For the rating I give the authors 5 stars for their effort, interesting information, and for focusing attention on fascinating complexities. I give the theory of ID itself 0 stars. I then averaged the two, rounded up, and arrived at the 3 star rating.
In this short 175 page book, Dembski and Witt attempt to explicate the theory of Intelligent Design. Unfortunately, there isn't much to explicate and the book is primarily a rebuke of Darwinism and Darwinists' critiques of IDers' arguments. While I have empathy for some of the complaints implying bullyism by the Darwinists, the arguments against ID are not substantially refuted. For example, the authors complain that critics of ID argue that Intelligent Design theory is little more than "god of the gaps". One can't help but wonder if Dembski and Witt would be any happier if the critics argued instead against a "designer of the gaps" whereby "gaps" are equivalent to those biological entities that IDers consider to be irreducibly complex and for which they attempt to demonstrate as being expressive of complex specified information (CSI) and therefore in need of a designer.
In any case, one must inquire regards the nature of the supposed designer and how the supposed designer does what the supposed designer is supposed to have done and, to my mind, all these supposings are unnecessary hypotheticals. And the supposing and introduction of hypotheticals expands even further. Once one posits a designer, analogous to a human or even a beaver as the authors indicate, then it must also be posited, as the authors didn't indicate, that there be means of carrying out the design and thus the need of what might be labeled an implementer. In the case of a beaver dam, the designers and implementers would be the same, beavers. In the case of the human designed Mazda rotary engine, there is a large cast of diverse implementers. What or who is the supposed implementer of the supposed irreducible complexities of life? Thus far, IDers are yet to say.
It seems to me that once one introduces some supposed "designer" whether that be a god, a human analogue, or whatever, you have introduced an unnecessary complexity that is itself unreachable by science and the end of further investigation or even discussion. Unless one is willing to define and make discoveries regards precisely what is meant by a "designer" then science comes to an end. I suppose that IDers could posit that such discussions could occur at a later date once the idea of "design" is well established but, to my mind, this seems unsatisfactory, unnecessary, and leads but to even more unanswerable questions. And suppose, as I believe, researchers do indeed conclusively demonstrate that a designer is unnecessary. Fundamentalist Christians (including, I presume, those of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary where Dembski is professor of philosophy generally posit that Jesus was and is the human responsible for all creation. One might suppose this synonymy is the reason Creationists tend to be drawn to ID theory. Do IDers want to take responsibility for destroying the faith of these Christians if it turns out that ID theory is, as I believe, wrong regards supposed irreducible complexities? In my view, ID is not science and also is bad theology. (One would think that theologists of differing schools might escape their own "comfortable pews" and resolve some of the obvious conflicts regards biblical understanding of what has become, post-Bible, known as the Trinity. See Colossians 1:15-20. If schools of theology can't resolve that issue, one wonders what they can do.)
Dembski and Witt attempt to refute some of the criticism of ID theory such as one of the arguments put forth by Kenneth Miller. (Miller is a high school textbook author and was a principal in the 2005 Dover PA trial regards ID.) But Dembski and Witt's counter arguments aren't convincing. For example, the authors write (p.50):
"Miller claims that the problem with design theorists like Behe is a failure of the imagination. As [Miller] says, `design theorists can't imagine how evolutionary mechanisms might have produced a certain species, organ, or structure,' so they dismiss the possibility [of naturalistic origins]."
But Dembski and Witt counter that it is the critics of ID who can't even imagine, much less demonstrate in a laboratory, how what IDers consider to be irreducibly complex entities have arisen naturally (p.50):
"To really imagine something means to see it in rich detail. In this full sense of `imagine,' the Darwinists haven't imagined an evolutionary pathway for the bacterial flagellum motor, much less tested it in the lab and shown it to be sound. Theirs is a tale as vague as it is implausible."
Personally, I am waiting on some mechanical and electrical engineers to come up with an imaginative solution to this demonstration problem. It seems to me that there must be lots of researchers out there who, when looking at a detailed depiction of a flagellum motor such as in Behe's book, DARWIN'S BLACK BOX (1996) or in THE MACHINERY OF LIFE (2009) by David S. Goodsell, they can't help but "imagine." Meanwhile, it seems to me that the argument put forth by those such as Miller regards the type III secretory system (or TTSS) was at least an attempt in the right direction even if an apparently incorrect attempt. (My guess is that TTSS and flagella represent yet another case of global naturalistic parallelism.) My own favorite book in regards to sparking imagination is R.J.P. Williams and J.J.R. Frausto da Silva's THE NATURAL SELECTION OF THE CHEMICAL ELEMENTS (1996). It is quite amazing to see how pathways to developments could have occurred beginning with the very early global developments of gazillions (in my view) of primordial cells and, even earlier, cell membranes acting as possible sources of feedback information. Page 372, for example, depicts "A self assembled proton pump from eight proteins and a membrane." Very thought provoking material!
