The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems Hardcover – 28 Feb 2009
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About the Author
William A. Dembski is a Senior Fellow with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including the first book on intelligent design to be published by a major university press, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998). He has seven earned degrees, including two doctorates, one in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, the other in mathematics from University of Chicago. His work has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and he has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including ABC's Nightline and Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Jonathan Wells is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He holds a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and a PhD. in Religious Studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward. He is the author of numerous articles and several books including, Icons of Evolution, and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.
Top customer reviews
This particular book is written in text-book style and is well worth reading. In terms of its broad sweep of subject matter, it provides a very good overall summary of the mainstream position currently held about biological evolution - and in relatively plain language. It is therefore suitably accessible to most educated people. There are some technical terms used, but most are well explained - and when they are not, the meaning can easily be inferred from the surrounding text.
I've now read nearly all the books so far produced by ID theorists, but this one is possibly the most excellent for the general reader. It's also well illustrated.
The book covers topics on human origins, genetics and macroevolution, the fossil record, the origin of species, similar features (found in living things), types of complexity (the main arguments of the ID position) and the origin of life.
Regardless of your personal view, if you read this with any seriousness and evaluation, you will come away from it appropriately challenged by some of the assumptions made in biology - and the blatant a priori rejection of intelligent causation.
Just to quote from the book in conclusion (from page 264) "the burden of proof has now shifted to the materialistic origin-of-life researcher, who can no longer merely assert that cellular life arose by purely materialistic processes but must now demonstrate in detail how this could have happened."
I heartily recommend it!
I have just finished reading the book, although I still have to study the general notes in the included CD. In the book proper the authors present a well-researched, persuasively written argument for intelligent design of biological organisms. Perhaps the nub of their argument lies in the treatment of Oparin's hypothesis, which proposes a purely materialistic approach to life's origin. Seven assumptions underlying this hypothesis were fairly presented, then devastatingly critiqued. The authors ask readers to follow Darwin's plea that "the facts and arguments on both sides of each question" be fully stated and balanced. Clearly, the ability of N.A. Rajwade and others like him/her to heed Darwin's advice is lacking.
As far as the intelligent design argument from scientific position is concerned this book is an opus.
"The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board's ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."
"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock
assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs' scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator."
"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact
that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."
"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the
Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."
"With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID
have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom."
"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
Two years have elapsed since Judge Jones issued this historic verdict. A decision which was, without question, a staggering blow to both the Discovery Institute's Intelligent Design advocates, and to many others, who, regrettably, still harbor ample, rather disingenuous, pretensions to asserting the scientific validity of an idea that was soundly rejected once before, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and deserves its widespread current repudiation by modern scientists, especially from those who are professional evolutionary biologists (If you don't believe my claims, then please read the many ludicrous, often hysterical, comments posted by Intelligent Design advocates (who truly deserve British paleontologist Richard Fortey's perjorative nickname, IDiot) and other creationists at the Amazon.com product page for Dr. Michael Behe's "The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits to Darwinism", often relying upon vituperative attacks on supporters of evolution, and in, general, on reason itself.). However, the conservative Discovery Institute, and its fellow intellectual travelers in the Intelligent Design and creationist movements are in a total state of denial, still refusing to admit their devastating debacle at the hands of a Republican Federal jurist. The most recent example of the Discovery Institute's ongoing delusional state is this very textbook co-authored by Discovery Institute Senior Fellows William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells, who, in spite of their impressive academic credentials, have not published anything that would be regarded as valid mainstream science by their peers in the scientific community for nearly a decade and a half. Their book is the widely anticipated sequel to the earlier Intelligent Design creationist textbook "Of Pandas and People", whose "evolutionary" history was one of the important pieces of evidence used by plaintiff attorneys against both the Dover Area School District and Intelligent Design advocates during the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. It can also be seen - and I believe quite correctly - as the Discovery Institute's last ditch effort at grasping at intellectual straws, by urging high school educators to "Teach the Controversy" - which this textbook emphasizes with respect to contemporary evolutionary theory - instead of trying to explain why Intelligent Design deserves ample, serious consideration as a valid alternative in attempting to explain the origins, history and current complexity of Planet Earth's biodiversity. Indeed, it should be regarded as a valiant, yet hopelessly inane, effort by two Fundamentalist Protestant Christian-oriented "scholars" who remain quite determined - almost to the point of religious fanaticism as seen from the likes of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda brethren - to seeing their narrow, tormented version of a Christian origin myth taught alongside genuine science in North American science classrooms and elsewhere around the globe.
