The Answer Bill Dembski Didn’t Want You to Hear

In an effort to try to split the pro-science community, Bill Dembski has resorted to publishing made-up questions and answers on his blog.

From Texas Tech:

The Real Question and Answer was completely different from Dembski's version.

The distortions he published on his blog "Uncommon Descent" included a Question from the audience at Ken Miller's 3/29/06 talk at Texas Tech University, and Miller's alleged answer. According to Dembski, Miller's answer allows one to suspect that Miller is a closet ID supporter. But Miller's real answer tells a different story.

ID partisan William Dembski loves to pretend that scientists who profess religious belief, such as Francis Collins and myself, are actually supporting ID. He’s free to make that argument, of course, but if he believes he’s got a point, I do wonder why he makes stuff up to mislead the readers of his blog.

Case in point. On June 22, 2006 he posted an “Edited Report” of the Q&A following a talk I gave at Texas Tech University three months earlier:

Dembski's unnamed source wrote: "The most interesting part of the talk for me came at the end when the following question was posed: “Since biologists don’t really have a good grasp on the origin of life itself, and since life has clearly resulted some kind of self-organization to go from a bunch of chemicals to the point where we are today, couldn’t the origin of life be the point at which God’s involvement in creation was direct?” As this question was posed, at least a third of the students in the crowd nodded their heads yes. The professors in the crowd just looked confused; and scared. To my surprise however, Dr. Miller said, “absolutely!” That made the professors look even more confused."

On the basis of that “report,” Dembski then asked “Why shouldn’t Miller and Collins be called ID proponents (or at least ID sympathizers) when it comes to the origin of life? And if ID is scientifically valid at the origin of life, aren’t they on a slippery slope?”

Unfortunately for Bill, a recording was made of the Q&A that day, and neither the question nor the answer resemble the fictitious one he fed his readers. Here's the real Q&A:
Q&A in QuickTime format
Q&A in MP3 format

Why did he tell his readers that I responded by saying “absolutely” and nothing more? I suspect that he didn’t want his readers to see what I actually said, which would have blown his contention that I’m a closet ID supporter out of the water. Besides, I'm sure he finds it much easier to just make stuff up.

Here are the actual Question and my actual Answer:

Question: On the idea of the origin of life from the very beginning… That’s one of the problems ..[unintelligible].. It’s difficult to understand at this point how life got established. But my question would be is that if it was organized , you know, self-organized by proteins or whatever, then the idea that it’s even self-organizing and that life from them on seemed to be self-organizing, you know, through random mutation, however you want to look at it, does not that sound very similar to design, or some form of hand involved in the original that allowed it to unfold?

Answer: Now, since he spoke from the back, I think everyone heard him, so I won’t repeat that.

The answer is Yes, it does. And in a way, the very use of the word “design” to label the current anti-evolution movement is a brilliant piece of public relations. And the reason for that is that any person who sees meaning and purpose and order to the universe — and I certainly do — in a sense believes in a kind of “design,” that things sort of make sense. Einstein told us that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it seems to be comprehensible, and that’s an extraordinary statement to make. So that’s a kind of “design.”

But the interesting thing is that in the context of the public debate in the United States today, what you described is actually not what is called “intelligent design,” and here’s the way in which I would put it. I, and I think all other evolutionists, would point to the fact that the capacity for life is inherent in matter. Matter is…. Life is a chemical and physical phenomenon. I think that the universe does have a “design,” and that the design is so grand that it makes the evolution of life not only possible but almost inevitable.

The ironic thing is that the proponents of intelligent design actually don’t think that. Because they don’t think that the universe is well enough designed to make the evolution of life inevitable. They think constant intervention on the part of the creator is required to bring about the first life, the first living cell, the first chordate, the first insect, the first bird. In other words, the designer or the creator had to keep tinkering with it. So, in away, In think most biologists look at the universe and have a grander appreciation for the orderliness of the universe based on what many of us regard as the almost inevitability of the evolution of living things.


It will be interesting to see if Bill finds my Real Answer as interesting as the fictitious one that he posted with such glee.

Ken Miller (July 7, 2006)

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