William A. Dembski

Board of Directors, Discovery Institute

A noted mathematician and philosopher, William A. Dembski was a founding Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture from 1996 until 2016. His most recent book relating to intelligent design is Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information (2014).

Dr. Dembski was previously the Phillip E. Johnson Research Professor of Culture and Science at Southern Evangelical Seminary; a Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary, where he directed its Center for Cultural Engagement; the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at Southern Seminary, where he founded its Center for Theology and Science; and an Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University, where he headed the first intelligent design think-tank at a major research university: The Michael Polanyi Center.

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. Dr. Dembski is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy. He also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

Dr. Dembski has published articles in mathematics, philosophy, and theology journals and is the author/editor of more than twenty books. In The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998), he examines the design argument in a post-Darwinian context and analyzes the connections linking chance, probability, and intelligent causation. The sequel to this book, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, appeared with Rowman & Littlefield in 2002 and critiques Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution. Dr. Dembski has edited several influential anthologies, including The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (ISI, 2011, co-edited with Bruce Gordon), Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI, 2004) and Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge University Press, 2004, co-edited with Michael Ruse). His most comprehensive treatment of intelligent design to date, co-authored with Jonathan Wells, is titled The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems.

As interest in intelligent design has grown in the wider culture, Dr. Dembski has assumed the role of public intellectual. In addition to lecturing around the world at colleges and universities, he appears on radio and television. His work has been cited in newspaper and magazine articles, including three front page stories in the New York Times as well as the August 15, 2005 Time magazine cover story on intelligent design. He has appeared on the BBC, NPR (Diane Rehm, etc.), PBS (Inside the Law with Jack Ford; Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson), CSPAN2, CNN, Fox News, ABC Nightline, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Archives

James Tour Interviews William Dembski, Pt. 2

Today’s ID the Future again features Rice University synthetic organic chemist James Tour and intelligent design pioneer William Dembski. Here in Part 2 they discuss information theory, probability theory, the origin of life, evolution, the multiverse hypothesis, and Dembski’s contributions to the theory of intelligent design. Their conversation is borrowed, with permission, from Dr. Tour’s Science & Faith podcast.

James Tour Interviews William Dembski, Pt. 1

Today’s ID the Future features Rice University synthetic organic chemist James Tour and intelligent design pioneer William Dembski discussing information theory, information as a meaningful reduction of possibilities, Shannon information versus specified information, and how natural selection has come to function as a God substitute for many scientists, despite the lack of evidence. The conversation is borrowed, with permission, from Dr. Tour’s Science & Faith podcast.

Here’s a Terrific Video Featuring Myth of AI Author Erik Larson

Larson, an AI professional, explains why the popular noise we hear about AI “taking over” is hype
I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Here’s a terrific video interview that Larson did with Academic Influence. It was done before his book was released and gives a succinct summary of the book. It’s short (15 minutes, compared to the hour-long interview with Brookings described in my previous post). For not only the full video of this interview with Larson but also a transcript of it, go to the Academic Influence website here. For a nice period-piece video on Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program, check out this YouTube video:

Why Computers Will Likely Never Perform Abductive Inferences

As Erik Larson points out in The Myth of Artificial Intelligence, what computers “know” must be painstakingly programmed
I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, here, here, and here. Larson did an interesting podcast with the Brookings Institution through its Lawfare Blog shortly after the release of his book. It’s well worth a listen, and Larson elucidates in that interview many of the key points in his book. The one place in the interview where I wish he had elaborated further was on the question of abductive inference (aka retroductive inference or inference to the best explanation). For me, the key to understanding why computers cannot, and most likely will never, be able to perform abductive inferences is the problem of underdetermination of explanation by data. This may seem like a mouthful, but the idea is straightforward.…

Are We Spiritual Machines? Are We Machines at All?

Inventor Ray Kurzweil proposed in 1999 that within the next thirty years we will upload ourselves into computers as virtual persons, programs on machines
I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, here, and here. The event at which I moderated the discussion about Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines was the 1998 George Gilder Telecosm conference, which occurred in the fall of that year at Lake Tahoe (I remember baseball players Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire chasing each other for home run leadership at the time). In response to the discussion, I wrote a paper for First Things titled “Are We Spiritual Machines?” — it is still available online at the link just given, and its arguments remain current and relevant. According to The Age of Spiritual Machines , machine intelligence is the next great step in the evolution of intelligence. That man…

A Critical Look at the Myth of “Deep Learning”

