William Dembski: The Design Revolution

cwdembski.jpg
Interview of William Dembski by Dick Staub

Well good afternoon everybody. This is Dick Staub, your host and fellow seeker, thanking you for making me part of your day. Our next guest has been called “the leading theoretician of the intelligent design movement.” Chuck Colson calls him a revolutionary. He’s an associate research professor at Baylor University, a senior fellow at Discovery Institute, and author of a number of books including his most recent, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. It’s published by InterVarsity. And we welcome Dr. William Dembski.

Q. Bill, thanks for joining us today.
A. Good to be with you.

Q. I want to start, first of all, by your own story because I, though I’ve read everything you’ve written, I think at least in book form, I’ve never really heard precisely how you got in this thing. I mean, how¢â‚¬¦ First of all, what is intelligent design as a theory, and how did you first encounter it, and then ultimately become not only a believer, but an advocate for the idea?
A. Yeah. Well, intelligent design, it’s an idea that’s really prevalent in a lot of special sciences already. I mean, archaeologists will want to know, is that mound over there, is that a burial mound or is it just a naturally formed mound? Is this chunk of rock, is it an arrowhead or is it a random chunk of rock, just something that’s the result of natural forces, wind and erosion, let’s say. And this sort of reasoning, is it designed, is it the result of purpose, or is it the result of accident, chance, natural forces, comes up in a lot of places. Forensic scientists need it. Did this person die by natural causes or was it a murder? And it’s not confined even to purely human causes. There’s a whole program known as SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which tries to distinguish radio signals in terms of whether they’re the result of natural forces ¢€œ there are a lot of naturally formed radio signals ¢€œ or is there an intelligence behind it? And if you saw the movie, Contact, that was the premise that we could, in fact, draw that distinction. And in the movie, fiction being what it is, they in fact did find that. Now, what intelligent design then does is it looks for signs of intelligence. Now, where it gets controversial is when it starts looking for signs of intelligence in biological systems. And what makes that controversial is that if there is actual intelligence or design behind biology, it means that the intelligence, in that case, is not an evolved intelligence. It’s not an intelligence that’s the result of blind purposeless material processes, as the Darwinists tell us. And so that’s really what’s at stake there. How I got into it, I’m a mathematician, not a biologist. But in the late ¢â‚¬Ëœ80s, at the height of the chaos theory craze, I attended a conference on randomness at Ohio State University. And the point of the conference was to try to understand the nature of randomness. But what in fact the conference concluded on was that we don’t know what randomness is. Or the way we get at randomness is by knowing what something is not, what randomness is not. So what would happen repeatedly was you’d find, you’d look at something with a pure random and then you’d find the pattern in it and then it was no longer random. And so randomness was always a provisional designation until we found the pattern or design in it. And so I actually became something of an expert in the study of randomness, wrote on this, and from there got into the whole question of, well, what are the patterns that in practice we use to defeat randomness and infer design? And that, you know, that set me on a trajectory. And so I’ve been on that for about 15 years now.

Q. Now, when you talked earlier about the archaeological practice, which is considered a science, why is archaeology more open to looking for intelligence ¢€œ obviously we assume humans ¢€œ but you’ve said, even SETI is an example of something that’s embraced by many within the scientific community as a worthwhile endeavor and yet, when it comes to the notion of looking for intelligence in design, for instance in biology or origins and so forth, why is this such a controversial issue within the scientific community as opposed to the archaeological pursuit or SETI?
A. Well, I think what you have to realize is just how deeply entrenched a materialistic worldview is in the scientific and academic establishment. The numbers are actually completely reversed when you go to the general populous. Gallup polls over the last 20 years indicate that about 90 percent of the US population are believers in some sort of god, believe that some intelligence or wisdom or purposiveness is behind the complexity and order that we see in the universe. When you go to the academy those numbers are reversed. And so what you have is, is you have a deeply entrenched materialistic worldview, and within that worldview intelligence is not a basic creative force. It’s something that emerges as a byproduct of evolution. So here we are, we are these intelligent beings, we can make arrowheads, we can look for signs of intelligence from outer space, but even those beings in outer space are presumed to have evolved by some sort of material process. So when you go back far enough in time there was not intelligence there, there was just brute, matter, and motion, according to, operating according to unbroken natural laws.

