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The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems Hardcover – September 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: ISI Distributed Titles; 1st edition (September 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0980021308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0980021301
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #692,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The Design of Life, which is both a sequel to Of Pandas and People (Second Edition, 1993), and a stand alone book in its own right, brilliantly lays out all the main lines of evidence and argument in the current dispute between the Darwinists and the growing body of Intelligent Design theorists. It not only updates the arguments presented in Pandas but explains the exciting developments in the new science of intelligent design that have occurred since the early 1990s. Dembski and Wells, who themselves are among the leading practitioners of the new science, write in a refreshingly carefully reasoned, lucid and direct style, pulling no punches when it comes to answering the criticisms of their leading Darwinist opponents including Richard Dawkins and Kenneth Miller, among many others. They make a formidable case that the indications of design seen everywhere in nature at all levels of organization (and acknowledged by the Darwinists) bespeak real and not just apparent design. Nowhere is this more evident than in the powerful new chapters on irreducible complexity (Chapter 6) building on the ground breaking work of Michael Behe in Darwin's Black Box, 1996, and specified complexity (Chapter 7) based on Dembski's many contributions to information theory as it relates to design (e.g., The Design Inference, 1998, and No Free Lunch, 2002). Each of the book's eight chapters is thoroughly documented with many explanatory footnotes and references to the pertinent technical literature. These detailed notes as well as the supplemental General Notes contained on the accompanying CD provide interested laypersons, university students, and working scientists with a reliable guide to the highest levels of scientific discussion in the often contentious dispute between Darwinists and intelligent design proponents. Appended to each chapter is a list of 10 discussion questions keyed to the order of presentation of the topics in the chapter and to the General Notes. If I were still involved in university teaching I would enthusiastically adopt The Design of Life as a required text in courses in evolution and the origin of life and in graduate seminars on information theory and molecular biology, and use it as a supplement in introductory biology classes. Dembski and Wells argue calmly and convincingly that intelligent design theory is empirically testable (in spite of Darwinists' shrill protests to the contrary) by indicating precisely what it would take to refute the theory, namely a clear demonstration that systems exhibiting irreducible complexity with specified complexity can in fact arise spontaneously by purely material processes. Their discussion takes intelligent design theory far beyond what we were able to accomplish when we wrote Pandas. I salute Dembski and Wells for a most worthy addition to the already powerful case that intelligent design deserves a seat at the academic table in university biology courses and with all scientists working to unlock the mystery of life's origin. --Dean Kenyon, Emeritus Professor of Biology, San Franciso State University

When future intellectual historians list the books that toppled Darwin's theory, THE DESIGN OF LIFE will be at the top. --Michael Behe, biochemist, Lehigh University

The Design of Life gives all interested parties in the debate over biological origins the hard scientific evidence they need to assess the true state of Darwin s theory and of the theory of intelligent design. But it does much more: it carefully fosters the attitude of open inquiry that science needs not only to thrive but also to avoid becoming the plaything of special interests. The authors, William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, are to be commended for writing a sparklingly clear book that empowers readers to navigate the captivating and controversial waters of biological origins. --William Harris, biologist, University of South Dakota

Book Description

"The illusion of purpose is so powerful," writes Richard Dawkins, "that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool." As an ardent proponent of Darwinian evolution, Dawkins imagines that all design in biology is merely an illusion. By contrast, this book shows that biologists use the assumption of design with success precisely because design in biology is not an illusion but real. In this book, William Dembski and Jonathan Wells present a compelling scientific case for the intelligent design of biological systems. Their laser-like analysis, clear explanations, and brilliant analogies will captivate every reader, whether trained scientist or curious layperson. Intelligent design (ID), as the study of patterns in nature best explained by intelligence, is already accepted in many special sciences. Archeology, forensics, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) all belong to ID in this broad sense. These sciences, however, are uncontroversial because any intelligence there could be an "evolved" intelligence. In biology, by contrast, intelligent design is highly controversial because any intelligence there would be an "unevolved" intelligence - it would not be the product of purely material evolutionary processes. Thus, to convinced materialists like Richard Dawkins, who dogmatically accept Darwinian orthodoxy, this book comes as a shot across the bow. Scientists who support the intelligent design of biological systems are routinely held up to ridicule, stripped of their status, denied tenure, and driven from their posts. Why? They do not agree that the universe, life, and the human mind are the accidental outworking of purely material forces. And why don't they agree? Because the evidence of science shows otherwise. This book presents that evidence clearly and cogently. Written for the general reader, it will quickly enter the national conversation. In The Design of Life, Dembski and Wells make the most powerful and comprehensive case to date for the intelligent design of life. This is the book that the promoters of unintelligent evolution do NOT want you to read.

