Is there an empirical method to determine whether a system is the product of chance or design? On this ID The Future, physicist Brian Miller concludes a two-part conversation with Dr. William Dembski about a new updated second edition of his classic book The Design Inference.
The process of design detection is founded on comparing the probability of an outcome occurring by a natural process (chance) versus occurring as the result of design. In the conversation, Dembski offers an example from the popular franchise Star Wars to help explain the design inference. When Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker that he is his father, it’s a life-changing moment for the young Jedi knight. From an information standpoint, the sheer improbability of the statement is extremely high. If Vader had said instead that he was his enemy or that he was also a human, it wouldn’t have made much of an impact, given that those qualities of Vader are less improbable. But what really makes it a shock for young Luke is that the statement is also specified. While most events are improbable, much fewer are also specified, meaning they match an independently recognizable pattern. The word “father” matches an identifiable pattern in the hierarchy of relationships that all humans can recognize. Thus was born one of the biggest twists in cinematic history, and a great example of a design inference in action!
In many ways, the 2nd edition of The Design Inference is a brand new book. Dr. Dembski teases out what is new and updated, and he also discusses what it was like to team up with software engineer Winston Ewert on the project. He even gives us a sneak preview of his next book, covering the conservation of information. And for those trying to wrap their heads around the process of design detection, Dembski also offers this helpful analogy to the methods used in forensic science. “If you’re a detective, you prefer to explain a death through natural causes. If it’s not by natural causes, then you’ve got an investigation…We give chance the first opportunity…the default explanation. We eliminate it in order to get to design.”
This is Part 2 of a two-part conversation. Listen to Part 1.
Order your copy of the new 2nd edition of The Design Inference.
Learn more about Dr. Dembski’s work on freedom, technology, and education at BillDembski.com.