Q. Yeah.
A. There was no intelligence. Intelligence is something that emerged through an evolutionary process. And this view, it’s very entrenched and it’s hard to get around. And so when you say, Hey, what if we start asking if there’s design or real intelligence involved in biology, whether biological systems exhibit signs of intelligence, people go bonkers. It’s like the worldview gets under enormous pressure at that point.

Q. Now, how did the whole intelligent design idea coalesce into a movement, and what is it that makes you believe that it has the stuff of a full-blown scientific revolution? You point out chaos theory, and other ideas that have kind of come and gone, even within our lifetimes, but you think this one has staying power. How did that happen? What’s happening in this movement?
A. Well, I think what we have is¢â‚¬¦ I mean, design is an old idea, and so is evolution, for that matter. I mean, these ideas go back really thousands of years. I mean, they go back to antiquity and the various philosophical traditions. They go back also in various religious traditions. So it’s not like this debate is new. And I think this is one of the reasons of consternance that these ideas and this sort controversy is going to be around. Now, I think what is new here, though, is we have a movement, a serious intellectual movement, that has gotten off the ground. One of the key architects in this has been Phillip Johnson for really organizing the movement, getting us together, getting us in a position where we could also defend ourselves, because we come under enormous attack from the materialistic establishment.

Q. Now, when you talk about¢â‚¬¦
A. And so we now do have an intellectual community and we’re developing these ideas and seeing where they go, and it’s very exciting.

Q. When you talk about ideas like worldview, when you talk about a philosophical movement, and so forth, we talk about Phillip Johnson, who’s an attorney, and so forth. One of the biggest criticisms of intelligent design is that it is a philosophical/theological construct, not a scientific movement. How do you respond to that? I mean, scientists don’t think in terms of a worldview necessarily.
A. Well, I think there’s a lot of things that are going on with intelligent design. In terms of it as a scientific program it is trying to understand signs of intelligence. And we do this already throughout various special sciences. We talked about archaeology, but I mean there’s no question, in principal, why this shouldn’t, why such methods of design detection shouldn’t be applicable in biology. And you know, so to say well, it’s not science, I mean, I’ve¢â‚¬¦ You know, I’ve published in the statistical literature on these questions, you know, so we can debate that. Now, clearly there are theological and philosophical implications. Okay? But that seems to hold for a lot of theories. You know, I mean, big bang cosmology. People resisted it because they thought that it would give credence to some sort of Genesis account.

I’ll tell you what. Let’s pick up there when we come back. We’re visiting with Dr. William Dembski. You can spend a lot more time with him and these ideas in his book, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. We’ll be back with Dr. William Dembski right after this. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Dr. William Dembski. His book is The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. It is published by InterVarsity.

Q. We were just talking about the degree to which intelligent design is being viewed as a theological, philosophical movement as opposed to a scientific movement. And within that context, when you talk about this being an old idea, what is it that is new? What is new coming to the table now that gives it some kind of new impetus?
A. Yeah. Well, I think what she’s got really are precise criteria for identifying the effects of intelligence. So what I think you had in the past, I mean, design, the idea of intelligent design really, the last time it had real currency or life was before Darwin, I mean, in William Perry’s days, 200 years ago. So it’s been a long time since this idea has really been developed. And in Perry’s day, and before that, it was developed in the context of what was called British Natural Theology. And the idea there was to look at features of the natural world that would indicate some marks of intelligence and from there argue to the personal transcendent creator God of Christianity. Now, what intelligent design is doing is it’s doing two things really. It’s saying, you can’t argue that far. Okay. What we can do is we can get to some sort of generic intelligence and also these sort of intuitive criteria. For William Perry the big thing was means adapted to end.

