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A Response to Berlinski

Wesley R. Elsberry

Posted April 11, 2005

I wrote a letter to the editor of "The Daily Californian" concerning David Berlinski's op-ed piece that ran there on April 1. I reproduce it here as an open letter.

Re: David Berlinski's little white lies

David Berlinski claims to be looking for what is true. It is odd, then, that he spreads easily-discovered falsehoods in his April 1st essay.

Is it really considered "clever beyond measure" for biologists at the Panda's Thumb or TalkReason websites to misspell William Dembski's surname as "Dumbski"? Google has made it easy to check, and Google doesn't find even one such instance at the TalkReason web site. Google does find three pre-Berlinski instances of use of the "Dumbski" misspelling on the Panda's Thumb, but all of those are in the sections of public comment and have not issued from that weblog's contributing biologists. There no indication that anyone congratulated those making the comments for their wit.

Besides inventing infractions by critics, Berlinski's approach to etiquette is one-sided. Berlinski notes Dembski's extensive academic training, but overlooks Dembski's documented penchant for invidious comparisons. In 1998, Dembski compared biologists to the old Soviet regime, a charge he repeated in 1999 and 2003. He referred to biologists opposed to him at Baylor University as practicing "intellectual McCarthyism" in 2001. In 2002, Dembski analogized ID to be like Socrates and the scientific community to be like the Athenian court that ordered his death. Nor does maturity seem to be coming to Dembski, as in 2004 he compared evolutionary biologists to the Taliban. (The website http://tinyurl.com/58kwe… documents several further instances of invidious comparisons by Dembski's fellow ID advocates.)

Berlinski's thesis that criticism of Dembski's arguments has nowhere risen above the level of misspelling Dembski's surname is absurd. I have a published a critical book review of the Cambridge University Press volume that Berlinski cites. John Wilkins and I wrote a peer reviewed paper published in "Biology and Philosophy" that notes serious problems in Dembski's "explanatory filter". I extensively criticized other arguments of Dembski's in online essays, and I spelled Dembski's name correctly throughout. I'm not alone. For a book that takes ID claims seriously and shows why they are wrong or unconvincing, I recommend "Why Intelligent Design Fails" from another academic publisher, Rutgers University Press. I contributed to a chapter therein that critiques Dembski's arguments.

Berlinski's falsehoods and mischaracterizations are not clever.


Originally posted at The Panda's Thumb weblog.

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