Authors by the dozen

Books Special Report | From intelligent design to pop culture, from Christian apologetics to politics, 12 contemporary authors do what they do best: pontificate, Q & A style

Issue: "Summer Books 2002," July 7, 2002

The word author is related to the word authority. The authority of Scripture derives from its Author-that is, God. Despite some contemporary critics' belief that a book's meaning has nothing to do with what the author originally intended, the more established tenet is that an author is the best authority about what his book really means.

In support of that principle-and for those who have ever read a book and wanted to ask the author a question-WORLD sent a series of questions to a number of writers who have had much to say about Christianity and culture. Here, in their own words, is what they had to say.

William Dembski helped move intelligent design into public prominence. He is an associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University and a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute. His latest book is No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence (Rowman & Littlefield).

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Q: Ray Kurzweil and many others have predicted an age of spiritual machines, complete with artificial intelligence, uploading and downloading of human consciousness, and whatnot. Do you think this will ever happen?
A: It's a pipedream. There's no evidence that consciousness, intelligence, or conceptual understanding has anything to do with computation or complexity. Kurzweil's extravagant claims are driven entirely by his materialistic presuppositions: (1) Humans are entirely material; (2) their brains have a certain degree of complexity; (3) computational power is fast exceeding that complexity; (4) thus a suitably programmed computer will in short order beat human cognitive capacities.
The actual field of artificial intelligence (rather than the materialistic philosophy surrounding artificial intelligence) has made very limited progress and shows no signs of capturing human cognition. So the short answer is no. Kurzweil is peddling science fiction and bad philosophy.

Q: How do you think mainstream scientists can leave strict Darwinism behind while maintaining their professional integrity?
A: Let me turn it around: Mainstream scientists must leave strict Darwinism behind if they are to maintain their professional integrity. Strict Darwinism asserts that Darwin's mechanism of random variation and natural selection is able to account for all the complexity and diversity we see in living forms. The evidence simply does not support this claim, and in fact there is good evidence to suggest that this mechanism cannot do all that strict Darwinists attribute to it (evidence now acknowledged even by biologists who oppose intelligent design). To maintain strict Darwinism is to maintain an unsubstantiated dogma. That's not how science is supposed to work.

Michael Behe questioned common notions about natural selection in Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Touchstone). He is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and co-wrote Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology (InterVarsity) with William Dembski.

Q: Some argue that design is simply an argument from ignorance and that Darwinism will be shown to be true once more study is done. How do you respond to this?
A: The public was led to believe that Darwinism was already shown to be true! Saying that future work will eventually vindicate the theory is a very weak position and a significant retreat from what we had been led to believe. Tell archeologists that their discovery of ancient, designed cities is "an argument from ignorance." Tell astronomers that, if they discover what they think are radio signals from intelligent aliens, it would only be "an argument from ignorance."

Q: Is intelligent design verifiable?
A: Intelligent design is falsifiable. If an experiment showed that natural selection could make a system as complicated as the cell, design would have been shown to be untrue. To say the least, I don't expect that to happen.

Q: How has your discussion of irreducible complexity added to the debate over origins?
A: The concept of irreducible complexity shows there is a problem for Darwinism at the very foundation of life-the cell-which had been ignored. Recognizing the problem shows that Darwinists don't know nearly as much as they had claimed, and that other explanations, such as design, are very much in the running.

John Frame is professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. His newest books are The Doctrine of God and No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (both P&R).

Q: Your new book addresses the problem of treating God as female. Beyond the clear-cut issues of heterodoxy, what are the implications of this view?
A: Culturally, feminist theologians present the female god as a model for an egalitarian human society, in which (1) there are no gender-based role differences in the church or family, and (2) ultimately, nobody has "power over" anybody else. Theologically, the idea of a female deity destroys the biblical images of God as Father and as Husband to His bride, the church. The submission of the church to Christ as a godly wife to her husband seems to me to be a central concern of Scripture.


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