Book Review: The Design Revolution

                  Dr. William “Bill” Dembski is a man of many credentials. He has earned quite a few degrees including a B.A. in psychology and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in mathematics from the university of Chicago, which focused on chaos and uniform probability. He was even awarded an honorary doctorate from Southern Evangelical seminary, where he helped lead the Institute of Scientific Apologetics. He further received Texas A&M’s Trotter Prize, a prestigious award given to the likes of Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA’s double helical structure.

                  Dr. Dembski was a leading figure in the booming Intelligent Design movement. He headed the first intelligent design think-tank at a major university called the Michael Polanyi Center. His books Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology and this one being reviewed are both recipients of Christianity Today’s Book of the Year Award. Dembski has appeared on many television shows on major channels like the BBC, NPR, PBS, CNN, Fox News, ABC, and many others. He was also a full-time research fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and a Senior Research Scientist with the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. Clearly Dr. Dembski is one of the best possible candidates to summarize Intelligent Design clearly and accurately, which seems to be his main goal here in The Design Revolution.

                  The book’s main thesis is succinctly stated in the sub title: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design. Dr. Dembski has produced a large collection of miniature essays focused on clarifying the rampant confusion and incorrect assumptions that have bogged down the acceptance of Intelligent Design in what are sometimes antagonistic misunderstandings. Each individual chapter (of which there are an incredible forty four) touches on a key topic, question, or even challenge to the truthful understanding of what Intelligent Design is. To hear what each of those numerous miniature chapters has to say, one should pick up the book themselves, since there is only room to touch on a few in this review.

                  These forty four chapters are broken down into groups. Part one is called Basic Distinctions and includes key definitions that lay a foundation for Intelligent Design. An all too common accusation aimed at Intelligent Design is that it is undercover creationism. Creationism, with its biblical foundation, is far more religiously motivated. Such foundations are repugnant to most materialists and almost always rejected outright by evolutionists. The problem then is that Intelligent Design is all too frequently tied in with Creationism. One can understand some of the basic confusion, since both Creationism and Intelligent Design conclude that design is present and evident in nature; that said, there is very little else in common.

Creation asks for an ultimate resting place of explanation: the source of being of the world. Intelligent design, by contrast, inquires not into the ultimate source of matter and energy, but into the cause of their present arrangements, particularly those entities, large and small, that exhibit- specified complexity.[1]

Clearly, these ideas are starting from drastically different points. Intelligent Design is a purely scientific endeavor, starting and ending within the boundaries of modern science. Creationism, on the other hand, extends into theological territory from the starting gate. The theological implications of Intelligent Design do not negate the scientific foundation of the argument.

                  The next major section moves into the science of design detection. In this section, the basics of the inference of design, chance and necessity, and even specified complexity are explained. Much of evolutionary theory relies on the capabilities of chance or scientific law (aka necessity) to cause the changes needed to produce improvements in living organisms. Dembski fights against these assumptions by once again clarifying the scientific methods of design detection and the weaknesses of chance and necessity.

                  Part three zooms in on information theory. What is information? How is it different from matter? It may seem strange to some to be discussing such a thing in a biology field, but life is rife with information! DNA itself is the most efficient information storage method known to mankind! One of the most vital arguments presented in this section is on the Law of Conservation of Information. Simply put, “Deterministic processes cannot generate information.”[2] Where else then could specified complex information come from except an intelligent source?

                  The other sections are just as potent as those that came before. Part four tackles the issues arising from naturalism and challenges that come from within it. Part five collides head on with the theoretical challenges to Intelligent Design, including the claims that it is nothing but an argument from ignorance, and arguments from well known proponents of evolutionary theory, Hume and Reid. Section six, the grand finale of this book describes the benefits that could rise in modern science if Intelligent Design were pursued, the scientific nature of the argument along with its testability, and even the cliché argument which insinuates the inability of Intelligent Design theorists to publish in peer reviewed journals proves its inability to be “real” science. All around, this last section is the knockout punch that KO’s the remaining fighters in the naturalistic corner.

                  This book is an incredibly strong foundation for the furthering of Intelligent Design in the sciences. The succinct, yet powerful summarizations of Dr. Dembski help to clear up qualms any true skeptics will have, leaving only those that are closed minded to continue to bash against the theory.  While The Design Revolution may not be an exhaustive coverage of the entire theory, it is one of the best summaries I have seen. Dr. Dembski’s main thesis is clear and each chapter is part of a strong fortress that defends Intelligent Design against the underhanded sabotage of the naturalistic evolutionary dogmatism.

                  Any who seek understanding on this conflict-ridden topic of Intelligent Design should read this book. Much of it is simplified enough for the general interested layman, but specific enough to appease those of academic persuasions. All who are interested in this crucial topic of the origins of life should have The Design Revolution in their collection, because very few others have such power condensed into such a little package. Many other similar texts could range well over 700 pages, easily intimidating the laymen, so the concise nature of Dr. Dembski’s summarization is a boon to all.

[1] Dembski, 38-39

[2] Dembski, 159

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