Customer Reviews


11 Reviews
5 star:
 (6)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Respectful(!) Survey of Ideas
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...
Published on August 23, 2005 by Gerald J. Nora

versus
21 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A useful survey of current design ideas
Collects essays by well-known figures in philosophy and theology who are concerned with the question of divine design in the world. Most contributors want to affirm that a God somehow has designed the world. Many do so by trying to argue that Darwinian evolution is incomplete and that there is a way to insert God into the picture given by modern science. Some espouse a...
Published on February 20, 2005 by Taner Edis


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Respectful(!) Survey of Ideas, August 23, 2005
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. Stuart Kauffman's article, which begins this section, is actually the introductory chapter of his book "Investigations", and so mentions many things but never discusses
anything in depth, being just an introduction. While quite disappointing, the other contributors in this section develop Kauffman's ideas as they explore whether biochemistry can generate complex systems (such as proto-cells and metabolic
networks) without intelligent intervention. This may be, conceptually speaking, the richest chapter in the anthology.

Part III, "Theistic Evolution": Various religious contributors propose philosophies that reconcile evolution and religion. Many of these contributors are as critical of ID as they are with the ultra-Darwinists like Dawkins. Of particular note is Michael Roberts' critique of ID and the fossil record of life on Earth.

Part IV, "Intelligent Design": finally, the ID theorists themselves, including Dembski and Behe, get the floor. Dembski and Behe's articles didn't overwhelm me with their persuasiveness, but did help me get a clearer idea of what they have to say. The strongest piece here is probably Baylor's on entropy and biological polymers, and the problems such calculations raise for the emergence of early life.

If one is looking for polemics against either position in this debate, or a knock-down argument one way or another, this book will disappoint you, as it seems to have done with a couple other reviewers. As with many debates, the debaters seem to talk past each other at points, but the book is full of citations, and has given me a good springboard for investigating controversies in evolution and the philosophy of biology. The book also presents a range of opinions and directions for future inquiry, rather than some artificially polarized argument with no room for a middle ground. For those reasons, plus the very civil tone amongst the debaters regarding an issue that can get both sides so worked up, I can give this collection five stars. I do not see a better survey of this debate being publish for some time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Parameters of the Debate, and Elliot Sober's Convincing Critique, November 28, 2007
By 
Fritz R. Ward "dayhiker" (Crestline, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Paperback)
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. Accepting Behe's argument that such structures have multiple components, and his claim that if any one of those components are missing, the structure ceases to function, Miller proceeds to argue that the flagellum is not irreducibly complex. In particular, he claims the Type Three Secretory System (TTSS) found in some pathogenic bacteria is in fact subset of the materials used to build the flagellum, and since the TTSS is "functional" this in an of itself dismisses with intelligent design, or at the very least, with the concept of irreducible complexity. Behe responds to this, and other criticisms of a similar nature, by noting that Miller has not, in fact, addressed his argument. The flagellum is irreducibly complex because it ceases to function "as a flagellum" if any one part is removed. That portions of a flagellum might have other uses is hardly to the point. Referring back to his famous mousetrap analogy, Behe notes that any given piece of a mousetrap might have some other use: the base, for example, could also be used as a paperweight. But these alternate uses do not mitigate the problem of having all the pieces come together, in a precise and orderly fashion, in order to gain a new function that was neither present beforehand, nor could be subject to natural selection since missing multiple portions renders the function to be selected useless. In short, by pointing to the TTSS, Miller is pointing to yet another irreducibly complex system, and using it to "explain" the flagellum. This reviewer found Miller's arguments very powerful on a rhetorical level, but Behe's response convincing. I had a similar reaction to the essays by Robert Pennock and Stephen Meyer.

But in this book the design theorists do not always have the last word. The essay by Elliot Sober stands on its own as the most powerful critique of design I have ever read, and none of the other authors, nor indeed the reviewers, seem to have fully taken cognizance of it. In brief, Sober argues that the detection of design requires not one but two filters. The first may well resemble one that Dembski has proposed in his book The Design Inference but the second is the unspoken assumption that we would recognize the motives of a designer. Of course, we all make design assumptions all the time, as Dembski notes in his own essay. But implicit in those assumptions, according to Sober, is the recognition that we know, if not the motives, at the least the general methods of the designer. We know this because the designers we have encountered in our own lives are human, and therefore much like ourselves. But what can we assume to know about a designer of life and how s/he(it) would, or would not, operate? Frequently advocates of intelligent design point to the SETI project as an example of how design inferences can be applied to a foreign intelligence. But Sober is skeptical that anything, even something as apparently universal as a series of prime numbers, would necessarily be recognized by a truly foreign intelligence as evidence of design. And there is little reason, he adds, for assuming that we would recognize the purposeful designs of other alien intelligences, much less of God.

