Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community



Back in June I made a post here at UD that included my foreword to Ken Poppe’s book RECLAIMING SCIENCE FROM DARWINISM (see here). In the post, I did not indicate the book to which it would be a foreword since the book was not yet out and I didn’t want to jeopardize its reception. As it is, the publisher sanitized the foreword. Below the fold is the original as I had intended it.

Let me urge you to get Poppe’s book. It is available at Amazon.com here.

Cover of Reclaiming Science from Darwinism

By William A. Dembski

In the film Moonstruck, Loretta (played by Cher) has an affair with her future brother-in-law (played by Nicholas Cage). To get her life back on track, Loretta goes to confession. Here is the exchange with her priest:

  • Loretta: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been two months since my last confession.
  • Priest: What sins have you to confess?
  • Loretta: Twice I took the name of God in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancé, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store—but that was really an accident.
  • Priest: Then it was not a sin. But what was that second thing you said, Loretta?
  • Loretta: I … uh … slept with my fiancé’s brother.
  • Priest: That’s a pretty big sin.
  • Loretta: I know.
  • Priest: Alright. This is your penance. Say two rosaries and … be careful, Loretta. Reflect on your life.

Darwinism is like Loretta’s confession. A number of its claims are innocuous, such as that organisms have changed over time, that organisms can adapt to changing environmental conditions, or that gene frequencies may vary in a population. But, as with Loretta’s confession, tucked in among these innocuous claims is a whopper. The whopper, in the case of Darwinism, is this: all organisms, including ourselves, are the result of a blind, purposeless evolutionary process (namely, the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection and random variation) that at no place required the services of God or any guiding intelligence.

Like Loretta, Darwinists bury this whopper among evolution’s more innocuous claims, only this time they do it not to befuddle a priest but to beguile an unsuspecting public. For instance, when parents press school boards and biology teachers about what they are teaching their children concerning biological origins, they typically get the innocuous version of evolution: of course you believe that organisms have changed over time … surely you’ve heard of bugs developing antibiotic resistance … this is evolution in action.

Indeed, this is evolution in action. But it is small-scale microevolution that no one disputes and that is irrelevant to the really big claim of evolutionary theory, namely, that the bug that developed antibiotic resistance and you, the poor human whose immune system cannot resist the bug, are both offspring of some common ancestor in the distant past and that the process that brought you and the bug into existence is Darwinian, operating by chance and necessity and without plan or purpose. In particular, you, your aspirations, and the entire human family to which you belong are simply an accident of natural history, here for a brief moment and destined for extinction. This is Darwinism in its full glory.

To see that this view of evolution is widely accepted among our educators, consider that in 1995 the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), which sets the tone and rhythm for biology instruction across the United States, issued the following statement on evolution: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.” (Emphasis added.) Two years later the NABT removed the words “unsupervised” and “impersonal” to placate religious believers. In this way, they attempted to maintain the facade that evolution is perfectly compatible with religious beliefs. But the removal was all for show. A subsequent bullet point states that Darwinian evolution, which is the form of evolution the NABT supports, “has no specific direction or goal, including survival of a species.” Thus, for the NABT, evolution remains to this day a Darwinian process that operates without plan or purpose.

Suffocating as Darwinism is to the human spirit, we cannot reject it simply because we don’t like it. If the truth hurts, deal with it. But is it true? Is it the case that we evolved through a blind Darwinian process? What evidence supports this grand view of evolution and what evidence disconfirms it? In this book, [snip] answers these questions brilliantly and decisively. In particular, he shows that Darwinism needs to be defeated not as an apologetic ploy to promote Christian theism but because it is demonstrably false. Indeed, he shows that the evidence of biology supports not the view of evolution endorsed by the NABT (and peddled in all the basal biology textbooks at their behest). Rather, the evidence of biology supports intelligent design.

At this point, valiant defenders of evolution, of which there are many, usually play the “overwhelming evidence card.” Accordingly, they tell us that there are “mountains and mountains of evidence for evolution” (Darwinist Richard Dawkins used precisely those words in his recent attack on religion for the BBC series titled The Root of All Evil?). When I hear Darwinists use the phrase “overwhelming evidence” to tout their theory, I think of a story that my colleague Del Ratzsch at Calvin College tells about the wife of an entertainer who, according to a tabloid, descended from aliens. The key piece of evidence cited to support this hypothesis was that the woman had slightly lower than average blood pressure. Obviously, the problem with such an argument is that there is no rational connection between blood pressure and alien descent.

