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The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design Hardcover – February, 2004

3.4 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dembski, a philosopher/mathematician who has been an important theorist for the intelligent design movement, handles a wide range of questions and objections that should give both fans and detractors of ID plenty to chew on. The book's timing is appropriate; it is only in the past few years that ID, initially dismissed by some scientists as "creationism in a cheap tuxedo," has also begun to attract a more sophisticated brand of criticism. These critiques come not only from evolutionary biologists and philosophers of biology, but also from Christian theologians who have made peace with Darwinian evolution. While most of the core arguments of this book will be familiar to readers of the ID literature, they are presented here in (if one may say so) more highly evolved form: explanations are clearer, objections are borne more patiently, distinctions and concessions are artfully made. Without denying the theological and cultural implications of ID, Dembski is more concerned with ID's future as a scientific enterprise: a point where despite some successes the movement continues to struggle. The book's format-responding to individual questions in 44 short chapters-makes for a clear, if repetitive, read. Chapters can focus on a single issue and adopt an appropriate tone: basic questions get basic replies, pointed objections get forceful rejoinders, and technical questions allow Dembski to unleash a faculty for technical detail that can only be called impressive. The latter may leave some general-interest readers in the dark, but readers with the requisite background will appreciate the subtlety, insight, and occasional quirkiness of Dembski's theoretical work.
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"Dembski, a philosopher/mathematician who has been an important theorist for the intelligent design movement, handles a wide range of questions and objections that should give both fans and detractors of ID plenty to chew on." (Publishers Weekly (Dec 22, 2003))

"I find William Dembski's writing and argumentation on behalf of intelligent design to be careful, erudite, thorough and a formidable challenge to the theistic evolution camp I normally defend." (Ted Peters, Professor of Systematic Theology, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union)

"William Dembski examines the challenges to intelligent design and, in turn, unveils the increasing difficulties with once-accepted Darwinian theory. Students will be especially encouraged here to find manageable tools to help them engage the often uncontested Darwinian establishment in the university. I enthusiastically recommend this resource for what is certainly one of the most critical discussions of our day." (Ravi Zacharias, author and speaker)

"This is the most brilliant defense of the intelligent design movement in print. Dr. Dembski systematically dismantles virtually every known objection to the argument for intelligent design. There is nothing like it in print. It is the latest and greatest on the topic." (Norman Geisler, philosopher and author of When Skeptics Ask)

"Bill Dembski poses all the tough questions that critics ask about intelligent design in biology, and brilliantly answers them all!" (Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial)

"This book spells out clearly for the general public how and why the progress of modern science points strongly toward an intelligent designer. It answers the most common criticisms of design theory so deftly that it makes one wonder if dogged opponents of design have something on their minds other than pure science." (Michael Behe, Professor of Biology, Lehigh University, and author of Darwin's Black Box)

"The view that intelligence must be intrinsic to the essential nature of the universe is a perspective that is slowly gaining a wider acceptance among serious scholars within the community of scientists and philosophers. For such an inference concerning the intrinsic effects of intelligence on nature and her laws to be truly scientifically acceptable, however, requires that it be placed within a rigorous theoretical framework and that specific criteria for validating the truth of it be clearly enunciated. It is precisely this task that William Dembski undertakes in The Design Revolution. He asks the hard questions and answers them in a clear, frank and straightforward way. His responses to the toughest of queries concerning the investigation of intelligent phenomena intrinsic to the natural world are both lucid and sophisticated. He meaningfully moves the community of scientists and scholars along the path of investigating and understanding the momentous possibility that intelligence is an irreducible aspect of reality." (Jeffrey M.Schwartz, M.D., Research Professor, UCLA Department of Psychiatry, and author of The Mind and The Brain)

"In this book, Dembski marshals the evidence for intelligent design, clarifying its detection as well as its potential impact on science. This book comes at an opportune time as the debate intensifies over naturalism's role in fully explaining (or not) intelligence and very complex information-bearing systems. The author's commitment to open the natural sciences to intelligent causation will generate lively discussion for a readership spanning many disciplines." (Conrad Johanson, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience, Brown University)

"Through his techniques of design detection as well as his organizational efforts, William Dembski is making the revolution he describes in this book happen. If Thomas Huxley was 'Darwin's Bulldog,' Dembski is the man with the leash and the obedience training techniques to bring Darwinism into check." (Edward Sisson, law firm partner, Washington, D.C.)