Q. Yeah.
A. The place of these intuitive criteria for design, we can get some precise, logical, mathematical and biological criteria. And so you have, for instance, Michael Behe has his notion of irreducible complexity, I have a notion of specified complexity, and so we can develop that. And we can start seeing just how these ideas apply to actual biological systems.

Q. Now, here’s where¢â‚¬¦
A. So I think that’s the starting point. And once you have identified the effects of intelligence, once you can be confident that you’re dealing with a real intelligence in biology, then a host of questions, new questions, arise. I mean, it’s not just that we’re going to say, oh, biological systems are designed, end of story, now we’ve proven our point and gone home. Intelligent design is an ambitious scientific program. I mean, we want to do more than just identify the effects of intelligence, we want to then work with that and see if we can get biological insights that we couldn’t get otherwise.

Q. When you talk about an ambitious program, I mean, what are the aims of this movement and what is within¢â‚¬¦ You talk about a guy named Haldane who talked about the different stages of new ideas ¢€œ
A. Right.

Q. ¢€œ and their advancement. What are the aims, and where are you in, and what are, how are they in stages, and where do you see yourself right now as a movement in those stages?
A. Yeah. This is sort of what Haldane does is he lays out several stages in the acceptance of an idea. He says theories pass through four stages of acceptance. One, this is worthless nonsense; two, this is an interesting but perverse, point of view; three, this is true, but quite unimportant; and four, I always said so. I like to characterize this in terms of an illiteration that begins with P, the letter P, for preposterous, pernicious, possible, and plausible. And I think that maybe about ten years ago we were at the preposterous stage. And it was, well, intelligent design, it’s just a crazy idea.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s just trying to resurrect these old defunct notions that Darwin and his successors clearly showed that work. Now we’re at the pernicious stage. I mean, there are lots of people in a way in saying this is really dangerous, this threatens to overthrow science, these people have to be stopped, I mean, put even in apocalyptic terms sometimes. And so the real challenge is to move it from this, you know, we’ve got to shut these people down to let’s give them a fair hearing. Let’s see if this goes somewhere.

Q. Interesting. When you talk about the kinds of questions that you’ve heard over the last decade, you divide them into three types of ideas, those where people are seeking clarification, stumbling block kind of questions, defeating and derailing kinds of questions.
A. Uh-huh.

Q. How do those questions find themselves addressed in the design revolution? What are you trying to do in this book?
A. Yeah. Well, what I tried to do with this book is I speak in a lot of different venues, mainly colleges and universities, and I find that often the most productive time there is not during my actual talk but then afterwards when people ask questions. And so I’ve encountered an enormous number of questions, and they do fall into those three categories. And that what I thought was it would be helpful in trying to move intelligent design from the pernicious to the possible stage, to write a book where I’d address these questions. And so what I did was I collected these questions together and then tried in some short, snappy chapters to answer them in my own words.

Q. What’s one of the most common questions that needs clarification?
A. Well, I think probably one of the biggest is the difference between intelligent design and creation. I think creationism. I think that’s a real confusion for people because they are distinct. Creation is always a doctrine of being, where did the world come from? You know, it’s a transcendent personal creator God brings a world into being that previously did not exist. Intelligent design is not concerned with ultimate origins, it’s concerned with how do you explain the arrangement of certain material substances? How do you do that and without saying where that stuff came from in the first place? So you can imagine a carpenter. A carpenter takes pre-existing materials, wood, and arranges them in ways that clearly indicates design. But the carpenter isn’t responsible for the wood in the first place. And a doctrine of creation is always asking, where did things ultimately come from?

Q. Yeah. But you know¢â‚¬¦
A. That’s a distinction.

Q. But you know, interestingly enough, if this is set up, if the resistance within the scientific community is one that has ¢€œ I mean, there is a number of points of resistance ¢€œ but if the overarching worldview issue is theism versus deism, or theism versus naturalism, then in what sense are not the critics of intelligence design correct in saying that the ultimate conclusion and driving force behind intelligence design is a theistic drive and force?
A. Well, I’m not sure that, you know, if you say that the ultimate motivation¢â‚¬¦ I mean, motivations are things held by people, not by theories.

