Interview with William A. Dembski, co-author of
The Design of Life
What is the definition of intelligent design, and what sort of evidence is there for it?
Some features of our universe and of life forms bear telltale signs of intelligent origin, of being not merely the products of “apparent design,” but of real design. The interactive complexity of the bacterial flagellum and numerous other cellular machines is strikingly similar to that of designed objects we all encounter day in and day out. So the inference that those biological systems are in fact intentionally designed comes straight from the physical data. Real design carries with it the notion that it is produced by an intelligence or agency. The hypothesis of intelligent design in biology fits well with data from other revolutionary discoveries of science over the past five decades, discoveries which have also been strongly resisted. These include the fine tuning of the universe, often referred to as the anthropic coincidences, the intractability of the origin-of-life problem, and most notably, the discovery that the universe had a beginning.
Is intelligent design the same as creationism?
No. Intelligent design starts from biology, observations about biology, and inferences that can be made from them. Creationism starts from a different premise. It starts from scripture, or a holy book—from revelation. And from that revelation it attempts to harmonize its traditional religious teachings with accounts of nature we derive from science or specific events in the history of life.
Does intelligent design have a scientific basis?
Yes. The discovery of the genetic code, the burgeoning science of molecular biology, and the insights of information theory have all contributed greatly to scientific understanding and insights like specified complexity and irreducible complexity which underlie intelligent design.
Should intelligent design be taught alongside Darwinism/evolution in public schools?
The top priority for now should be given to teaching evolutionary theory honestly. Darwinian evolution has essentially become the tax-supported creation story of atheist materialism. Vast nonsense is advanced in Darwin’s name. Students need to learn not only the evidence that supports Darwinian theory but also the counterevidence against it—right now only the evidence that supports it can be taught. In addition, students and teachers should be permitted to discuss alternative accounts of biological origins, including self-organization and intelligent design. We do not, however, support the mandating of teaching intelligent design. Although intelligent design has made tremendous progress as a scientific research program, we would like to see it developed further before introducing it formally into the public school science curriculum.
Does intelligent design mean that natural selection does not occur?
Natural selection is happening all around us, everywhere we look. The weakest animals die and thus do not breed, so an animal species continues via the stronger specimens. However, Darwin and his followers claim that natural selection also explains how species change radically —from a cow-like creature into a whale, for example. There is no evidence that natural selection can drive radical changes. We do not, at present, know what does drive them. But the evidence-free, ideologically driven insistence that Darwinian natural selection drives them makes research into the true causes controversial.
What are the five questions evolutionists don’t like to be asked?
There are many more than five, but here are five:
1. How did life on earth get started only a few million years after the planet cooled?
2. How did all the key groups of life forms (phyla) get started very suddenly in the Cambrian explosion half a billion years ago?
3. How do complex traits like metamorphosis arise?
4. How did humans attain consciousness and language?
5. Can you point to a single intricate piece of machinery in life forms for which we have detailed knowledge of how it arose (or could have arisen) purely by Darwinian evolution? By “detailed knowledge” here we don’t mean “idle speculation.”
What does Darwinism say about our belief in souls?
Darwinism interprets our belief in souls as an illusion generated by our selfish genes to help us survive. We are merely animals who cannot, by definition, have souls. There are no souls, because mind and all other non-material essences are illusions generated by the buzz of neurons.
Are humans just super-evolved monkeys?
That’s the current pop science Darwinist view — humans are the 98% chimpanzee! If so, we are also perhaps the 60% green plant, because we share so many genes with plants. You don’t hear much about that, do you? Genes have generated a vast popular folklore that confuses and misleads many people. In reality most of what we need to know about humans is not in our genes. The actual differences between a human and a chimpanzee — vastly more than 2% — illustrate that.
Why are so many scientists and scholars turning to intelligent design?
Evidence. The materialist explanations — we are the 98% chimpanzee, or else we are computers made of meat, or maybe the universe all just happened somehow — are laughably ineffectual in real science, though they do produce zinger headlines for pop science mags: “You are a chimp!” “You are a computer!” “Science knows: From goo to zoo to you to ... poo!” ... The popularity of this stuff helps put off the day that real science demands a reckoning. But the reckoning is coming. And in the meantime, the smart money is moving to design.