"For the past decade or so 'intelligent design' has stirred a storm of controversy. Is it nothing more than gussied-up creationism, as its critics charge, or a new scientific paradigm, as its advocates maintain? This sprightly catechism, written by the movement's leading theoretician, offers believers and skeptics alike (and I count myself among the latter) an authoritative, if one-sided, introduction to what the fuss is all about." (Ronald L. Numbers, Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, University of Wisconsin)

"Not everyone will agree with all that is claimed in this book, and some knuckleheads will reject its theses without reading the book at all; but something of what is claimed in these pages will strike every fair-minded reader as important and provocative. The book does what it proposes to do. It meets criticisms of intelligent design honorably; it allows new ideas to breathe." (David Berlinski, mathematician and author of A Tour of the Calculus and Secrets of the Vaulted Sky)

"Dembski's latest book indicates more clearly than any other recent publication that I know why CSI--the sort of order observed in complex machines or computer programs--cannot originate by cumulative selection. The improbability is far too great! Obviously if biological systems contain considerable amounts of CSI as Dembski claims, then the standard Darwinian explanation is deeply flawed, and what is needed is a new paradigm for understanding the natural world." (Michael Denton, molecular geneticist and author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and Nature's Destiny)

"The Design Revolution is about questions of fundamental importance: Can one formulate objective criteria for recognizing design? What do such criteria tell us about design in the biological realm? Sad to say, even to raise such questions is dangerous; but fortunately Dembski is not deterred. In this courageous book he takes aim at the intellectual complacency that too often smothers serious and unprejudiced discussion of these questions." (Stephen Barr, Professor of Physics, University of Delaware, author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faith)

"Bill Dembski has come a long way in five years from the very technical approach of his Design Inference. One of his key concepts in arguing from the intrinsic features of a system to a designer is its 'specified complexity.' Here, through luminous examples provided throughout this volume, he makes this concept more concrete, clearer and much more persuasive, and links it very helpfully to information theory. Together with a lucid presentation of his arguments for a designing agency for living organisms, he deals with many of the objections to intelligent design theory, especially those that claim it involves supernatural causes, violates the laws of nature and is nonscientific. He does this very readably, in short, snappy chapters, which will make his analysis accessible to a much wider audience. Dembski has the rare ability to create profound new concepts, and he is making rapid strides from the bright but limited scientist into a mature interdisciplinary thinker. I believe it is only a matter of time before he becomes a very formidable mind. At times, stung by the fevered polemics of his critics, he tends, like Samuel Johnson, to 'argue for victory,' or even to claim victory. This, I am sure, will pass." (John Roche, Linacre College, Oxford)

"When I first heard William Dembski lay out his fundamental ideas on design, my immediate thought was a disjunction: we have here either a stunning conceptual breakthrough or a brilliantly illuminating mistake. Conceptual work looks easy when you see the conclusions; it is maddeningly difficult to absorb, refute or evaluate; the temptation to cut to the chase and cry victory is enduring. I was not in the least surprised by the intellectual, academic, theological and cultural storm that followed the public presentation of Dembski’s proposals. He has burrowed deep into a warren of issues that will take decades to unravel and evaluate. In this volume he does not shirk the crucial questions that have to be addressed from his side of the house. His admirers should heed the complexity and nuances of his position; his critics need to do justice to the specificity and intellectual sensitivity of his claims; anyone interested in the interaction of theology, philosophy and natural science should listen in very carefully before making up their mind." (William J. Abraham, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Southern Methodist University)

"This is an incredibly valuable resource from one of the great thinkers in the intelligent design movement. If you've got questions about this important topic, look inside--you'll find the answers in an authoritative yet accessible style." (Lee Strobel, author of The Case for a Creator)

"This lucid and authoritative book attempts to answer the many objections that have been raised against the theory of intelligent design. Dembski argues powerfully that it is an intellectually defensible science. It should be read by anyone interested in the character of the world we live in, whether they wish to attack or defend the theory." (Roger Trigg, Professor of Philosophy, University of Warwick)

"Mainstream modern science, with its analytical methods and its "objective" teachings, is the dominant force in modern culture. If science simply discovered and taught the truth about reality, who could object? But mainstream science does not simply "discover the truth"; instead it relies in part on a set of unscientific, false philosophical presuppositions as the basis for many of its conclusions. Thus, crucial aspects of what modern science teaches us are simply shabby philosophy dressed up in a white lab coat. "In this important new book William Dembski continues his ground-breaking effort to show just how unscientific many modern scientists tend to be. If we are truly open to all the evidence, we can discover by the use of our unaided reason that the natural world is not the purposeless outcome of law--itself of unknown origin--and chance. This revolutionary approach has broad implications for science and broader implications for modern culture. Among many other things, Dembski’s book is further evidence of the critical need for students in our public school systems to learn what is really going on in the disputes at the cutting edge of science rather than having their understanding of the natural world veiled and distorted by the prejudices of the past." (Senator Rick Santorum, United States Senate)

