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THE NATURE OF NATURE, edited by Bruce Gordon and William Dembski

This book is based on THE NATURE OF NATURE conference that Bruce Gordon and I put together at Baylor back in 2000 (for the conference and the Polanyi Center that hosted it, go here). The book is now listed at Amazon. Note that it will be out February 2010 (not 2009 as listed) and will be over 1,000 pages (not 900 as listed).

Crushing atheism and having a good time!

Product Description:

The world’s leading authorities in the sciences and humanities—dozens of top scholars, including three Nobel laureates—join a cultural and intellectual battle that leaves no human life untouched. Is the universe self-existent, self-sufficient, and self-organizing, or is it grounded instead in a reality that transcends space, time, matter, and energy?

Book Description:

The cultural battles now raging between conservatives and secular progressives has extended even into the scientific disciplines. And this stunning new volume captures the titanic clash of worldviews among those who have thought most deeply about the nature of science and of the universe itself.

Unmatched in its breadth and scope, The Nature of Nature brings together some of the most influential scientists, scholars, and public intellectuals—including three Nobel laureates—across a wide spectrum of disciplines and schools of thought. Here they grapple with a perennial question that has been made all the more pressing by recent advances in the natural sciences:Is the fundamental explanatory principle of the universe, life, and self-conscious awareness to be found in inanimate matter or immaterial mind?The answers found in this book have profound implications for what it means to do science, what it means to be human, and what the future holds for all of us.

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29 Responses to THE NATURE OF NATURE, edited by Bruce Gordon and William Dembski

  1. William Dembski notes: “The book is now listed at Amazon.”

    The Amazon link shows that the publisher of The Nature of Nature is not one of the major or even minor scientific publishing houses, but the “Intercollegiate Studies Institute” whose “national program is designed “to educate for liberty.”" (http://www.isi.org/about/our_mission/mission.html)

    Judging from its home page (http://www.isi.org) ISI seems to be somewhat politically conservative (if not downright paleoconservative, as Wikipedia describes it) with some religious overtones – but no mention of anything having to do with science whatsoever.

  2. I know this may be a little bit off topic but here goes. A friend of mine asked me why every cell in the body contain all the information needed to make a human? Since each cell only needs a portion of the information to do it’s job it seems like a waste to have all the information in every single cell.

    What I like about this question is that it should also reveal the difference between how an evolutionist and ID try to answer questions like these.

    Which relates to the book and the article “The Nature of Nature”; since these two points of views have differenct answers.

  3. 3
    Granville Sewell

    The typical response from critics to scientific arguments for ID is the “ad hominem” attack: question the credentials, the motives, or the sanity of the writer, rather than deal with his arguments.

    For some reason Paul Burnett (comment #1) did not feel comfortable questioning the credentials of 3 Nobel prize winners and a few dozen PhDs, so he decided to go after the publisher.

  4. Mofi: “Since each cell only needs a portion of the information to do it’s job it seems like a waste to have all the information in every single cell.”

    It “seems” a waste but it is a necessity: organisms come from a unique cell (which iteratively self-reproduces dividing itself to form a growing embryo) and if these cells don’t contain all the information patrimony organisms could not develop.

    According to the terminology of systems theory a system that as the above property is called “hologramatic”, when every basic part of the system contains all the information of the entire system. Hologramaticity is an advanced feature that, among many other signs, supports the ID explanation in biology.

  5. PaulBurnett: How much more of a bankrupt a response could you give?
    Pathetic.

  6. If you want to publish a science book, you deal with a science publisher. If you want to publish a book aimed at religious conservatives, you deal with a publisher that caters to religious conservatives. What’s wrong with pointing that out?

  7. 7
    HouseStreetRoom

    Paul Burnett @6,

    “What’s wrong with pointing that out?”

    Because it’s not constructive to the discussion in the least. From your prior few posts, one could gather that your purpose here is not to add anything of substance to the discussion, but only to tear down, mock and deride. Consider the following response:

    “Hello Dr. Dembski, though I’m usually diametrically opposed to your work, I look forward to reading this book and judging it based on the merits of its ideas contained within, and not on something so irrelevant as publication.”

