Over at the Discovery Institute weblog, Casey Luskin has managed to channel the spirit of Emily Littella in incomplete fashion. That is, Luskin has got the parts about misconstruing a situation and blathering on in outraged fashion down pat, but he never manages to figure out that he’s on about something that just doesn’t exist outside the confusion in his head to get to the, “Oh, never mind” moment.
Luskin prattles on about how ID critic and Brown University cell biologist Ken Miller is horribly mangling concepts from William Dembski. The hurt and outrage come through clearly; Luskin is nothing if not emotive in his prose form. Then, just to make sure that everyone can see the original offense, Luskin transcribes exactly what Ken Miller said.
Guess what? There’s no reference to Dembski whatsoever. There is mention made of hands in a card game. Dembski has used card game hands as an example before, though, so maybe Luskin thinks no one else in the history of human culture can refer to hands of cards without it being an allusion to Dembski. Or whatever. Who knows? But the whole aggrieved spiel simply has no foundation.
Besides which, Dembski is actually guilty of precisely the mathematical trick that Ken Miller discusses. In section 5.10 of No Free Lunch, Dembski waves away any consideration of evolutionary pathways in originating the E. coli flagellum, then spends a number of pages developing probabilities of such a flagellum spontaneously self-assembling… now consider Luskin’s transcription of Miller’s statement in that light:
One of the mathematical tricks employed by intelligent design involves taking the present-day situation and calculating probabilities that at the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past. And the best example I can give is to sit down with 4 friends, shuffle a deck of 52 cards, and deal them out, and keep an exact record of the order in which the cards were dealt. We could then look back and say ‘my goodness, how improbable this is, we could play cards for the rest of our lives and we would never ever deal the cards out in this exact same fashion.’ And you know that’s absolutely correct. Nonetheless, you dealt them out and nonetheless you got the hand that you did.
As I see it, either Luskin can have his long-delayed Emily Littella moment and urge all of us to “never mind”, or he can ‘fess up to the fact that Dembski says one thing, but does another[*]. Or, as seems likely, Luskin can ignore it all and count on few of the ID-cheerleading audience he reaches to fire up more than a couple of synapses over the matter and there leave it.
[*] Casey and I have already argued over whether Dembski provided a specification for an E. coli flagellum. I say that ‘methinks it is like an outboard motor’ doesn’t meet the criteria Dembski sets out that, supposedly, a specification will have (look around p.72 of NFL). Casey thinks otherwise.
Update: Ken Miller’s remarks were apparently introduced in the documentary by the narrator implying that Miller was addressing Dembski, which is where Luskin took his cue to rant from. Miller has responded, pointing out that his statements in the documentary were like his statements in testimony during the KvD case, not directed to Dembski’s “specifed complexity”.