Thinking about these matters, it occurs to me that where IDers tend to be off base regards their penchant for statistical impossibility arguments (supposedly proving the need for a designer) --- where they are off base is in regards the actual manner in which proteins, their precursors, and other biochemicals have probably actually been assembled. The probable reality is counter to IDers' statistical inferences. First, IDers' inferences seem to always imply that naturalistic researchers see no other mechanism but chance. Obviously this isn't the case, beginning even with Darwin, as necessity and other factors are relevant. But a second point, discussed briefly by Richard Dawkins in his THE BLINDWATCHMAKER (, 1996) is cumulative selection. That is, in my reformulation of Dawkins, chemicals need not be assembled one atom, one molecule, or even one protein at a time. More likely scenarios would consider that primitive chemical assemblages arose globally. Further assemblages of various molecules then arose, etc., etc. It would be as if the proverbial monkey typing on the proverbial typewriter were not typing out letters but rather it is a magical typewriter whereby the monkey presses on a key and an entire word comes out. Actually, it isn't even just one word but rather perhaps zillions and gazillions of words. And it isn't just one monkey typing but rather zillions of monkeys.
Thus, a statistical impossibility argument might begin with some random numbers (think atoms) on a keyboard (the environment) such as: WE ATHI ASE M TEIS LIKL NKS I E. If we sat a monkey down in front of the typewriter we would find, for all practical purposes, that it would take eons, if ever, to type out (produce environmental and other causations of) Dawkins' ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL (which I posit to be a chemical of 28 atoms / 7 molecules). However, suppose we instead begin with a 7 word (i.e., 7 molecules) keyboard that has the words LIKE IT IS WEASEL THINKS A ME. Chances are greatly enhanced that the end result would be the above sentence (i.e., the 7 molecule chemical). Note that molecules as large as 8 atoms, HCOOCH(3), and even 13 atoms, HC(11)N, have been observed in interstellar space. See P.A. Cox's THE ELEMENTS: THEIR ORIGINS, ABUNDANCES, AND DISTRIBUTION (, 1994).
Dembski and Witt complain that Darwinists (and by implication all naturalists) have little but speculations to offer regards how supposed irreducibly complex entities such as flagella have arisen. But in the end, natural scientists are at least making attempts to discover how the world is the way it is. Meanwhile, IDers' attempts seem to be aimed more at .... Well, I don't really know --- replacing faith with scientific proof? But their answer, ID, leaves even more questions and these questions are ones that generally can't be answered by science. IDers leave even more scientific questions unanswered and many more questions beyond the realm of answerability than do naturalists.
Well, at least the authors certainly seem to agree with the many Evolutionists who also have written prejudicially on the subject of the supposed motions of the heavenly bodies. All apparently have a similar heliocentric bias and like to view the Earth, apparently, from somewhere near the Sun's center. Dembski and Witt write (p.47):
"The sun looks like it rises in the east and sets in the west, but really the Earth spins on its axis as it revolves around the sun. A healthy skepticism about appearances is vital."
In my view, I suggest that it is also good to have a healthy skepticism regards skepticism. Personally, when I'm not imagining myself sitting immobile on the Moon, or inside a satellite in geosynchronous orbit about the Earth or in a high-speed train looking out, or visiting with some of my Martian friends, I tend to prefer my observations take place on Earth's terra firma where the Earth and I are united in a seemingly unmoving uniform motion, providing of course, I don't move. With this view, appearances are indeed reality and seeing is indeed believing. The entire universe moves about me. As Hans Reichenbach (, 1970) and Albert Einstein (1922], 1988) would write, one inertial frame of reference is as valid as another. So, hop on some merry-go-round and consider just what is the absolute truth regards matters of motion and of force.
