Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Midweek Cuckoo: William Dembski

William Albert Dembski is the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. As such, he is one of the biggest, loudest, most prolific Intelligent Design advocates around. He has a blog on which he and his IDiot friends post plenty of noise with very little signal, and from which it is famously easy to get banned if you so much as hint that you may not agree with his views. Some people have found themselves banned pre-emptively, even, as Dembski's followers have been known to trawl the interweb looking for posters whose opinions may be contrary to Dembski's should they ever choose to air them on his blog.

This alone is probably not enough for him to distinguish himself as a Midweek Cuckoo. Recent actions of his, however, have upped his ranking in the crazy game.

University of Texas Professor Eric Pianka gave a speech in early March describing how the human population was expanding at such a rate that it was due for a biological "crash". Our growth rate coupled with our sociability and mobility is creating the perfect breeding ground for a massive virus to wipe us off the face of the planet. An airborne strain of Ebola, for example, would likely succeed in killing off 90% of the population. The planet as a whole, however, would probably be better off for it, as nature has a tendency to correct populations that have grown to unsustainable levels, and humans are doing more harm than good anyway.

Columnist for the Society for Amateur Scientists' The Citizen Scientist, Forrest M. Mims III, who was present at the speech, understood Pianka as intending to actually create such a virus to wipe out mankind, Dr. Doom style. Mims wrote about his concerns in his column, and the Sequin Gazette-Enterprise picked up on the story and published a scare-mongering article about it.

In response, William Dembski stated on his blog on April 2 that he had reported Pianka to the Department of Homeland Security. Shortly after, the FBI announced it would be interviewing Pianka.

Naturally the blogosphere exploded. Articles by Austringer, Pharyngula, Red State Rabble, the Bad Astonomer and many more have given this bizarre move all the ridicule it deserves. Other attendees of the speech have come forward stating that Pianka did not in any way imply that he had plans for genocide, and in fact he received a standing ovation.

Dembski was undeterred. He even made a public wager as to the eventual outcome:

"I'm willing to wager $1000 with David Hillis that sympathy not just nationally but at UTAustin for Pianka will take a nose dive once his TAS speech goes public. Of course, we need to set the terms of this wager more precisely. But it's a wager easily settled -- Pianka needs merely to make his speech before the TAS public (the actual speech -- not a bowdlerized version of it)."

Of course, a transcript did come to light, as these things do, and it made it pretty obvious that Pianka was planning nothing of the sort, only advising people of a very real, natural danger if we don't sort out our population growth. And what happened? The Gazette-Enterprise withdrew its story from its website, and pro-ID blog Tellic Thoughts retracted their earlier reports of Pianka's genocidal intent. Dembski has been stangely silent as to whether he paid the $1000 he now owes Hillis.

What makes Dembski truly crazy though is that to believe Pianka was serious, to believe strongly enough to report him to the Feds, he had to believe in the possibility that his plan might work. Considering this involves Ebola evolving to an airborne form, and that Dembski has stated time and again that evolution does not exist, he is either totally off his rocker, or lying about something. Personally, i think Homeland Security should be investigating him for falsely reporting someone he knew not to be a threat. Either that or the Discovery Institute should revoke his fellowship for supporting evolution.

But then again, Dembski thinks the Bible Code is a supportive argument for ID. Doesn't he know it's been thoroughly debunked? Of course, if proof and logic were enough the persuade Dembski that an argument is false, he'd have quit ID by now.


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