Luskin pwns Dembski

Via Good Math, Bad Math comes this delightful bit of news.

[O]ver at the Disco Institute, resident Legal Eagle Casey Luskin has started posting an eight-part series on how the Kitzmiller case (the legal case concerning the teaching of intelligent design in Dover PA) was decided wrong.

Dr. Chu-Carroll proceeds to disassemble Luskin’s rather pathetic argument (as does Dr. Wesley Elsberry), and I recommend following the links and reading their analyses. What caught my eye, however, was the way Luskin not only bungles his case, but inadvertently pulls the rug out from under one of William Dembski’s main arguments.

Here’s a quick overview of Luskin’s argument:

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, working with the NCSE, successfully convinced Judge Jones to parrot Miller by stating in the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling that Miller had “pointed to more than three dozen peer-reviewed scientific publications showing the origin of new genetic information by evolutionary processes.”

Virtually all of those “publications” mentioned by Judge Jones came from one single paper Miller discussed at trial, a review article, co-authored by Manyuan Long of the University of Chicago. The article does not even contain the word “information,” much less the phrase “new genetic information”…

But are Judge Jones’s, Ken Miller’s, and the NCSE’s bold proclamations supported? Does Long et al. actually reveal the origin of new biological information? Is Explore Evolution wrong? A closer look shows that the NCSE is equivocating over the meanings of the words “information” and “new,” and that the NCSE’s citations are largely bluffs, revealing little about how new genetic functional information could originate via unguided evolutionary mechanisms.

So Luskin’s chief complaint here is that the peer-reviewed publications surveyed and reported by the Long paper are all scientific publications that do not discuss whatever it is that creationists mean by “new genetic information.” Instead, as Dr. Chu-Carroll and Dr. Elsberry point out, they discuss the evolution of new genes.

In other words, Luskin isn’t objecting to the scientific conclusions reached by these peer-reviewed papers. Given his lack of scientific expertise, he wisely avoids challenging the research that allows us to understand how new genes evolve. Instead, he simply asserts that this research is not studying whatever he means by “new genetic information.” “New genetic information,” whatever that is, does not play any significant role in the evolution of new genes.


Just think about that for a minute. One of the core arguments of intelligent design creationism is that new species require “complex specified information” and that evolutionary processes are incapable of producing whatever they mean by “information.” But now here’s Luskin objecting to the evidence used in Kitzmiller on the grounds that “genetic information” is some topic unrelated to the study of how new genes evolved. New genes, it seems, can evolve without “genetic information” (as defined by creationists) playing any significant role.

That whooshing sound you just heard is Luskin pulling the rug out from under William Dembski and all the fine folks at the Disco ‘Tute, because once you can evolve new genes, it’s trivial to evolve new species specified by those genes. And here is Casey Luskin, official spokesweenie of the premier ID publicity and marketing organization, blithely assuring us that the new genes documented by the research in the Long paper were new genes produced without being in any way hindered by the complete absence of the “new genetic information.”

Whatever he means by that.

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3 Responses to “Luskin pwns Dembski”

  1. Tacroy Says:

    If you look around a bit more on Good Math, Mark has at least one post explaining how “complex specified information” is semantically meaningless.

    Because of that, Luskin can always point to something and say “This is not CSI” – just like I can always point to something and say “This is not a catdog”.

    So yeah, he’s right. New genes aren’t CSI; nothing is.

  2. Wesley R. Elsberry Says:

    There’s a somewhat longer critique of Dembski’s CSI available here:

    An edited version of that essay appeared in the journal Synthese in 2009.

  3. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Thanks much!