Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is it a hoax?

Dembski's sad attempt at showing that more and more non-religious people are turning to ID fell just a tad flat the other day. It was immediately noted by several anti-ID blogs, such as Stranger Fruit, that the web site Dembski linked to was less than underwhelming. Some commenters at Stranger Fruit openly suggested that perhaps Dembski had done a hoax to see just how much us anti-ID people are willing to believe about ID. I made a comment about that and thought that I might also reproduce it here. Although the comment was meant as a joke, it does present some valid points:

There actually exists a method for discerning whether or not a piece of text is a pro-ID hoax. It's a three-step process called the Imploratory Filter:

1. Does the text advocate a pro-ID stance?
2. Is it possible than someone could have written the text as a joke?
3. Does it look as if the writer is trying to hide the fact the the writing is a hoax?

Only if the answers to the first two questions are yes do we proceed to question three. This is important since we know that people do write pro-ID hoaxes. Pro-ID hoaxes just don't materialize from writings about Goethe or Homer. The third stage of the Imploratory Filter presents us with a binary choice: attribute the thing we are trying to examine to deliberate deception if it appears joke-like; otherwise, attribute it to self-deception. In the first case, the writing we are trying to examine is not only pro-ID, but also appears joke-like. In the other, it is pro-ID, but appears deluded. It is the category of joke-like writings having a pro-ID stance that reliably signals a hoax. "Non-funny" writings advocating ID, on the other hand, are properly attributed to self-deception.

The last thing we need to consider is the case of false positives and false negatives. This method can, unfortunately, yield false negatives. It is possible that some piece of writing might be labelled a non-hoax, when it in fact is a hoax. On the other hand, the method yields no false positives. I.e., when the filter claims that a writing really is a pro-ID hoax, it will will never turn out to be a non-hoax.

The Imploratory Filter faithfully represents our ordinary practice of sorting through things we alternately attribute to self-deception or hoaxes. In particular, the Filter describes:
* how Michael Egnor is still allowed to post for the DI.
* how Casey Luskin can keep repeating that ID can make predictions.
* how Dembski can claim that the explanatory filter yields no false positives even though it measures design via specified complexity of which irreducible complexity is a subclass. Irreducible complexity, in turn, allows for false positives.

Posted by: Hawks | June 17, 2007 11:10 PM

Commenter Hermagoras (has a blog at named it the best comment ever. It's official. It's got to be true then.


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