The design inference uncovers intelligent causes by isolating their key trademark: specified events of small probability. Just about anything that happens is highly improbable, but when a highly improbable event is also specified undirected natural causes lose their explanatory power. 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 1998 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. (shrink)
Darwin's greatest accomplishment was to show how life might be explained as the result of natural selection. But does Darwin's theory mean that life was unintended? William A. Dembski argues that it does not. In this book Dembski extends his theory of intelligent design. Building on his earlier work in The Design Inference (Cambridge, 1998), he defends that life must be the product of intelligent design. Critics of Dembski's work have argued that evolutionary algorithms show that life can be explained (...) apart from intelligence. But by employing powerful recent results from the No Free Lunch Theory, Dembski addresses and decisively refutes such claims. As the leading proponent of intelligent design, Dembski reveals a designer capable of originating the complexity and specificity found throughout the cosmos. Scientists and theologians alike will find this book of interest as it brings the question of creation firmly into the realm of scientific debate. (shrink)
Shoot an arrow at a wall, and then paint a target around it so that the arrow sticks squarely in the bull's eye. Alternatively, paint a fixed target on a wall, and then shoot an arrow so that it sticks squarely in the bull's eye. How do these situations differ? In both instances the precise place where the arrow lands is highly improbable. Yet in the one, one can do no better than attribute the arrow's landing to chance, whereas in (...) the other one rightly attributes the arrow's landing to the archer's skill. ;Highly improbable events occur all the time, and by themselves may legitimately be attributed to chance. Yet when an event also conforms to a pattern given independently of that event , one rightly refuses to attribute the event to chance. Patterns given independently of events are called specifications. This dissertation explicates the relation of independence between specification and event, and sets precise bounds on what may count as a probability small enough to eliminate chance. Although this dissertation connects with how statistics eliminates chance, it considerably extends and clarifies the range of application for chance-elimination arguments based on small probabilities. ;The dual notions of specification and small probability together help justify a regulative principle of probability called the Law of Small Probability, which asserts that specified events of small probability do not occur by chance. This principle engenders a form of inference called the design inference, and a mode of explanation called design. To infer design in explaining an event is to eliminate decisively explanations of that event which appeal to law-like regularities or chance. (shrink)
Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? To see what’s at stake, consider Mount Rushmore. The evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design is direct—eyewitnesses saw the sculptor Gutzon Borglum spend the better part of his life designing and building this structure. But what if there were no direct evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design? What if humans went extinct and (...) aliens, visiting the earth, discovered Mount Rushmore in substantially the same condition as it is now? (shrink)
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 book a team of expert academics trained in mathematics, engineering, philosophy, physical anthropology, physics, astrophysics, biology and more investigate the prospects for intelligent design. Edited by William Dembski.
The world's leading authorities in the sciences and humanities—dozens of top scholars, including three Nobel laureates—join a cultural and intellectual battle that leaves no human life untouched. Is the universe self-existent, self-sufficient, and self-organizing, or is it grounded instead in a reality that transcends space, time, matter, and energy?
Specification denotes the type of pattern that highly improbable events must exhibit before one is entitled to attribute them to intelligence. This paper analyzes the concept of specification and shows how it applies to design detection (i.e., the detection of intelligence on the basis of circumstantial evidence). Always in the background throughout this discussion is the fundamental question of Intelligent Design (ID): Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of (...) an intelligent cause? This paper reviews, clarifies, and extends previous work on specification in my books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. (shrink)
Accession Number: ATLA0001712271; Hosting Book Page Citation: p 715-731.; Physical Description: il ; Language(s): English; General Note: Bibliography: p 728-731.; Issued by ATLA: 20130825; Publication Type: Essay.
For many natural scientists, design, conceived as the action of an intelligent agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature. Rather, material mechanisms, characterized by chance and necessity and ruled by unbroken laws, are thought sufficient to do all nature’s creating. Darwin’s theory epitomizes this rejection of design.
