Monday, February 18, 2008
Answering tough questions about Intelligent Design
William A. Dembski has a Ph.D. in mathematics and a Ph.D. in philosophy, and earned degrees in statistics, theology and psychology. He is a professor at Baylor University. He is also a leading thinker for the Intelligent Design movement.
Dembski shows that one can be an intellectual and can doubt Darwinism.
For many months, I have been reading his book, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design. Although the book has short chapters, each chapter answering an objection to Intelligent Design, it has been slow going for me, as he delves into technical issues and frankly, I am not a scientist. So I would read a chapter, make notes, put the book down, and come back to it a week later. However, I appreciate science and its implications to theology, so I kept at it until I finished the book.
Dembski will quickly tell you that Intelligent Design does not require that there be a God. However, because it attacks Darwinism at its core, it is often dismissed as religion, rather than science. Dembski boldly and deftly takes on his critics, and anybody who actually reads the book cannot easily dismiss him.
The key concept in the book is what Dembski calls "specified complexity." He explains it this way on page 35: "An event exhibits specified complexity if it is contingent and therefore not necessary; if it is complex and therefore not readily repeatable by chance; and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern." Dembski then explains that design theorists have identified many systems of specified complexity in biology, including individual enzymes, metabolic pathways, and molecular machines like the bacterium flagellum. This concept is devastating to Darwinism, because blind natural forces cannot by themselves produce the specified complexity that we see in biology, but an intelligent designer could.
Dembski scorns Darwinian scientists who refuse to consider intelligent design simply because it violates their pre-conceived notions of naturalism: "A science that on a priori grounds refuses to consider the possibility of unembodied designers artificially limits what it can discover" (p. 195).
He also scorns Darwinists for making the rules to play by and then calling "foul" against Intelligent Design theorists for not following their rules. In particular, Darwinists will say that design theorists have not published their work in peer-reviewed literature. Dembski cites examples of design theorists have have indeed had their works published in peer-reviewed literature, such as Fritz Schaefer, the inventor of computational quantum chemistry (p. 300). However, he points out that as soon as the "establishment" finds out that a scientist is sympathetic to intelligent design, he finds it hard to get his work published, no matter how worthwhile his work may be. Says Dembski: "The old guard never opens its arms to a scientific revolution; they have too much invested in the old paradigm... Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, Galileo's On Two World Systems and Newton's Principia are cases in point. None of these works were peer-reviewed. Nor was that book by a retiring English biologist from the nineteenth century--an unconventional work entitled On the Origin of Species." (p. 305)