13 July 2007

Bill Dembski: debunking his own side's math?

Today, Bill Dembski gives us a curious little look at his recent work:

We [Robert Marks and I] have also just finished a paper debunking the statistics of James Cameron et al. (go to www.jesusfamilytomb.org), who have claimed both in a documentary on the Discovery Channel and in a book titled The Jesus Family Tomb that the pattern of names in a tomb found outside Jerusalem matches names in Jesus’ family so closely that it is highly probable that this is in fact the family tomb of the New Testament Jesus. Since “Jesus son of Joseph” is buried there, this would indicate that Jesus himself is buried there. The implication that the Resurrection is a hoax is immediate.
. . .
Question: You think any of the skeptic societies might be interested in highlighting this work debunking the Jesus Family Tomb people? I’ll give 10 to 1 odds that they won’t. Indeed, how many skeptics now believe that we’ve found the tomb of Jesus? And to think that until just recently the skeptics didn’t even think that Jesus existed (go here).

Um, if no one's interested in Dembski's paper debunking the fuzzy math used in Cameron's documentary, it'll only be because it was already discredited dozens of times over before the documentary even hit the air. Is he really that detached from the scientific community?

Meanwhile, he gives this baffling tie-in to intelligent design:

This work is tangentially relevant to our discussions at UD about intelligent design because the Jesus Family Tomb people are claiming to show that small enough probabilities demonstrate that Jesus is buried outside Jerusalem. Prof. Marks and I show that the probabilities really aren’t that bad. In light of the probability arguments that keep being made for and against evolution — the most notable recent case being in Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution — the arguments we make in our “Jesus Tomb Math” paper will have a familiar ring.

Okay, let's look at this. Cameron et. al. in "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" claim that the probability of finding these names in a tomb randomly is so small, that it must be the biblical Jesus' family. But Cameron's math is fundamentally flawed, which means his conclusions are without merit. Michael Behe in "The Edge of Evolution" claims that the probability of beneficial mutations occuring at random is so small, that complexity of life must be the result of intelligent design. But Behe's math is fundamentally flawed, which means...

... is Dembski trying to debunk Michael Behe?

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