Searching for small targets in large spaces is a common problem in the sciences. Because blind search is inadequate for such searches, it needs to be supplemented with additional information, thereby transforming a blind search into an assisted search. This additional information can be quantified and indicates that assisted searches themselves result from searching higher-level search spaces–by conducting, as it were, a search for a search. Thus, the original search gets displaced to a higher-level search. The key result in this (...) paper is a displacement theorem, which shows that successfully resolving such a higher-level search is exponentially more difficult than successfully resolving the original search. Leading up to this result, a measure-theoretic version of the No Free Lunch theorems is formulated and proven. The paper shows that stochastic mechanisms, though able to explain the success of assisted searches in locating targets, cannot, in turn, explain the source of assisted searches. (shrink)
“Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin,” writes Richard Dawkins, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” This little book shows that atheism must seek intellectual fulfillment elsewhere decisively demonstrating the need for intelligence in explaining life’s origin. This is the best overview of why traditional origin-of-life research has crashed and burned and why intelligent design is necessary to explain the high-tech engineering inside the cell. It is no longer possible to be an intellectually fulfilled (...) atheist because life's origin requires an intelligent cause—this book shows why. _WHAT MAKES THE BOOK UNIQUE FROM OTHERS ON THE TOPIC? _ Coverage, brevity, and accessibility: It accurately and comprehensively surveys contemporary origin of life research, shows that attempts to rule out intelligence fail conclusively, and does so in a way that the average reader can understand. It demonstrates that atheism has no scientific basis, but instead is an ideology based on a speculative faith in the power of matter to do all its own creating. (shrink)
“Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.”1 John von Neumann’s famous dictum points an accusing ﬁnger at all who set their ordered minds to engender disorder. Much as in times past thieves, pimps, and actors carried on their profession with an uneasy conscience, so in this day scientists who devise random number generators suﬀer pangs of guilt. George Marsaglia, perhaps the preeminent worker in the ﬁeld, quips when he asks his (...) colleagues, “Who among us has not sinned?” Marsaglia’s work at the Supercomputer Computations Research Institute at Florida State University is well-known. Inasmuch as Marsaglia’s design and testing of random number generators depends on computation, and inasmuch as computation is fundamentally arithmetical, Marsaglia is by von Neumann’s own account a sinner. Working as he does on a supercomputer, Marsaglia is in fact a gross sinner. This he freely admits. Writing of the best random number generators he is aware of, Marsaglia states, “they are the result of arithmetic methods and those using them must, as all sinners must, face Redemption [sic] Day. But perhaps with better understanding we can postpone it.”. (shrink)
Why is that? The stakes are now considerably higher. Darwinism: Science or Philosophy? is the proceedings of a symposium that took place at Southern Methodist University in the spring of 1992. The focus of that symposium was Phillip Johnsonâ€™s then recently published book Darwin on Trial. At the time, Johnson was a novelty -- a respected professor of criminal law at Cal Berkeley who was raising doubts about evolution. All harmless, good fun, no doubt. And Berkeley has an illustrious history (...) of harboring eccentrics, kooks, and oddballs. (shrink)
Recently I asked a well-known ID sympathizer what shape he thought the ID movement was in. I raised the question because, after some initial enthusiasm on his part three years ago, his interest seemed to have flagged. Here is what he wrote: An enormous amount of energy has been expended on "proving" that ID is bogus, "stealth creationism," "not science," and so on. Much of this, ironically, violates the spirit of science. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. (...) But on the other side, too much stuff from the ID camp is repetitive, imprecise and immodest in its claims, and otherwise very unsatisfactory. The "debate" is mostly going around in circles. The real work needs to go forward. There is a tremendous ferment right now in the "evo/devo" field, for instance. Some bright postdocs sympathetic to ID (and yes, I know how hard a time they would have institutionally at many places) should plunge right into the thick of that. Maybe they are at this very moment: I hope so! Every now and again we need to take a good, hard look in the mirror. The aim of this talk is to help us do just that. Intelligent design has made tremendous inroads into the culture at large. Front page stories featuring our work have appeared in the New York Times, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and so on. Television, radio, and weeklies like Time Magazine are focusing the spotlight on us as well. This publicity is at once useful and seductive. It useful because it helps get the word out and attract talent to the movement. It is seductive because it can deceive us into thinking that we have accomplished more than we actually have. (shrink)
This paper develops a general theory of uniform probability for compact metric spaces. Special cases of uniform probability include Lebesgue measure, the volume element on a Riemannian manifold, Haar measure, and various fractal measures (all suitably normalized). This paper first appeared fall of 1990 in the Journal of Theoretical Probability, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 611—626. The key words by which this article was indexed were: ε-capacity, weak convergence, uniform probability, Hausdorff dimension, and capacity dimension.