"William Dembski is asking, and forcing the rest of us to confront, a profoundly important question: Is nature a closed system of efficient and material causes? Some people, purporting to defend the honor and integrity of science, immediately say, "Of course it is!" To them, Dembski issues a challenge: Does scientific inquiry itself vindicate the proposition that nature is a closed system of efficient and material causes? Or is this proposition accepted by many scientists and others as a matter of faith? Some who acknowledge that "scientific naturalism" is a set of philosophical assumptions, rather than a fact that can be demonstrated by scientific methods, defend it on the ground that the success of scientific inquiry based upon it provides ample ground for its rational affirmation. From them, Dembski demands proof that scientific inquiry and the knowledge it generates actually do presuppose the exclusion of causes beyond the efficient and material. This proof has, it must be said, not been forthcoming. In his boldest move, Dembski argues that careful attention to the various manifestations of order discovered in the natural world suggests that efficient and material causes are in fact insufficient to explain the data into which the sciences inquire. We can reasonably infer from the order on display in nature that intelligence has figured in the design of natural phenomena and the natural world as a whole. It will not do for those to whom Dembski has issued his challenge to rely on their standing or authority within the scientific and academic establishments to wave him away. The truth is that the honor and integrity of science really are at stake in this matter. They would be profoundly tarnished by a dogmatic refusal to face up to Dembski's questions." (Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 334 pages
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press (February 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830823751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830823758
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,135 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am simply disheartened by the dearth of actual consideration displayed by many reviewers of this book. One cannot use this book review as a chance to rant about Dembski's past work and call it a book review. The reason of The Design Revolution is to handle the same criticisms that are cited in many of the Amazon reviews of this book. While I will give some of my opinions on the book, I first find it important to address some issues.

For instance, do not review this book if you have not read it. Just because one does not feel that intelligent design (ID) satisfies his/her a priori dogmatisms does not mean that he/she has the right to reject this book, or even intelligent design for that matter. Doing so would be a prime example of apriorism, a logical fallacy. It is surely ironic that virtually all of those here who pass off this book as drivel, without even considering the content of it, do so while practically proclaiming Charles Darwin -- who said that "A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question" -- is correct. Ah, but the critic may reply with some silly "objections."

The easiest way for the fundamentalist Darwinist to evade this attack is to say that there are no facts or arguments behind intelligent design. They use the fact that Dembski is a Christian to constitute their decision to impulsively reject the book as creationist propaganda. This action is not only illogical, it is also intrinsically unscientific, since the act refuses to weigh the evidence supporting their claim that it is creationist propaganda. Once again, this is quite ironic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
People read books on intelligent design and evolution from one of two motives that I can see: to reinforce their worldview, or to understand their opponent for the purpose of dismantling his position. There may be a few reading from curiosity but they are obviously in the minority as anyone can see from the reviews of books on design and evolution. The readers either give five stars or one star to these kinds of books, which is absurd. The stars are being awarded on the basis of subject, not merit as literature or craftsmanship. I read this book because as I look around the world it seems like it is designed. I wanted to read scientifically sound logic to support my observations. This book does do that and does it well. But I don't give it five stars because it lacks passion and style. While I don't want an arrogant, puffed up, counter puncher to the condescending style of Richard Dawkins, I would like to see some flair and maybe a competitive edge. But that's just me.

Dembski manages to explain things in relatively understandable scientific language so a non scientist has a chance of comprehension, and his arguments are cogent and tight, without the feel of a preacher hiding in there somewhere. I found it to be fair, mature, intelligent, and unemotional. While I'd like see at least a hint of panache, maybe some humor, or a cuss word or two, I imagine one has to write on these subjects like an academician to have credibility among scientists. At least I did get through this one, unlike some of the stodgy, stilted, esoteric, self-indulgence some of these guys hand out that has to be read with a hammer and chisel applied to the impenetrable vocabulary. But I never really got a sense of to whom Dembski was writing. It seems to be "just written" and then tossed out to whoever.
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7 Comments 15 of 17 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
As a professional in the scientific research field, I find this book challenging intellectually and stimulating to myself and my colleagues. The main question for those rejecting ID and embracing its alternative DD (Dumb Determinism, or Deterministic Developmentalism) is: which postulation administers the most satisfactory answer to why of necessity there has been an unbroken, uninterrupted sequential, cumulative increase (Quality and Quality) in useful information in our universe? We deride the notion of Spontaneous Generation (in no-time or like time-lapse photography or fast-forwarding an accelerated video), but have no problem with the identical concept in magnified astronomical time-delay or decelerated super-slo-mo trillions of frames over billions of years? Instantaneous or Spontaneous or Extemporaneous or 'spur of the moment',nope. Extenuaneous, Superannuated, 'spur of the megatemporal', yep.

Both ID and DD deal with information creation, identification, evaluation and decisioned opting in or out as functional or non-functional. Both deal with sorting. Both deal with selectivity of data. The other question for DD (that ID answers) is: how does the universe get from a-Necessity to Necessity? How does it get from No-Chance to Chance? Needlessness to Need? Neither Random nor non-Random to either or both??

ID deals with Big Beginning; DD deals with Big Banging. Question for DD: at Absolute Zero pre matter/energy/space-time, what triggered a non-existent 'Bigness' to 'Bangness' status? Before anything was, theoretically there was no chance, no need, no will, no intent, no necessity, no random, no concept of anything, no choices, no options for natural selection to operate from, no nature, no selectionability.
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