Critique of ID & No Free Lunch

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 19:36:21 EDT

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    Various persons on this list have expressed an interest in Bill Dembski's
    latest book, No Free Lunch. For a variety of reasons I decided to give this
    book a thorough read and to evaluate both its rhetorical strategy and its
    scientifically-relevant claims. The resulting review essay is now posted on
    the AAAS web site at:

    To whet the appetite of ASA listserve members, here is the title and
    abstract info:

    Bacterial Flagella and Dembski's Case for Intelligent Design

    Howard J. Van Till
    Professor of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus
    Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

    Draft 7/22/02, as submitted for posting on the AAAS website, DoSER section.

    ABSTRACT: The Intelligent Design movement argues that it can point to
    specific biological systems that exhibit what ID's chief theorist William A.
    Dembski calls "specified complexity." Furthermore, Dembski claims to have
    demonstrated that natural causation is unable to generate this specified
    complexity and that the assembling of these biological systems must,
    therefore, have required the aid of a non-natural action called "intelligent
    design." In his book, No Free Lunch, Dembski presents the bacterial
    flagellum as the premier example of a biological system that, because he
    judges it to be both complex and specified, must have been actualized by the
    form-conferring action of an unembodied intelligent agent. However, a
    critical examination of Dembski's case reveals that, 1) it is built on
    unorthodox and inconsistently applied definitions of both "complex" and
    "specified," 2) it employs a concept of the flagellum's assembly that is
    radically out of touch with contemporary genetics and developmental biology
    and 3) it fails to demonstrate that the flagellum is either "complex" or
    "specified" in the manner required to make his case. If the bacterial
    flagellum is supposed to demonstrate ID, then ID is a failure.

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