Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be
Purchased without Intelligence


author: William A. Dembski

publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

publication date: December 2001

number of pages: 440

list price: $35.00


Dustjacket blurb:

Darwin's greatest accomplishment was to show how life might be explained as the result of natural selection. But does Darwin's theory mean that life was unintended? William A. Dembski argues that it does not. In this book Dembski extends his theory of intelligent design. Building on his earlier work in The Design Inference (Cambridge, 1998), he defends that life must be the product of intelligent design. Critics of Dembski's work have argued that evolutionary algorithms show that life can be explained apart from intelligence. But by employing powerful recent results from the No Free Lunch Theory, Dembski addresses and decisively refutes such claims. As the leading proponent of intelligent design, Dembski reveals a designer capable of originating the complexity and specificity found throughout the cosmos. Scientists and theologians alike will find this book of interest as it brings the question of creation firmly into the realm of scientific debate.

The back cover of NFL has the following five endorsements:

I disagree strongly with the position taken by William Dembski. But I do think that he argues strongly and that those of us who do not accept his conclusions should read his book and form our own opinions and counter-arguments. He should not be ignored.

Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University; editor of Biology and Philosophy; author of Monad to Man and many other books on Darwinism

In No Free Lunch, William Dembski gives the most profound challenge to the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution since this theory was first formulated in the 1930s.I differ from Dembski on some points, mainly in ways which strengthen his conclusion.

Frank J. Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics, Tulane University, co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, author of The Physics of Immortality

In this book William Dembski takes his statistical work on inferring design and translates it into an information-theoretic apparatus relevant to understanding biological fitness. In doing so, he has brought his argument for intelligent design into a domain that overlaps current work in evolutionary biology. As I see it, this is a landmark for intelligent design theory because, for the first time, it makes it possible to objectively evaluate the claims of evolutionary biology and intelligent design on common ground.

 Martin Poenie, Associate Professor of Biology, University of Texas at Austin

Dembski lays the foundations for a research project aimed at answering one of the most fundamental scientific questions of our time: what is the maximal specified complexity that can be reasonably expected to emerge (in a given time frame) with and without various design assumptions.

 Moshe Koppel, Professor of Mathematics, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

This sequel to The Design Inference further enhances the credibility of Intelligent Design as a sound research program. Through solid historical and philosophical arguments, Dembski succeeds in showing how specified complexity reliably detects design. His critique of Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution is built on a set of powerful and lucid arguments; his formulation of an alternative to these accounts is simply compelling.

 Muzaffar Iqbal, Ph.D. (Chemistry), Author of Islam and Science, Founder-President of Center for Islam and Science (CIS)


The very first pages of NFL have the following eight endorsements:


In this important work Dembski applies to evolutionary theory the conceptual apparatus of the theory of intelligent design developed in his acclaimed book The Design Inference. He gives a penetrating critical analysis of the current attempt to underpin the neo-Darwinian synthesis by means of mathematics. Using recent information-theoretic “no free lunch” theorems, he shows in particular that evolutionary algorithms are by their very nature incapable of generating the complex specified information which lies at the heart of living systems. His results have such profound implications, not only for origin of life research and macroevolutionary theory, but also for the materialistic or naturalistic assumptions that often underlie them, that this book is essential reading for all interested in the leading edge of current thinking on the origin of information.

John C. Lennox, M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc., Green College and the Mathematical Institute, Oxford, England

This is a book for the 21st century. In the information age, life science is finally leaving behind the 19th century mindset that constrained it for most of the 20th century, and coming to grips with the information technology that underlies the biochemistry of life. Dr. Dembski’s formidable intellect has presented a rigorous and persuasive case for the law of conservation of information, the implications of which are revolutionary in their significance for the study of life sciences in the new millennium. This is a book that can be read at two levels: on the one hand, Dembski’s examples and analogies explain the theories very well to the lay reader; at another level, Dembski’s mathematical proofs argue his case convincingly to the professional and the skeptic.

Andrew Ruys, Ph.D., Queen Elizabeth II Fellow (Bioceramic Engineering), University of Sydney, Australia

What we know as the “laws of nature” represent boundary conditions which define how nature works. Great advancements in science depend on, and have been made by, understanding these laws. In No Free Lunch, Dembski convincingly demonstrates another of these boundary conditions; namely, that the creation of information requires intelligence. Currently, this “law of information” is routinely ignored in science by acceptance of the unproven idea that all of life, including the awesome information content in the genome of any living cell, has been created by the purely naturalistic process of random mutation and selection. As with the discovery of all the “laws of nature,” Dembski’s “law of information” will lead to a greater understanding of nature and to better science. This book, as well as Dembski’s other books (Intelligent Design and The Design Inference), is a must read for both the lay person as well as the professional scientist.

Russell W. Carlson, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Adjunct Professor of Microbiology, and Technical Director, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia

Eventually, every thoughtful person wonders about the Big Questions Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? Modern evolutionary theory offers powerful answers to these questions, but that same power has encouraged wholesale dismissal of alternative hypotheses.No Free Lunch is one alternative that is worthy of serious scientific consideration. William Dembski provides a coherent and rigorous way of approaching a key issue underlying the Big Questions: How do we know if an observable is due to pure chance or is intelligently designed? Sections of No Free Lunch will be accessible to general readers, but at its core the book is a scholarly manifesto, packed with intriguing ideas.I give this book my strongest recommendation.

Dean Radin, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences, author of The Conscious Universe

This is a very interesting book that I have looked forward to reading on the bus each day. Since Dembski believes the universe is complex, whereas I think it is simple, I disagree with many of his arguments, but I do find his ideas intriguing to consider and debate. Anyone who is interested in these issues and in the Design movement that Dembski spearheads should find No Free Lunch a stimulating and provocative book.

Don N. Page, Professor of Physics, University of Alberta

In this important book, the question of how to infer intelligent design with an objective and scientific criterion is answered in a way that is accessible to a broad audience. Perhaps the most striking and insightful extension of Dembski’s earlier work on this topic is the proposed “fourth law of thermodynamics” that deals directly with the conservation of complex specified information.

Fred Skiff, Professor of Physics, University of Iowa

Using impeccable information- and computation-theoretic arguments, Professor Dembski demonstrates that complex specified information cannot originate solely through the actions of natural laws, chance, or any combination of the two. This book does not question the many successes enjoyed by evolutionary algorithms in numerous fields of science and engineering. Rather, it illustrates the role of intelligent agency in the problem formulations that enables their convergence to useful solutions, and calls for a renewed recognition of design as a primary, not a derivative, aspect of our world.

Terry Rickard, Ph.D., machine intelligence expert, Senior Vice President, ORINCON Corporation International

Biology has been ill-served by the mindless insistence that blind natural mechanisms account for the totality of biological complexity and diversity. In this book mathematician/philosopher Wm. A. Dembski develops a novel information-theoretic framework that powerfully illuminates this problem, yet without shortchanging Darwinian and self-organizational theories.

Philip S. Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry (Emeritus), Pennsylvania State University; member, National Academy of Sciences