One last note: While not discussed in Dembski and Witt's book, the human eye has often been exemplified by IDers as an example of irreducible complexity. The July 2011 issue of "Scientific American" includes a fascinating article titled "Evolution of the Eye: Scientists Now Have a Clear Vision of How Our Notoriously Complex Eye Came To Be" by Trevor D. Lamb. While I don't much like the first word of the title ("Evolution" tends to have ambiguous implications), the article is nevertheless an intriguing explication of embryonic development of the eye with obvious implications regards natural history. All that's needed now is a full explication of the historical memory system, i.e., DNA / RNA, the cellular machinery, and other epigenetic and environmental factors responsible for long term memory of the developmental instructions / information. It is highly significant, it seems to me, that (1) there is evidence of light sensitive biomolecules in the earliest of organic material. See Roth et al. in SECOND COLLOQUIM IN BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 1986, v.463; and (2) prokaryotic cells --- bacteria, cynobacteria, and archaeans --- are derived from very ancient lineages and are characterized by keeping their DNA as a loop attached to their outer membrane. See Cohen and Stewart's WHAT DOES A MARTIAN LOOK LIKE? THE SCIENCE OF EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE, 2002; these authors refer to Colin Tudge's THE VARIETY OF LIFE, 2000. Incidentally, as much as I dislike alternative definitions of the same word, Stanley N. Salthe in his DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION: COMPLEXITY AND CHANGE IN BIOLOGOY (1993) certainly does provide an interesting definition. For "evolution" Salthe has "the irreversible accumulation of historical information.")
FURTHER REFERENCE NOTES:
1. Bergmann, Peter G. [1967, 1987], 1992. THE RIDDLE OF GRAVITATION. Dover, New York NY. 233pp. NOTE: The author provides a very good overview of both special and general relativity. While the main text is primarily descriptive, some mathematics is also included. Several appendices are provided for further mathematical exploration. The author also provides a glossary.
2. Einstein, Albert. , 1988. THE MEANING OF RELATIVITY: INCLUDING THE
RELATIVISTIC THEORY OF THE NON-SYMMETRIC FIELD. Princeton, NJ. 166pp. NOTE: Requires knowledge of field equations for maximum benefit.
3. Reichenbach, Hans. , 1970. FROM COPERNICUS TO EINSTEIN. Dover; NYC. 123pp.
NOTE: Much more readable than Einstein's book. Understanding of the mathematics not required.
4. Wald, Robert M. 1977. SPACE, TIME, AND GRAVITY: THE THEORY OF THE BIG BANG AND BLACK HOLES. Univ. of Chicago; Chicago IL. 131pp. NOTE: Includes some interesting mathematics but nevertheless is quite readable. Wald writes (p.7):
"[W]e now state our first key assumption. [....] Of all possible motions of observers in space-time, it is possible to distinguish IN AN ABSOLUTE SENSE (that is, without making reference to the motion of other objects) a certain class of motions, usually referred to as 'non-accelerating' or 'inertial.' Within this class there is no ABSOLUTE way of distinguishing a preferred motion (for example, no inertial observer can be said to be 'at rest' in an absolute sense)."
5. Whitehead, Alfred North. 2005. PRINCIPLES OF RELATIVITY. Barnes & Noble; NYC. 184pp. NOTE: A differeing philosophical view than Einstein's and somewhat differing and less well supported explication of relativity theory. The author questions Einstein's view that matter affects the geometry of space-time. That is, Whitehead objected to the lack of uniformity in Einstein's mathematics, a mathematics that required representation of space-time curvature due to the presence of matter. Whitehead's book is rich with detailed mathematics: tensors, field, equations, etc. as well as some scientific and philosophical discussion. Whitehead writes regards his understanding of the philosophy of science (p.4):
"[The understanding of `philosophy' as used herein] has nothing to do with ethics or theology or the theory of aesthetics. It is solely engaged in determining the most general conceptions which apply to things observed by the senses. Accordingly it is not even metaphysics: it should be called pan-physics. Its task is to formulate those principles of science which are employed equally in every branch of natural science. Sir J.J. Thomson, reviewing in "Nature" Poynting's COLLECTED PAPERS, has quoted a statement taken from one of Poynting's addresses: `I have no doubt whatever that our ultimate aim must be to describe the sensible in terms of the sensible.'"
Whether or not Whitehead's mathematics (apparently simpler than Einstein's) can be accepted over Einstein's or not, I am not currently aware. However, his thought in the final line by Whitehead of Thomson and Poynting --- one that has been similarly expressed by Einstein and many other natural scientists --- this thought certainly is the correct view of science and the philosophy of science.