria match those of bacteria?” The intent behind this question was to suggest that we evolved from bacterial ancestors, [emphasis added, RSR] whose remnants in us are the mitochondria and, presumably, their ribosomes, which the poster asserts “match” those of bacteria.

Since I’m happy for the sake of argument to allow common descent... [empasis added]

So, here's the question: Does Dembski really accept the evidence for common descent, or does he merely "allow" it as a rhetorical device? Is the notion that there's any fundamental difference between biblical literalism and intelligent design merely an illusionist's slight of hand? Did Dembski forget, for a moment, to pull his ID tuxedo over his creationist bib overalls?

Luskin will surely tell us. The only question is how many installments it will take him to convey the message.

Added Bonus: For a man who frowns at moral laxity, the title of Brother Bill's post, "Mitochondrial ribosomes — Define 'match'” provides an amusing echo of Bill Clinton's famous "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."

PS: You can read Dembski's assertion -- modeled after Alberto Gonzales' various denials that politics had anything to do with the U.S. Attorney firings -- that ID is perfectly compatible with common descent, here.


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