- Hardcover: 330 pages
- Publisher: Intervarsity Pr (January 1, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0830823751
- ISBN-13: 978-0830823758
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 76 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,593,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design Hardcover – January 1, 2004
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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 approaches this project with the conviction that it will revolutionize science and our conception of the world, mainly by challenging the “grand idol of evolutionary biology (Darwinism),” but also by altering the prevailing naturalistic assumptions which dominate modern science and thus exclude design inferences by fiat. He frames the sequence of this revolution in the context of J.B.S. Haldane’s four stages of acceptance: “(i) this is worthless nonsense; (ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; (iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; (iv) I always said so.” Dembski’s purpose for writing The Design Revolution was to assist in transitioning ID from stage two to stage three by equipping ID supporters with a comprehensive resource to answer critics. He also deems the unabridged nature of this material suitable for honest skeptics who are interested in examining the merits of ID’s claims.
As mentioned, this book functions more like a reference manual than something one might attempt to read from cover to cover in a single sitting, though it has been written carefully enough to accommodate that. Dembski begins each of the book’s 44 succinct chapters with an objection to ID in the form of a question: “Is intelligent design testable”; “Isn’t intelligent design just an argument from ignorance?” are two such examples. In keeping with the handbook format, the chapters are sub-titled by such critically-raised questions and therefore provide a convenient means of reference via the table of contents. The chapters are then framed within six broader sections which provide an overall logical flow: (1) Basic Distinctions [what ID is and is not]; (2) Detecting Design [what is a design inference and how does it function]; (3) Information [what is it?]; (4) Issues Arising from Naturalism; (5) Theoretical Challenges to Intelligent Design; and (6) A New Kind of Science.
Perhaps the greatest strength of The Design Revolution is its no-nonsense approach to engaging the most salient objections to ID. A liability of this format is inevitable overlap, but Dembski is conscious of this and does an excellent job of minimizing unnecessary redundancies. The question-and-answer presentation is very pragmatic as it prepares readers to think in a point-counterpoint manner, which is often the way these conversations unfold. The bite-sized chapters also necessitate the absence of superfluous ramblings and are ideal for readers who merely want clarification on particular aspects of the theory; though, they are equally suitable for those desiring a fully-orbed view of ID’s tenets. More importantly, the content is presented with clarity and accessibility, but without dumbing-down concepts or terms. For example, specified complexity is a fundamental component within ID theory and one that can only be distilled so far before it loses its essential qualities. The “complexity” of the topic notwithstanding, one needn’t be a math whiz to digest Dembski’s presentation, though it may take two or three passes for unfamiliar readers to grasp a solid understanding. Additionally, related publications are mentioned in context for those who may want to explore various aspects of ID in greater depth—The Design Revolution is, after all, a popular treatment.
Anyone familiar with intelligent design is likely acquainted with the associated criticism, much of which has been targeted toward ID’s chief advocates. In this regard, it is to Dembski’s credit that he refrains from using his book as a platform from which to dispense retribution on his critics. Rather, he engages their objections with substance and in a philosophically responsible manner (i.e., no straw-man arguments, ad hominems, etc.). Nevertheless, he is clearly not interested in diplomacy at the expense of conviction and does not hesitate to highlight deficiencies in the claims of his critics by name. For example, in a polemical fashion that has become typical of ID-Darwinism discourse, he asserts that Larry Moran and Kenneth Miller are “disingenuous … in claiming that evolutionary biology has resolved the problem of biological complexity,” yet he is careful not to make such appraisals in the absence of sufficient justification.
Of course, Dembski’s main objective is not to show how individual critics are wrong, but to advance ID by equipping its supporters with a resource that sufficiently addresses the spectrum of criticism leveled against the theory. Insofar as he seems to have covered the range of substantive questions and provided thorough and accessible answers, his book has accomplished its intent. Furthermore, he has achieved this by presenting a host of complex and abstract issues in an interesting and engaging way. Perhaps the only feature that might make this project better would be the addition of more anecdotes and analogies to help the material stick in the minds of its readers.