“Deep learning” is as misnamed a computational technique as exists.
I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my earlier posts, here, here, and here. “Deep learning” is as misnamed a computational technique as exists. The actual technique refers to multi-layered neural networks, and, true enough, those multi-layers can do a lot of significant computational work. But the phrase “deep learning” suggests that the machine is doing something profound and beyond the capacity of humans. That’s far from the case. The Wikipedia article on deep learning is instructive in this regard. Consider the following image used there to illustrate deep learning: Note the rendition of the elephant at the top and compare it with the image of the elephant as we experience it at the bottom. The image at the bottom is rich,…

Artificial Intelligence Understands by Not Understanding

The secret to writing a program for a sympathetic chatbot is surprisingly simple…
I’ve been reviewing philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. See my two earlier posts, here and here. With natural language processing, Larson amusingly retells the story of Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA program, in which the program, acting as a Rogerian therapist, simply mirrors back to the human what the human says. Carl Rogers, the psychologist, advocated a “non-directive” form of therapy where, rather than tell the patient what to do, the therapist reflected back what the patient was saying, as a way of getting the patient to solve one’s own problems. Much like Eugene Goostman, whom I’ve already mentioned in this series, ELIZA is a cheat, though to its inventor Weizenbaum’s credit, he recognized from the get-go that it was a cheat.…

Automated Driving and Other Failures of AI

How would autonomous cars manage in an environment where eye contact with other drivers is important?
Yesterday I posted a review here of philosopher and programmer Erik Larson’s The Myth of Artificial Intelligence. There’s a lot more I would like to say. Here are some additional notes, to which I will add in a couple of future posts. Three of the failures of Big Tech that I listed earlier (Eugene Goostman, Tay, and the image analyzer that Google lobotomized so that it could no longer detect gorillas, even mistakenly) were obvious frauds and/or blunders. Goostman was a fraud out of the box. Tay a blunder that might be fixed in the sense that its racist language could be mitigated through some appropriate machine learning. And the Google image analyzer — well that was just pathetic: either retire the image…

Artificial Intelligence: Unseating the Inevitability Narrative

World-class chess, Go, and Jeopardy-playing programs are impressive, but they prove nothing about whether computers can be made to achieve AGI
Back in 1998, I moderated a discussion at which Ray Kurzweil gave listeners a preview of his then forthcoming book The Age of Spiritual Machines, in which he described how machines were poised to match and then exceed human cognition, a theme he doubled down on in subsequent books (such as The Singularity Is Near and How to Create a Mind). For Kurzweil, it is inevitable that machines will match and then exceed us: Moore’s Law guarantees that machines will attain the needed computational power to simulate our brains, after which the challenge will be for us to keep pace with machines..  Kurzweil’s respondents at the discussion were John Searle, Thomas Ray, and Michael Denton, and they were all to varying degrees critical of his strong…

Bill Dembski Teases the 2021 Dallas ID Conference

On this ID the Future, intelligent design pioneer William Dembski talks with host Robert Crowther about his return to the intelligent design arena and what he’s been up to during his time away from the front lines of the ID movement. He also gives a sneak preview of the talk he plans to give at this Saturday’s Dallas Conference on Science and Faith. The February 20 conference is open to both in-person and live online attendance. To learn more about this exciting event, and to register, go here. 

How is the Intelligent Design Movement Doing?

Was the ID movement a success? What did it get right, and how has it changed? In this video, Sean McDowell interviews one of the leading intelligent founders, William Dembski. Dembski reflects back upon the movement and offers suggestions for moving forward.

Intelligent Evolution

How Alfred Russel Wallace's World of Life Challenged Darwinism
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), co-discoverer of natural selection, was second only to Charles Darwin as the 19th century’s most noted English naturalist. Yet his belief in spiritualism caused him to be ridiculed and dismissed by many, leaving him a comparatively obscure and misunderstood figure. In this volume Wallace is finally allowed to speak in his own defense through his grand Read More ›

Bill Dembski on a DYI Decentralized Currency

Jay Richards interviews mathematician, entrepreneur, and philosopher, Dr. Bill Dembski, about his unique thought experiment regarding how one could create a decentralized, DIY, information-based currency. Richards also explores with Dembski the concepts of natural and artificial intelligence. Trained as a mathematician and philosopher, Dr. Bill Dembski is a writer, editor, and researcher whose books and articles range over mathematics, engineering, Read More ›

Bill Dembski on the AI Boogeyman, and the Real AI Danger

On this episode of ID the Future, Andrew McDiarmid reads an excerpt from a speech prepared by philosopher, mathematician, and trailblazing design theorist William Dembski for the launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence. Dr. Dembski asks whether we need worry about an AI takeover, and says no, there’s no evidence that artificial intelligence (AI) could reach that level, or achieve consciousness, and there’s mounting evidence from both philosophy and the field of artificial intelligence technology that it cannot and will not. “The real worry,” Dembski says, “isn’t that we’ll raise machines to our level, but that we’ll lower humanity to the level of machines.”

