Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology Paperback – 1 Jul 2002
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"Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." This statement, quoted by William Dembski, is a way of summarising intelligent design theory, which argues that it is possible to find evidence for design in the Universe. The author of The Design Inference (a scholarly exploration of this topic, published by Cambridge University Press), in this book aims to show the lay reader "how detecting design within the Universe, and especially against the backdrop of biology and biochemistry, unseats naturalism"--and, above all, Darwin's expulsion of design in his theory of evolution.
Intelligent Design is organised into three parts: the first part gives an introduction to design, and shows how modernity--science in the last two centuries--has undermined our intuition of this truth. The second and central part of the book examines "the philosophical and scientific basis for intelligent design." The final part shows how "science and theology relate coherently and how intelligent design establishes the crucial link between the two." This suggests that Dembski is not simply rejecting Darwin and Naturalism on fundamentalist or biblical grounds. While grounded in faith, he wishes to show how "God's design is accessible to scientific inquiry." As such, the book should be of interest to all questioning believers. --Doug Thorpe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"An important book that deserves a wide audience."--First Things, May 2000
"Dembski has done a fine job of putting the ID and specified-complexity pieces of the puzzle in layman's terms."--National Catholic Register, Mar. 26-Apr. 1, 2000
"If philosophic naturalism is the disease, and I am confident it is, Dembski's Intelligent Design is surely the cure. Extending the argument of his Design Inference, Dembski here traces, in lucid accessible language, the fate of the inference to intelligent cause in Western thought since Bacon. His intellectual history is meticulous, and the positive case he advances for reintroducing design has implications that are radical and far reaching. In his exposition, Dembski exemplifies the finest traditions of the American public intellectual--he assumes that ordinary people, given evidence and argument, are perfectly capable of making reasoned decisions on big questions that matter."--John Angus Campbell, professor, department of communications, University of Memphis
"The past twenty years of laboratory research in the biological sciences have unveiled incredible mysteries of nature. Those scientists that have participated in these endeavors have been awestruck not only by the beauty of nature at the molecular level but also by the complexity of even the simplest of cells. In fact, scientists adhering to strict Darwinism must remind themselves that what they see is only 'apparent' design. In Dembski's first book, The Design Inference, he laid out the logic for discriminating 'real' from 'apparent' design. In this new work Dembski unpacks the meaning of 'intelligent design' from the historical, philosophical and theological perspectives. I would encourage even those of my colleagues who disagree with its implications to read and consider the arguments presented in this volume. It promises to be provocative, controversial, but central to the ultimate question of science and religion."--Scott A. Minnich, Ph.D., associate professor, department of microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry, University of Idaho
"Intelligent Design is a critical resource for anyone who wants to understand the reemergence of the design argument. Dembski has taken the key concepts from his seminal but highly technical work The Design Inference and made them accessible to the average reader. Furthermore, he has placed these arguments in their historical setting, allowing the reader to understand the early development of the design argument, the reasons for its demise for almost 150 years and the critical new insights, which Dembski has helped to fashion, that are responsible for the return of the design argument as an intellectually compelling alternative to naturalism."--Walter L. Bradley, professor of mechanical engineering, Texas A & M University
"The toppling of the Berlin Wall will seem small in comparison with the impending demolition of scientific naturalism. Most of us have heard but a rumor of this event with our ears; Dembski is one of those making it happen. Will this be a bad thing? No, a good one. The collapse of the idea that nature is blind, purposeless and 'all there is' will not destroy the scientific study of nature but allow it to come into its own. "As a philosopher of the natural moral law, I have particular reason to extol Dembski's work. There would be little point in speaking of a 'law written on the heart' if conscience were merely a meaningless byproduct of selfish genes. Dembski strengthens the case for saying that our deepest moral inclinations not only look designed, they are."--J. Budziszewski, departments of government and philosophy, The Univeristy of Texas, and author of Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law
"There are many things I admire about this book: its thoughtfulness, its philosophical and theological acumen, its willingness to face all difficulties. But the most important contribution is the effort to return the notion of design to its proper standing in science--that is, to bring science back under the rubric of rationality. Naturalism under the guise of science makes a lot of assumptions that it will now be forced to defend instead of assert."--Jack Collins, Ph.D., associate profesor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