    As if by virtue of not being a major/minor scientific publisher a book is somehow less potent, or its ideas and dialogue less significant.

    Could you at least understand how your inflammatory comments would frustrate posters here?

  8. 8

    HouseStreetRoom,

    ——Answering PaulBurnett, “As if by virtue of not being a major/minor scientific publisher a book is somehow less potent, or its ideas and dialogue less significant.”

    Well put, you recognize a rabbit trail and complete irrelevancy when you see it. As if a mathematical formula were to be disregarded because it appeared on papyrus instead of college-ruled paper.

  9. As an aside, Dr. Dembski is author/co-author of two books published by Cambridge University Press (The Design Inference and Debating Design).

    There are multiple factors which affect the selection of a publisher.

  10. Mr Mofi,

    I’m not sure how much of a waste it is, since all cells have to handle the same basic cellular metabolism. Then there is the question of how to implement the alternative – how is a cell gong to know that it has stopped differentiating, and that any gene that is not turned on can be safely cut out.

    From an evolutionary perspective, I’d say that kind of function would be hard to evolve, since it could only evolve in metazoans with several cell types, where you could possibly see some benefit to the function. That would mean that if it did evolve, it probably would evolve several times in different lineages.

    I don’t know what an ID supporter would answer.

  11. If “to educate for liberty” and “paleoconservative” go hand and hand does that mean “lack of liberty” and “liberal” go hand in hand?

  12. It’s also worth noting that one of the papers (presumably) included in this collection was previously published by Oxford University Press, and there may be others that have also been published elsewhere.

    Having said that, I would have to say to Dr. Sewell that I see no dearth of direct challenges to ID arguments, including Dr. Sewell’s own. I see fatal flaws in the paper mentioned above, as well as Dembski and Marks’ “Life’s Conservation Law,” which I believe is also included in this collection. I’m happy to discuss those flaws with anyone interested.

  13. “…paleoconservative, as Wikipedia describes it…”

    Ah, yes, Wikipedia: the foundation of all true knowledge on the Internet.

    /sarcasm off

  14. 14
    Granville Sewell

    ROb writes:

    “..I see no dearth of direct challenges to ID arguments…”

    OK, I guess I exaggerated a little in saying that the ad hominem attack was the “typical” response of critics today. I’m glad there are people like you who don’t respond in this way.

    However, I have been an ID advocate (NOT a creationist) for about 30 years now, for the first 20 I was only able to express my opinions in letters to the editor, self-published material, and an appendix to one of my math books. And I think I can truthfully say that not once in the first 20 years, not a single time, did anyone address any of my arguments, ALL feedback I got were ad hominem attacks, questioning my credentials or my motives.

    Things have changed a little in the last 10 years, we are being taken a little more seriously now, but I’m still AWFULLY tired of ad hominem attacks, there’s still no dearth of those either.

  15. 15

    From the description of the book, above: “The cultural battles now raging between conservatives and secular progressives has extended even into the scientific disciplines.”

    There is a third category (actually, there are probably myriad categories, but for the sake of argument, let’s leave it at three). The people in this category, like me, could be characterized, for want of a better term, as “New Age”. We believe firmly in a Creator, but few of us are members of any religion, Christian or otherwise. If we choose traditional scripture as a spiritual guide, it tends to be Buddhism, particularly Zen or Tibetan Buddhism. But more often, we get our spiritual guidance from sources like Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yoganada, A Course in Miracles (sorry, I don’t know the author), or that absolutely incredible series of books, Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch.

    We tend to be progressives or liberals, including being pro-choice, and we are very concerned about the damage we humans are doing to the living systems on our planet. We tend to take global warming seriously and attribute it to human activity. (Although I personally am an exception to that–I rather incline to the view that global warming is a result more of solar activity than greenhouse gasses. On the other hand, the measures taken to reduce greenhouse gasses, namely increased reliance on renewable energy, will be positive for other reasons.)

