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Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA Hardcover – July 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"No other collection offers a comprehensive, balanced, accessible overview like this." SirReadaLot.org

"[A] stimulating collection of essays..." The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Brendan Sweetman

"The book is highly recommended." Philosophy in Review

"It is a masterly exposition of the issue of design in the biological context ... It will serve as a useful reference work in the coming years."
Milltown Studies

Book Description

This volume provides a comprehensive and even-handed overview of the debate concerning biological origins. This has been a controversial debate ever since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably the source of controversy has been design. In this unique survey leading figures in the debate argue for their respective positions in a non-technical, accessible style. Readers are thus invited to draw their own conclusions. Two introductory essays furnish a historical overview of the debate.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (July 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521829496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521829496
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,508,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dembski and Ruse's anthology grew out of a common desire to help clarify and understand the Intelligent Design (ID) debate; Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher, is one of the chief proponents of Intelligent Design, whereas Ruse, a prominent philosopher of biology, is a strong proponent of neo-Darwinism. This collection is noted for its balance and respectful tone among its many eminent contributors, both of which are generally lacking in one of the most hotly-debated topics in modern science.

Contributors from across the spectrum of positions regarding evolution, religion, and Intelligent Design were grouped into four main sections and an introductory session , which contains the editors' introduction and two brief essays on the history of the Intelligent Design movement. While those two essays are by opponents of ID, they do a good, respectful job of encapsulating some of the chief events and players in the movement.

Part I brings us to the meat of the debate, with several powerful critiques of ID. It begins with a historical piece on Darwinism's impact and development by AAAS president Francisco Ayala. Also notable is a critique of the ID movement's use of the bacterial flagellum, whose "irreducible complexity" the ID movement holds
cannot be explained by gradual evolution. This piece was written by a practicing Catholic named Kenneth Miller--I was gratified that the ID vs. Darwinism debate was not being cast a purely science v. religion debate, and that in fact that there are
religious believers represented in this collection with a broad spectrum of perspectives and positions.

Part II is on "Complex Self Organization", with good articles by physicist and scientific popularizer Paul Davies and historian of science Paul Barham.
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This book has quite a bit to recommend it. Most books that attempt to survey the debates between the Darwinian thought, the dominant paradigm in evolution, have a clearly defined axe to grind, but this volume includes an equal number of essays by both defenders of Darwinian orthodoxy and ID theorists. Significantly, it also includes chapters dealing with more nuanced perspectives, including theistic evolution and some of the preliminary work of theorists who suggest an as yet undiscovered "law" of complex organization. This latter group is an important, but often overlooked, set of Darwin critics. Nonetheless, for most readers, and certainly the bulk of reviewers, it will be the debate between the ID theorists and the defenders of NDE that commands the most attention.

The first two essays of the book, by Michael Ruse and Agnus Menuge provide a broader context for the debate. Ruse reviews the use of design arguments throughout history and explains why Darwin's 'Origin of Species' was apparently so devastating to most of them. Menuge's essay reviews some of the recent literature on the debate, in particular Barbara Forrest's influential Creationism's Trojan Horse written with Paul Gross. The latter, like many "critiques" of intelligent design was more a misrepresentation and ad hominem attack than a thoughtful study.

Perhaps the most interesting exchange in this volume is between Kenneth Miller and Michael Behe. Miller attempts to undermine Behe's claim that the flagellum is an irreducibly complex structure.
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Format: Paperback
Editor William Albert Dembski (born 1960) is a key figure in the "Intelligent Design" movement, who is a professor at the Southern Evangelical Seminary and a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute. He has written/edited many other books, such as The Design Inference, Intelligent Design, The Design Revolution, Uncommon Dissent, etc. Michael Ruse (born 1940) is a philosopher of science who teaches at Florida State University, and has written books such as The Darwinian Revolution, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, Darwinism and its Discontents, Mystery of Mysteries, etc.

The General Introduction to this 2004 collection states, "There are of course already books that deal with Intelligent Design and with the arguments of the critics...
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