Book Review: The Design Revolution

The Design Revolution:  Answering The Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design, by William Dembski

It should come as little surprise that as someone who has taken to reading (or, more often, re-reading) classic works on intelligent design [1] that I should find this a particularly wonderful book.  Although I may not always admit it, I have long had a taste for drama and a particular enjoyment of debates, whether as an observer or a participant, and this book is clearly the work of someone who is quite fond of controversy and debate.  In the hands of a less able writer, I would feel myself more than a bit biased for liking the content, and in the hands of a writer whose worldview was less friendly to my own I would likely find this book far more irritating.  As it is, the worldview is one I happen to share and the book is immensely well-written, showing a strong degree of persistence on the part of the author in dealing with genuinely tough questions and giving them good answers, whether or not they are answers that people really want to hear.  The author takes seriously his role as a truth-teller and that makes this book all the better for it.

The material of this book, which takes up more than 300 pages, are the answers to 44 questions in six parts.  The first part of the book looks at basic distinctions, defining intelligent design and comparing it to optimal design and apparent design, looking at creation, dealing with the question of theology and religious motivation, and contrasting the approach with the design argument of natural theology.  The next eight questions deal with detecting design, looking at the design inference, the relationship of design and chance and necessity, various ways of looking at specified complexity, the explanatory filter, reliability, assertibility, objectivity, and so on.  After this comes six answers to questions relating to the subject of information, pointing out the importance of information to life and showing how the receptivity of creation to information allows a designer a great deal of freedom to impart meaning and information to it.  After this the author answers eight questions dealing with various issues arising from naturalism, including discussions about the supernatural, different varieties of naturalism, questions about the identity of the designer or regress, and the progress of science.  After this the author answers seven fierce challenges to intelligent design, including the argument from ignorance, eliminative induction, the supposed defeater argument of Hume, the demand for details, displacement, and the question of whether Darwinism and intelligent design are the only games in town.  After this the author closes with a hopeful look at intelligent design as a new kind of science, looking at aspirations, mechanism, testability, the significance of Michael Behe, peer review, the “wedge,” research themes, and the question of discipline.

This book is a classic example of a writer defeating the defeaters, turning arguments and leading questions into opportunities to show appropriate distinctions and also to point other writers within the Intelligent Design community toward approaches that could bear fruit in future research.  One can get a feeling from this book that the author has much less fondness for, say Phillip Johnson, than he does for Denton and Behe, given his attitude about Johnson’s “wedge” strategy.  That said, where this book is at its best is in its patient handling of areas of complaint and in the way that the Dembski closes this book with an optimistic call for positive research programs to be developed with an ID framework, something that has started to become the case with new developments in what was falsely labeled as junk DNA as well as discoveries about the virulence of bacteria being relate to problems of dysteleology and issues of chromosomal damage in the origins of cancer.  Now, if only someone could write some good ID textbooks for schooling, that would be a sight to see and something to review.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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4 Responses to Book Review: The Design Revolution

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem | Edge Induced Cohesion

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  3. Pingback: Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To Science | Edge Induced Cohesion

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