Intelligent design—the idea that a designing intelligence plays a substantive and empirically significant role in the natural world—no longer sits easily in our intellectual environment. Science rejects it for invoking an unnecessary teleology. Philosophy rejects it for committing an argument from ignorance. And theology rejects it for, as Edward Oakes contends, making the task of theodicy impossible.1 I want in this lecture to address all these concerns but especially the last. For many thinkers, particularly religious believers, intelligent design exacerbates the (...) problem of natural evil—intelligent design makes natural evil not an accident of natural history or a price exacted by evolution or a necessary consequence of creation’s freedom but an outcome fully intended by a sadistic designer. Or, as Robert Russell put it to me on the PBS program Uncommon Knowledge, “The notion of intelligent design is incoherent because it’s either a natural cause, in which case you don’t go anywhere, or it’s a divine cause, in which case you don’t have the biblical God.”2 The biblical God, presumably, would not design the rabies virus, the bubonic plague bacterium, or the mosquito. (shrink)
Proponents of intelligent design have been remarkably successful, at least in the United States, in creating a cultural movement. They have also been remarkably successful at exasperating a scientific and intellectual world that dismisses intelligent design as the latest incarnation of creationism—more sophisticated than previous incarnations to be sure, but with many of the old faults. In this paper I want to focus on intelligent design’s merits as an intellectual project. I will show that the questions it raises are legitimate (...) and cannot be dismissed on a priori grounds. Having demonstrated that intelligent design constitutes a valid intellectual project, I want next to review intelligent design’s progress to date. Finally, I will indicate certain milestones that intelligent design needs to achieve before it can expect broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a fruitful contribution to our understanding of the natural world. (shrink)
Intelligent design is the science that studies how to detect intelligence. Recall astronomer Carl Sagan’s novel Contact about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI). Sagan based the SETI researchers’ methods of design detection on scientific practice. Real-life SETI researchers have thus far failed to detect designed signals from distant space. But if they encountered such a signal, as the astronomers in Sagan’s novel did, they too would infer design. Intelligent design research currently focuses on developing reliable methods of design (...) detection and then applying these methods, especially to biological systems. (shrink)
I was recently on an NPR program with skeptic Michael Shermer and paleontologist Donald Prothero to discuss intelligent design. As the discussion unfolded, it became clear that they were using the phrase "intelligent design" in a way quite different from how the emerging intelligent design community is using it.
There are good and bad reasons to be skeptical of intelligent design. Perhaps the best reason is that intelligent design has yet to establish itself as a thriving scientific research program. Thus far philosophical, theoretical, and foundational concerns have tended to predominate. From the vantage of design advocates, this simply reflects the earliness of the hour and the need to clear the decks before a shift of paradigms can take place. Give us more time, and we'll deliver on the program. (...) That's our promise. Skeptics are at this point in their rights to refuse such promissory notes, albeit without sabotaging our efforts to make good on this promise. (shrink)
Five years have elapsed since the publication of No Free Lunch. In that time, intelligent design (ID) has gone from a little-known and marginalized alternative to standard evolutionary theory to a national and international phenomenon that everyone with an interest in the biological origins debate is talking about. Gone is the former dichotomy between creationism and evolution. Leaving aside creationism’s insistence on treating Genesis as a scientific text and treating the detection and application of design as a research tool for (...) science, ID has carved out its own conceptual space and place at the table of scientific discussion. Five years ago critics of ID regularly leveled the charge that ID has no peer-reviewed publications in the biological literature. That charge is no longer supportable, with pro-ID research appearing in such journals as Protein Science, Journal of Molecular Biology, and Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (for details, see my expert witness report for the Dover case at www.designinference.com). (shrink)
To reach the conclusion that the universe is infinite, physicists (a) make some observations; (b) fit those observations to some mathematical model; (c) find that the neatest model that accommodates the data extrapolates to an infinite universe; (d) conclude that the universe is infinite. In my presentation I will examine the logic by which physicists reach this conclusion. Specifically, I will show that there is no way to empirically justify the move from (b) to (c). An infinite universe should therefore (...) properly be viewed as a metaphysical hypothesis consistent with certain physical theories but hardly mandated by them. By contrast, I will argue that the hypothesis of intelligent design—that a designing intelligence has left clear marks of intelligence in the biophysical universe—is not a metaphysical hypothesis at all but a fully scientific one. In particular, I will argue that whereas an infinite universe does not (and indeed cannot) admit empirical evidence, intelligent design can. Finally, I will indicate why an infinite universe, though sometimes introduced to get around the problem of design, in fact cannot get around it. (shrink)
David Hume’s critique of intelligent design is vastly overrated. Nevertheless, his critique, especially at the hands of his contemporary disciples, has been highly effective at shutting down discussion about design. I want here to review Hume’s critique, indicate how modern disciples have updated it, and then describe the response to Hume by his contemporary Thomas Reid. That response in my view is decisive. Would that more philosophers studied it. Hume did not demolish design. Reid demolished Hume.
