I have been reviewing Jason Rosenhouse’s new book, The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism (Cambridge University Press), serially. This is the final post in the review. For the full series, go here.
Would the world be better off if Jason Rosenhouse had never written The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism? I, for one, am happy he did write it. It shows what the current state of thinking is by Darwinists on the mathematical ideas that my colleagues and I in the intelligent design movement have developed over the years. In particular, it shows how little progress they’ve made in understanding and engaging with these ideas. It also alerted me to the resurgence of artificial life simulations. Not that artificial life ever went away. But Rosenhouse cites what is essentially a manifesto by 53 authors (including ID critics Christoph Adami, Robert Pennock, and Richard Lenski) that all is well with artificial life: “The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution.” (2020) In fact, conservation of information shows that artificial life is a hopeless enterprise. But as my colleague Jonathan Wells underscored in his book Zombie Science, some disreputable ideas are just too pleasing and comforting for Darwinists to disown, and artificial life is one of them. So it was helpful to learn from Rosenhouse about the coming zombie apocalypse.
As indicated at the start of this review, I’ve been selective in my criticisms of Rosenhouse’s book, focusing especially on where he addressed my work and on where it impinged on that of some of my close colleagues in the intelligent design movement. I could easily have found more to criticize, but this review is already long. Leaving aside his treatment of young-earth creationists and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, he reflexively repeats Darwinian chestnuts, such as that gene duplication increases information, as though a mere increase in storage capacity can explain biologically useful information (“We’ve doubled the size of your hard drive and you now have twice the information!”). And wherever possible, he tries to paint my colleagues as rubes and ignoramuses. Thus he portrays Stephen Meyer as assuming a simplistic probabilistic model of genetic change when in the original source (Darwin’s Doubt) he is clearly citing an older understanding (by the Wistar mathematicians back in the 1960s) and then makes clear that a newer, more powerful understanding is available today. Disinformation is a word in vogue these days, and it characterizes much of Rosenhouse’s book.
In closing, I want to consider an example that appears near the start of The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism (p. 32) and reappears at the very end in the “Coda” (pp. 273–274). It’s typical, when driving on a major street, to have cross streets where one side of the cross street is directly across from the other, and so the traffic on the cross street across the major street is direct. Yet it can happen, more often on country roads, that the cross street involves what seem to be two T-intersections that are close together, and so crossing the major street to stay on the cross street requires a jog in the traffic pattern.
Rosenhouse is offering a metaphor here, with the first option representing intelligent design, the second Darwinism. According to him, the straight path across the major street represents “a sensible arrangement of roads of the sort a civil engineer would devise” whereas the joggy path represents “an absurd and potentially dangerous arrangement that only makes sense when you understand the historical events leading up to it.” (p. 32) Historical contingencies unguided by intelligence, in which roads are built without coordination, thus explain the second arrangement, and by implication explain biological adaptation.
Rosenhouse grew up near some roads that followed the second arrangement. Recently he learned that in place of two close-by T-intersections, the cross street now goes straight across. He writes:
Apparently, in the years since I left home, that intersection has been completely redesigned. The power that be got tired of cleaning up after the numerous crashes and human misery resulting from the poor design of the roads. So they shut it all down for several months and completely redid the whole thing. Now the arrangement of roads makes perfect sense, and the number of crashes there has declined dramatically. The anti-evolutionists are right about one thing: we really can distinguish systems that were designed from those that evolved gradually. Unfortunately for them, the anatomy of organisms points overwhelmingly toward evolution and just as overwhelmingly from design. (p. 273–274)
A Failed Metaphor
The blindness on display in this passage is staggering, putting on full display the delusional world of Darwinists and contrasting it with the real world that is chock-full of design. Does it really need to be pointed out that roads are designed? That where they go is designed? And that even badly laid out roads are nonetheless laid out by design? But as my colleague Winston Ewert pointed out to me, Rosenhouse’s story doesn’t add up even if we ignore the design that’s everywhere. On page 32, he explains that the highway was built first and then later towns arose on either side of the highway, eventually connecting the crossroads to the highway. But isn’t it obvious, upon the merest reflection, that whoever connected the second road to the highway could have built it opposite to the first road that was already there. So why didn’t they do it? The historical timing of the construction of the roads doesn’t explain it. Something else must be going on.
There are in fact numerous such intersections in the US. Typically they are caused by grid corrections due to the earth’s curvature. In other words, they are a consequence of fitting a square grid onto a spherical earth. Further, such intersections can actually be safer, as a report on staggered junctions by the European Road Safety Decision Support System makes clear. So yes, this example is a metaphor, but not for the power of historical contingency to undercut intelligent design, but for the delusive power of Darwinism to look to historical contingency for explanations that support Darwinism but that under even the barest scrutiny fall apart.
Enough said. Stay tuned for the second edition of The Design Inference!
Editor’s note: This review is cross-posted with permission of the author from BillDembski.com.