Why Intelligent Design Fails
A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism
Edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis
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Posted July 25, 2004
"This book is a readable and devastating scientific analysis of intelligent design creationism. . . .unlike ID's proponents, these authors have done the real science that deflates the claims of intelligent design. Their work deserves the respect of everyone with a say in what is taught in public school science classes."
-- Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
"A terrific book that explores, fairly and openly, whether proponents of ID have any scientifically valid gadgets in their toolbox at all. . . .accessibly written throughout and an invaluable aid to teachers and scientists."
-- Kevin Padian, Professor and Curator, University of California, Berkeley, and President, National Center for Science Education
"'Intelligent-design theory' makes extravagant claims, but refuses to come up with even a small fraction of the evidence needed to sustain them. Why Intelligent Design Fails brings together clear and devastating arguments by true scientists, which will convince perceptive and fair-minded readers that 'intelligent design' belongs to the history of propaganda, not to the achievements of science."
-- Norman Levitt, Author of Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture
Is Darwinian evolution established fact, or a dogma ready to be overtaken by the next scientific revolution? Today, a comparatively sophisticated group of Darwin-deniers have coalesced in the "intelligent-design" movement, arguing that the molecular machines in cells cannot be assembled by natural selection, and that the information in our universe cannot be generated by mindless processes. They have even claimed to detect design in complex structures by rigorous mathematical means.
In Why Intelligent Design Fails, a team of scientists call on their expertise in physics, biology, computer science, and archaeology to examine intelligent design. They take design claims at face value, without attempting to rule out the hypothesis of a designed universe just because of its supernatural overtones. They consistently find grandiose claims with no scientific merit. The questions intelligent-design advocates raise have largely already been answered, or else mainstream scientists have been making excellent progress on them with a Darwinian, naturalistic approach.
After an overview of intelligent design and its intellectual context, Why Intelligent Design Fails moves on to biological claims concerning common descent, and the arguments of Michael Behe. Contributors show how the notion of "irreducible complexity" does not challenge Darwinian evolution, explaining how mainstream science comfortably accounts for examples of biochemistry, bacterial flagella, and bird wings.
Intelligent-design advocates, however, have ambitions beyond overturning Darwinian thinking in biology. So the authors examine the information-based arguments of William Dembski. They discuss thermodynamics and self-organization, the ways human design is actually identified in fields such as forensic archaeology, how real complexity theory thoroughly undermines Dembski's notions, how research in machine intelligence indicates that intelligence itself is the product of chance and necessity, and the misunderstandings of the no-free-lunch theorems propagated by Dembski. The book closes with an investigation of cosmological fine-tuning arguments said to show that the universe was designed for humans, and reflections on the place of the intelligent-design movement at the fringes of mainstream science.
Intelligent design turns out to be a complete scientific mistake, but also a useful contrast highlighting the amazing power of Darwinian thinking and the wonder of a world filled with complexity without design.
The chapters are authored by Taner Edis, Matt Young, Gert Korthof, David Ussery, Ian Musgrave, Alan Gishlick, Niall Shanks, Istvan Karsai, Gary Hurd, Jeffrey Shallit, Wesley Elsberry, Mark Perakh, and Victor Stenger.
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ISBN: 0-8135-3433-X 240 pp., illustrated with figures and tables.