Many spaces that need to be searched in the sciences are too unwieldy for random search to stand any hope of success. Success instead requires a nonrandom search. But how does one find a nonrandom search that stands a good chance of success? Even to pose the question this way suggests that such nonrandom searches do not magically materialize but need themselves to be discovered by a process of search. The question then naturally arises whether such a “search for a (...) search” is any easier than the original search. This paper establishes a conservation of information theorem according to which the information required to find a successful search is always at least as large as the information required to successfully complete the original search. This result shows that information, like money, obeys strict accounting principles, leaves a trail, and can only originate from a prior information source. (shrink)
2.1 The Myth of Religious Neutrality ………………..………..………………… 2 2.2 ID and Creationism …………………………………………………………… 7 2.3 Methodological Materialism ……………………………….………………… 9 2.4 ID’s Contribution to Science ……………………………..………………… 13 3 Robert Pennock ………………...…..………………………….……..…………….. 17 4 John Haught ………………………………………………….……..…..………….. 23 5 Kevin Padian …………………………………………………..…….…..………….. 27 6 Kenneth Miller …………...……………………………………………..………….. 34..
Predicates are supposed to slice reality neatly in two halves, one for which the predicate holds, the other for which it fails. Yet far from being razors, predicates tend to be dull knives that mangle reality. If reality is a tomato and predicates are knives, then when these knives divide the tomato, plenty of mush remains unaccounted for. Of course some knives are sharper than others, just as some predicates are less vague than others. “x is water” is certainly sharper (...) than “x is beautiful.” But perfect sharpness, perfect boundaries, and perfect separation seem only to obtain in mathematics. The vagueness inherent in many predicates became particularly evident in the twentieth century. Quantum mechanics, the revival of certain ancient paradoxes, and the philosophy of science all contributed to a growing awareness that vagueness was ineliminable from many predicates. Quantum mechanical superposition seems to allow mutually exclusive simultaneous states. In searching for plausible interpretations of quantum mechanics, some researchers attempted to do away with classical bivalent logic. In its place they substituted multivalent quantum logics. Any logic with more than two values forces its predicates to slice reality into more than two parts. Ancient paradoxes involving heaps and baldness also pointed up the 1 Random Predicate Logic 2.. (shrink)
For two hundred years materialist philosophers have argued that man is some sort of machine. The claim began with French materialists of the Enlightenment such as Pierre Cabanis, Julien La Mettrie, and Baron d’Holbach (La Mettrie even wrote a book titled Man the Machine). Likewise contemporary materialists like Marvin Minsky, Daniel Dennett, and Patricia Churchland claim that the motions and modifications of matter are sufficient to account for all human experiences, even our interior and cognitive ones. Whereas the Enlightenment philosophes (...) might have thought of humans in terms of gear mechanisms and fluid flows, contemporary materialists think of humans in terms of neurological systems and computational devices. The idiom has been updated, but the underlying impulse to reduce mind to matter remains unchanged. (shrink)
In Being as Communion philosopher and mathematician William Dembski provides a non-technical overview of his work on information. Dembski attempts to make good on the promise of John Wheeler, Paul Davies, and others that information is poised to replace matter as the primary stuff of reality. With profound implications for theology and metaphysics, Being as Communion develops a relational ontology that is at once congenial to science and open to teleology in nature. All those interested in the intersections of theology, (...) philosophy and science should read this book. (shrink)
According to John Maynard Keynes, great intellectual and cultural movements frequently trace back to thinkers who worked in obscurity and are now long forgotten. Of course, the converse also holds. Great intellectual and cultural movements are often also associated with thinkers who worked in the public eye and remain wildly popular. Some thinkers are both famous and influential. Others are only influential.
The demand that epistemic support be explicated as rational compulsion has consistently undermined the dialogue between theology and science. Rational compulsion entails too restrictive a form of epistemic support for most scientific theorizing, let alone interdisciplinary dialogue. This essay presents a less restrictive form of epistemic support, explicated not as rational compulsion but as explanatory power. Once this notion of epistemic support is developed, a genuinely productive interdisciplinary dialogue between theology and science becomes possible. This essay closes by sketching how (...) the Big Bang model from cosmology and the Christian doctrine of Creation can be viewed as supporting each other. (shrink)
Michael Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity, and in particular his use of this concept to critique Darwinism, continues to come under heavy fire from the biological community. The problem with Behe, so Darwinists inform us, is that he has created a problem where there is no problem. Far from constituting an obstacle to the Darwinian mechanism of random variation and natural selection, irreducible complexity is thus supposed to be eminently explainable by this same mechanism. But is it really? It’s been (...) eight years since Behe introduced irreducible complexity in Darwin’s Black Box (a book that continues to sell 15,000 copies per year in English alone). I want in this essay to revisit Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity and indicate why the problem he has raised is, if anything, still more vexing for Darwinism than when he first raised it. The first four sections of this essay review and extend material that I’ve treated elsewhere. The last section contains some novel material. (shrink)
An Internet persona known as "Erik" reviewed those aspects of my book No Free Lunch dealing with the Law of Conservation of Information and specificational resources. Erik's review is titled "On Dembski's Law of Conservation of Information" and is available at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/dembski_LCI.pdf. I respond to the review here.
