The Design of Life by William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells

Short Biography of William A. Dembski

A mathematician and philosopher, William A. Dembski is Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, where he directs its Center for Cultural Engagement. He is also a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. Previously he was the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he founded its Center for Theology and Science. Before that he was Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University, where he headed the first intelligent design think-tank at a major research university: The Michael Polanyi Center.

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, he also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

Dr. Dembski has published articles in mathematics, engineering, philosophy, and theology journals and is the author/editor of more than a dozen books. In The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998), he examines the design argument in a post-Darwinian context and analyzes the connections linking chance, probability, and intelligent causation. The sequel to The Design Inference appeared with Rowman & Littlefield in 2002 and critiques Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution. It is titled No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. Dr. Dembski has edited several influential anthologies, including Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI, 2004) and Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge University Press, 2004, co-edited with Michael Ruse). His newest book, The End of Christianity, differs markedly from his others, attempting to understand how the Fall of humanity can be real in light of modern science.

As interest in intelligent design has grown in the wider culture, Dr. Dembski has assumed the role of public intellectual. In addition to lecturing around the world at colleges and universities, he is frequently interviewed on the radio and television. His work has been cited in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including three front page stories in the New York Times as well as the August 15, 2005 Time magazine cover story on intelligent design. He has appeared on the BBC, NPR (Diane Rehm, etc.), PBS (Inside the Law with Jack Ford; Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson), CSPAN2, CNN, Fox News, ABC Nightline, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Book review

The book The Design of Life by William A. Demb- ski and Jonathan Wells provides an overview of the main ideas of Intelligent Design6. Chapter 2 on genetics and macroevolution are thorough and provides us with an exact representation of today’s situation when it comes to the significance of mu- tations for evolution. Darwin was fascinated by the possibilities that breeding could represent in a population. We all know how big the differen- ces can be between the different canine breeds. The possibility for these differences lies in the genetic material of the dog at birth, and are not dependent on mutations or other impact on the genetic material. Animals often have many offspring, and they will all differ somewhat. One offspring can have a trait that would be advantageous. If this advantageous trait returns generation after generation, it may result in animals with this trait being more able to survive, whereas the animals that don’t have this trait, finally won’t live on, but be exterminated. When this happens, this trait will be established and fixed in this species. This process is called natural selection – as opposed to planned selection achieved via breeding. Such smaller, gradual changes in a species constitute what we call microevolution. But in the case of microevolution, DNA is not given any new specified information. Microevolution takes place based on the information that is already in the DNA. It is only nature itself that makes certain traits dominant. No superior power is active. The development takes place without any superior control or plan, and it is entrusted totally to the coincidences of life. The atheist Richard Dawkins ascribes natural selection creative abilities. In evolutionistic literature natural selection is ascribed the honour of the origin itself of the most complicated structures, and of new species. But there are no scientific facts supporting this assumption.

Darwin believed that when natural selection takes place over a long period of time, for millions of years, a species could go through such massive changes during this time, that it would give rise to a totally new species. This is called macroevolution. Given enough time, microevolution will automatically lead to macroevolution. This is an axiom in Darwinism that has never been scientifi- cally proven, but which most evolutionists simply assume. Darwin imagined that all life had a common ancestor which through myriads of years had given rise to all living things. This development is symbolized in “the tree of evolu- tion” by a common root shooting up and branching off so all present life is found in the foliage.

When the biological significance of DNA became known, and it was discovered that DNA could be changed, for example due to radiation, the evolutionists assumed that they now had found the biological explanation of evolution. These mutations in DNA and combinations of mutations and natural selection became the creative force that neo-Darwinism is based on. Mutations created the raw material that natural selection could process. It was assumed that mutations would lead to advantageous changes, and through time with the help of natural selection, this new trait would lead to the development of a new species

There are two main kinds of mutations: point mutations and chromosome mutations.

Point mutations are rare. There is one point mutation in a gene once every 100,000 to 1 million cell divisions. A point mutation takes place when one of the letters in the alphabet of life (in DNA) is exchanged with another letter. C in DNA may for example be exchanged with a T. Most point mutations are harmful – sometimes fatal – and most of the non-harmful are neutral with no biological effect. The development of resistance to antibiotics in some bacteria is due to a favorable point mutation. Resistance to antibiotics leads to lower reproduction in the bacterial strain, so that when antibiotics is no longer given to the patient, the original bacteria will again become the dominant strain. This will become – as mentioned – evolution forward and evolution backward. This example is often repeated in evolutionary literature as an example of evolution due to point mutation. But as we know, it does not result in any fundamental change. There is no morphological change – no change in the structure of the bacteria or its body. The bacteria are and will always be bacteria.

Chromosome mutations affect a segment of DNA, which is either moved to another place on the DNA or removed, or possibly duplicated. In the latter case two genes will be formed, of which one has its original function, whereas the superfluous one is available to take up new functions. Evolutionists have greatly emphasized the possible significant of these superfluous genes for evolution.

In The Design of Life the giraffe is used as an example of how little realistic it is to assume that mutations in one or a few genes can explain complex new formations. We have all heard the story that the giraffe has a long neck in order to be able to eat from the foliage high up in the trees. But this would not be any great advantage for the giraffe as species, because the female giraffe is often a good deal shorter than the male, meaning there would not be enough food for her. The giraffe would also have problems that could be so major that they could even be life-threatening when it bent down. It has to do that every time it wants to drink, and when eating grass. The long neck means the heart has to work hard for the giraffe to get enough blood to its brain when standing erect. However, when it bends down, for example when it wants to drink water, the head being far lower than the heart, might lead to a risky increase in blood pressure in the brain, had there not been mechanisms to regulate this. But the giraffe has a well-developed system for blood circulation to the head, precisely to avoid a dangerous increase in blood pressure. This is an adaptation mechanism. Dembski and Wells believe that it is impossible for this kind of adaptation to depend on random mutations.

We can take this reasoning further. The evolutionists claim fish have develo- ped to amphibians. But what are the necessary conditions for this to happen? A fish has no skeleton that can carry an animal onto land. Amphibians and reptiles have a far more developed spine and skeleton. also, there must be a skeletal con- nection between the front legs and the central skeleton, a shoulder part of bone. The same applies to the back legs. There must be a connection between the back legs and the spinal skeleton, a hip of bone. Also, the fish’s fins are superficial and have no connection with the central skeleton. The absolute prerequisite for such a development ever happening, is the supply of a large volume of information to the DNA. This information cannot have arisen at random, because it must be targeted and specified in order for the very large morphological changes constituting the difference between a fish and an amphibian, to be able to occur. For every new protein required for this kind of macroevolution, the gene for this new protein must be in the DNA. If there is no gene there that can provide the recipe for the protein, neither could any new protein be formed. Proteins are formed solely in ac- cordance with the recipe that lies in the gene in the DNA. In order for these gene to be activated, very specific biological reactions are needed – that are already mentioned. No proteins are formed as a result of wishful thinking.

In addition to new muscles in the front and back legs, a huge variety of different new tissues and organs have to be formed. In order to avoid a detailed description of this, we will confine ourselves just to mention joints, bones, cartilage, blood vessels and nerves. All these innovations require a huge amount of new informa- tion in DNA.

It may be appropriate to mention now what one of the pioneers in informat- ics and information theory has pointed out: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy.” (Evolutionists and naturalists reduce all complex aspects in life to just matter and energy.) And this new information cannot be explained by chromosome mutations that do not contain new data or new knowledge. These mutations are just shovelled around among the other genes.