"With graduate degrees in mathematics, philosophy and theology, William Dembski is uniquely qualified to address the question of whether divine design is detectable in the realm of nature. His groundbreaking work in design theory is philosophically significant in its own right, but in this book Dembski goes beyond theory to application, claiming that his method, when applied to the natural world of living things, shows in a rigorous way that biological organisms are products of intelligent design. "Bold and provocative, Dembski's book challenges the coventional wisdom which says that while science may have input into theology, theology has no input into science. Sooner rather than later, the doyens of contemporary science and religion dialogue will no longer be able to ignore the position Dembski represents, for his work is simply too good for his challenge to stand unanswered."--William Lane Craig, fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science & Culture
"Intelligent design is moving quickly to replace Darwinian evolution as the central guiding principle of biological science. This book is a clear and thought-provoking analysis of the theological, philosophical and scientific aspects of intelligent design by one of its leading proponents. Everyone interested in the coming revolution should read it."--Jonathan Wells, postdoctoral biologist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, Seattle, Washington
"True science is never dogmatic. It follows the evidence of eyes and ears wherever it may lead. William Dembski argues, convincingly, that the evidence at hand, particularly in biology and biochemistry, leads inexorably to the conclusion that life could not exist without an intelligent designer. If Dembski is right--and I believe he is--then it is unscientific to deny the existence of God. "By making this argument so carefully and so well, Dembski has performed a real service not only for science but also for theology, which has long been intimidated by the aggressive 'scientific' claim that reason is the enemy of faith. It is not, and Dembski shows us why it is not."--Thomas G. West, professor of politics, University of Dallas, and senior fellow of the Claremont Institute
"Dembski's Intelligent Design is a centerpiece in the current renewal of intellectual responsibility among thoughtful Christians. Everyone with interest in and responsibility for how science and theology interrelate should study it carefully. This is especially true for leaders in education."--Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy, University of Southern California
"Dembski is one of the main leaders of the intelligent design movement. He made it his first priority to state his thesis in the most rigorous possible form for a readership of academic philosophers and mathematicians. Having done that successfully, he now provides a popular treatment of the same issues. This is a must-read for those who want to understand how we know that living organisms really are designed by a Creator."--Phillip E. Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial
"Debmski is in the forefront of today's engagement of theology with science--and of science with theology. Many thought the engagement had been called off a long time ago, but as Intelligent Design makes luminously clear, that is not possible. It is not possible because all reality is the creation of the one God and therefore finally one. This book is an invitation to intellectual and spiritual adventure that should not be declined."--Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things
"Dembski provides a clear and comprehensive description of what 'intelligent design' means. To establish the subtitle 'The Bridge Between Science & Theology' Dembski explains that the 'demise of design' in science was a consequence of philosophical preconceptions, not a deficiency in its validity. Rather, he shows that a scientific theory cannot be sound without acknowledging the Creator behind the phenomena it explains. Dembski's book is an important step in bringing the focus back to a level playing field of truth, not prejudice."--Robert Kaita, principal research physicist, Plasma Physics Laboratory, Princeton University
"Dembski is the Isaac Newton of information theory, and since this is the Age of Information, that makes Dembski one of the most important thinkers of our time. His 'law of conservation of information' represents a revolutionary breakthrough. In Intelligent Design Dembski explains the meaning and significance of his discoveries with such clarity that the general public can readily grasp them. He convincingly diagnoses our present confusions about the relationship between science and theology and offers a promising alternative."--Rob Koons, associate professor of philosophy, University of Texas
"Dembski is perhaps the very brightest of a new generation of scholars who are willing to challenge the most sacred twentieth-century intellectual idol--the unproven notion that all of life can be explained in terms of natural selection and mutations."--Henry F. Schaeffer III, Graham Perdue Professor and director, Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry, University of Georgia
