Many Christians may have been shocked at Ben Stein’s 2008 documentary Expelled, which exposed the closed-mindedness of many university and post-graduate school leaders around America. The film documented how educators who dared question the theory of evolution had their tenure stripped and their jobs jeopardized. Advertising their 150-page paperback as “the compelling argument for Intelligent Design” in light of Expelled, Dembski and Wells provide scientific and philosophical evidence to show how the Darwinist emperors in charge of the higher public educational world are actually sans clothing.
Who better to present the intelligent design theory than Dembski (with seven earned degrees, including doctorates in philosophy and mathematics) and Wells (with doctorates in molecular and cell biology and religious studies)? Because the two are not armchair philosophers or scientists, engaging with this short book will take effort from the reader to comprehend some high-thinking principles. But, for those willing to tackle the challenge, the information is rich and worth the labor.
The premise of the book is stated in the introduction when the authors quote from Richard Dawkins’s book The Blind Watchmaker. Here Dawkins hypes that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” (as quoted on p. i). Since Darwin lived in an age that did not have many technological advantages—for example, today’s high-powered microscopes can detail the minutest part of an intricate single cell by a billion times—he was at a disadvantage and ended up making a number of false assumptions. Darwin even accepted spontaneous generation as the explanation for how nonliving matter turns into life. As the authors write, “Darwin is wrong. Life’s origin poses insuperable difficulties to unguided material processes, so intellectual fulfillment remains for atheism but an elusive dream” (iii).
One theme found throughout the book is how faith plays such an important role for Darwinists in explaining the origin of life. Many in academia have presupposed that evolution is true, but until recent years—credit should be given to Phillip Johnson who began the intelligent design movement in the 1980s—there were no serious academic objections from qualified participants. College and university leaders have stifled the debate by censoring any opposition to Darwinism. Dembski and Wells argue that, instead of firing professors who disagree, the available research needs to be considered and the red herrings as well as straw men should be avoided at all costs.
In chapter sixteen, the authors decry how many evolutionists believe that “the problem of life’s origin has essentially been solved already” (69). They write, “Like the alchemists of old, who never explained exactly how gold could be produced from lead, origin-of-life researchers never tell us exactly how ‘an ordered hierarchy [of] structures and functions’ could emerge from the chemical processes that might reasonably have existed on the pre-biotic Earth” (75). Thus, while evolutionists would have us be-lieve that there are many potential explanations for the origin of life, they really show that there isn’t one single compelling answer. For too long many people have taken the word of the “experts” at face value and not considered how weak their theory is in contrast to intelligent design.
Dembski and Wells point out in chapter twenty-one that there are good reasons to reject Darwinism, including the lack of data to explain how cells can be so rich with information and the failure of evolutionists to “provide a coherent theoretical framework for the origin of life” (97). With that as a background, there are positive reasons for accepting intelligent design, including the engineering of cellular systems and irreducible complexity, a concept explained in great detail by Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box. Instead of merely attacking design, Darwinists need to supply reasons why evolution is the more tenable answer to the beginning of life. The theory with the better evidence should be what is accepted, regardless of one’s presuppositions.
The last paragraph in the epilogue ends the book fittingly: “Atheism is a belief with scientific pretensions but no scientific backing. It promises freedom from superstition but is itself the slave to superstition. It is an ideology even more intolerant and demeaning than anything Dawkins attacks in [his book] The God Delusion” (115).
Eric Johnson is a high school/college teacher as well as a researcher with Mormonism Research Ministry. He is an associate editor for The Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010).