The interesting thing about Sober's argument is that it apparently undermines not just intelligent design, but also one of the main arguments for Darwinian Evolution. This is the argument from "imperfect" or flawed designs. Darwinians frequently complain that the presence of "flaws" in the designs we observe, for example the panda's thumb, is evidence against intelligent design. But this argument, which is as old as The Origin of Species itself, and which is made repeatedly in Darwinian apologetics, from Philip Kitcher's recent Living with Darwin to the essay by Francisco Ayala in this volume, presumes more about that nature of a designer than any ID theorist every has. There is no reason to suppose a designer would chose "perfection" as an object of design. If Sober is correct, identifying non-human design is nearly impossible, because the task requires more knowledge of the designer than we can ever have. And his analysis applies not only to ID, but to a major component of the argument for evolution.

As someone who is frankly sympathetic to ID, I am at a loss as to how anyone could respond to Sober's argument. Certainly neither Ayala, Pennock, nor Dembski attempted to do so in this volume. It would seem to me that both ID theorists and their critics make an implicit assumption that a designer is, in some sense, like us. But this begs the question, on what basis do they make such assumptions? And the answer would be, on the basis of the western Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheistic tradition, which states explicitly that God made man in the image of himself. This understanding of God so permeates our culture that even those, like Richard Dawkins, who loudly proclaim their atheism, seem bound by it. The central disagreement then between ID theorists and their most responsible critics, involves how God is like us, and how He is not. And indeed, rereading this volume from that perspective, one quickly realizes that the many, if not most, of the arguments made by the group supposedly opposing the intrusion of religion into science are theological in nature. So perhaps Sober's greatest contribution to this volume, besides his express purpose of cautioning those who would use design arguments indiscriminantly, is in highlighting just how many of the supposedly scientific arguments of our day are permeated by religious thought. This thoughtful essay alone is worth the price of the volume.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MARVELOUS COLLECTION OF BOTH "PRO" AND "CON" ARTICLES ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN, April 30, 2013
By 
This review is from: Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (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... We believe, however, that there is virtue in producing one volume, containing arguments from both sides, in which each side puts forward its strongest case... The reader then can quickly and readily start to grasp the fundamental claims and counterclaims being made." (Pg. 4) Besides Dembski and Ruse, contributors include Francisco Ayala, Kenneth Miller [Finding Darwin's God], Robert Pennock [Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics], Stuart Kauffman, Paul Davies, John Polkinghorne, Keith Ward, Richard Swinburne, Michael Behe, etc.

One essayist notes, "critics press the case that ID has not generated significant scientific journal articles or data... If what counts as science depends on the verdict of peer review, then, it is claimed, ID has yet to establish a track record. In response, proponents of ID have made a number of points. First, they argue that it is not so much new data as the interpretation of existing data that matters. The scientists within the ID movement... have published articles in scientific journals (which do not mention ID); and they have published peer-reviewed work (which does mention ID) outside of scientific journals." (Pg. 44-45)

Pennock points out, "Kenneth Miller asked Dembski and Behe ... during a debate... and neither was willing to take a stand on even one specific point in time at which ["insertion of design"] supposedly occurred. The pattern of vagueness and evasion regarding the specific theoretical commitments or possible tests of ID is pervasive... If ID is to have even a shot at being a real scientific alternative, one should expect to see some precise, testable... hypotheses that answer the obvious questions: what was designed and what wasn't; and when, where, how, and by whom was design informaton supposedly inserted?" (Pg. 133)

Behe observes, "A common misconception is that designed systems would have to be created from scratch in a puff of smoke. But that isn't necessarily so. The design process may have been much more subtle. In fact, it may have contravened no natural laws at all... If quantum events such as radioactive decay are not governed by causal laws, then it breaks no law of nature to influence such events. As a theist like [Kenneth] Miller, that seems perfectly possible to me." (Pg. 357-358)

