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The design of life


The Design of Life - Discovering Signs of Intelligence In Biological Systems (publisher: Foundation for Thought and Ethics; first edition, November 2007) is the last book written four-hands by William Dembski e Jonathan Wells.


It's been said: "Modern biology is a science of information". Today mainstream science spectacularly shows the marriage between biology and information (and in the future this will be even more true). The book "the Design of life", written by leading ID theorists - Dembski is a mathematician/informatician and Wells is a biologist/geneticist - already in its title shows the same marriage: design (which is information - and conversely information is design) and life, in all its stunning complexity biological systems show. The reason of this coupling is that life simply couldn't exist without both information and design. This is the theme of the book that is masterfully worked out all along by the authors. Among the many Intelligent Design oriented books, "Design of life" eminently benefits of the different yet complementary backgrounds of the authors and represents a good opportunity for the reader who wants to be introduced step-by-step to the ID/evolution controversy, having all its aspects well exposed on the table. Indeed thank to its information and biology contents and points of views this book can well represent a state-of-the-art manual of the Intelligent Design approach to the controversy about origin-of-life and origin-of-species.


The main lacks of evidence of Darwinian unguided macroevolution (the opposite of intelligent design) are explained from the biological point of view ("missing links" in the fossil records, molecular comparisons in genetics, genes-alone-don't-control development, analogy and homology, alleged vestigial organs, etc.) and from the information point of view (irreducible complexity, complex specified information, etc.). It is explained that it was proved as just basic biochemical systems are not Darwinianly generable, that is by mean of random variation and natural selection only. For example the bacteria flagellum "the most efficient machine in the universe", composed of thousands proteins of thirty different kinds, is off "the edge of evolution". The "seven hurdles" that the Darwinian processes should overcome to evolve irreducible complex biochemical machines are the insuperable obstacles to the goal.


Very aptly an entire chapter is dedicated to the origin-of-life problem, and it is explained how the so-called prebiotic or chemical evolution of life from nonlife suffers of similar or even worse problems if one limits his horizon to material explanations only. In fact in a sense the origin-of-life is even more complex that origin of species, inasmuch, while the latter allegedly starts from a common ancestor, the former starts from sparse atoms. Where did the unbelievable intricacy of molecular machinery necessary for life come from in the first place? The classic answers: "energy provided information" is unsound because energy per se cannot; "matter is self-organizing" doesn't work because implies however a source of information that injected information into matter. The "new" answer, "molecular Darwinism", is baseless as its counterpart "organisms Darwinism", and for the same reason: biological information and complexity are twin "ghosts" that Darwinists (who consider them apparent) cannot exorcize (inasmuch they are real). As the authors write: "The origin of information is not a problem of chemistry. Chemistry can be a carrier of information, but it cannot be its source".


Many footnotes and general notes make the book user-friendly and every chapter has a final "Discussion Questions" session where the reader can exercise his level of understanding of the matter. These are a useful and nice way of recapitulating the topics and fixing ideas. This well-illustrated and clearly written book definitely debunks naturalistic explanations of life and reintroduces design in science through the main gate.