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Scott R. Paeth

  • Scott R. Paeth is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. He works in the fields of Christian Social Ethics and Public Theology.

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February 10, 2007


Robert O'Brien

"It strikes me that a truly elegant mathematical breakthrough, something on the order of Godel's Proof..."

andrew jones

"All this being said, I do what any interested layperson does when confronted with an argument that in many ways goes over his head, I consult smart people who know more about the issue than I do."

How many of these people were complexity theorists? At the very least Stuart Kaufman (author of the origons of order which is the anti-thesis of Dembeskis arguement) actually thinks that ID is a legimitate question worth considering.

"Stuart Kauffman
I think the design question is legitimate. I just worry about the methodologies, and hidden reference to a creator."

I'd suppose the methodologies are what you are critiquing, but I was under the impression that Dembeski's math was just fine it's just the nutcases making the claim that it has proved anything that's a problem.

Scott Paeth

Well, I have to admit I'm not familiar with Godel's variation on the Ontological Argument. Of course, there have been many such variations, and none have, I think, matched the beauty and brilliance of Anselm's version.

But of course, Anselm's argument, beautiful as it may be, would not in a million years convince me of the existence of God. It looks like a rigorous logical proof, but it's not. The same goes for Dembski's version of ID.

Scott Paeth

Kauffman seems to damn Dembski with faint praise. Above the passage you quote is this passage, which seems more skeptical to me:

"Well, I debated William. I think the basic question he asks is perfectly reasonable. How would we recognize a signal from space as non-noise for example. But in the biological realm, I feel he has not made his case. There are too many alternative explanations, based on Darwinian selection, to get such complex specified information."

Of course, I agree, the question is reasonable. But A) Kaufmann seems to understand the "question" in a nontheological manner, and B) he doesn't seem very persuaded by how Dembski reaches his conclusions, which is, as you note, the point.

andrew jones


thanks for the reply and I might add I really like your blog. Anyway, yeah I think I was reading Kaufman's comments origonally as more pro-Dembeski than they seem to be now in retrospect. The ISCD, which conducted that interview, is pro-design I gather hence taken the social setting he might have parred down his objections into subtle praise. Regardless, it's a good debate and one with excellent questions and fomulas.


Robert O'Brien

"But of course, Anselm's argument, beautiful as it may be, would not in a million years convince me of the existence of God. It looks like a rigorous logical proof, but it's not."

When Anselm's ontological argument is formalized with modal logic, then it is as logical as it gets. (One may dispute the premises, but that is another story.)

I agree, though, that it is not suited for general proselytizing.


Thoughtful as usual. After looking at both your blog and Dembski's it really hits me that I'm glad I'm not having to deal with ID in my classroom. I get in enough trouble just attempting to describe the Protestant Reformation as a movment in this area. Just imagine trying to teach evolution.

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