Creationists have finally slipped one past the goalkeeper. Cambridge University Press has just published William A. Dembski's The Design Inference. In it Dembski acknowledges such neo-creationists as Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe. The anti-evolutionist David Berlinski wrote the jacket endorsement (see below).
If you really want to see what neo-creationists are up to, compare this book with Dembski's blatantly theological Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design (an edited collection from the evangelical Christian publisher InterVarsity). In it Dembski lays out the theological agenda behind the so-called "intelligent design movement." Most of the contributors to this volume are "fellows" of a thinly-veiled creationist think-tank called the Discovery Institute (www.discovery.org).
This neo-creationism is a lot more sophisticated and slickly packaged than the creationism that lost in the courts back in the 80s (for instance, they scrupulously avoid the Bible in their public discussions). Given that 50% of Americans are creationists, this new-style creationism may not only slip past the academic publishers (as it has here), but also past the courts. The threat to science education is real. I urge you to take this threat seriously and meet it head on.
Dembski's Design Inference -- the inside dustjacket reads: (taken from Amazon.com)
How can we identify events due to intelligent causes and distinguish them from events due to undirected natural causes? If we lack a causal theory, how can we determine whether an intelligent cause acted? This book presents a reliable method for detecting intelligent causes: the design inference. The design inference uncovers intelligent causes by isolating the key trademark of intelligent causes: specified events of small probability. Just about anything that happens is highly improbable, but when a highly improbable event is also specified (i.e., conforms to an independently given pattern) undirected natural causes lose their explanatory power. Design inferences can be found in a range of scientific pursuits from forensic science to research into the origins of life to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This challenging and provocative book shows how incomplete undirected causes are for science and breathes new life into classical design arguments. It will be read with particular interest by philosphers of science and religion, other philosophers concerned with epistemology and logic, probability and complexity theorists, and statisticians.
"As the century and with it the millennium come to an end, questions long buried have disinterred themselves and come clattering back to intellectual life, dragging their winding sheets behind them. Just what, for example, is the origin of biological complexity and how is it to be explained? We have no more idea today than Darwin did in 1859, which is to say no idea whatsoever. William Dembski's book is not apt to be the last word on the inference to design, but it will surely be the first. It is a fine contribution to analysis, clear, sober, informed, mathematically sophisticated and modest. Those who agree with its point of view will read it with pleasure, and those who do not, will ignore it at their peril." -- David Berlinski, Author of The Tour of the Calculus
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