Q. Yeah.
A. I mean, the intelligent design, as a scientific project, is trying to come to grips with effective intelligence, if such there be, in biological systems. And it’s a perfectly legitimate question on its face to ask. Now you know, are the practitioners of intelligent design, the creationists, the fundamentalists, or the evangelicals, are they religious people, it seems to me that that question is really irrelevant, and if you’re going to pose it then I think you also need to pose it for the Darwinists, many of whom are militant atheists.

Q. Yeah.
A. And so you have, if you’re going to push, you know, if you’re going to put people on the couch and analyze their motivations¢â‚¬¦ You look at Stephen Jay Gould, look at Richard Dawkins, look at these people, you know, their evolution is serving their ideological end every bit as much as intelligent design may be serving that of whoever. You know, so I’m not sure, I see it as a red herring really.

Q. But is it hurting the intelligent design movement within the scientific community that it is in fact being embraced and promoted by leading evangelicals and by even fundamentalists who want to see changes in school curriculum and so forth? Is that adoption both (a) premature, and secondly, problematic in terms of¢â‚¬¦
A. I don’t think you’ve really nailed it down accurately. I mean, for one thing, I’m finding that intelligent design is being accepted well outside any sort of evangelical or Christian mold. I was recently speaking at Oxford University, gave several lectures. My sponsors were the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies. And they were very much impressed with intelligent design. In fact what I’m finding is that just about anybody with religious sensibilities who holds to, has some sort of spiritual longing, thinks that there’s some sort of meaning or purposiveness behind the world ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ they’re going to be favorably impressed with intelligent design. And conversely, is going to be really put off by this sort of materialist bullying which just says there’s nothing behind the world. When you die you’re worm food, that’s it.

Okay. We’re going to pick up right there when we come back. Our guest is Dr. William Dembski, a wonderful piece of work, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Dr. William Dembski. His book is The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design.

Q. And we’ve been talking about clarifying kinds of questions like the distinction between intelligent design and creation or creationism. Stumbling blocks have presented themselves, and they come, interestingly enough, both from the scientific community and the theological community. When you think about a scientist who tends to have an open-mindedness to the idea of intelligent design and therefore is not posing questions adversarily necessarily, but who finds certain stumbling blocks, they can’t get past this, within the scientific community what would you say some of the primary stumbling blocks are in embracing intelligent design?
A. I think one is that intelligent design commits you to some sort of supernaturalism in science, that if you accept it then you’re going to be having all these weird miracles and supernatural stuff that’s, you know, akin to witchcraft or whatever. And then suddenly that’s going to be part and parcel of science. I think that’s one of the concerns. And the other is, I think one of the other main concerns is the problem of poor or incompetent or evil design, let’s just call it sub-optimal design. You look at various biological systems and you think, well, maybe they could have been designed better. Or you look at certain parasites and you say, gee, this is, these are really nasty things. How could any designer have done that? I think with the latter question I think what you really have to do is distinguish between design as such and then various value judgements about the design. And intelligent design, as a scientific program is not concerned about these value judgements, it’s just saying, is there evidence of design there?

Q. Yeah.
A. Whether it’s good design, bad design, or whatever. You know, is it there? Now with regard to this sort of supernatural, you know, are we just going to have all this weirdness that’s going to come into science? I don’t see that at all. And I stress this actually, I have a little chapter on supernaturalism and I point out that what intelligent design really is it’s a theory of information, it tells you that there’s certain types of informational structures there that are, that we see in biology and that point us reliably to intelligence. And what intelligent design is saying is that we know that we’re dealing with an intelligence, but it doesn’t, it’s not that we have told a causal story of how it happened. It could have all happened entirely in accord with natural causes.

Q. Yeah.
A. And so it’s not that we’re invoking miracles. I mean, you see this grand coordination of things that have to happen for biological complexity to emerge you know that you’re dealing with an intelligence, however it got there.