" 'Einstein once remarked that the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.' This statement, quoted by William Dembski, is a way of summarizing intelligent design theory, which argues that it is possible to find evidence for design in the universe. The author of The Design Inference (a scholarly exploration of this topic published by Cambridge University Press) in this book aims to show the lay reader 'how detecting design within the universe, and especially against the backdrop of biology and biochemistry, unseats naturalism'--and above all Darwin's expulsion of design in his theory of evolution." Intelligent Design is organized into three parts: the first part gives an introduction to design and shows how modernity--science in the last two centuries--has undermined our intuition of this truth. The second and central part of the book examines "the philosophical and scientific basis for intelligent design." The final part shows how "science and theology relate coherently and how intelligent design establishes the crucial link between the two." This suggests that Dembski is not simply rejecting Darwin and naturalism on fundamentalist or biblical grounds. While grounded in faith, he wishes to show how "God's design is accessible to scientific inquiry." As such, the book should be of interest to all thinking believers."--Amazon.com
Intelligent Design is organized into three parts: the first part gives an introduction to design and shows how modernity--science in the last two centuries--has undermined our intuition of this truth. The second and central part of the book examines "the philosophical and scientific basis for intelligent design." The final part shows how "science and theology relate coherently and how intelligent design establishes the crucial link between the two." This suggests that Dembski is not simply rejecting Darwin and naturalism on fundamentalist or biblical grounds. While grounded in faith, he wishes to show how "God's design is accessible to scientific inquiry." As such, the book should be of interest to all thinking believers."--Amazon.com
Top Customer Reviews
But there is a snag, because embedded in the theory of Intelligent Design is a contradiction that is potentially fatal to belief in the Christian gospel. Dembski either does not know of this snag (which he should do) or he chose to ignore it (which he should not have done).
If you believe in an infinitely powerful and wise creator who stands apart from the universe, you are presented with a choice. Either you believe in a theistic God who intervenes in human affairs, or you believe in a deistic "intelligent design" God who, having formed the universe out of nothing and issued immutable laws for it to follow, withdraws and leaves it to run on without further intervention. You can't consistently believe in a God who intervenes in human affairs and yet does not intervene.
But here's the problem. Theism reduces God to a flawed creator who has to work miracles to keep his creation running in accordance with his will; while deism reduces God to a less than omniscient architect or designer whose design has resulted and continues to result in wars, starvation and general misery which he can't (or chooses not to) correct.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
He states in this 1999 book, "What has emerged is a new program for scientific research known as intelligent design ... Its fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology..." (Pg. 106) He argues, "The world contains events, objects and structures that exhaust the explanatory resources of undirected natural causes and that can be adequately explained only by recourse to intelligent causes. This is not an argument from ignorance... Precisely because of what we know about undirected natural causes and their limitations, science is now in a position to demonstrate design rigorously." (Pg. 107) He adds, "To sum up, intelligent design consists in empirically detecting design and then reverse engineering those objects detected to be designed." (Pg. 109) Later, he adds, "to say that an intelligent agent caused something is not to prescribe how an intelligent agent caused it. In particular, design in this last sense is separate from miracle." (Pg. 127)
He contends, "In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such 'marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation. That said, intelligent design is incompatible with what typically is meant by 'theistic evolution'... Theistic evolution takes the Darwinian picture of the biological world and baptizes it..." (Pg. 110) He admits, however, that "it doesn't follow... that by rejecting fully naturalistic evolution you automatically embrace a literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2." (Pg. 115) He further says, "Intelligent design does not require a creator that originates the space, time, matter and energy that together constitute the universe... Nor for that matter does it require that any particular historical event must occur (like a worldwide flood 5,000 years ago). Intelligent design is compatible with a biophysical universe that developed over billions of years." (Pg. 249-250)
He states, "intelligent design nowhere attempts to identify the intelligent cause responsible for the design in nature, nor does it prescribe in advance the sequence of events by which this intelligent cause had to act. Intelligent design holds to three tenets: 1. Specified complexity is well-defined and empirically detectable. 2. Undirected natural causes are incapable of explaining specified complexity. 3. Intelligent causation best explains specified complexity." (Pg. 247)
Whether one is a naturalistic evolutionist, a young-earth creationist, an ID advocate, or somewhere in-between, this book is an excellent resource for learning more about the movement.
