Signs of Intelligence

Understanding Intelligent DesignWilliam Dembski

Signs of Intelligence is a collection of essays from various scholars of the intelligent design movement, including many fellows of the Discovery Institute who are explaining the precise meaning of the scientific theory of intelligent design. When the NCSE reviewed this book, they called it “aimless.” A more accurate description would have been “threatening a wide variety of disciplines behind the curtain of Darwinism.”

Mathematician and philosopher, and Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski opens the book by clearing up a common misconception by explaining that intelligent design does not necessarily mean “optimal design.” (Also, see The Privileged Planet for a discussion of the concept of constrained optimization). Law professor and Program Advisor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Phillip Johnson proposes that science has adopted an inherently “materialist” model where explanations can never be non-material causes. Alternatively, Johnson suggests that science adopt a strictly “empirical” model, which uses the scientific method of hypothesis and experimentation but does not limit its answers to naturalistic causes.

Michael Behe, biochemist and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow, proposes some novel examples of irreducible complexity. Namely, the cell’s protein transport system contains a number of macromolecules, all of which are necessary simply to get a protein to its correct destination in the cell. This irreducibly complex system reveals deeper levels of complexity in protein transport and assemblage, beyond mere proper irreducible complexity in protein functionality. Similarly, Stephen Meyer argues that the specified complexity in DNA, combined with the inability of natural explanation to explain the origin of life, implies that design is the best explanation. Meyer explains that this is not a “God-of-the-gaps” type argument because we have much observational experience that intelligent agents exclusively produce such forms of encoded specified complex information.

Walter Bradley, electrical engineer and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow, argues that the fine-tuning of the laws of the universe for life demonstrates that the universe was designed. Bradley starts by observing how human engineers make designs. Bradley presents evidence for design of the universe in the fine-tuning of the universal constants and the mass of elementary particles, which together proscribe many properties of the universe which must be “just so” to allow for advanced life.

Discovery Institute Fellow Nancy Pearcey points out that Darwinists try to portray dissenters of Darwinism as “backwoods rubes seeking to inject religion into the science classroom.” (pg. 44) But Pearcey observes that “religion is already in the classroom!” Many Darwinists have argued that evolution excludes any need for God. Even though “the Darwinian establishment benefits enormously from portraying the debate about origins as a tempest in a teapot, driven by a small, marginalized group of Bible-thumpers,” Pearcey explains that the public realizes that huge issues are at stake, and that intelligent design is an intuitive argument that many people find as the obvious answer to the origin of life.

John Mark Reynolds, a philosopher and theologian, and also a fellow of the Discovery Institute, contends that theistic naturalists who accept the orthodox Christian view that “God sustains the universe” must abandon methodological naturalism in physics. To be consistent, they should give honest answers to questions like “What does God do that can be verified, at this time, in the natural world?” If, as JudeoChristian scripture teaches, nature provides signposts to God, then theistic naturalists have torn down those signposts for people who believe that God actually acts in the natural world to reveal Himself through creation.

Discovery Institute Fellow and Theologian Jay Richards explodes the myth that intelligent design is simply a program in Christian apologetics. In his contributing chapter, Richards writes that “[i]t is a mistake to view the theory of intelligent design (ID) as merely, or even primarily, a disguised apologetic for Christianity or theism.” (pg. 51) Yet according to Richards, intelligent design is more compatible with the Christian doctrine of creation than is neo-Darwinism. But does intelligent design fall into the realm of apologetics? According to Richards, “[a]pologetics usually takes the form of arguments for the existence of God.” (pg. 53) Yet ID is equally consistent with natural designers such as an “advanced alien race” because “intelligent design arguments in biology normally do not entail theistic conclusions even if many people suspect God is lurking somewhere in the background.” (pg. 55) So what are the apologetic connections of intelligent design? By suggesting that life was designed by “intelligent agents” (pg. 55), Richards calls ID “theologically suggestive” (pg. 56). In the end, however, design theorists “argue from particular observable features on the world rather than specific biblical claims” and the design inference “does not require narrowly theological presuppositions” because it “proceed[s] from general facts and premises.” pg. 56-57)

Associate Director of Discovery’s Center for Science and Culture, John G. West, argues that the ideology of materialism, rooted in Darwinism, has had a large negative effect upon society. “By asserting that all human thoughts and actions are dictated by either biology or the environment, scientific materialists undermined traditional theories of human freedom and responsibility.” (pg. 61) Scientific materialism also spawned eugenics movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to forced sterilization not just in places like Nazi Germany, but also in the United States. Ideas have consequences and if intelligent design were taken seriously, West believes it will reinvigorate the case for fundamental human rights, human freedom, and responsibility.

Additionally, Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells observes that more than simply the genetic code is required to account for life, a conclusion which is eschewed by the dogma of neo-Darwinism. Finally, Discovery Institute Fellow Paul Nelson explains why natural selection is a tautology with weak explanatory power.

Rather than being aimless, this book shows that design arguments are spreading into a variety disciplines and subdisciplines. This book provides plenty of essays by leading design scholars as to why empirical evidence should trump naturalistic philosophy in a diverse set of scientific fields.