Wisdom -- because he understands that ideas are best taught not by giving them a monopoly (which is how evolutionary theory is currently presented in all high school biology textbooks) but by being played off against well-supported competing ideas.
In 1926 Hermann Weyl’s Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science appeared in Oldenbourg’s Handbuch der Philosophie. At the time Hilbert’s formalist program to “eradicate via proof theory all the foundational questions of mathematics” was in full swing. As a pupil of Hilbert, Weyl was looking to the complete and ultimate success of Hilbert’s program, a confidence evident in Weyl’s treatment of the foundations of mathematics in the original version of Philosophy of Mathematics and Natural Science. But in an appendix to (...) that same text appearing twenty years later, Weyl (1949, p. 219) admitted that this confidence was misplaced. (shrink)
Professor Will Provine teaches a course for incoming freshman at Cornell University. In it, he contends that Darwin’s theory of evolution removes all rational basis for believing in the existence of a benevolent God, much less the God of Christianity. For Provine, “evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented,” As evidence for this claim, he need look no further than the success of his course at producing new atheists.
In the epilogue to The Mind and the Brain , we read: "Finally, after a generation or more in which biological materialism has had neuroscience -- indeed, all the life sciences -- in a chokehold, we may at last be breaking free.... Biological materialism did and does have real-world consequences. We feel its reach every time a pharmaceutical company tells us that, to cure shyness (or "social phobia"), we need only reach for a little pill.... Biological materialism is nothing if (...) not appealing. We need not address the emotional or spiritual causes of our sadness to have the cloud of depression lift; we need not question the way we teach our children before we can rid them of attention deficit disorder.". (shrink)
In God, Chance and Purpose, statistician David Bartholomew chides Christians who cling to, in his words, a “naive orthodoxy.” Such Christians view God as exhibiting a set of perfections (especially omniscience and omnipotence) and as satisfying a set of propositions (a creed). Such a view is, according to Bartholomew, unworthy of God. In place of a “naive orthodoxy,” he therefore proposes a “critical orthodoxy.” At the center of his “critical orthodoxy” is the skeptical claim that “all knowledge is uncertain, in (...) varying degrees” (p. 232). Question: To what degree is that claim uncertain? Bartholomew’s claim does not pass its own test. (shrink)
Note: The Simpson's, television's popular prime-time cartoon known for its satirical commentary on various social issues, recently took a shot at the creation-evolution debate by featuring Stephen Jay Gould prominently in one of its episodes. Here is Bill Dembski's review and observations of that episode.
Walter Thorson's two articles on the legitimacy and scope of naturalism within science attempt to identify a mediating position between the reductive naturalism of thinkers like Richard Dawkins and the complete rejection of naturalism by thinkers like Phillip Johnson. Thorson rightly notes that the purely mechanistic approach to science characteristic of reductive naturalism is inadequate. Nonetheless, he argues that science still needs naturalism as a methodological or regulative principle. Thorson's methodological naturalism leaves room for teleology in nature, though a teleology (...) that falls short of full intelligent agency. (shrink)
The word transcendence comes from the Latin and means literally to climb across or go beyond. To transcend is thus to surpass or excel or move beyond the reach or grasp of something. Sometimes the term is used epistemologically, as when something is beyond the reach of human knowledge. But in reference to the Christian doctrine of God, divine transcendence is used ontologically, and refers to God being beyond anything that is other than God. In Christian theology what’s other than (...) God is, by definition, the creation. (shrink)
In his paper "The Design Argument," Elliott Sober predicts that "human beings will eventually build organisms from nonliving materials." In that case, we could obtain clear evidence that certain organisms resulted from intelligent design whereas earlier we might have thought they were due to a Darwinian process. I consider a similar possibility in chapter 6 of No Free Lunch.
Wisdom -- because he understands that ideas are best taught not by giving them a monopoly (which is how evolutionary theory is currently presented in all high school biology textbooks) but by being played off against well-supported competing ideas.