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)
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)
“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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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.
I want this morning to reflect with you on the Cross of Jesus. In first Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes a remarkable claim about the Cross. He writes: I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 1 Cor 2:1-2 Why did the Apostle Paul, in coming to the Corinthians, focus (...) so exclusively on the Cross? Why has the Cross played such a preeminent role in Christian theology? Even in the iconography of the Church, the Cross is absolutely central. Why is that? In the Cross, the eternal Son of God enters fully into the human condition, takes on himself the totality of human sin and 1 pain, and once and for all extinguishes the power of evil over our lives. To accomplish so great a redemption, the Lord Jesus paid the ultimate cost. Truly, there is no greater suffering than what Christ experienced on the Cross. But do we really believe that? Consider a diary entry by Anna Williams, a scientist active in the early part of the twentieth century. The Cross gave her no comfort. As she saw it, Jesus knew that his anguish would be momentary and that in exchange he would save the world. As she wrote in her diary, “This knowledge... if we were sure, oh! what would we not be willing to undergo.” [[See John Barry, The Great Influenza, p. 273]] How should we respond to Anna Williams? Does it help to note that the cross was the ultimate instrument of torture in the ancient world? Was Anna Williams therefore taking the sufferings of our Lord too lightly? As a cosseted ivory-tower intellectual, what did she know about suffering anyway? Didn’t Christ on the Cross suffer more than she ever did in her bourgeois little world? Instead of whining about the Cross not being enough, shouldn’t 2 she have gratefully accepted the redemption that could be hers only through the Cross? But this response misses the point. (shrink)
I have before me a letter dated January 5, 2000 from Bradford Wilson, the executive director of the NAS. It begins, “I really enjoyed your contribution to the recent symposium in the January issue of First Things, so much so that I’ve also decided to invite you to join the NAS. Many of your fellow contributors including Robert George, Jeffrey Satinover, and Father Neuhaus are among our current members, and I think you’d find it well worth your while if you (...) joined ranks with us yourself.”. (shrink)
No one lives in a cocoon. Instead, the world constantly invades our lives. In response, we give purpose to these invasions. The image, here, is that of a pearl. What is the purpose of a pearl? The pearl is the oyster’s gift to a grain of sand that gets inside the oyster and disturbs it. Of all the gifts we can give, the greatest is the gift of purpose. It is the pearl of great price. All other gifts are ornaments (...) and baubles. A quite different view of purpose is common. According to this view, the invasions of life come with purposes already attached, and our job is to discover those purposes and reconcile ourselves to them. The image, here, is that of a coin. The coin is an instrument for exchange, and its purpose is predefined. Confronted with a coin, we can be ignorant of its purpose or we can consent to it. But, strictly speaking, we cannot rebel against its purpose: in the very act of rebellion, we tacitly consent to it. The problem with this second view is not that it is wrong but that it is incomplete. Where it applies, it presupposes the first view, because even things like coins do not have their purpose intrinsically but as a gift (in this case, from the national treasury). But, more significantly, very little in life has a predefined purpose. To be sure, most things in life occur against a backdrop of purposes. But just as a house composed of bricks is itself not a brick, so an event that occurs against a backdrop of purposes need not itself have a purpose. For instance, a business that goes bankrupt resides in a socioeconomic context chock-full of purposes (the underlying monetary instruments, trading conventions, and contractual understandings are all purpose-driven). But the merchant whose business goes bankrupt cares little about what purposes apply to business life in general. Nor is the 1 merchant’s ultimate concern with the precise reasons why the business went bankrupt. Even if a compelling, rational explanation can be given for why the business failed (mismanagement, unforeseen new technologies, sabotage, etc.), this doesn’t answer the deeper, existential questions of meaning and purpose that invariably arise when things don’t go our way.. (shrink)
According to Darwinism, undirected natural causes are solely responsible for the origin and development of life. In particular, Darwinism rules out the possibility of God or any guiding intelligence playing a role in life's origin and development. Within western culture Darwinism's ascent has been truly meteoric. And yet throughout its ascent there have always been dissenters who regarded as inadequate the Darwinian vision that undirected natural causes could produce the full diversity and complexity of life.
When the physics of Galileo and Newton displaced the physics of Aristotle, scientists tried to explain the world by discovering its deterministic natural laws. When the quantum physics of Bohr and Heisenberg in turn displaced the physics of Galileo and Newton, scientists realized they needed to supplement their deterministic natural laws by taking into account chance processes in their explanations of our universe. Chance and necessity, to use a phrase made famous by Jacques Monod, thus set the boundaries of scientiﬁc (...) explanation. (shrink)
Howard Van Till 's review of my book No Free Lunch exemplifies perfectly why theistic evolution remains intelligent design's most implacable foe. Not only does theistic evolution sign off on the naturalism that pervades so much of contemporary science, but it justifies that naturalism theologically -- as though it were unworthy of God to create by any means other than an evolutionary process that carefully conceals God's tracks.
One prominent evolutionist I know confided in me that he sometimes spends only an hour perusing a book that he has to review. I doubt if Brian Charlesworth spent even that much time with my book No Free Lunch. Charlesworth is a bright guy and could have done better.Â But no doubt he is also a busy guy. To save time and effort, it's therefore easier to put these crazy intelligent design creationists in their place rather than actually engage the (...) merits of their arguments. Charlesworth's review is riddled with caricatures and stereotypes. The amateurs at talk.origins frankly have done a much better job trying to critique me. (shrink)
"Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans." In these opening lines of the Iliad, Homer invokes the Muse. For Homer the act of creating poetry is a divine gift, one that derives from an otherworldly source and is not ultimately reducible to this world. This conception of human creativity as a divine gift pervaded the ancient world, and was also evident among the Hebrews. In Exodus, for instance, we read that (...) God ﬁlled the two artisans Bezaleel and Aholiab with wisdom so that they might complete the work of the tabernacle. (shrink)
In Pandemonium Tremendum, James Huchingson takes as his starting point that scientific theories and technologies supply crucial metaphors for theological inquiry. Moreover, since the defining theory and technology of our age is respectively information theory and the computer, Huchingson focuses here for theological inspiration. Specifically, Huchingson attempts to frame a theological metaphysics in information-theoretic terms.
Many searches are needle-in-the-haystack problems, looking for small targets in large spaces. In such cases, blind search stands no hope of success. Success, instead, requires an assisted search. But whence the assistance required for a search to be successful? To pose the question this way suggests that successful searches do not emerge spontaneously but need themselves to be discovered via a search. The question then naturally arises whether such a higher-level “search for a search” is any easier than the original (...) search. We prove two results: (1) The Horizontal No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that average relative performance of searches never exceeds unassisted or blind searches. (2) The Vertical No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that the difficulty of searching for a successful search increases exponentially compared to the difficulty of the original search. (shrink)