Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 709–722

The Advantages of Theft over Toil: The Design Inference and Arguing from Ignorance

  • John S. Wilkins
  • Wesley R. Elsberry

DOI: 10.1023/A:1012282323054

Cite this article as:
Wilkins, J.S. & Elsberry, W.R. Biology & Philosophy (2001) 16: 709. doi:10.1023/A:1012282323054


Intelligent design theorist William Dembski hasproposed an ``explanatory filter'' fordistinguishing between events due to chance,lawful regularity or design. We show that ifDembski's filter were adopted as a scientificheuristic, some classical developments inscience would not be rational, and thatDembski's assertion that the filter reliablyidentifies rarefied design requires ignoringthe state of background knowledge. Ifbackground information changes even slightly,the filter's conclusion will vary wildly.Dembski fails to overcome Hume's objections toarguments from design.

Bayesian inferenceDarwinDembskiintelligent designnatural selection

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • John S. Wilkins
    • 1
  • Wesley R. Elsberry
    • 2
  1. 1.History and Philosophy of ScienceThe University of MelbourneSomervilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversitySan DiegoUSA