Customer Reviews

I wasted valuable time reading this book to the bitter end.
BME
Fair enough, after all, lacking any such hypotheses from either side, one may at most conclude that `we don't know'.
ID Critic
Not only is intelligent design creationism unscientific, it even makes bad theology.
E.K.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

734 of 891 people found the following review helpful By E. McCaughey on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Well written, but ultimately fallacious. Keeps arguing the same old arguments that have been completely refuted time and again. This time he sprinkles cherry picked scientific findings on top to try and make it seem more legitimate. There is no serious ID/Evolution debate outside of the political sphere, and this book (like most of the ID movement) spends most of its time trying to make it seem like there is. Don't buy this book.
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491 of 595 people found the following review helpful By EdgeWise on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes I enjoy books that I disagree strongly with. Sometimes I respect books I don't enjoy reading. This book is neither. It was so poorly written it will make you feel the pain of a middle school grammar teacher. It was so poorly argued, that it will make you feel the pain of facilitating a debate between elementary school children. It's base propaganda by dishonest and stupid people.
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1,398 of 1,702 people found the following review helpful By James F. Lemire on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book's entire foundation is flawed. ID's argument regarding irreducible complexity in biological systems falls flat, time and again, whenever the details of the system are looked into. This book argues that Intelligent Design can be refuted only if scientists can show that irreducibly complex systems can arise spontaneously through "random chance". However, so-called irreducibly complex structures and systems turn out to be nothing of the sort. Scientists have shown, time and time again, how biological systems co-opt genes and proteins for new tasks. This book also takes a very simplistic (and inaccurate) view of how evolution works to sculpt biological systems. Intelligent design has been shown, time and time again, to be nothing more than religious doctrine, creationism wrapped up in a new (not-so) shiny package. It is not science. It does not explain biological phenomena. Thus this book is not about science. And it explains nothing. If you are a proponent of ID then I guess this book will tell you what you want to hear. If you are looking for a truthful, scientific account of biology and evolution, you need to look elsewhere.
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368 of 445 people found the following review helpful By narsco on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
More nonsense from an institute allegedly devoted to discovery but which has never discovered anything.
Two basic problems with these DI types is that (i) they don't understand evolution and (ii) they superficially see what looks like good design but ignore the examples of bad design.
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589 of 715 people found the following review helpful By Ryan M. Sypniewski on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Once again we have a book chock-full of misrepresentations, omissions, and complete speculation. His refusal to even consider now widely accepted premises such as the nonlinear speed of evolution, the usefulness of intermediary proteins, and his incredibly skewed idea of mutation make this book laughable at best and infuriating at worst. It proves the old adage you can lead a giraffe to water but you can't make him drink.

If you want to know more about evolution do yourself a favor and read this book instead. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
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630 of 765 people found the following review helpful By Barton A. Mitchell on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Painful to even try to distort reality enough to make sense of this. If its approached as Fiction, it might be entertaining. Other than that, its a bizarre glimpse into a demented mind.
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483 of 586 people found the following review helpful By afarensis on December 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I will confess that I have not yet finished reading this book. Being interested in paleoanthropology and paleontology I first turned to the sections in the book relevant to those fields. Given the hype built up for Dembski and Wells' critique of the reptile/mammal transition and their critique of the relationship between artiodactyls and whales I was hoping for a very thorough discussion of both those issues. To my disappointment, their critique displayed no knowledge of either subject. Their knowledge of the relevant paleontological finds is laughable. Even worse, they display no knowledge of the relevant skeletal changes in each of those lineages. One doubts they know a dentary from a surangular, or a double pulley astragalus from a lumbar vertebrae. They also display a profound lack of knowledge concerning bone growth and development which leads them, for example, to, mistakenly, assert that we do not have any knowledge of the mechanisms whereby the reptilian jaw could be converted to a mammalian jaw. Their discussion of the evolution of whales is even worse and lacks any mention of the many fossils that reach back and link whales to their artiodactyl ancestors (and of course there is no discussion of the changes in skeletal morphology demonstrated by the whole range of fossils) . Even as I write a new fossil has been discovered which provides further proof.

Their discussion of genetics is equally bad. For example, based on the fact that Mendel discovered that traits are transmitted in a particulate fashion, Dembski and Wells argue that Mendelian genetics preclude evolution!

As I say, I have not finished the book, but based on the four chapters I have read, their unfamiliarity with, and flat out distortions of, those scientific fields that I am familiar with indicate that this book is little more than a sophisticated, gussied up version of creationism. Or, more accurately, the book is a Jack Chick tract without the pictures.
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Format: Hardcover
On December 20, 2005 Federal Judge John E. Jones, a Republican jurist appointed by President George W. Bush rendered this decision:

"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.
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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]

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