- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 2 edition (February 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 074255810X
- ISBN-13: 978-0742558106
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 35 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,950,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence 2nd Edition
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In No Free Lunch, William Dembski gives the most profound challenge to the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution since this theory was first formulated in the 1930s. I differ from Dembski on some points, mainly in ways which strengthen his conclusion. (Frank J. Tipler, professor of mathematical physics, Tulane University; coauthor of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle; and author of The Physic)
In this book, William Dembski takes his statistical work on inferring design and translates it into an information-theoretic apparatus relevant to understanding biological fitness. In doing so, he has brought his argument for intelligent design into a domain that overlaps current work in evolutionary biology. As I see it, this is a landmark for intelligent design theory because, for the first time, it makes it possible to objectively evaluate the claims of evolutionary biology and intelligent design on common ground. (Martin Poenie, associate professor of biology, University of Texas at Austin)
Dembski lays the foundations for a research project aimed at answering one of the most fundamental scientific questions of our time: What is the maximal specified complexity that can be reasonably expected to emerge (in a given time frame) with and without various design assumptions? (Moshe Koppel, professor of mathematics, Bar-llan University, Israel)
This sequel to The Design Inference further enhances the credibility of Intelligent Design as a sound research program. Through solid historical and philosophical arguments, Dembski succeeds in showing how specified complexity reliably detects design. His critique of Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution is built on a set of powerful and lucid arguments; his formulation of an alternative to these accounts is simply compelling. (Muzaffar Iqbal, author of Islam and Science and founder-president of the Center for Islam and Science (CIS))
The valid philosophical arguments and historical examples make the study really agreeable to a large audience. (Auss)
I disagree strongly with the position taken by William Dembski. But I do think that he argues strongly and that those of us who do not accept his conclusions should read his book and form our own opinions and counterarguments. He should not be ignored. (Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University)
No Free Lunch is written for scholars and is filled with equations and careful technical definitions. Much of the text, however, is accessible for a broad audience and the book should prove useful to anyone wishing to explore the degree to which intelligent design can be formulated in a mathematically rigorous way. (Research News and Opportunities In Science and Theology)
One of the best books available about ID. (Journal of Scientific Exploration)
About the Author
William A. Dembski is associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University and senior fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle.
Top customer reviews
The entirety of the Intelligent Design movement sees its impetus in a late 1980s with a book by the Australian Dr. Michael Denton, being, "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis". Perhaps intended as a extreme critiquing of Evolutionary Theory, a work of the spirit so to speak, that book has become very influential, and has lead to numerous followers in its wake. On the mathematical side on the argument -- which perhaps is the key challenge -- is William Dembski. I find that though he argues well, he does lack the penchant philosophers have in, if you will, clearly presenting their ideas and arguments. Dembski is too mathematically based, that is. Yes, mathematical analysis is of primary importance here, but it was unnecessary of him to get so complex: the basic ideas against Evolutionary Theory, in this arena, are relatively simple in the end.
I believe the onus is more so on the side of the Evolutionists to prove that this Conjecture of theirs, Universal Common Descent (U. C. D.) is possible. Merely because many of the naturalistic biologists/geologists/physicists have 'pulled the wool over the eyes of the world public', for 150 years, does not cancel the need for proof.
One might say that Dembski could offer counter proof: he could calculate and demonstrate that U. C. D. is impossible or very nearly so. And this is largely what he attempts to do here (and in the "Design Inference"), besides also casting the broad framework for the argument against Darwinian Theory, from a mathematical-cum-philosophical perspective. And though he may not be excellent at the latter, he is yet very good at it. But it in the arena of the former, the negative proof, this is where I found Dembski unduly complex, unclear and therefore not wholly convincing, I found his argument somewhat suspect, in this regards, therefore -- even though probable -- and is the reason I have lowered the book to four stars from five.
However, I wonder whether it is necessary to demonstrate this negative proof: Darwinian theory could be defeated by other, however related, means. Nonetheless, he tries, and this is where I disagree with Dr. Dembski on two grounds: (1) The attempt at negative proof is quite complex, perhaps overly so, and not completely convincing; and (2) It is dubiously necessary, anyway, when the burden of proof should be on the postulators of a theory, not the critics of it.