Because this book overtly links Science AND Theology, Dembski does address religious, and specifically Christian, questions such as the existence of miracles, the Biblical use of signs etc.
I must respond to the previous reviewer,' a reader' in Nederland, who by referring to the books 'authors' (Behe simply provides the foreword), patently displays that he has not read the book, which is pretty typical. Many of the points he raises are dealt with and are shown not to meet the 'complex specified information' criterion.
In closing, I might mention that the book is well produced and shouldn't literally fall apart like so many books nowadays!
Dembski and his fellow advocates of intelligent design have at least come up with a new theory and Dembski is at his best when he discusses information theory as it relates to intelligent design of the universe. Briefly stated, Dembski's theory is that a purely naturalistic system, such as evolution cannot create information, therefore the existence of information in DNA and throughout the living world implies an intelligent creator who imparted that information. Demski actually does a great job of making this sound compelling. However, see Skeptical Inquirer, Marh/April 2001 issue for a critique of his theory.
While Dembski's information theory has a certain attraction to it, the theory does little to compell one to adopt the Judeo-Christian deity of Genesis. Indeed, information theory would seem to argue for the deist position, that a deity set the universe in motion and then let it proceed according to the naturalistic laws by which it was created.
Indeed, one is struck by the gulf that separates Dembski's discussion of information theory and his discussion of miracles, Moses and the Bible. Dembski is attempting a "bridge" between science and theology, but in the end what he wants is to shoehorn Genesis into contempory biological science.
If you are interested in current creationist theory, this book is as good as it gets. He is head and shoulders above Philip E. Johnson and other creationist writers. However, for a complete picture, also read Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker or The Selfish Gene. For a critique of creationism, try Robert T. Pennocks Tower of Babel and for an introduction to the history of creationist thought in America (Creationism is an American development) read Darwinism Comes to America by Roland L. Numbers.
There are two main reasons for this, both having to do with what William Dembski believes himself to be arguing.
First: The news in this book is supposed to be Dembski's notion of "specified complexity." This is made to sound much more innovative than it is, and few mathematicians are likely to be impressed by Dembski's alleged originality here. The idea is just that when we see patterns rather than apparent chaos, and we find that we can describe the pattern independently, we don't attribute the phenomenon in question to chance; we know there must be something more to it.
But as an argument for "intelligent design," this is an _ignoratio elenchi_. There's no evolutionist in the world who thinks complex biological structures developed by sheer chance, just as there's no cosmologist in the world who would propose _randomness_ as the sole alternative to divine creation as the origin of the cosmos. Every one of Dembski's ideological opponents would argue that "specified complexity" -- in pretty much any non-question-begging way Dembski wants to define it -- is _exactly_ what evolution-by-genetic-natural-selection produces, and Dembski hasn't even begun to show this to be false.
So if there were anything new in Dembski's argument, it would have to be, not his notion of "specified complexity," but his claim that order and information can't arise from chaos. But you'll look in vain for any argument to this effect.
You'll also look in vain for any admission that scientists _always_ look for order and almost _never_ attribute it to "design." Dembski's examples are chosen to suggest the opposite: we know that watches were made by watchmakers; we know (or would know) that patterned signals from outer space come from alien intelligences rather than from random bursts of cosmic rays. But we also know that, say, the circumference of a circle is _always_ pi times its diameter, and no scientist in the world would take this as conclusive evidence of "design" -- just of "intelligibility," which even Dembski himself is (properly) careful to _distinguish_ from "design."