This new textbook doesn't even try to defend Intelligent Design's pretense of being a better alternative to contemporary evolutionary theory in discussing the origins and history of life on Planet Earth. Nor does it demonstrate that it is valid science, but instead, stresses the current "controversies" with respect to our understanding of evolutionary biology, with topics ranging from those pertaining to the fossil record to evolutionary developmental biology; the latter known popularly as "evo-devo". Indeed, in private e-mail correspondence with both Dembski and Behe, I have received no definitive statements from either, indicating that Intelligent Design is truly, a compelling, scientifically more valid, alternative than contemporary evolutionary theory in explaining the origins and history of life on Planet Earth. Instead, the best response I received from them was this, quoting from Dembski, "Intelligent Design raises questions". It does indeed, but not those that he alludes to in his prolific writing, simply because he, Wells, Behe, Minnich, Gonzalez, and their fellow Intelligent Design advocates, have had more than fifteen years to make their case within the mainstream scientific community, and have failed miserably, not just once, but again and again (Much to my amazement, Philip Johnson, the spiritual "godfather" of the Intelligent Design "movement", has conceded recently that Intelligent Design is not yet a valid scientific theory.). I asked both Dembski and Behe these questions: "Where are Intelligent Design's testable hypotheses? Where are the productive scientific research programs inspired by Intelligent Design? Where are Intelligent Design's peer-reviewed scientific papers published in such eminent mainstream scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Paleobiology, Cladistics, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Evolution, American Naturalist, among others?" The replies I received were only deafening silence from both. So much for Intelligent Design's pretensions for being a valid scientific theory, right?
Dembski tries to make a persuasive case on behalf of Intelligent Design, using the same probabilistic models he developed for his "No Free Lunch" and "Explanatory Filter" concepts; the very models that have been harshly criticized by his former Ph. D. dissertation advisor at the University of Chicago, who is now a highly respected mathematician teaching at a prominent Canadian university (Incidentally, three times I have asked Dembski - who has a M. S. degree in statistics from the University of Illinois, Chicago - a basic statistics question which he couldn't answer, both twice, in person, after the 2002 American Museum of Natural History Intelligent Design debate, and, recently, in private e-mail correspondence: "How do you calculate the confidence limits for the Explanatory Filter?" Three times he hasn't provided me with any answer but a deafening, stony silence.). I wonder what the current president of the University of Chicago, distinguished mathematician Robert Zimmer - who is a prominent alumnus of my prestigious New York City public high school - thinks of Dembski's "research", especially when Zimmer has taught mathematics at the University of Chicago for decades, except for a relatively brief stint as the provost of Brown University (my undergraduate alma mater); it's quite possible that Zimmer served as a member of Dembski's doctoral dissertation committee in mathematics. Since Dembski's concepts are fundamentally, just metaphysical, pseudoscientific, religious nonsense, it seems that a more appropriate usage of his fine literary talents would be writing a textbook on Klingon Cosmology; a potentially lucrative suggestion that he has rejected (For reasons which I have noted elsewhere, here at Amazon.com, I believe that there is substantially more evidence in support of Klingon Cosmology than there is for Intelligent Design.).
Two years ago I attended an alumni gathering in the auditorium of my high school alma mater, New York City's prestigious Stuyvesant High School (Many regard Stuyvesant as America's premier high school devoted to the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Its many prominent alumni include distinguished scientists, mathematicians, engineers and doctors, including four Nobel Prize-winning scientists and an economist; the most of any high school in the United States; with the notable exception of arch rival Bronx High School of Science's seven Nobel Prize-winning alumni in physics. Barely three percent pass of those taking the annual competitive, quite rigorous, entrance examination for the nearly 800 places available in the following year's freshman class; an acceptance rate that is substantially lower than gaining admission to Harvard University's undergraduate college.). Stuyvesant's current principal, Mr. Stanley Teitel, pledged that Intelligent Design would never be taught at Stuyvesant, as long as he served as its principal; a pledge made by Mr. Teitel during the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial (Mr. Teitel has taught physics at Stuyvesant since the mid 1980s, and still teaches one course of senior-level physics to a class comprised of entering freshmen.). Why did Mr. Teitel make this pledge? The answer is obvious. Unlike Dembski, Wells, Behe, and their Discovery Institute colleagues, Mr. Teitel recognizes that Intelligent Design is unscientific.
In my Amazon.com review of British filmmaker Matthew Chapman's hilarious, yet profound, eyewitness account of the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, I concluded with these remarks, which, upon reflection, are an appropriate ending for my review of this latest example of mendacious intellectual pornography - which is how I regard Intelligent Design - being disseminated by the Discovery Institute:
"I concur with Ken Miller's observation that introducing Intelligent Design into science classrooms would be a `science stopper'. It would conflate most students' understanding of what exactly is the difference between religious faith and science, though I suppose that some truly gifted students, like those attending prominent American high schools such as Alexandria, Virginia's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Tchnology, and New York City's Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School, might readily understand and appreciate these distinctions. And yet I am inclined to agree more with the harsh view articulated by distinguished British paleontologist Richard Fortey in his essay published in the January 30, 2007 issue of the British newspaper Telegraph, contending that it is an absolute waste of time arguing with Intelligent Design advocates, and that they ought to be dismissed as `IDiots'; by extension, so would be the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside evolution in a science classroom. I would rather see talented students from Thomas Jefferson, Bronx Science and Stuyvesant engage themselves fruitfully in genuine scientific research of the highest caliber, than in trying to understand the metaphysical, religious nonsense known as Intelligent Design and other flavors of creationism. I think, in hindsight, so would Charles Darwin."
(EDITORIAL NOTE 1/5/12 - This was posted originally at the Amazon USA website and was immediately subjected to both a hate e-mail campaign and a crude attempt by William Dembski to have this review deleted by Amazon. It was restored only after I had issued him an ultimatum to have it restored or else.)
Stupidity at its best!
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