    We are also for the most part moral relativists and humanists. We find the idea of a God who lays down a moral law complete with punishment of transgressors to be an anathema, and a contradiction of the idea of an infinitely loving God.

    Yet most of us are firmly in the pro-ID camp, and we are thrilled at the fact that the more science understands about the world, the more evidence it uncovers that points directly to a Creator.

  16. 16

    Clive

    As if a mathematical formula were to be disregarded because it appeared on papyrus instead of college-ruled paper.

    The problem with that is that there is an accepted convention already.

    If college-ruled paper = peer review and papyrus = book then you can’t expect to publish on papyrus and have anybody listen. Why should they? After all, anybody can write a book. Why should busy people waste their time reading something that has not had a minimum of scrunity?

    I’ve got no problem with people writing books, but if they don’t also put their ideas into the only scientific arena that really matters, peer review, then they can’t complain that their ideas are not being listened to.

    After all, many thousands of books are published a year. No quality control on any of them. How can you determine in advance without reading them which have a minimum level of quality and fact checking? You can’t.

    Many thousands of peer-reviewed papers are written a year. They all have a minimum (sometimes variable I’ll grant you) level of quality and fact checking.

    So given time is limited, if I want to examine what other people are doing in a field that interested me, and if I’m capable of understanding it then it’s obvious what I’ll choose to read.

    It’s a plain and simple fact.

    So it’s not that a “mathematical formula would be disregarded” it’s more just that it would not be seen at all, lost in the other thousands of books coming out.

    Sure, if this “formula” was 100% correct and world shattering it would be seen and heard, but even then it would have to be subject to a level of scrunity similar to peer review before people could support it openly. They’ve been burnt before by logical sounding things that turn out to be based on a foundation of sand.

    Hence the rise of peer review in the first place (people have been publishing books for hundreds of years you know!) as a way to sift the wheat from the chaff.

  17. 17
    Granville Sewell

    Echidna.Levy

    First, these are the proceedings of a conference at a major university in 2000 (may be some new material also, that’s not clear); the list of participants is extremely impressive. Are you saying no one should read the proceedings because they were not peer-reviewed (after the conference)??

    Second, peer review works reasonably well as long as the topic is not a philosophically charged, controversial issue. For controversial philosophical issues, it is often used simply as a tool to surpress minority viewpoints.

    If you’ll read the link to the history of the Polyni Center at Baylor, you’ll see that it’s an appalling story of the surpression of a legitimate minority scientific point of view by the majority.

  18. 18

    Dr. Dembski:

    Here is a cool cartoon for you:

    http://evidentcreation.com/EC-Cartoon.html

  19. As long as neo-Darwinists continue to use peer pressure, ridicule, and misdirection to justify their scientific position I will continue to wonder why they don’t resort to real proof.

  20. Very nice.

  21. Echidna.Levy

    You might also notice that Origin of Species and Newton’s Principia were books not peer reviewed prior to publication. By the standards by which you select your reading material, you would have ignored them when they were published.

    I would suggest that by only considering peer reviewed books or articles for your reading material, you basically let others do your thinking for you. There are many ways to assess the possible value of a publication before reading it without having to rely on someone else’s opinion.

  22. Bruce, David (15), I’m glad someone has finally pointed out the existence of this minor but I hope significant grouping of ID advocates. With some caveats relative to your description, I would place myself in that group.Hopefully the “big tent” of ID will be agreed to include us. I think our views may be more unwelcome to the majority of ID advocates than the Creationists.

  23. 23

    Magnan,

    Thanks for the comment. I would be surprised if the “big tent” wouldn’t include us. After all, they let in David Berlinski, an agnostic, Geoffry Simmons, a Jew, and even Bradley Monton, an atheist.

    Just out of curiosity, what are your “caveats” to my description?

