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The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge Studies in Probability, Induction and Decision Theory)
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"...quite readable. Those who have no knowledge of the mathematics of probability may be put off, but in fact the level of mathematics and symbolic logic employed is not very difficult...The main arguments...are given in ordinary prose, then translated into symbols...Dembski has made a real advance in probability and information theory..." Books & Culture
"...generally careful and precise, often persuasive, and at times surprisingly philosophically sensitive." Ethics
"Dembski has produced an astonishing work. The Design InferenceR^ will no doubt become the cornerstone of the intelligent design movement. A marked and dog-eared copy of The Design InferenceR^ deserves a place on your shel not just for its clear historical significance, but also to allow yourself a place in the momentous discussion to come. Philosophia Christi
This book presents a reliable method for detecting intelligent causes: the design inference.The design inference uncovers intelligent causes by isolating the key trademark of intelligent causes: specified events of small probability. Design inferences can be found in a range of scientific pursuits from forensic science to research into the origins of life to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This challenging and provocative book shows how incomplete undirected causes are for science and breathes new life into classical design arguments. It will be read with particular interest by philosophers of science and religion, other philosophers concerned with epistemology and logic, probability and complexity theorists, and statisticians.
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The book could have been written by an AI student with graduate work in Computer Science. It is something of a paradigm change, though, because Dembski unapologetically uses what is essentially abstract algorithm analysis theory, and applies it to all scientific models. And there are a lot of researchers in different scientific fields, who have not assimilated advanced CS theory, and so are shocked that someone outside their field is evaluating the expressive level of their theories, the computational intensity of their theories, and the computational feasibility of their theories.
All this has to do with complex information theory, and scientific epistemology, and abstract algorithm design. Demski explores what intelligence means, in the light of these areas of interest (although he does not use CS terminology).
What Demski has pointed out is that modern scientific theories/models must start to deal with the question of the nature of information they are trying to explain, and the expressive power and computational intensity of the abstract machines that the models are asserting have generated the data we see before us. This is a big step up for some scientific researchers, who don’t think that their work should be examined according to these criteria of goodness.
There has been a weird response from different types of Americans:
- religious fundamentalists who believe in a young earth, and who largely deny the goodness of the intellect and modern scientific epistemology, have miscontrued that Dembski wrote this book about Neodarwinism, promoting creationism. These fundamentalists, have not read the book.
- evolutionary biologists seem incensed that Dembski has the gall to evaluate their evolutionary models, with an eye to computational feasibility, and point out problems (without having any alternative theory to replace theirs)
- Computer Science grad students will immediately recognize a lot of Dembski’s arguments as using Kolmogorov complexity to reason about the computational feasibility of abstract machines (in this case, evolutionary models, or other scientific models, or events), and find little to be offended at
- physical engineers, who have failed to assimilate the last 40 years of Computer Science theory (and its subsidiary, Artificial Intelligence) , and who have no modern theory of complex information, simply deny that there is any valid concept of higher intelligence, so why try to detect it?
This book is a very good read, if you value philosophy of science, the question of intelligence, and the evaluation of abstract algorithms to produce some given data.
Most of the criticism of the book is by those who have not read it (creationists), those who misconstrue that it is a tome about creationism (many of the evolutionary biologists), or those who believe that there is no such thing as higher intelligence above physics based variables (most of physical engineers).
The straightforward questions that Demski generates, point to interesting future areas of research. And they are relevant to the area of Artificial Intelligence.
This well written explanation of a concept far bigger than first imagined is a landmark in my opinion.
I don't say that simply because I already believe "that line of thinking" but because he explains it so well.
Every chapter you think is the clincher, is really just the set up for the next chapter, and eventually your mind breaks open in understanding of what is actually INFERRED by the design... and then you get to the next chapter.
It's one of those books with so many important parts that you can't sum it up, instead you just have to hand it to someone and say "read it!".