How Humans Can Thrive in a World of Increasing Automation

Remarks on the purpose and goals of the Walter Bradley Center at its launch
At the official launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, July 11, 2018, design theorist design theorist William Dembski offered three key thoughts on the center’s purpose and goals—and how its work may be evaluated. Dr. Dembski was unable to attend*, so his remarks were read by the Center’s director Robert J. Marks: Good evening. Thank you for attending this launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence. In my talk tonight, I’m going to address three points: (1) the importance of its work, (2) its likely impact, and (3) why it is appropriately named after Walter Bradley. First, however, I want to thank friends and colleagues of Seattle’s Discovery Institute for their…

The Design of Life

Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems
About the Book The power of Darwinian evolution on the modern mind lies mainly in its contention that natural selection can account for the appearance of design without a designer. In this comprehensive overview of intelligent design (ID) in biology, mathematician William Dembski and biologist Jonathan Wells make a compelling case that design in biology is real, not an illusion.

Debating Darwin’s Doubt

A Scientific Controversy that Can No Longer Be Denied
In 2013 Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design became a national bestseller, provoking a wide-ranging debate about the adequacy of Darwinian theory to explain life’s history. In Debating Darwin’s Doubt: A Scientific Controversy that Can No Longer Be Denied, leading scholars in the intelligent design community respond to critiques Read More ›

William Dembski on the Gilmore & Glahn Show, pt. 4

On this episode of ID the Future, hear the final segment of Bill Dembski’s appearance on the Gilmore & Glahn radio show. Dembski & Gilmore continue their discussion of advances being made behind the scenes in the overall scientific debate, and the inevitable demise of Darwinian evolution as the predominant theory in life sciences.

William Dembski on the Gilmore & Glahn Show, pt. 3

On this episode of ID the Future, listen to part 3 of Dr. William Dembski’s interview on the Gilmore & Glahn radio show. Their conversation covers a wide range of topics, including the current state of the intelligent design movement and where the science is headed over the next decade, as well as the slowly growing number of prominent scientists and scholars who don’t accept intelligent design, but also are challenging Darwinian evolution as a failed theory.

William Dembski on the Gilmore & Glahn Show, pt. 2

On this episode of ID the Future, hear the second segment of William Dembski’s recent appearance on the Gilmore and Glahn radio show. Dembski and Gilmore discuss whether or not intelligent design is science, and what the theory’s current status is among scientists.

William Dembski on the Gilmore & Glahn Show, pt. 1

On this episode of ID the Future, William Dembski is on the Gilmore & Glahn show, where he talks with John Gilmore about the theory of, and science behind, his latest book, Being as Communion. Dembski also discusses what he views as the greatest weakness of Darwinian evolution: the information problem.

Conversations with William Dembski – The Tang Problem

Materialism says that everything is an organized complexity of matter, a bottom up perspective on our world. Dembski uses Tang to describe the problem with this view: You can take orange juice and extract orange juice ‘solids’ (orange juice powder), but you can never fully recreate orange juice again; yet that is what materialism attempts to do.

Dr. Bill Dembski: Being As Communion, pt. 2

On this episode of ID the Future hear more of John West’s interview with Dr. Bill Dembski as they discuss Dr. Dembski’s latest book Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. Listen in as Dr. Dembski explains 3 central points at the heart of his book: the Tang problem, the problem of no, and transposition.

Conversations with William Dembski – Information All the Way Down

In this clip, William Dembski discusses information realism, the notion that the fundamental “stuff” of the world is information–not matter. An example of this is found in the recent search for the Higgs boson particle. The scatter diagram that “defined” the Higgs boson is essentially information–one pattern to the exclusion of others.

Dr. Bill Dembski: Being As Communion

On this episode of ID the Future, CSC Associate Director John West sits down with Mathematician and Philosopher Dr. Bill Dembski to discuss his new book Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. Dr. Dembski describes his book as “trying … to make sense of the world of matter is not the most fundamental thing, but information is.” Tune in to this fascinating discussion about our understanding of information, and how it can transform our view of the world. Purchase Being as Communion at Amazon.

Conversations with William Dembski–Inspired by Richard Dawkins

In this clip, William Dembski discusses how his work on intelligent design is largely inspired by famous atheist Richard Dawkins. Dembski found Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker “insightfully wrong,” and actually based his work on trying to answer some of the issues it raises. For more information about William Dembski, or to purchase his new book Being as Communion, visit www.beingascommunion.com.

Conversations with William Dembski – The Meaning of Information

In this clip, Dr. Dembski discusses the meaning of information. Dembski defines information as the “ruling out of possibilities.” By ruling a range of possibilities, you learn something. You can do science with this because you can start applying probabilities and measuring information.