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Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology Hardcover – November, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

"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. --Doug Thorpe

From Publishers Weekly

Until recently, the argument for designAthat nature (especially living organisms) shows the hand of an intelligent artificerAwas generally viewed as an abandoned relic of the pre-Darwinian past. Dembski and his colleagues at the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture have worked over the past decade to rehabilitate the concept of "intelligent design" not only as a plank of natural theology but as a theoretical resource within science. This collection of essays represents Dembski's efforts to remedy the conceptual fuzziness and lack of empirical content that plagued older versions of the design argument. Dembski recasts design as a problem in information theory, of empirically detecting the "complex specified information" that we attribute to intelligent causes. Although design inferences in biology or cosmology are obviously controversial, Dembski aims to normalize them by comparison to similar inferences routinely made in cryptography, forensic science and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)Athe latter being an especially effective counterexample to the claim that detecting unknown intelligences is impermissible as a scientific project. The book also presents more theologically oriented essays, including an especially astute analysis of the demise of British natural theology and an evocative (if unsympathetic) description of what Dembski sees as the "religious" character of scientific naturalism. Other material interspersed throughout the collection is less clearly related to intelligent design but gives a sense of Dembski's overall theological perspective. Readers who are principally interested in intelligent design itself, or who do not share the authors' theological interests, may find this distracting. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 302 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press (November 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830815813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830815814
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #774,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A mathematician and philosopher, William A. Dembski is Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, where he directs its Center for Cultural Engagement. He is also a senior fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. Previously he was the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he founded its Center for Theology and Science. Before that he was Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University, where he headed the first intelligent design think-tank at a major research university: The Michael Polanyi Center.

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, he also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

Dr. Dembski has published articles in mathematics, engineering, philosophy, and theology journals and is the author/editor of more than a dozen books. In The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998), he examines the design argument in a post-Darwinian context and analyzes the connections linking chance, probability, and intelligent causation. The sequel to The Design Inference appeared with Rowman & Littlefield in 2002 and critiques Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution. It is titled No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. Dr. Dembski has edited several influential anthologies, including Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI, 2004) and Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge University Press, 2004, co-edited with Michael Ruse). His newest book, The End of Christianity, differs markedly from his others, attempting to understand how the Fall of humanity can be real in light of modern science.

As interest in intelligent design has grown in the wider culture, Dr. Dembski has assumed the role of public intellectual. In addition to lecturing around the world at colleges and universities, he is frequently interviewed on the radio and television. His work has been cited in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including three front page stories in the New York Times as well as the August 15, 2005 Time magazine cover story on intelligent design. He has appeared on the BBC, NPR (Diane Rehm, etc.), PBS (Inside the Law with Jack Ford; Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson), CSPAN2, CNN, Fox News, ABC Nightline, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

[Photo by Laszlo Bencze]

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

182 of 265 people found the following review helpful By Mickey McCaffrey on December 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dembski, the intellectual leader of the Intelligent Design movement (which the British media, under, no doubt, the beady eye of Richard Dawkins, refuse even to mention) provides an accessible and fluent account of his main ideas. There is no technical or mathematical treatment herein which may have put people off buying his monograph 'The Design Inference'. Those who have followed Dembski's work over the past few years will recognise much that is familiar; there's nothing startlingly new here for them, but they will still welcome this masterly overview. For others this is the best introduction to Demsbki's work, as of this time.
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!
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51 of 74 people found the following review helpful By E. Jones on August 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a better book than I was anticipating, but it failed to convince me that there is any science at all in the (sadly) growing "discipline" of intelligent design. In the preface, Dembski makes a telling comment (which I paraphrase): "As Christians, we know God designed the universe..." (or something very similar to that). I challenge anyone to explain to me how someone who knows the answer to his problem before he even begins his analysis is a scientist. But it gets better from there. Chapter 4 seems to be the most focused section of the book, as it is here that Dembski criticises the methodological naturalist worldview that underlies essentially all present-day science (and does a surprisingly good job, despite the obvious theistic baggage he carries throughout the book). But from there, Dembski's arguments collapse when he defines "specified complexity", which consists of three components: contingency, specification, and complexity. Complexity he defines strictly in terms of probability; a system is complex insofar as it has a low probability of having occurred by chance. I'll ignore the many fatal problems with this conception of complexity and instead point out the fact that Dembski has just contradicted himself: by invoking probability to "detect design", he in effect summons the same methodological naturalism he spent an entire chapter berating (because probability is not simply a product of logic, like pure mathematics; probability is a set of laws deduced through observation and employed with the explicit assumption that those laws can be used inductively to explain further observations). It appears Dembski will happily embrace a naturalist worldview when it suits his intended purposes.Read more ›
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42 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Bradley P. Rich on March 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of the creationist literature consists of retreaded arguments that have long since ceased to be taken seriously. The arguments from minimum complexity or variations on the blind watchmaker argument have been around for 150 years. These arguments pose a minimum level problem for biologists and are no argument in favor of anything, let alone the Judeo-Christian God of Genesis.
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.
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104 of 156 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on March 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book, and there are parts of it with which I agree at least in principle. But in the end I can't give it more than three stars.

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.
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