cover image Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design

William A. Dembski, Author, Michael J. Behe, Foreword by InterVarsity Press $22 (252p) ISBN 978-0-8308-1581-4

Until recently, the argument for design--that nature (especially living organisms) shows the hand of an intelligent artificer--was generally viewed as an abandoned relic of the pre-Darwinian past. Dembski and his colleagues at the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture have worked over the past decade to rehabilitate the concept of ""intelligent design"" not only as a plank of natural theology but as a theoretical resource within science. This collection of essays represents Dembski's efforts to remedy the conceptual fuzziness and lack of empirical content that plagued older versions of the design argument. Dembski recasts design as a problem in information theory, of empirically detecting the ""complex specified information"" that we attribute to intelligent causes. Although design inferences in biology or cosmology are obviously controversial, Dembski aims to normalize them by comparison to similar inferences routinely made in cryptography, forensic science and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)--the latter being an especially effective counterexample to the claim that detecting unknown intelligences is impermissible as a scientific project. The book also presents more theologically oriented essays, including an especially astute analysis of the demise of British natural theology and an evocative (if unsympathetic) description of what Dembski sees as the ""religious"" character of scientific naturalism. Other material interspersed throughout the collection is less clearly related to intelligent design but gives a sense of Dembski's overall theological perspective. Readers who are principally interested in intelligent design itself, or who do not share the authors' theological interests, may find this distracting. (Nov.)