Q. But if you don’t, if you don’t introduce the idea of some sort of interventionism in scientific and natural process, then don’t you just end up with the designer as a first cause and as one who set in motion systems?
A. Well, all of these are options. I mean, you know, deism is certainly an option. You can have interventionism is an option also. I mean, why is it that when I speak at the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies that they’re entirely behind this? You know, it could be through some sort of pantheistic, you know, purposiveness working itself out in the physical world. These are all options. I think from the materialistic perspective, though, none of these are options. And so here we are, we’re coming along, we’re very early in the game, and suddenly all these options are now on the table again for discussion. And you know, I’m not sure how it’s all going to shake out. You know, so we’ll just have to see but, you know, there’s nothing about the program that says it had to happen one way. You know, organisms have to emerge by special creations, poof, presto-change-o, you know, from nothing.

Q. So is it possible to be a thorough-going naturalist and believe in intelligent design?
A. Well, it is possible to hold to a seamless evolutionary story and to believe that natural causes as we understand them will not violate it, but also I think the one thing you would have to say with intelligent design is that natural causes understood as blind, unbroken, natural forces, chance of necessity, material mechanism, that they’re insufficient, they’re incomplete, that you still need to invoke intelligence. Intelligence played a real causal role there and that we can do science with that. We can detect the effects of intelligence. So I think most people who would call themselves naturalists would be uncomfortable with what I just said.

Q. Yeah.
A. But there are some naturalists who take their naturalism seriously. You know, they say, look, naturalism is about understanding nature, whatever may be required to understand nature. And if that requires curiology, some form of intrinsic intelligence or purposiveness, well, that’s where we must go then.

Q. But isn’t the¢â‚¬¦ I mean, I guess you’ve been saying this but I want to come back to it. Isn’t ultimately the biggest threat to the current scientific enterprise that there’s an argument that says science to be science limits itself to a closed system of natural causes, and once you allow for this kind of X-factor, whatever you want to call it, suddenly you’ve created a new system where the current scientific process is no longer adequate and scientists can’t conceive of what kind of scientific process would be adequate to embrace this kind of X-factor.
A. Well you know, the thing is we’re not dealing with an X-factor, though, we’re dealing with an intelligent cause. I mean, we deal with intelligent causes all along. And it’s a basic part of human rationality to deal with intelligent causes and to discern the difference between something that’s the effect of an intelligence cause from a purely natural cause. So it’s not just that we’re, you know, we’re invoking some mysterious thing. I mean, it’s something that we’re dealing with all the time and we’re already doing science with it. And insofar as we’re doing biological experiments in genetic engineering, or origin of life studies, usually what makes an origin of life study work is the intervention of an intelligence, doing things that nature left to itself would never come up with. You know, so I have to reject the implicit presuppositions there. You know, it’s not just¢â‚¬¦ We know that intelligence has the causal power to bring about certain effects.

Q. Well, let me ask you this. If intelligent design became broadly accepted within the scientific community, how would science have to change? In other words, what about the current scientific process would have to be different? Is intelligent design testable right now within science, you know? There’s a strict adherence to certain testability quotients and so forth. How does science change if they accept intelligent design?
A. Well, I just want to speak to the testability business. I would say intelligent design is testable and, in fact, Darwinian evolution is not testable. Darwin said that for a complex organ to form it would have to form according to a series by a numerous successive slight modifications. And then he said, you know, I can’t think of anything that couldn’t have formed that way. Well of course, I mean, if you don’t specify a process any more specifically than numerous successive slight modification, that anything might be the result of that process, such a process. And that’s all, the Darwinists assume no burden of evidence of proof as a consequence. And that holds to this day. Now, with intelligent design there, you can look at certain biological structures. We’re arguing that they are intelligently caused. Many of them are now at the sub-cellular level, these are molecular machines. The most popular one that’s been investigated is the bacterial flagellum. It’s a little bi-directional motor-driven propeller on the backs of certain bacteria, marvel of nano-engineering, and so we’ve started to analyze systems like that and argue for their intelligent design. Now, it would be an easy enough thing, in principle, for the Darwinists to come along and say, Hey, this is how sub-systems could have formed. They would have to get a detailed testable step-by-step scenario of how these systems could have formed, according to some Darwinian trajectory or pathway, and if they did that for a number of such systems, I think intelligent design would crumble.