Likewise, there is no rational connection between the mountains of evidence cited by Darwinists and the grand claim they make that all organisms are descended from a last universal common ancestor via a purposeless material process (which they understand as the interplay of natural selection and random variation). Because no such rational connection exists, evolutionary theory, in its grand macroevolutionary Darwinian form, flies in the face of the scientific method and should not be taught except as a discredited speculative hypothesis that properly belongs to nature religions and mystery cults and not to science. Indeed, the grand claim of Darwinian evolution has never been tested: all the evidence and experiments cited to support it have no rational connection with it. At best, they support that there was a gradual progression of living forms. But they do not support that such a progression occurred without the need for intelligent input.

If these words sound heretical, it is only because Darwinists have brainwashed a gullible public for too long. Invariably, when intelligent design is brought up as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, Darwinists respond indignantly, casting themselves as protectors of science by affirming their brand of evolution and by shooting down intelligent design. Accordingly, we are supposed to think that they are the ones who are pro-science whereas the proponents of intelligent design are anti-science.

We need to see the Darwinists’ behavior as the psychological aberration that it is. Indeed, their behavior exhibits classic defense mechanisms, notably, projection and reaction formation. Darwinists are projecting their own insecurities about their theory (because of the overwhelming absence of evidence for it) onto intelligent design. Moreover, because they realize at some level that intelligent design is raising valid objections to their theory and providing a cogent design-theoretic alternative, they react against it, viciously attacking it because its implications are intolerable.

Yet, in fact, as this book makes clear, intelligent design is the real science here. Intelligent design studies patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. As such, it merges the natural sciences (such as physics, chemistry, and geology) with the engineering sciences (such as information theory, communication theory, and computational intelligence). Intelligent design makes testable predictions about the forms of complexity we should find in biological systems and the inherent limitations we should observe in evolutionary processes not controlled by intelligence. As this book demonstrates, these predictions are now being consistently borne out.

[Snip] is not an armchair general. He has been an active participant in the fray about which he writes. He is competent in the relevant science and he is a card-carrying member of the educational establishment in which this controversy over evolution and intelligent design is being played out. You will be hard-pressed to find a better guide through this minefield. Once you are through it, you will realize why the following words of Malcolm Muggeridge are finally coming true: “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution [read “Darwinism”], especially to the extent to which it has been applied, will be one of the greatest jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity it has.”

