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The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems

William A. Dembski Jonathan Wells

Foundation for Thought and Ethics (hardback, 339 pages with CD), 2007

Item# B130
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Two of intelligent design's key theorists, mathematician William Dembski and biologist Jonathan Wells, have teamed up to provide a comprehensive overview of intelligent design for a general audience. It is clear, direct, well-illustrated, and readable. The book succinctly summarizes many of the evidences for design found in the more technical books on the topic. Anyone interested in the scientific status of intelligent design must read this book.

Beginning with a critical consideration of human origins and the differences, both qualitative and quantitative, between human beings and chimpanzees, our closest genetic homologues, the text progresses through discussions of: (1) genetics and macroevolution (including considerations from evo-devo); (2) paleontology and what can properly be discerned from the fossil record; (3) the problem of speciation; (4) homology and molecular phylogeny; (5) the evolvability of molecular machines with considerations of co-evolution and exaptation; (6) the mathematical definition of specified complexity and the study of evolutionary algorithms with applications to the evolvability of biologically functional proteins; (7) theories about the origin of life (including the Oparin hypothesis and the Miller-Urey experiments, the proteinoid world, the RNA world, self-organizational scenarios from metabolism-first models to autocatalytic reactions to clay-templates and so on, chemical selection theories, and design-theoretic models focused on the origin, nature and conservation of biological information); and finally, (8) a brief consideration of the misinformation campaign against intelligent design in the popular press and Hollywood, as evidenced by the many "Inherit the Wind" stereotypes - and the indignity but ultimate insignificance of the recent Kitzmiller v. Dover court case.

Though originally conceived as a third edition of Of Pandas and People, The Design of Life quickly took on an identity of its own. More than two-thirds of the material is completely new, and what remains of the original material has been thoroughly reworked and updated. Though there is continuity with Pandas, The Design of Life is a new book.

The Design of Life was written for a broad demographic and will be available on the open market. Colleges and universities will find it a valuable resource. It was not developed for use in public secondary schools, whose guidelines, developed to circumvent controversy, may not permit this level of open inquiry. In order to keep the size and cost of the book down, 68 pages of general and technical notes are included in .pdf format on a CD attached to the back page of the book. This additional resource material, along with the discussion questions at the end of each chapter, also make this book and ideal resource for homeschool parents wishing to introduce their high school students to the topic of origins and prepare them for a purely materialistic view of science they may encounter in college.

The Authors

William A. Dembski, Senior Fellow
Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Academic Editor FTE
William Dembski authored the first book on intelligent design to be published by a major university press, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998). In it he lays out a rigorous, scientific method for detecting design. Dembski's work has been featured on the front page of the New York Times and in many other publications. He has debated top Darwinists at the American Museum of Natural History, and he has appeared on numerous radio and television broadcasts, including Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" and ABC's "Nightline." He lectures around the globe on the topic of intelligent design (e.g., the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, Cambridge and Oxford Universities, U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, Princeton, Yale, MIT). He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including Darwin's Nemesis (IVP), a Festschrift volume in honor of Phillip E. Johnson. Christianity Today calls Dembski "Johnson's successor as the informal leader of the intelligent design community."

Jonathan Wells, Senior Fellow
Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Author of The Design of Life
Jonathan Wells holds two doctorates, one in molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley, the other in religious studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, supervised a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and taught biology at California State University in Hayward. He has published articles in Development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, BioSystems, Rivista di Biologia, The Scientist, and The American Biology Teacher. As the author of Icons of Evolution: Why Much of What We Teach about Evolution Is Wrong (Regnery, 2000), Wells has emerged as one of the key figures for reforming the teaching of evolution by correcting textbook errors and by insisting that the evidence that both confirms and disconfirms Darwinism be taught. He is a widely acclaimed lecturer and debater on the topic of intelligent design. He has inspired many younger scholars to develop intelligent design as a fruitful scientific research program. Excerpts

"Most of origin-of-life research is as relevant to the real problem of life's origin as rubber-band powered propeller model planes are to the military's most sophisticated stealth aircraft." (Ch.8)

"The origin of information is not a problem of chemistry. Chemistry can be a carrier of information, but it cannot be its source." (Ch.8)

"Chemists typically do not concern themselves with the problem of the origin of information because their work presupposes a smart chemist ready to provide it!" (Ch.8)

"The claim that natural laws are sufficient to account for the origin of life is far-fetched. Natural laws work against the origin of life. Natural laws describe material processes that consume the raw materials of life, turning them into tars, melanoids, and other nonbiological substances that thereafter are completely useless to life." (Ch.8)

"For Clarence Darrow, evolution justified a biological determinism that turned humans into puppets of their evolutionary past." (Ch.9)
"How does evolutionary ethics make sense of people who transcend their selfish genes? Genuine human goodness, which looks to the welfare of others even at one's own (and one's genes') expense, is an unresolvable problem for evolutionary ethics. Its proponents have only one way of dealing with goodness, namely, to explain it away. Mother Teresa is a prime target in this regard. If Mother Teresa's acts of goodness on behalf of the poor and sick can be explained away in evolutionary terms, then surely so can all acts of human goodness." (Ch.1)

"Gould admits that anything Dawkins really cares about regarding biological structures– their origin, function, complexity, adaptive significance–is the product of natural selection. Gould was as much a Darwinist as Dawkins." (Ch.3)

"Vestigial structures are entirely consistent with intelligent design, suggesting structures that were initially designed but then lost their function through accident or disuse. Nevertheless, vestigial structures also provide evidence for a limited form of evolution. From both a design-theoretic and an evolutionary perspective, a vestigial structure is one that started out functional but then lost its function. Yet, in the case of evolution, vestigiality explains only the loss of function and not its origination. Vestigiality at best documents a degenerative form of evolution in which preexisting functional structures change and lose their function." (Ch.5)
"When Eugenie Scott calls for a technician to stand over a monkey's shoulder and correct its mistakes, she commits the fallacy of begging the question or arguing in a circle. In other words, Scott presupposes the very thing she needs to establish as the conclusion of a sound scientific argument. Indeed, scientific rigor demands that we ask who in turn is standing over the technician's shoulder and instructing the technician what is and is not a mistake in the typing of Shakespeare. If the technician's assistance to the monkey is to mirror natural selection, then the technician needs to help the monkey without knowing or giving away the answer. And yet that's exactly what the technician is doing here." (Ch.7)

"Darwinists have traditionally hidden behind the complexities of biological systems to shelter their theory from critical scrutiny. Choose a biological system that is too complex, and one can't even begin to calculate the probabilities associated with its evolution. Consider the eye. A widely held myth in the biological community is that Darwin's theory has explained the evolution of the vertebrate eye. In fact, the theory hasn't done anything of the sort." (Ch.7)

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