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Jason Pontin

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Math is hard!

The New Yorker has a damning piece by Allen Orr on Intelligent Design. It’s also extraordinarily late, of course: Wired devoted a cover to the subject in October of 2004. Orr’s most interesting insight is that the mathematical critique…

  • May 26, 2005

The New Yorker has a damning piece by Allen Orr on Intelligent Design. It’s also extraordinarily late, of course: Wired devoted a cover to the subject in October of 2004. Orr’s most interesting insight is that the mathematical critique of evolutionary biology by William A. Dembski (pictured) is really very shaky. This matters because Dembski (who is probably the most famous proponent of I.D) represents himself as a hard mathematician correcting the soft science of biologists. Orr writes,

Despite all the attention, Dembski’s mathematical claims about design and Darwin are almost entirely beside the point.

By contrast, modern evolutionary biology has a very robust mathematical foundation. Why isn’t this better known to the general public? Again, from Orr:

Evolutionary biology actually features an extraordinarily sophisticated body of mathematical theory, a fact not widely known because neither of evolution’s great popularizers—Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould—did much math.

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