Shermer’s Cozy Delusion

A Resonse to Shermer's "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind" (Scientific American, February 2002)

Michael Shermer and I have known each other since the evening we both spoke at MIT in the spring of 1999 (though to different audiences). I was speaking on the topic of intelligent design whereas he, among other things, was denouncing it. We went out for beers afterward.

I like Shermer. I even read his column regularly in Scientific American. Mostly, his skepticism is good medicine for a society that indulges too readily in quackery. Shermer’s skepticism, unfortunately, does not go far enough. In particular, it does not extend to Darwinism.

Shermer’s standing refrain is that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly vindicates Darwinism and that anyone who objects to it in on design-theoretic grounds is motivated solely by religious considerations.

What evidence does Shermer cite for this claim? None. The fact is that most of my colleagues in the intelligent design community (me included) started out as entirely comfortable with Darwinian evolutionary theory. Only when we started trying to fit the theory to the evidence did we give up on it.

This is well documented in our books.

It is all too convenient for Shermer to characterize intelligent design proponents as religious nuts. Intelligent design raises substantive issues over the origin of biological information. Let Shermer start to engage the issues instead of continually sidestepping them.

William A. Dembski

Founding and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, Distinguished Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence
A mathematician and philosopher, Bill Dembski is the author/editor of more than 25 books as well as the writer of peer-reviewed articles spanning mathematics, engineering, biology, philosophy, and theology. With doctorates in mathematics (University of Chicago) and philosophy (University of Illinois at Chicago), Bill is an active researcher in the field of intelligent design. But he is also a tech entrepreneur who builds educational software and websites, exploring how education can help to advance human freedom with the aid of technology.