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Critique of Intelligent Design

Evolution vs. Creationism

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Mark Perakh's Web Site

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Dembski's and Wells's shenanigans: Just a reminder

By Mark Perakh

Posted December 26, 2007

On November 19, 2007 a new book, The Design of Life, authored by William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, was released. Almost immediately a stream of reviews, all giving the book 5 stars (the highest positive evaluation possible for readers' reviews on Amazon) started appearing on the Amazon website. On December 20, 2007, Wesley Elsberry posted (http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/12/expelled-intell.html) a brief survey of the exaggerated acclaims of the book in question posted on Amazon by a bunch of ID advocates -- acclaims bearing unmistakable signs of orchestration.

Elsberry's survey could have been written even before this book appeared: the behavior of ID advocates follows a predictable pattern. Each time a new book by Dembski or Wells (or Behe, or any other of the Discovery Institute denizens) appears, their cohorts immediately start creating a ruckus, proclaiming the book in question the "end of Darwinism," a great event in the history of humankind, destined to become a shining achievement in science, philosophy, sock mending, and culinary art.

There is nothing new in all these 5-star Amazon reviews by the likes of Casey Luskin or Denyse O'Leary. The ID advocates all seem to be fellows of the club of mutual admiration.

One of its active fellows seems to be Michael Behe. Recall that in his foreword to Dembski's earlier opus of 1999, titled Intelligent Design, Behe prophesied that the entire development of science in the future would be based on Dembski's profound insights. Well, so far it has not happened. Now Behe again dabbles in prophecies asserting that after the imminent (in his view) collapse of "Darwinism," Dembski-Wells's opus will be "on top" of the list of books that caused that collapse (see http://www.thedesignoflife.net/). In turn, Behe's colleagues from the Disco Institute made almost identical claims regarding Behe's own new book The Edge of Evolution (never mind that in that largely fallacious book where elementary errors have been revealed, in particular, by a graduate student Abigail Smith -- see http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/08/michael-behe-please-allow-me-to.html and http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/11/the-open-letter.html mirrored at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/the-open-letter.cfm -- Behe in fact accepted a good part of "Darwinism" himself; consistency has always been in short supply among ID advocates).

I think it can be safely predicted that the mainstream scientific community, with very few exceptions, will be no more impressed by Dembski-Wells's new opus than it was impressed by all their previous output, which was largely ignored by working scientists and mathematicians. It was ignored first and foremost because Dembski's and Wells's argumentation was largely faulty.

Wells's output was convincingly shown to be entirely without merits (see for example http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/08/the-politically-0.html or http://www.talkreason.org/articles/icon.cfm or, say, http://www.talkreason.org/articles/ugly.cfm).

As to Dembski, many critics have revealed the glaring inconsistencies in Dembski's writing, where often an assertion appearing on some page was contradicted two pages later (see for example http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Chap11.pdf or http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Skeptic_paper.cfm).

Readers of Dembski's output could not fail to notice that with all his multiple degrees Dembski sometimes displayed elementary incompetence in the field of his supposed expertise (like his failure to comprehend the distinction between Rényi divergence and Rényi entropy -- see http://www.talkreason.org/articles/stillbad.cfm). Real mathematicians like Shallit ( see http://www2.ncseweb.org/kvd/experts/shallit.pdf), Häggström (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/olleh.cfm), Olofsson (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Pandasthumb.pdf), and others, pointed to Dembski's insufficient understanding of the mathematical subjects he endeavored to write about.

However, in this post, rather than to go back to the fallaciousness of Dembski's and Wells's argumentation, I intend to remind readers of some shenanigans utilized by both Dembski and Wells in their hysterical fight against their detractors.

Recall how Wells was shown to have fabricated "quotations," (see, for example, http://www.talkreason.org/articles/ugly.cfm). After the fabrication in question was exposed, Wells, with the shamelessness so typical of the behavior of some ID advocates, has pretended that his "creative quotation" was never revealed.

Now, in view of the obviously orchestrated stream of 5-star reviews on Amazon of Dembski-Wells's book, it seems proper to remind readers of some other tricks used by Dembski on the same Amazon readers forum.