Other contributors not associated with Discovery include Bruce L. Gordon, and Patrick Henry Reardon.

William A. Dembski

Founding and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, Distinguished Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence
A mathematician and philosopher, Bill Dembski is the author/editor of more than 25 books as well as the writer of peer-reviewed articles spanning mathematics, engineering, biology, philosophy, and theology. With doctorates in mathematics (University of Chicago) and philosophy (University of Illinois at Chicago), Bill is an active researcher in the field of intelligent design. But he is also a tech entrepreneur who builds educational software and websites, exploring how education can help to advance human freedom with the aid of technology.

Phillip E. Johnson

Former Program Advisor, Center for Science and Culture
Phillip E. Johnson taught law for more than thirty years at the University of California — Berkeley where he was professor emeritus until his passing in 2019. He was recognized as a leading spokesman for the intelligent design movement, and was the author of many books, including Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.

Michael J. Behe

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Behe's current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. In his career he has authored over 40 technical papers and three books, Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA that Challenges Evolution, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, which argue that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design.

Nancy Pearcey

Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Nancy Pearcey is the author of Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Her earlier books include The Soul of Science, Saving Leonardo, Finding Truth, and two ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winners: How Now Shall We Live (coauthored with Harold Fickett and Chuck Colson) and Total Truth. Her books have been translated into 18 languages. She is professor and scholar in residence at Houston Christian University. A former agnostic, Pearcey has spoken at universities such as Princeton, Stanford, USC, and Dartmouth. She has been quoted in The New Yorker and Newsweek, highlighted as one of the five top women apologists by Christianity Today, and hailed in The Economist as "America's pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual."

Stephen C. Meyer

Director, Center for Science and Culture
Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. He is author of the New York Times-bestseller Darwin’s Doubt (2013) as well as the book Signature in the Cell (2009) and Return of the God Hypothesis (2021). In 2004, Meyer ignited a firestorm of media and scientific controversy when a biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published his peer-reviewed scientific article advancing intelligent design. Meyer has been featured on national television and radio programs, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CBS's Sunday Morning, NBC's Nightly News, ABC's World News, Good Morning America, Nightline, FOX News Live, and the Tavis Smiley show on PBS. He has also been featured in two New York Times front-page stories and has garnered attention in other top-national media.

Walter Bradley

Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Walter L. Bradley received his B.S. degree in Engineering Science (Physics) in 1965 and his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in 1968, both from the University of Texas (Austin).  He subsequently taught at the Colorado School of Mines, Texas A&M University as Full Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and for 10 years at Baylor University as a Distinguished Professor. His research area has been Materials Science and Engineering, with a focus on the mechanical properties of plastics and polymeric (plastic) composite materials, fracture and life prediction. He has received more than $7 million in research funding and published more than 150 refereed technical papers and book chapters.  He has been honored by the American Society for Materials and the Society of Plastics Engineers as Educator of the Year. His most recent work has focused on converting agricultural waste into functional fillers for engineering plastics to provide new economic opportunities for poor farmers in developing countries.

John Mark N. Reynolds

John Mark N. Reynolds is the President of The Saint Constantine School in Houston, and is a Senior Fellow of Humanities at The King’s College in New York City. He served formerly as the Chief Academic Officer at Houston Baptist University, and was the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy, at Biola University. He has also taught philosophy at Roberts Wesleyan College, Whitworth College and Saint John Fisher College. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester, where he wrote a dissertation analyzing the cosmology and psychology found in Plato's Timaeus.

Jay W. Richards

Senior Fellow at Discovery, Senior Research Fellow at Heritage Foundation
Jay W. Richards, Ph.D., is the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, and the Executive Editor of The Stream. Richards is author or editor of more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers Infiltrated (2013) and Indivisible (2012); The Human Advantage; Money, Greed, and God, winner of a 2010 Templeton Enterprise Award; The Hobbit Party with Jonathan Witt; and Eat, Fast, Feast. His most recent book, with Douglas Axe and William Briggs, is The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic Into a Catastrophe.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

Jonathan Wells

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, he has previously worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California. He also taught biology at California State University in Hayward and continues to lecture on the subject.

Paul Nelson

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Paul A. Nelson is currently a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. He is a philosopher of biology who has been involved in the intelligent design debate internationally for three decades. His grandfather, Byron C. Nelson (1893-1972), a theologian and author, was an influential mid-20th century dissenter from Darwinian evolution. After Paul received his B.A. in philosophy with a minor in evolutionary biology from the University of Pittsburgh, he entered the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D. (1998) in the philosophy of biology and evolutionary theory.

Bruce Gordon

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Bruce Gordon holds degrees in applied mathematics, piano performance, analytic philosophy, and theology, as well as a doctorate in the history and philosophy of physics from Northwestern University. He is the author of numerous articles in professional journals and edited collections, the editor of two books, and co-author of a third. He has taught at the University of Calgary, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, Baylor University, and The King’s College in New York City. He is currently a professor of the history and philosophy of science at Houston Baptist University, a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture, and the President and CEO of