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The Core of Dembski’s Case for ID

In his latest book, No Free Lunch, William A. Dembski argues at length (as he has done in several other works) that there are natural objects in the world that a) can be unambiguously identified as objects that could not be the outcome of unguided natural processes alone, and b) must therefore be the products of intelligent design.William A. Dembski, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence (Lanham,  MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2002). Future references to this work will...

How would we recognize these remarkable objects? They exhibit, says Dembski, the empirically detectable quality he calls specified complexity. And why is it that these objects must be the products of intelligent design? Because, claims Dembski, unguided natural processes are inherently incapable of generating specified complexity. Intelligence alone could do that.

In the cultural context of the creation-evolution debate, a predominantly North American phenomenon, the natural objects of greatest interest here are biological systems. Dembski’s favored example is the bacterial flagellum, a quite remarkable molecular machine that functions as a propeller for some bacteria, such as E. coli. This rotary propulsion system also played a prominent role in Michael Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, as an example of a biotic system that exhibits the quality he called irreducible complexity. Dembski considers irreducible complexity - after he carefully redefines and qualifies the meaning of Behe’s term - to be a special form of his more broadly defined specified complexity.

Now, if there are biological systems that - because they exhibit specified complexity - could not have been actualized by natural processes alone, then, argues Dembski, some unembodied intelligent agent must have done something to bring about this naturally impossible outcome. A non-natural action called intelligent design must have made possible what nature, unguided by any interactive intelligence, was wholly incapable of doing. That is Dembski’s core claim - the claim on which the intelligent design movement either stands or falls. Hence the subtitle of his book: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence.

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E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom

The Core of Dembski’s Case for ID

Why focus on the bacterial flagellum?
Getting Acquainted With the ID Vocabulary
Doing what comes naturally
Darwinism = evolution + maximal naturalism
The Darwinian mechanism
What does it mean to be “intelligently designed”?
The signs of design
E. coli and its Rotary Propulsion System: Dembski’s Flagship Case for Design
Is the flagellum complex? General considerations
Is the flagellum complex? Computing the crucial probability.
Is the flagellum specified?
Bacterial Flagella and Dembski’s Case for Intelligent Design: Closing Arguments


Howard Van Till
Dr. Howard Van Till

See also:

Dembski: Intelligent Design Coming Clean...
Purpose and Design
Charles Darwin
Bacterial Flagellum
DNA Double-Helix
Books on Biology, Genetics and Theology