Bronze-level article

William Dembski

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Yes, he does look like a finger wearing clothes.
The divine comedy
Icon creationism.svg
Running gags
Jokes aside
Blooper reel
Evolutionism debunkers
Intelligent design opens the whole possibility of us being created in the image of a benevolent God. The job of apologetics is to clear the ground — to clear obstacles that prevent people from coming to the knowledge of Christ. And if there's anything that I think has blocked the growth of Christ as the free reign of the spirit and people accepting the scripture and Jesus Christ, it is the Darwinian naturalistic view.
—William Dembski[1]

William Albert Dembski (1960–) is an American who is one of the main pushers of the pseudoscience of intelligent design, specifically his unfalsifiable concept of "specified complexity".

Unusually for a creationist, he does in fact have some actual credentials: a Ph.D in mathematics from the University of Chicago, a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Now, if only one of those fine institutions recognized Intelligent Design as being anything but an absolute hodgepodge of nonsense, he'd be set.

In 2012, he taught as the Phillip E. Johnson Research Professor of Science and Culture at the Southern Evangelical SeminaryWikipedia in North Carolina.[2] As of 2013, Dembski serves as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and CultureWikipedia or "CSC".[3]

Thus, despite having been educated at real universities, he "lectures" and "does research" at institutions that are at the very deep end of overtly faith-driven pseudoscience.

Dembski has written a bunch of convoluted books about intelligent design, including The Design InferenceWikipedia (1998), Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & TheologyWikipedia (1999), The Design RevolutionWikipedia (2004), The End of Christianity (2009), and Intelligent Design Uncensored (2010).

Interestingly, none of his qualifications in any way relate to the natural sciences. He once held a non-tenured position at Baylor University, but was fired for being an all-around jerk (he maintains that he was dismissed in order to discredit or censor the research of his newly-founded Evolutionary Informatics Lab).

Dembski is a favorite of ID watchers because of his tendency not to know how to keep his mouth shut. Dembski offers the best retort there is for people who think ID is not about Christianity:[4]

Intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John's Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.

Clearly, Intelligent Design is not about Christianity, religion, or even about God. Even though his own given definition of Intelligent Design is — literally — the restatement of the theology of John's Gospel. Carry on.

Baylor University[edit]

In 1999, Dembski and Robert Sloan, the president of Baylor University, set up the Polanyi Center, which was essentially a "think tank" for intelligent design. The center consisted of two people; Dembski and Bruce Gordon, another intelligent design lackey. Both individuals were hired directly by Sloan without going through the usual channels of a search committee and departmental consultation. The vast majority of Baylor staff did not know of the center's existence until its website went online, and the center stood outside of the existing religion, science, and philosophy departments.

The complete disregard for standard procedure, the embarrassing mission of the center, and Dembski's incessant prancing and preening led the faculty at Baylor to vote 27-2 to dissolve the center. Sloan refused, continuing his one-man campaign to destroy Baylor's reputation. However, he ultimately agreed to allow an outside review. That review pretty much agreed with the faculty, and the center was absorbed into existing structures at Baylor and disappeared.

Dembski, however, took this loss as a victory (as IDiots are prone to do) and issued a press release saying that the committee had given an "unqualified affirmation of my own work on intelligent design", that its report "marks the triumph of intelligent design as a legitimate form of academic inquiry", and that "dogmatic opponents of design who demanded that the Center be shut down have met their Waterloo. Baylor University is to be commended for remaining strong in the face of intolerant assaults on freedom of thought and expression."[5]

This utter lie and attack on the university faculty and integrity finally even got to Sloan, who asked Dembski to withdraw the press release. Dembski refused, calling Sloan's request McCarthyism. Finally, realizing what an absolute jerk and douche Dembski was, Sloan had him removed from any real position at Baylor and kept him on as an "associate", but never asked him to teach or engage the university in any way. Finally, in 2005, Baylor and Dembski officially parted ways.

Intelligent design[edit]

Dembski has been closely allied with the Discovery Institute over the years, most notably being made a "fellow" when he was unable to get a job after he received his degree. The DI supported him until he started at Baylor. Most of Dembski's work has been tirades against evolution, but from a purely religious perspective. The only thing coming close to "science" was his book No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. It is for this work that he is most known outside the religious community.

On September 23, 2016, Dembski announced his "official retirement from Intelligent Design" and resigned from the Discovery Institute.[6]

However, in February 2021, he "returned to the front lines of ID".[7]

Explanatory Filter[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Explanatory Filter

Dembski originally proposed the "Explanatory Filter" to determine what was designed and what was not. It consists of asking whether chance, a "law", or design could have produced some pattern. Although Dembski states that it does not (and cannot) rely on chance, that is its primary mechanism.

