To the editor:
William Dembski's Monday night speech at the Lied Center provided unexpected insight into the terrible confusion that underlies the evolution controversy today.
Well known as a critic of evolutionary theory, his talk was sponsored by the evangelical Campus Crusade for Christ.
The talk's title suggested he would make "The Case for Intelligent Design," a theory highly congenial to conservative Christians who understand it to be an alternative to their much despised theory of evolution.
Yet, the faithful in the audience were likely taken aback by what they heard. Dembski presented himself and his ideas as purely scientific, not religious. He stated that intelligent design is compatible with the evolution of life from single-celled common ancestors - a process which he accepts as unguided and purposeless and which many Christian sectarians reject outright.
And rather than being an alternative to evolution, he said intelligent design supplements natural selection for complex evolutionary transitions that are "best explained as a result of intelligence." He offered no suggestions as to how a disembodied intelligence might in fact "explain" biological change, but nevertheless focuses his research on how to identify when intelligence must be involved.
In answer to a question, he said he sees no evidence of intelligent design in ordinary nature. Audience members who expected to find in Dembski's presentation a role for a loving, god-like designer of the world and our place in it were no doubt disappointed by his cold view that it all exists not by design but by accident.