Dembski clearly presents the thesis of this work at the outset. Intelligent design, defined as the search for effects of intelligent causation, an intellectual challenge to Darwinism, and a way to understand divine action, is the solution for not only bringing theology and science together, but for enriching the study of both. Given this thesis, the goal of this particular work is to show naturalism to be bankrupt, both as a methodology and a worldview. The book is divided into three parts: first, the author explains the meaning of intelligent design and the history of the demise of design in the study of science. Second, the bases for intelligent design are given. Third, Dembski gives his position on how theology and science coherently relate to one another, as opposed to either being in direct conflict with one another (at worst), or unrelated to one another (at best).
In the first chapter, Dembski states that a premodern worldview offers the most accurate view of the operation of natural and divine causes, as opposed to the modern and the postmodern worldview. In the premodern view, both natural and divine causes work together, complementing one another, and irreducible from one another. This is to be understood in contrast to the modern view, in which the world is a closed system with no room for divine action, and the postmodern view, in which there is “a plurality of separate discourses of which none is privileged. . . .” (46) The second chapter goes deeper in explaining the sources of the modern view, pointing especially to Spinoza and Schleiermacher. These two thinkers presented a model of the universe defined by the inviolability of natural causes by divine action. In the third chapter, Dembski shows how the modern view overtook all of scientific study, even the project of the British natural theologians who pointed to design in the workings of creation.
Dembski presents us with two options in chapter four when deciding on the question of origins: “either the world derives its order from a source outside itself . . . or it possesses whatever order it has intrinsically. . . .” (99) The point here is the naturalistic evolution is not adequately supported by empirical data, so the answer is to abandon it and replace it with intelligent design. The fear is that if we abandon naturalistic evolution in favor of intelligent design, we will be proven wrong by future discoveries and this will, in turn, stifle science. There is also a fear that intelligent design is driven primarily by metaphysical rather than scientific motivations. In chapter five, Dembski lays these concerns to rest by pointing to the fact that “there exists a reliable criterion for detecting design” (149) and that science is enhanced because “design also adds new tools to the scientist’s explanatory tool chest.” (151) Chapter six shows intelligent design to be more consistent as a theory of information than naturalistic evolution.
In chapter seven, Dembski shows that theology and science are in mutual support of one another, and not in conflict. The book of nature and the book of Scripture must not be severed. Chapter eight completes this thought by casting the world in terms of having been created by God—a great gift by the Designer, something given in order to reveal truth about Himself. This is something that naturalistic evolution not only misses, but expels from its system. Intelligent design shows us a world in which the study thereof is done with purpose, and not to be done in vain. He writes, “Theism not only gives you nature but also God and anything outside of nature that God might have created.” (213) Finally, Dembski addresses some of the objections to intelligent design in his appendix.
Dembski, William A. Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999.