Here is just one, rather telltale example. My book Unintelligent Design appeared in December 2003. Very promptly, on December 22, there appeared on Amazon a negative ("1-star") review of my book signed "Reader from Waco, TX." Here is the full text of that "review":

Who Are They Kidding?, December 22, 2003

Prometheus Press is one of the most militantly atheistic and ideologically driven presses around. And yet it purports that the following description of the book represents an unbiased assessment of Perakh's work: "This thoughtful and incisive critique from a veteran scientist genuinely concerned about the integrity of the scientific enterprise wastes no diplomacy on those who would see its purpose twisted to ideological ends." If there are ideological ends on the intelligent design side, there are no less ideological ends on the anti-design side, for which Perakh has now become a champion. Perakh's analyses of Behe, Johnson, and Dembski are in each instance defective. If simply by reading Perakh, you think he has decisively demolished intelligent design, you need to read the primary literature. Especially recommended here are John Campbell and Steve Meyer's _Darwinism, Design, and Public Education_ as well as Dembski's _The Design Revolution_, which answers many of Perakh's concerns.

When, on December 22, 2003, this review first appeared on the Amazon site, it was signed by "A reader from Waco, TX." One interesting detail of that "review" is that on December 22, 2003 it recommended a book by Dembski that at that time had not yet been released. The "reader from Waco" seemed to have uncanny knowledge about a book that would appear two months later. Of course, such clairvoyance had a very simple explanation: as very soon came to light (see http://www.talkreason.org/articles/creative.cfm) the actual author of the quoted pseudo-review was Dembski himself. Hiding behind anonymity and pretending to be just an unbiased reader, Dembski stooped to promoting his own book in the disguise of an unnamed "reader." This was, though, just the beginning of a shenanigan that has been played out for all four years since December 2003.

Some other reviewer chose to critique the "review" signed by "reader from Waco." Lo and behold: the above quoted review promptly disappeared, only to immediately reappear, word for word, on the same Amazon site, but now signed "Reader from Riesel, TX." This simple trick deflected the critical remarks addressing the previous review from Waco, as the "Waco" review was nowhere to be found any more, while its text denigrating the Prometheus Books publisher and my book, and promoting Dembski's book instead, still existed but now with another signature.

Very soon, the replacement of a signature was noticed and pointed out on the Internet (see http://www.talkreason.org/articles/reviews.cfm). What was Dembski's reaction? He repeated the same underhanded trick: the review that was allegedly from Riesel, promptly disappeared, and equally promptly reappeared, word for word, on the same Amazon site, this time signed simply "Reader."

Can readers guess what happened next? You're right: Dembski repeated his insidious subterfuge one more time: the piece of his shameless self-promotion disguised as a "review" by a "reader," disappeared and immediately reappeared, word for word, this time signed "A Consumer." (There are also two more reviews on that Amazon site, likewise signed "Consumer," which may be an additional reason for Dembski's choice of his fourth pseudonymous signature, as a device making it harder to address his pseudo-review).

This story may find a place in the Guinness book of records: trying to (unsuccessfully) hide his real identity, Dembski re-posted the same pseudo-review, denigrating my book and anonymously self-promoting his own opus, four times, using four different "signatures" -- perhaps a real record of dishonesty. It still hurls mud on my publisher (Prometheus Books) and on my book, without a single word addressing the book's essence, in exactly the same words as were used in its original "Waco" incarnation.

There is no assurance that opening the Amazon site today or tomorrow, you'll find there Dembski's review in question signed "A Consumer," as Dembski has a wide choice of possible replacement signatures, so his contents-empty "review" may again reappear signed with one more (the fifth, sixth, etc.) moniker. He may even change the "review's" title to cover his trail, but no such maneuvers can hide the essential dishonesty of William Dembski, who, on top of propagating inconsistent half-baked ideas and incessantly bragging about the imminent victory of ID over "Darwinism" and "atheism," has displayed not only both incompetence and infantile buffooneries like emitting the sounds of flatulence all over the Internet (in one of his posts on his website), but also the deceitful behavior of a desperate failed pseudo-scientist.

I think the 5-star reviews on Amazon of Wells-Dembski's new piece have to be judged in light of the above story. These 5-star reviews have been orchestrated by the Discovery institute's pseudo-scientific cabal and their cohorts elsewhere. Their real value is obvious to any unbiased observers, and they have to be ignored as sheer propaganda coming from a small crowd of anti-science fanatics.