In any event, The Design Revolution is written with a broad audience in view and is therefore suitable for anyone interested in exploring various aspects of intelligent design against the backdrop of its toughest objections. It is highly recommended for students entering the university, where they will face inevitable indoctrination into Darwinian dogmatism. It will also serve as a useful manual for anyone desiring a convenient reference to address various issues related to design theory. There are many excellent books published on intelligent design, but this is one readers will surely return to time and again.
Dembski orders and organizes some 40 questions about his work and its relation to theology (he carefully distinguishes the "design inference" from the more theological "design argument" and also from dogmatic creationism), philosophy, and science (broadly, but with particular attention to biology). He uses these questions as foils to address these various connections. In doing so he manages to say a lot about the philosophy and doing of science both positive and negative. The over-all design inference model is simple enough (though I am here over-simplifying). Selection, in the Darwinian sense, can only operate on what is given to it by random mutation. If the number of mutations required to build a complex structure, and their ordering (specificity) is so high as to be highly unlikely to occur by chance(in the history of the universe among all the particles in the universe) then design is somewhere implicated in the process of evolving that collection. Dempski addresses logical, statistical, metaphysical, and theological questions about this model. He doesn't commit (he doesn't have to) to the specific points or means by which design (hence information and he discusses this too) is input into evolution, but he doesn't have to. Along the way he argues that to reject design under the appropriate circumstances can only be logical if its possibility is rejected, by metaphysical assumption, to begin with.
I am essentially a theologian-philosopher and so I have no brook with the idea that Dembski is trying to establish. I have no problem with his over-all philosophical goal, to establish that there is design in biology, his method (its mathematical and philosophical integrity), or his conclusions. Dembski's insight does, in my opinion, have theological entailments. The designer, after all, has to have the power to effect the design without leaving any trace of himself (my apologies to feminists for using the male pronoun, but I'm a traditionalist in matters of language). But Dembski is interested only in establishing that design has taken place. His work is not about how or where (in history) design is input, only that it must be input. Both philosophers and scientists have given him a hard enough time on that point. Many of Dembski's critics have attacked straw man versions of his model. Personally I believe he is essentially correct.
There does seem to be one obvious correlary that Dembski does not directly address. At least as pertains to biology in general, and Darwinism in particular (his primary focus) all of this work comes down to one fact! Not all mutations are random! This seems so obvious (not to mention conceptually simple) that I am surprised Dembski does not at least mention it in passing. Perhaps he suspects is it so obvious he would be belaboring a point if he did.
I like this book very much. It doesn't add anything to the overall design inference, but it does address questions subsequently directed at it from many angles. Alas the author doesn't appear to be taking any more questions. His website is inactive, and I thought perhaps he passed away but I discover he is 10 years younger than me! I have tried to reach him to no avail. Perhaps he is disillusioned by the (quite unfair) attacks on the part of a generally hostile (and ignorant) scientific and philosophical community. I must say I can't blame him!
ID has so many other sciences attached to it, it's funny. But the core is to realize that Intelligence is Real, though not tangible. Design is REAL and it is verifiable. The definition of Mind need NOT be based on the philosophical argument of dualism, as Stephen Meyer expounds upon in Darwin's Doubt rebuttal book. However, understanding Steven Meyer's definition of mind is extremely helpful to understand ID!!!!! Then, one just needs to notice how the intelligent design inference is drawn and follow the logic and reason.
This book does a good job in outlining how to approach Intelligent Design and how to make it practical in academic studies but it also warns of the dangers of other academics branding you and helping to get you FIRED! Again, totalitarianism at work on our University Campuses.
So I suggest reading this book to assist one in developing and deepening one's understanding of ID. I also encourage one to read the works of Steven Meyer as a next step.