Q. Okay.
A. But the fact is that none of these systems has been amenable to Darwinian explanation. And the thing is that this is from a theory without which nothing in biology is supposed to make sense.

Okay. We’re going to take a quick break and be back, sadly, with concluding comments from Dr. William Dembski. But again, let me hasten to add that you can spend more time with him by picking up a copy of The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design, published by InterVarsity Press. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Dr. William Dembski. He has been called by Chuck Colson “a revolutionary.” He’s also been referred to as “the leading theoretician of the intelligent design movement.” He is also the author of The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design, published by InterVarsity. And in the book he deals with the kinds of questions that have been raised about design, intelligent design theory, including clarifying questions, kind of stumbling-block questions, and then those questions that are designed to defeat and derail.

Q. Before we move on to kind of some defeating and derailing type questions, within the theological community you raised questions of kind of deficient design as a concern. But what would you say the biggest stumbling blocks have been within the theological community?
A. Well, I think one of the main concerns is that intelligent design will wed you to some view of divine action that’s unacceptable. So it’s going to require some sort of interventionism within nature, God not being able to work properly through secondary causation and therefore, you know, it just theologically it’s just going to be problematic. And as I stress in The Design Evolution, what intelligent design is saying is there are ways to identify the effects of intelligence in nature. But how that design got there, intelligent design, at least in the first instance, doesn’t speculate about it. So it’s not, you know, it can’t come into conflict with the theory of divine action. And yet, I think that remains, until my brilliant book came along it has been a worry. But I guess it won’t be any more now.

Q. Well, when we talk about the defeating, derailing kinds of arguments, you and I were discussing an article in The New York Times a few weeks ago in which a biologist said, you know, I sat down and spent a couple of hours one afternoon and basically defeated the intelligent design argument. And within, for instance, the movement of evolutionary biologists they tend to think that they’ve already defeated Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity argument. What are the kinds of questions that are being driven into the intelligent design movement that are specifically designed to derail the movement, to defeat it, to basically say, it’s over?
A. Well, yeah, I think there are many, many that come up. Probably the main one ¢€œ and perhaps a lot of these other questions sort of fall under it at some level ¢€œ is the argument from ignorance objection. And the idea there is that well, what you’ve done is you really haven’t proven design, what you’ve done is you’ve shown that current scientific theory still hasn’t explained certain systems. But just give us enough time and research funding and we’ll show you how those material mechanisms, these Darwinian prosthesis could do the job. And so it’s a big promissory note, you know. And from their vantage we’re guilty of incredulity. We’re just not seeing the brilliance of Darwin and the immense wonder-working power of natural selection. And from our vantage it’s a problem of credulity. They’re willing to believe anything. They’re willing to believe anything about natural selection and not give intelligent design a shake, not being willing to consider it fairly. So yeah, it’s you know, with this biologist that was quoted in The New York Times, you know, you go on the internet you can certainly find plenty of web sites that are devoted against intelligent design, infidels.org, talk origins, talk reasons, there’s a new one, handorthumb.org, that just started. So lots of places you can look and you can be confirmed in your materialism, atheism, whatever you want. You know, and likewise, you can also be confirmed in your thinking of intelligent design if you go to other web sites. So the issue, though, it seems to me is to look fairly at both sides of the question and try to form a reasonable conclusion, and not just one that fulfills your pre-existing views. You know, and so I think my sense of this biologist is that he already knew what he wanted to believe and then he just found what confirmed it.

