18 February 2007

Evolution/Shermer v. Intelligent Design/Dembski

Larry Moran pointed out a debate between Michael Shermer and William Dembski Thurs. evening at Bridgewater College in the Virginia Shenandoah valley. It was a bit too far for me to have attended even if I'd seen it coming, and I was caught up the NASA THEMIS launch that ended up being postpoined until Sat. evening.

According to Jason Rosenhouse, writing on PandasThumb.org, Bridgewater College is a small liberal arts school affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. According to Wikipedia, this is a pacifistic Christian church without evangelical tendencies. However, it was clear from accounts that the audience was well populated with evangelical Christians. Shermer experienced very aggressive questioning by them, and then Dembski was able to rebut each of his answers.

I've been thinking there is a need for such a debate, but I was expecting it to occur online. It amazes me that Shermer would agree to a debate in so rural an area with a population known for its conservatism. The audience numbered only about 150 according to Rosenhouse.

According to Sal Cordova writing on uncommonDescent.com, Dembski managed to get Shermer to state that he is now open to "ideas like self-organization, or other evolutionary scenarios", relaxing his earlier contention that "no one, and I mean no one, working in the field is debating whether natural selection is the driving force behind evolution".

This is the first time I can recall seeing in print the idea that self-organization might be an alternative to natural selection. If I get Cordova's point right, his idea is that the design of complex organisms could be built into them in a way that is non-interactive with the environment. That is to say, in evolving to a complex state, organisms are following the dictates of an internal design, rather than evolving it as a solution to the problem of their successful interaction with the environment. I really doubt that Shermer was saying that, but it sounds like that was the way his statement was taken. This bears more investigation...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you claim that Shermer experienced "aggressive questioning" from the "creationists", when on Skeptic's own site it said that "every question asked seemed to come from the skeptic side."

For all the claims some Darwinists make that they love Science and evidence and so forth, they do love to distort the facts....

Tom Moore said...

This is a pretty old item, but my memory is that I read the cited articles and believed was simply reporting what was said by those who attended. I'm afraid that I have not followed up on this, but I'd be glad to hear more followup in comments here...