Therefore though I found Dr. Dembski to be correct on many issues, and to have generally framed his broad argument accurately, I believe this work could be improved. Additionally, Dr. Dembski overlooks other arenas and lines of argument. Be that as it may, as he was attempting to reveal the mathematical side of Intelligent Design, and he was broadly successful at this, even if his detail work is not on target. ... This is an important book for the movement, and deserves to be in the library of any follower thereof, as does his initial theoretical work in the 1990s, "The Design Inference".
Now for the review: Until I read this book, my position in the ID vs. Darwinism debate was that the neo-Darwinian synthesis was basically dead--it simply lacked the ability to explain the complexity and variety of the millions of life forms on earth (or even the variety of cells). I arrived at this conclusion after having read Michael Denton, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and a couple of essays by Dembski. However, I felt that the issue of design would be better left outside of science. In other words, I believed that science should limit itself to what can be known about the material world. The proper (and honest) stance of science on the subject of the origin and development of life thus should be: "Science has no explanation of how it began, nor any explanation of how it evolved." Then everyone who had an interest in the subject could form their own conclusion regarding whether life (and the Universe, for that matter) has been designed by an intelligent agent or not.
Having read No Free Lunch, however, I have changed my mind. Dembski has convinced me that the conclusion that something has been designed or engineered is among the valid inferences that can be drawn based on empirical evidence, along with the conclusion that something was the result of chance or the operation of natural law.
The central concept of the book is Complex Specified Information (CSI), which something exhibits if it has a probability less than 1 over 10 to the 150th power (a very, very small number, which Dembski arrives at based on the probabilistic resources of the entire known Universe since the Big Bang), and if it conforms to a pattern that can be specified independently of it. So although the result of flipping a fair coin 1000 times will exhibit a pattern which has a probability less than that bound, it does not constitute CSI because the pattern of heads and tails cannot be specified independently of the actual result of the 1000 tosses. On the other hand, the DNA coding for a particular protein is CSI because it satisfies both conditions: the probability is small enough, and the pattern can be specified independently (coding for that protein). Dembski makes the case that CSI is a marker for intelligent design. When CSI is present, we can reliably (and scientifically) conclude that the information is the result of the work of an intelligent agent. I won't try to recapitulate his argument here. You really need a book to do it justice, so if you are interested, I urge you to read the book.
Dembski also makes it clear that the inference that something was designed tells us nothing else about the designer. We don't know if the designer (or designers) of earthly living systems was embodied (an ET, for example, as Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins hypothesize), God, or something or someone else. Nor can we conclude much, if anything, regarding its motives. This is science, not religion.
The reason I gave the book four stars instead of five is that Dembski tries valiantly to make the fairly sophisticated math on which his analysis is based available to the lay reader, but with mixed success. Perhaps the job is impossible. (I have a masters degree in math, and I don't think I could do it.) So there are places in the book where Dembski tries to convey the math without actually giving you the math, and the result is extremely difficult to follow. Fortunately, these sections are not crucial to the argument, and Dembski gives the reader a guide in the preface on what to skip if you don't want to try to wade through the mathematically based expositions.
Some of the most interesting parts of the book are in the last chapter, where Dembski discusses the ramifications of his conclusions for science, education, philosophy, and religion.
My own opinion: These results are stunning. If Dembski's work is sound (and I believe it is), then life itself points directly and powerfully to the existence of a Creator. This will have enormous consequences for our society, our culture, and our intellectual and emotional life in the coming decades. But beware--as Dembski points out, the knowledge of the existence of an intelligent agent tells us nothing about his/her/its qualities or motives. Is this Creator the Christian God, Allah, Jehovah, Krishna, the All of Buddhism, or Something Else? A great adventure of discovery awaits us, but only if we keep our minds open.
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This book is to lead people away from common sense and embrace a narrow, silly view of the...Read more