Interview with Bill Dembski (touches on Dover Trial, problems of ID, other topics of broad interest)

Given the ongoing interest here in the history of the 2005 Dover Trial and its impact on the public and scientific perception of ID, this recent interview with Bill Dembski (conducted by my Biola colleague Sean McDowell) will be informative:

A fact I learned from this interview, which I’m filing in the Random Things Which Make Paul Feel Really OLD drawer: Bill’s son Will Dembski is now an undergraduate at Caltech. I remember when Will was born.


I had watched it earlier.

At 45:00 - one of the more interesting parts:
His explanation of agreeing to be an expert witness at the Dover trial: “If a patient is going to commit suicide at least let a doctor be there with him…that was my attitiude - help the Thomas More Law Center…help them through as they commit suicide.”


1 Like

That is pretty ugly!

Can you tell me if he discussed the academic discrimination he experienced at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for suggesting the story of Noah’s Ark might not be literally true and the earth might actually be much older than 6000 years?


Dembski withdrew as an expert witness at Dover (because the defense lawyers, who were his employers in this, were unwilling to accede to his unreasonable request to have his own lawyer at his deposition). So he ran away and made an animated fart-video mocking Judge Jones. (see for example here.)

Why then should we give him any credibility on this issue?


Yes, he discussed that. Do you want me to find the time stamp?

Bill mentions near the end of the interview that he co-wrote a book about Steve Dalkowski, purported to be baseball’s fastest pitcher (albeit with severe control problems which prevented him from rising to the top ranks of the game):

Looks interesting. Turns out that Bill’s son Will, following up on a distinguished HS record in Iowa, now pitches for the Caltech Beavers:

Faizal, Bill talks about his conflicts with the YEC hierarchy at the schools where he worked. I don’t have the time stamp, sorry.

1 Like

Yes, thanks.

Thanks for this, @pnelson . A few comments:

  1. Dembski expresses disappointment about the lack of progress that ID has made, at least as far as acceptance and accomplishment. He rightly recognizes as part of the problem the fact that ID has been as much about culture as science. I don’t believe that the ID community really appreciates how much of an issue this really is. This is a much bigger load of baggage for ID-friendly scientists than any sort of religious affiliation. As long as being aligned with ID equates with the cultural ideas and politics expressed on Evolution News (Dembski identifies this as the mouthpiece for the ID movement, in a manner of speaking), there will be pushback in the broader scientific community.

  2. Dembski mentioned that the DI is supporting research in some labs. It’s too bad that they weren’t doing this when Gonzalez was up for promotion at Iowa State. I have wondered - if the DI had committed to a 3-5 year package of support (student tuition and stipend, research support, travel, and full indirect costs) for Gonzalez around the time of promotion, would he have been promoted?

  3. Dembski mentions ID 3.0. @pnelson, care to offer a glimpse? Coming attractions?

  4. The smiles! Demsbki seemed very at ease. Very different from when he visited Kentucky many years ago (I don’t recall a single smile at his presentation, but rather a very tense and angry young man). I think he has seen some trying times and seems to be in a good place mentally and spiritually.

  5. My recommendation for an update of The Design Inference - DON’T. TDI was, in my estimation, the most objective of the pioneering works of ID. It may have been flawed, but it made a few statements that stand out today as good guidance for the next crop of ID proponents. I cannot see that an update could improve on these timeless qualities.


What was ID 2.0? 1.0?


Thanks for the analysis. A few replies:

  1. ID-friendly scientists in the EU tend to dislike the political / cultural overtones of the ENV site, and often complain about it. The site’s readership, however, has steadily climbed every year since it was launched. I’d guess that, as much as they may dislike the site, most Peaceful Science forum participants visit ENV daily.

  2. Historical counterfactuals – could Gonzalez’s job at Iowa State have been saved by a big infusion of cash? – are hard to pin down, one way or another. Since we’re entertaining yours, however – my guess? No. Local opposition at Iowa (e.g., Hector Avalos) was too strong.

  3. Sorry, we have learned that discussing work prior to publication (ID 3.0) is a nearly-certain route to disappointing observers. I still owe you (personally) an advance look at my big (250+ slide) Design Triangulation pdf, which I am editing to include new work by Jeremy England and the Allchemy simulation, published earlier this fall in Science.

  4. Bill is doing much better. He and family moved back to Texas, where his autistic son Johnny is now in a group living situation.

  5. I disagree about updating The Design Inference. Bill and I were sharing an office in Evanston IL when he got the phone call from Cambridge U Press that his MS was accepted for publication. I can still remember his smile when he hung up the phone. I’d like to see how he can improve the arguments, with the passage of 22 years.


He talks about that situation from 11:25 - 13:00

Dembski mentioned Sudden Sam McDowell in passing. That name brought back memories.


I always found it interesting that the DI, which was then at the height of its “Defend Academic Freedom” phase, had absolutely nothing to say about this actual incident of academic discrimination suffered by one of their founding members at the hands of Biblical Creationists, while they were whining about trumped up and outright fictitious cases in which they claimed ID Creationists had been discriminated against by evolutionists.

Interesting, but not at all surprising.


Will it involve producing even a single new datum?

1 Like

ID 3.0. Unconventional numbering scheme. Software typically isn’t considered ‘releasable’ until given a 1.0 version number, whereas all previous ID ‘versions’ never made it through beta testing.

In the manufacturing world, you’re less likely to use decimal numbers, e.g. version 1, 2, 3 or Mark I, II, III.

Or consider the unnumbered versions of ‘Irreducible Complexity’ which actually switched the actual definitions but kept the same name.

I think ID needs a standards board or better developed ontology of naming conventions.


ID 3.0 is in full swing in terms of funding. They just have not put forward any of their major results.

Of course, as in the case of software, funding doesn’t guarantee that there will be anything releasable.

Have they even put forward any minor results?

1 Like

Seems like they have published several papers. Listen to the video here: Intelligent Design 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and beyond.

I don’t think this demonstrates ID in any way, and much of it might even be commendable. So don’t knock till you listen to it all. Certainly, we will disagree with Axe and Meyer’s analysis, but some of they work they are funding has produced papers and the science in these papers might be solid and intrinsically valuable. Once again, that does not demonstrate ID, but that isn’t what the papers claimed any ways.