Sunday, November 19, 2006

Will the Real IDiot Please Stand up?

Bill Dembski writes, Larry Moran — Will the real idiot please stand up?. He says,
Larry Moran has been getting some play on this blog, so I’ll throw in my two cents. I met Larry in 2002, when he attended a lecture I gave at U of Toronto and confidently explained to me and the audience how indirect Darwinian pathways explain the evolution of the flagellum from the type three secretory system. To this day it amazes me that people find so bogus an argument a slam dunk for evolutionary theory. Try explaining to an engineer that the origin of the laptop computer is the product of trial and error tinkering from a cathode ray tube. If anything, this analogy fails to capture the full measure of self-delusion that evolutionary theory has become.
That's not a very accurate description of what I said. I pointed out that scientists have a pretty good explanation of irreducible complexity. In the case of the bacterial flagella, that explanation includes evolution from a more simple, primitive, secretion complex. There was good evidence for that pathway back in 2002, as I stated. The evidence is even stronger today. (See Mark Isaak's description of flagella evolution on the Talk.Origins Archive.) Is it a "slam dunk" explanation? No it isn't. We might find a better one tomorrow.

There are lots of other irreducibly complex systems that have much better evolutionary explanations. Isn't it strange that you never mention those? What I was pointing out to your audience was the fact that you did not present the views of your opponents during your talk. This is not what we expect of a seminar on a university campus. Intellectual honesty requires that we address the views disputing our favorite hypothesis. This is especially important when you are presenting the argument that irreducibly complex systems can't possibly be explained by evolution. That speculation is challenged by any known scientific explanations that have been published. You knew about those explanations but you "forgot" to mention them. In fairness, you've been more honest about this since your visit to Toronto. At least you now mention the scientific explanations in your books and lectures.

I'm sure you're well aware of the fact that irreducbibly complex systems can evolve. In fact, there are many different ways that such systems can arise by purely naturalistic means. You probably know in your heart that the main argument of the Intelligent Design Creationists has been refuted. It's time to move on, Bill. Find something else to promote your anti-science viewpoint. This one won't work any more.

Now let's talk about IDiots. You and your friends have been writing books and giving talks where you attack all professional biologists, especially the ones who have devoted their lives to studying evolution. You claim we are so stupid that we don't even realize that the fundamentals of our discipline have been proven wrong. You claim that lawyers, journalists, and mathematicians know more about evolution than researchers who have published tons of papers on evolution. You insult our intelligence, question our integrity, and denegrate our profession. You're doing it right now.

Have you heard the story about the pot and the kettle? When I call you and your friends IDiots, you're getting back a small taste of what you've been dishing out to me and my colleagues for years.