Complex Specified Information[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Complex specified information

Complex specified information (CSI) was supposed to be a mathematically rigorous attempt to figure out what emerges by chance versus what must emerge by design. CSI, like Michael Behe's irreducible complexity, relies mostly on evolution being only random. The fact that natural selection can act to make things that appear to be designed is never addressed in Dembski's work. Essentially, CSI claims that improbability of a sequence occurring by chance that fits a particular preconceived pattern must mean it was designed.

Current status[edit]

Dembski now tours churches, charging money to give talks about how ID proves God, but simultaneously, how ID really isn't about religion so it can be taught in public schools.


William Dembski was originally slated to be an expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District lawsuit, but shortly before he was to go into deposition, he withdrew himself from the case. This was along with two other ID fellows: Stephen Meyer and John Campbell. Dembski's withdrawal is particularly noteworthy considering his obsession with having Darwinism on trial in a court of law, as evidenced by this quote from his blog, Uncommon Descent;[8]

I’m waiting for the day when the hearings are not voluntary but involve subpoenas in which evolutionists are deposed at length on their views. On that happy day, I can assure you they won’t come off looking well.

He also went as far as developing a "vise strategy" and taking pictures of a Darwin doll in a vise as an analogy.[9]

Sadly, it seems that Dembski's ability as a prognosticator is on a par with his ability to define CSI mathematically, as the Dover trial became a tour de force for evolution, with the conservative judge scathing in his criticism of the blatantly creationist ID side of the case.

Following the defeat of intelligent design in the courtroom, Dembski produced an animation featuring Judge Jones. And fart noises. The best bit? He did the fart noises himself, apparently. Classy.[10]

Online media[edit]

Dembski has attempted to become an internet sensation. Currently, Dembski is only sensed in his absence.

Uncommon Descent[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Uncommon Descent

Dembski created the blog Uncommon Descent in 2005, which was his only contact with the world outside church groups. Originally, only he "contributed" to it. Now, he's nominally abandoned the project, though he still uses it for his announcements.

The blog is a proverbial shitstorm of bad science and censorship of opposing views.

Overwhelming Evidence[edit]

In addition to Uncommon Descent, Dembski was the prime mover in an attempt to create "the next MySpace" (as if it was going to be the year 2006 forever) — a social networking site for ID-sympathetic teenagers.

The site, called "Overwhelming Failure Evidence", instantly proved a Citizendium-level flop with pretty much no one but a handful of upper middle age admins posting (aside from the occasional troll). The only claim to fame OE was ever able to muster was the fact that it hosted Dembski's flatulence-laden spoof of Judge John Jones III's decision in Kitzmiller.

Sometime in 2009, a database error occurred on the site, preventing anything but the splash screen from working. No one seems to have cared enough to bring it back online.

RationalWiki copyright infringement[edit]

See the main article on this topic: RationalWiki:Pissed at us

On 15 November 2009, Dembski posted the following on Uncommon Descent;[11]

RationalWiki is reprinting large portions of an article I did with Robert Marks that far exceeds anything permissible under “fair use” copyright protections. I was getting ready to contact my attorney about having them remove our article from their website (go here — I’ve saved this page in case it changes as a consequence of this post), but couldn’t find any contact information on the site.

Question: Who is running this site and how to contact them?

On 16 November 2009, Trent Toulouse responded in the comments (no longer open for new posts);[11]

Hi Bill,

I am the “owner” of RationalWiki, though it [sic] not ownership in the traditional sense.

Anyway, fair use is a complex issue, and more than a few cases have up held the full copying of a work, though other cases have found infringement with just a few sentences.

Issues to consider, we are a non-profit, educational resource. The copied portioned [sic] are copied for the purposes of criticism. Much like the use of “Imagine” in “Expelled.” Also IEEE is the primary copy right holder I believe. And the fact that this is an “academic” publication should all be weighed in your decision about how you want to pursue this.

I am curious why this is a battle you are so eager to fight?

Anyway, the best contact for me is to e-mail me at:

or [sic]

For the record, the site is hosted on a private server that I own and operate.

Dembski's criticism of RationalWiki for hosting a copy of his paper is highly hypocritical, as in 2005 he copied an entire article from the journal Nature into his blog with little to no comment on it.[12]

Nonetheless, this hypocrisy is irrelevant to the merits of his claim — which one would assume are zero, since neither he nor the actual copyright holder has bothered to pursue the matter.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]