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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Dawkins' existence still questioned

Further to the question of Dawkins' existence, a commenter at Uncommon Descent suggested that I rely on the consensus of a number of "real" scientists, meaning "(And, of course, by “real” scientists I mean only those who already assume in advance that Richard Dawkins exists–we will quite naturally exclude any posers doubting the existence of RD by careful manipulation of the peer review process.)"

(But why believe me anyway?: Remember, important new Brit academic Dr. Terry Tommyrot did the groundbreaking research that enabled yer humble hack to start figuring it out. (Read a transcript of his recent interview here.)

And I replied,

TerryL, … I wouldn’t try building a deck that way - everything handing off everything else. At some point I need foundations - solid evidence.
Now, here’s what I’ve got: Two competing hypotheses
1. The books wrote themselves. Under a Darwinian interpretation of life, this is inevitable.
Objection: There wasn’t enough time for the books to write themselves.
Objection easily overcome: Only a closet creationist would dare to think that time or probability has anything to do with it. But, for the record, reading “Dawkins”‘ latest, The God Delusion, gave me a sense of eternity passing by. There certainly IS enough time, if you count perceived as well as actual time.
2. My lead blogger and well known kidder, Bill Dembski, cooked up the whole thing, obviously to ensure shelf space for books on ID theory when he didn’t have a budget.
Lines of evidence:
- the ID guys have the most to gain from the existence of “Dawkins” and especially from his recent anti-God crusade, a fact that Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse has been pained to note.
- Every time “Dawkins” opens his mouth, more people come to Uncommon Descent and the Post-Darwinist and such. The Darwinists would have found a way to shut “Dawkins” down long ago, IF he realy existed. I used to wonder why they didn’t but, hang!, I think I’ve pretty much got the answer now.
- Dembski is the only person who has informed me that he has received e-mails from “Dawkins”. Well, … I used to get notes from the tooth fairy …
- In the past, the reason we weren’t seeing “Dawkins” in debate with ID folk is that “Dawkins” allegedly had a policy of not debating folk like Dembski. Hmmm, yeah I’ll just BET “Dawkins” had that policy.
- I have firm evidence that my lead blogger is a relentless kidder.
Objection: Dembski isn’t smart enough to write all those books, and besides pious little old ladies at his church would be real mad at him if they ever found out that he had actually written and marketed a bunch of Darwinist books, and now an anti-God book.
Hmmm, well, how smart would Dembski actually have to be to pull it off? Writing a lot of Darwindunits - you could actually work with a template in word processing and speed it all up some. “Dawkins” is also said to have written a word processing program,come to think of it. And Darwinists are pretty gullible; there’s no problem with whether THEY would fall for it.
And I remember Bill telling me once that the church he goes to is long on reformed tough-guys and short on dim, pious old dears. The tough guys would probably just slap him on the back and say, “Nice one, Bill!”
See, I bet the TROUBLE started when McGrath demanded to know why “Dawkins” wouldn’t debate him …
Now, if “Dawkins” wants to show up at a debate WITH Dembski (okay, I’ll take McGrath, as long as Dembski is actually present and not obviously manipulating “Dawkins”), then I’ll accept his existence. Otherwise, I am simply going to hold to my original opinion that my lead blogger is an irrepressible kidder and quite capable of cooking all this up. - Denyse, Toronto

Completely unnecessary warning: I can be a bit of a kidder myself.

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O'Leary remains skeptical: Does Richard Dawkins really exist?

A commenter, at the bottom of this collection of news posts on the ID controversy, asks me whether I think that long-running atheist bore Richard Dawkins really exists. Well, I've given some thought to how to respond to such a sensitive question, because I do so dislike hurting anyone's feelings. So, here's the straight dope:

It makes me feel more intellectually fulfilled to assume that Dawkins does exist. But, unlike some people, I will not assume that a correct answer to this question will necessarily make me feel intellectually fulfilled, or you either. We must have better evidence than that.

The strongest argument for the existence of Richard Dawkins has been the books published by reputable houses under his name. But on reflection, I now see how foolish an argument that is, and am appropriately ashamed of myself. The books themselves attempt to demonstrate that mind comes from mud, in which case - if the thesis of the books has any merit at all - they could easily have written themselves.

Slightly stronger evidence is the fact that my co-blogger Bill Dembski claims to have received correspondence (and still more correspondence) from the fellow.

Oh, but, you know, Dembski is a relentless kidder, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he is just testing my gullibility level. It's quite possible that, at this very moment, Bill is chortling, "Whaddayaknow? I even got O'Leary believing that Dawkins exists! Hey, making that guy up was one of my better moves."

As if I needed confirmation of my pretty-good hunch that Dembski created Dawkins in order to put ID books on the science shelves (because if Dawkins' New Age rubbish about "memes", of all things, can be on the science shelves, it is a scandal if responsible ID books aren't!) - lo and behold, it turns out that Dawkins won't debate Alister McGrath, whose book Dawkins' God pretty much ripped the whole anti-God schtick to teeny shreds. (See also this.)

"Won't" debate indeed. I'm sure Dembski's a mean hand with sock puppets, but that's not going to, like, work on national TV.

Well, there you have it. It's all very well for Bill to create a Dawkins persona (Freud could explain) and write those silly books under its name, but I do think that this particular joke - like Bill's notorious head-in-a-vise Charlie doll and the "fartfest", may have gotten a trifle out of hand at this point.

It is time for Bill to acknowledge that Dawkins is his alter ego or, if the Dawkster really does exist somewhere, to make sure he has a clean shirt and a shave, and produce him stone cold sober for a debate with Alister McGrath.

Thinkquote of the day:

Great Darwinian biologist J.B.S. Haldane on teleology said (purpose):
Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public.

(From: Haldane, J.B.S. in Bedeau, Mark A. Norman, Packard H. Measurement of Evolutionary Activity, Teleology, and Life." Langton, C. Taylor, C. Farmer, D. Rasmussen, S. (Eds.) Artical Life II. SFI Studies in the Sciences of Complexity, Proc. Vol. X. Redwood City,
CA: Addison-Wesley, 1991.)

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God , my backgrounder about peer review issues, or the evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin and of academic ID publications.

My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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