Discovery Institute’s Dr. William Dembski spoke at the University of Chicago today on "Conservation of Information [CoI] in Evolutionary Search," arguing that "CoI has implications for teleology in nature, consistent with natural teleological laws mooted in Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos." The event was under the auspices of the university’s Computations in Science Seminars.
The talk itself and the Q&A afterward, which were at a pretty high level, went very well. There were no disruptions, and Dembski handled the questions from the audience with his accustomed ease. He concluded by saying of the idea of Darwinian evolutionary search:
If it’s not a search, tell me what it is and give me a model of it. If you’re willing to go that far, I think then they don’t have a science, they don’t have a theory.
That is to say, evolution cannot be an exact science or theory unless it is represented (or representable) as a search. If you are willing to take the extreme view that evolution is not a search, then you have no theory or science. The moderate view here is that evolution is a search.
On this note, Dembski’s host, the distinguished physicist and mathematician Leo Kadanoff, ended the event by observing:
I think the ball is in the court of people who believe in evolution. They have to deal with these questions. …Bill has made his case and we should all go home and think.
Well said! But Darwinists for the most part prefer not to weigh the merit of serious challenges. Dr. Kadanoff, indeed, had caught heavy flak before the talk from his University of Chicago colleague biologist Jerry Coyne.
At Why Evolution Is True, Coyne raised a racket, and said he wished to "protest" the speech while not, he claimed, demanding that it be cancelled:
As "Censor of the Year," I could hardly let that rest, though when I protested I never requested that his seminar be canceled. Rather, I called into question the judgment of the seminar’s organizers. I would rarely ask that a seminar invitation at an academic institution be canceled or rescinded.
That doesn’t quite make sense. What does it mean to say you "protest" an event’s taking place if you wouldn’t like to see it cancelled?
Well, our Censor of the Year received no satisfaction, and quite the contrary. Dr. Kadanoff, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, says Darwinists need "to deal with these questions" raised by a leading intelligent-design theorist. The ball is in their court.
To judge from his writing, and unlike his other colleagues who were present for the speech and asked smart, probing questions, Coyne has avoided learning about the challenge from ID. Instead he kicks it off to the likes of Nick Matzke. Sorry, that’s not acceptable from someone posing as a serious defender of evolutionary theory. Coyne must be going — what’s the polite way of saying this? — nuts right about now.
You can add to Jerry’s discomfiture, and more importantly to your own stimulation and enjoyment, by pre-ordering Dr. Dembski’s new book, Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. It’s not out till the fall but if you order now you’ll get a steep 34% pre-publication discount — just $22.95, including free shipping.
Bill’s talk at the University of Chicago on evolutionary search and conservation of information gives a taste of the book’s elegant and accessible argument, a next step forward for the theory of intelligent design. Get it here!
Photos of Dembski (above) and Kadanoff (below) courtesy of Paul Nelson.