Q. Yeah. When you look at the scientific enterprise, certainly within that enterprise there are people that are fairly open-minded and are pursuing science with a belief that it can provide solutions. And yet they do not, why have they not on their own accord detected design? Why have they not¢â‚¬¦ You talk about design inference. The probablistic nature of design detection. Why have they not been detecting, just from the scientific enterprise, if it’s there?
A. Well, I think one thing you need to understand is that there are a lot of theists and people who do see design in the natural world, but I think a lot of it just gets filtered, though, through this Darwinian material, this mechanism. So you can’t¢â‚¬¦ For one thing, the journals, the academic journals, the scientific journals, just are not going to permit a strong challenge to Darwinism or materialist evolutionary theory. So you’re not going to see it, the tremendous pressures against those who would challenge it. And I mean you’re looking at slowed academic advancement, possibly losing your job, if you don’t have tenure, say good-bye to it. There’s a threat of getting research funds the NSF/NIH cut off, so there are all these pressures. So my sense is that there are actually lots of causaries of scientists who think, hey, there might be something to it but I’m not going to come out and put my head on the chopping block right now. When I was talking to a friend of mine, David Berlinski in Paris, who’s an ID proponent, intelligent design proponent, and he was telling me about a discussion he had with a physicist at MIT, endowed sure, and he says, yeah, there’s a whole fan club of people there for you, but we’re not going to come out into the open and say that we support you. So I think it’s happening, but I think people are being now very cautious and seeing which way the wind is blowing. And the wind is still blowing in such a way where it’s saying, you come out in favor of ID and you’re going to be facing some severe pressure. You know, and I think that’s the way it is. And so it is happening that people are coming out and putting their necks on the chopping block, and the more who do it the easier it will be for others to do it.

Q. What will it take for that to happen in large enough numbers for this to be a sustainable movement and idea that actually changes things, versus a kind of a smaller subset of zealots who are dismissed as on the periphery of science?
A. Well, I think we have the better argument, so I think increasingly people are going to realize that. But I think another thing which is going to work for us ¢€œ and I think this is why I have a sense of inevitability even that we will succeed with this ¢€œ is you found a younger generation who is looking and seeing, what do the Darwinists, materialists have to offer? What do the intelligent design people have to offer? And people’s intuitions start with intelligent design, they don’t start out as Darwinists.

Q. Yes.
A. You have to be educated out of design. You know, someone like Richard Dawkins will write, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Now, that’s page one of The Blind Watchmaker, and I don’t think he needs 300 pages to explain why it’s only an appearance.

Q. Yeah.
A. Well, if we can show that it’s not merely an appearance but there is actual design there, you know, that’s really appealing. So we’ve got a younger generation that is now going through the educational process, Darwinism is totally status quo, youth thrives on rebellion, I think it’s only a matter of time. I think there will be a Berlin Wall collapse.

Q. Yeah.
A. It could happen actually fast if we see some major conversions, you know, like when Saul of Tarsus type experience.

Q. Yeah, yeah. If there was a cautionary word you could deliver to those who totally embrace intelligent design, they’re thorough going theists, as a matter of fact they believe in a one true living God, and yet you hear them oversimplify intelligent design and it makes you wince because it makes you feel like they’re not helping the cause, is there something you could point to that you would say, please embrace it but don’t oversimplify it in this way?
A. I would say, try to understand that intelligent design is an ambitious program scientifically, but a modest program philosophically and theologically. So it’s where we’re trying to do a lot to change science, to introduce new ideas there, but in terms of where you can get from that science theologically, it’s quite limited. I mean, there are going to be Hindus, Buddhists, Jungian psychologists, para-psychologists, people who of all these different stripes are going to be embracing intelligent design. And in fact, the challenge for the Christian world is to try to understand and frame intelligent design in a way which makes the Christian message compelling.

Q. Excellent. Thank you so much.

Our guest has been Dr. William Dembski. The book is The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design. It’s published by InterVarsity Press. And you can also check this out at Discovery Institute and other web sites. We’ll be back right after this.

Posted in DS Interview, Staublog in March 30, 2004 by | No Comments »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

88 + = 90

More from Staublog