  24. Bruce David,

    My main difference is with your implied positive stance relative to the goodness of human life. This is closely related to the ancient “problem of suffering” wrestled with by centuries of Christian theologians. To date, the Christian theodicity concepts have not really succeeded, though Plantinga’s is the most sophisticated. There is also a fundamental flaw in all the non-Christian teachings you referred to, teachings which I still find attractive for many reasons. These teachings could be said to all reflect to some degree or another Huxley’s Perennial Wisdom and Richard Maurice Bucke’s epiphany which he described in his famous book, Cosmic Consciousness. “….the Universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure, all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and the happiness of everyone is, in the long run, absolutely certain.”

    Such insights seem wonderful, but refuse to engage the actual badness of much of human life, having so much truly innocent suffering (innocent as far as the conscious personalities of the human beings involved). This situation has been the source of much struggle by many of the world’s great novelists and playwrights. Idealism, especially the spiritual kind, tends to diminish in direct proportion to the proximity to actual human situations. The high teachings all really apply to the soul (assuming this is a valid concept, which I provisionally accept), which presumably will rejoice at all human experience including even suffering, because it ultimately leads to enlightenment, to achieving the ultimate goals of the Soul in manifesting in the physical.

    None of this matters to the brute reality of the child dying of AIDS or any of the endless other innocent sufferers to whose human personalities their travail has been truly imposed by some cruel outside force. Usually the personality which does the experiencing is not even able to “grow” spiritually through the experience. The personality has not been exposed to the teaching or is not intelligent or mature enough to comprehend it, or the necessities of survival give it no time and energy to absorb it. We live as physical human personalities, instinctually identified with the body and with memories going back to childhood, not as souls. Previous personalities (assuming reincarnation) were different people to all intents and purposes – there is no real continuity to the present human person, so it also is irrelevant. The teachings primarily apply to the soul, not the human personality which does the actual experiencing of Earth life.

    Thus, I am not a materialist, but I am also not an optimist.

  25. Will there be a hardback edition? The amazon link says paperback.

    A book of this size should be cloth bound. Paperbacks of this thickness are impractical.

  26. 26

    magnan,

    Ah, yes, the problem of evil in the world, or more precisely, the problem of suffering: How could an infinitely good and powerful God allow the innocent to suffer?

    To me, it’s easy: Earth is not our true home. We souls (which I see as the “I” that observes and experiences our lives, including the emotions, etc., that make up the personality of any particular incarnation) come here to grow spiritually. We choose the circumstances into which we will be born each time we come, including the possibility of suffering. The place from which we come and to which we return is a place where suffering really doesn’t exist. If you would like to read an excellent description of this realm, I highly recommend Journey of Souls by Michael Newton, and the sequel, Destiny of Souls. Also, Conversations with God, Book I, by Neale Donald Walsch, has the best explanation I have ever read of the purpose of the physical universe and our participation in it.

  27. Bruce David,

    I applaud your faith, but in my opinion it is faith in contravention of clear observational evidence of vast amounts of atrocious, pointless, spiritually growthless suffering. I won’t enumerate the endless examples that come to mind.

  28. 28

    magnan,

    How can you be so certain that you know the purpose of another soul’s journey? You speak of “observational evidence”, but how can you observe the purpose of someone’s experience or its ultimate results, particularly when those results often don’t manifest fully until after the incarnation in which the experience occurs has concluded?

    Personally, I accept the ultimate goodness of God.

  29. Bruce David,

    I just choose to honor the immediate experiences of very human beings, most of whom, if they were able to think it through, would not consider any theoretical expected soul benefit to justify their suffering. Just expound such spiritual understandings, that they really chose their travail, to someone dying slowly of some disease or going through some other terribly painful experience. Better be prepared for a lot of invective.

    There may indeed be higher soul purposes for human suffering. My only point is that this is only a justification to the soul, not the human. There is (at least on the earth) a profound separation between soul consciousness and human consciousness.

    Like I said, you have faith, which can be defined as belief in the absence of evidence or in apparent contradiction to evidence. In this case the faith requires somehow assuming that higher spiritual purposes are relevant to struggling human beings. Unfortunately I have always been wedded too much to reason and logic. I would rather apprehend the truth (or what reason says is the closest model to the facts) rather than embrace the world through rose colored glasses (that is, embrace a model just because it makes me feel good).

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