So when all is said and done, we still haven't got a way to distinguish the "specified complexity" that results from intelligent design from the "specified complexity" that results from simple intelligibility. (There _is_ a cosmological argument that intelligibility itself implies an underlying intelligence, but Dembski doesn't give it. See Hugo Meynell's _The Intelligible Universe_, which I favorably reviewed a long time ago.) Maybe _The Design Inference_ covers this stuff better than this book does; at any rate Dembski keeps referring us to that book for all the arguments he isn't going to bother offering in this one, making sure to let us know that it's all very technical. But I find this sort of thing tiresome and full of handwaving.
Which brings us to the second problem, where Dembski's handwaving gets a whole lot worse. It's pretty disingenuous to claim that "intelligent design" isn't specifically Christian, and then write an entire book on the presumption that atheism and Christianity are the only two alternatives. Hasn't Dembski heard of any other theistic religions? (Hint: One of them starts with J, and Jesus himself was raised in it. And it believes the universe to be the work of an intelligent Creator just as surely as Dembski's religion does.)
But somehow, when Dembski wants to indulge in tub-thumping Christian triumphalism, all those other versions of theism never bother making an appearance. This probably won't bother any Christian triumphalists among his readership, but it should bother anybody who takes seriously his claim that belief in "intelligent design" doesn't in and of itself commit anyone to Christianity.
And boy, do the hands start waving when we learn that "Christ is the completion of science"! First we receive a fairly good exposition of the way the set of real numbers "completes" the set of rational numbers. (But even for this, the lay reader is referred in a footnote, not to a helpful introductory book, but to Walter Rudin's excellent but hardly elementary _Principles of Mathematical Analysis_. Really. How many lay readers are going to go look this one up, or get anything out of it if they do? If Dembski had wanted to be helpful and enlightening rather than impressive and technically forbidding, wasn't there some other more elementary source to which he could have referred?)
And this is offered as an analogy for the way Christ completes science. The analogy is never explained, so Dembski's target audience will presumably just nod their heads. Readers with mathematical backgrounds, however, may have a different reaction. So may philosophers, who will probably recognize that one can perfectly well believe in the _logos_ without identifying it with "Christ."
In general, Dembski's philosophical sophistication is not great (yes, yes, I know he has a Ph.D. in the field). Here again, I think we're supposed to be impressed rather than enlightened, as when he makes a brief and general remark about naturalistic philosophers "like" John Searle and David Malet Armstrong, and then refers us in a footnote (in the _same_ footnote) to _The Construction of Social Reality_ and _Universals: An Opinionated Introduction_ without bothering to explain what _either_ philosopher argues in _either_ of these books (or anywhere else). Good thing I'd already read them; I'd never have learned anything about them from Dembski -- other than the fact that he knows their names, which is, I'm fairly sure, all he intended to show us.
His scientific sophistication isn't exactly on display either. For a book that's supposed to provide a "bridge between science and theology," there sure isn't much science in it. And if Dembski wants to show us how to distinguish "intelligent design" from simple order, he really, _really_ needs to get down to cases.
He's also very dismissive of what he likes to call "enlightenment rationalism," as distinguished, one presumes, from his own Christian rationalism. This sometimes lead to odd results, as when he smugly remarks in a footnote (regarding those silly rationalists and their desire for "neat, self-contained explanations") that "Christ always destroys our neat categories." Really? Like "Christian" vs. "non-Christian"? Or like "design" vs. "accident"?
Yawn. I'm a theist myself, I'm generally very favorable to critiques of Darwinism (which, you understand, is not to say that I think they _succeed_, but that I think well-founded criticism is helpful to the scientific enterprise and useful in making sure the neo-Darwinian synthesis isn't applied outside of its proper scope), and I do think the cosmos is best understood philosophically as the work of the God of classical theism. But based on the quality of argumentation and exposition I found here, I don't think I'll be reading _The Design Inference_ any time soon.
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