[...] Uncommon Descent | Ken Poppe’s RECLAIMING SCIENCE FROM …on another note: i am impressed with the unique style of artwork in the "kids books" klaus Poppe/bonaparta wrote in the series. that last one … [...] Poppes book | Hintrel
Todd: the passage you cited is one I’ve adapted in a forthcoming book.
Dr Dembski, is it "the design of life" ? :) IDist
Anthemis Our concern is with the second claim. The origin of the common ancestor/s and the process that leads to transformation are the primary areas where ID provides telic evidence. It is not necessary for design detection that there are multiple ancestors. Some in this movement hold that common ancestry is established and others have their doubts. The one thing we maintain strongly is that detectable deliberate planned design is present in biology. idnet.com.au
You say
the really big claim of evolutionary theory, namely, that the bug that developed antibiotic resistance and you, the poor human whose immune system cannot resist the bug, are both offspring of some common ancestor in the distant past and that the process that brought you and the bug into existence is Darwinian, operating by chance and necessity and without plan or purpose
I hate to be picky, but these are really two claims, as follows
the bug ... and you, the poor human ... are both offspring of some common ancestor
the process ... is Darwinian, operating by chance and necessity and without plan or purpose
Which one is your concern? Anthemis
Dr Dembski, It was this post a few weeks back that inspired me to check the book out and read it. (I also read The Mystery of Life’s Origin, which is also as relevant - the discussion of the chemical and thermodynamic hurdles to abiogenesis are outstanding, informative and devastating to keepers of the atelic faith!) I'd love to see revised and updated versions of both books - a 25th anniversary edition would make a fine gift. todd
Todd: the passage you cited is one I've adapted in a forthcoming book. William Dembski
Hello Todd, I dream of the day when Denton gets knighted for that book. I also only recently read it, having heard of it late and then deciding it was already too old. When I finally read it, I was amazed at how relevant it is. avocationist
Well, I'm near the end in the chapter titled "The Puzzle of Perfection", which is contains one of the most outstanding expositions on the nature of micro-biotic life and information storage I have ever read.
To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times [why not say billion?] until it is twenty kilometres in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings, we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. We would see endless highly organized corridors and conduits branching in every direction away from the perimeter of the cell, some leading to the central memory bank in the nucleus and others to assembly plants and processing units. The nucleus itself would be a vast spherical chamber more than a kilometre in diameter, resembling a geodesic dome inside of which we would see, all neatly stacked together in ordered arrays, the miles of coiled chains of the DNA molecules. A huge range of products and raw materials would shuttle along all the manifold conduits in a highly ordered fashion to and from all the various assembly plants in the outer regions of the cell. We would wonder at the level of control implicit in the movement of so many objects down so many seemingly endless conduits, all in perfect unison. We would see all around us, in every direction we looked, all sorts of robot-like machines. We would notice that the simplest of the fuctional components of teh cell, the protein molecules, were astonishingly, complex pieces of molecular machinery, each one consisting of about three thousand atoms arranged in highly organized 3-D spatial conformation. We would wonder even more as we watched the strangely purposeful activities of these weird molecular machines, particularly when we realized that, despite all our accumulated knowledge of physics and chemistry, the task of designing one such molecular machine -- that is one single functional protein molecule -- would be completely beyond our capacity at present and will probably not be achieved until at least the beginning of the next century. [Well, we are now 7 years into the next century, have we designed a functional protein yet?] pp.328-329
The capacity of DNA to store information vastly exceeds that of any other known system; it is so efficient that all the information needed to specify an organism as complex as man weighs less than a few thousand millionths of a gram. The information necessary to specify the design of all the species of organisms which have ever existed on the planet, a number according to G.G. Simpson of approximately one thousand million, could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written. p.334
It would be nice to condense this book into a Flash presentation or mp4 for the ipod/net generation! (Some one drop me a $25K grant, I'll do it!) todd
Todd, I do not believe that Denton has updated his book. He has, however, written two other works of significance since then. He wrote "Nature's Destiny", in which he extends the concept of the strong anthropic principle well into the field of biology. In this text he kinda proposes that a designer may have preloaded evolution from the very beginning. This hypothesis, the "law" hypothesis is intriguing. Though I fully agree with his strong anthropic principle extended into biology concept, I do not believe that nature got away with growing naturally without active agency. After writing the above, in "Uncommon Dissent" Denton also wrote a chapter. In this chapter he discusses his personal religious journey -- a journey that does not seem to have come to any end yet. He also revisits his first book, expressing that he continues to hold to its accuracy. I personally find Denton to be a very honest, and genuine human. In reading especially his article in "uncommon dissent", I really have learned to trust him; his work comes deep from his own struggle, not from any seeking of fame or wealth. I would love to hear more from Denton, and I still consider "Evolution, a theory in crisis" to be the single best work on ID available. bFast
Todd I'm afraid I can't locate the first copy of Denton's book that I owned. It was given to me in 1991 or so and possibly didn't survive the move from California to Texas in 1993. DaveScot
Dave, I recently checked Denton's book out of my campus library and it is a fantastic and comprehensive look at the problems posed to modern evolutionary theory. I'm curious if you know if it has been updated in light of the last 20 years of research or if it needs updating at all. As I'm reading an original 1984 edition, I keep thinking how relevent most remains to this day. In fact, it seems the tech advances and research of which I'm familiar (which is precious little) in no way invalidates anything Denton wrote, though I know there is much I don't know. Anyway, the $.02 of those familiar with Denton's critique in light of 2 decades passing would be appreciated. todd
Thanks for the link. I ordered the book from Amazon along with a new copy of Michael Denton's classic "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" to make the order big enough for free shipping. I hope the AiG game is fun to play as that will stimulate interest in reading the books amongst the uninitiated. DaveScot
On reading the reviews in Amazon, I note that Ken Poppe may appear to be using his book to "arm" believers. Although this is an extremely valuable goal, the power of Michael Denton's approach was the separation of belief from science. The third reviewer states "As long as you believe in a Designer, this book will provide substantial fuel for your case." This reminds me of Judge Jones question to Mike Behe something like this "Does a belief in God make Intelligent Design more likely". Thus they build their case that ID is a religious idea. Jones asks what other scientific theory needs belief in God to be accepted? I do wonder why some writers like Hugh Ross need to place evangelistic chapters in their books. I rather prefer the approach of directing people to a search for the designer, separated from the science. There is One who leads the seekers to find. The 1976 book by SE AW University of Singapore University Education Press entitled "Chemical Evolution: An examination of current ideas" ended with "The fact remains that the probability that vital processes could have arisen and developed without directive force is exceedingly small" The scientist will find that "meaning and significance will emerge as we acknoledge the wisdom of our Creator" followed by a quote from Ps 139. idnet.com.au
Interesting the Dover case was won because the ID movement was accused of doing the same thing that the NABT did "Two years later the NABT removed the words “unsupervised” and “impersonal” to placate religious believers. In this way, they attempted to maintain the facade that evolution is perfectly compatible with religious beliefs. " The psychological spin is interesting. "Darwinists are projecting their own insecurities about their theory (because of the overwhelming absence of evidence for it) onto intelligent design. " And in spite of the continual protestations to the contrary "Intelligent design makes testable predictions about the forms of complexity we should find in biological systems and the inherent limitations we should observe in evolutionary processes not controlled by intelligence. " Because we point out these inherent limitations, the ID movement is continually accused of only being "anti evolution" and having no positive eviednce for ID, only evidence against evolution. idnet.com.au

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