Monday, May 14, 2007

Not that it matters...

No doubt due to his failure to propose any valid scientific work in the area of evolution and intelligent design, William Dembski is now attempting to use an argument from authority - or rather an argument from lack of authority. The subject of Dembski's inquest is Richard Dawkins, one of a myriad of intelligent design opponents. Dembski is (as per usual, actually) mostly quoting someone else (I'm not sure whom, but the person in question talks about a Dr Greg Clarke) who claims that Dawkins should not call himself a scientist since he only has one publication under his belt and that this publication only has been cited once. Dembski calls for others to check if this is true. Why not. I'll take a stab at it. After a three-minute search, I found someone who has compiled a list of Dawkins' writings. A selection is included here:

  • The ontogeny of a pecking preference in domestic chicks. Zeitschrift fŸr Tierpsychologie 25, 170-186. (1968)
  • Bees are easily distracted. Science 165, 751. (1969)
  • Selective neurone death as a possible memory mechanism. Nature 229, 118-119. (1971)
  • Hierarchical organisation: a candidate principle for ethology. In Growing Points in Ethology (eds P. P. G. Bateson & R. A. Hinde), pp. 7-54� (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1976)
  • The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976)
  • Replicator selection and the extended phenotype. Zeitschrift fŸr Tierpsychologie 47, 61-76. (1978)
  • In defense of selfish genes. Philosophy 56, 556-573 (1979)
  • Twelve misunderstandings of kin selection. Zeitschrift fŸr Tierpsychologie 51, 184-200. (1979)
The actual list is probably about ten times longer.

After a quick look at I also found some more:
"Arms race between species". Dawkins & Krebs. Proc R. Soc. Lond. 1979
"Parental investment, mate desertion and a fallacy". Dawkins & Carlisle. Nature. 1976

It has to be said that most of these writings do NOT entail original research. A few are book reviews. Some are not in peer-reviews journals.

Greg Clarke is right about one thing. Dawkins does not appear on ISI. Seems that ISI doesn't list all of Dawkins' publications.

Why does this all matter? Well, as Dembski's anonymous friend writes: "He (Dawkins) has no more scientific authority than a suburban school teacher."

Apart from being mostly irrelevant, the above claim is also wrong. It is irrelevant because the weight of science rests on the arguments, evidence and hypotheses proposed, not on who proposes them. It is also wrong since Dawkins surely knows more about science than your average suburban school teacher. So Dawkins ability to speak authoritarily about scientific matters is also greater than that of said teachers.

What is the reason for Dembski to go over this? Apart from obviously attempting to discredit Dawkins, he also states:

Richard Dawkins, in his recent videos and books, portrays himself as justified in taking the hard line he does against religion because he is a scientist.

I don't know if Dawkins does this. Taking a hard line against religion is not a scientific endevour but a philosophical one and so one's scientific standing in such an instant is irrelevant.

An interesting observation is that after performing a quick check of Dembski's scholary achievements using, searching for "author:Dembski, wa" gives 83 hits. Most of these are from our Dembski. If you exclude writings published in religious material and his books, I could only find one paper published in a peer-reviews journal:

"Uniform probability". Journal of Theoretical Probability. Volume 3, Number 4 / October, 1990. 4 citations.

Does this mean that Dembski should not be able to talk authoritatively about science?

Edited to add: Seems like the offending page I based this post on has been deleted. I take it that rather than admitting that he made a rather illfounded attempt at character assasination, Dembski took the easy way out and tried to erase all signs of his lack of ability to do a simple search for someones publication list. Go figure. (Yes, I see the irony in this statement if I am wrong in my assumption)


At 1:13 PM, Blogger John Pieret said...

You might want to change this:

After a three-minute search, I found someone who has compiled a list of Dembski's writings.

To "... a list of Dawkins' writings."

Does this mean that Dembski should not be able to talk authoritatively about science?

Not particularly. But there is a lot of other reasons that's true.

At 5:57 PM, Blogger Hawks said...

Ooooops. Thanks, John.

"Not particularly. But there is a lot of other reasons that's true. "


At 7:47 PM, Blogger John Pieret said...

And now for your Recommended Daily Allowance of irony ...


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