This book should be considered "must reading" for anyone seriously studying the Intelligent Design movement.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debate, March 23, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Paperback)
This book has to be the best contemporary reference for the ever lasting debate on the philosophical and scientific controversy of creation-evolution. All interested sides in the debate share their point of views in a gentlemen's dispute where the respective claims are well and elegantly explained. Better yet, it could be seen as today's gathering of the best devoted minds to the subject around the best possible answers about our origins, from a not-necessarily religious perspective, but also from a critical view of the scientific establishment. It is well dosed, profound and, why not, intelligent.
I'd just say that I miss David Berlinski there. Nevertheless, men like Behe, Ruse, Depew, Davies, Kaufmann, etc. are more than worth it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ideal Teaching Tool and Balanced Volume With Scientists Debating Intelligent Design, Darwinism, and Self-Organization Theorie, June 21, 2006
This Cambridge University Press volume, co-edited by leading design theorist William Dembski and leading Darwinist philosopher of science Michael Ruse, provides perspectives from scholars on many sides of the ID-debate. The book provides a perfect template for those who would be interested in a comprehensive approach to biological origins in schools: it contains essays by proponents of Darwinism, self-organization, and intelligent design.

The volume begins with points of agreement between Darwinist philosopher of science Michael Ruse and leading intelligent design theorist William Dembski. They agree that intelligent design faces intolerance from the powers that be in the scientific community

Essays by design critics then go on to argue, for example, that the bacterial flagellum can be explained in naturalistic terms. Ken Miller argues that the Type Three Secretory System could have been a precursor to the flagellum. Leading self-organization proponent Stuart Kaufman critiques neo-Darwinism and describes his alternative approach for the origin of biological complexity. Finally, design proponents have their say, rebutting the various charges against intelligent design and pointing to positive evidence for design in certain features of the natural world.

This volume is, to date, the most comprehensive and balanced collection of essays debating design.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


43 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A closed debate?, October 25, 2004
This is a very useful collection of essays on the design debate, with a good mix of viewpoints. But, unfortunately, a strange thing has happened, Darwinists and Intelligent Design proponents have learned to coexist and remain deaf, caught up in their separate agendas. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that the field of debate has been monopolized by the two parties that have social clout, with little chance of really breaking the deadlock with fresh ideas. It is not hard to clarify the issue of evolution, but the people with the means to do this don't have ad budgets. So we are stuck with the dreary Darwin boilerplate and now the legerdemain of the ID faction. The Darwinists are frozen, and the ID people, after a burst of useful criticisms of Darwinism, have also become fronzen.

One part of the problem is that ID folk have gone a bridge too far. As a critique of natural selection, Darwin doubt is one thing. But to go over the threshold to a new and complex metaphysics in disguise via the rehashed hopes for the argument by design simply drives the dialectic in reverse gear. That gives Darwinists their excuse to not listen to criticisms of their position. It is getting very tiresome to hear still the useless claims that Darwin's theory resolves issues of complexity, teleology, and the rest. Will they never learn?

We need a third new perspective, not connected with theology in the background, and capable of both using the insights of the new complexity sciences, without their hype, to produce a self-critique of natural selection. Once that's accomplished, then perhaps a new methodology can be devised. The essays of Davies and Kaufmann show hints in that direction, but are still stuck in the wrong science mindset.

A ways to go here. The Darwin defenders are notably without insight into the weaknesses of their position, and the fixation on Darwin's theory goes on and on.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A useful survey of current design ideas, February 20, 2005
By 
Taner Edis (Kirksville, MO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Collects essays by well-known figures in philosophy and theology who are concerned with the question of divine design in the world. Most contributors want to affirm that a God somehow has designed the world. Many do so by trying to argue that Darwinian evolution is incomplete and that there is a way to insert God into the picture given by modern science. Some espouse a kind of mysticism about self-organization and the physics of complexity. Finally, there are the quasi-creationist Intelligent Design (ID) proponents.

This is a useful volume to get an idea of the range of design intuitions in play among theologians and theology-minded scientists today. It also highlights how "ID-lite" ideas are common among more liberal believers who would not be caught dead explicitly opposing Darwinian evolution. From a scientific point of view, most of the essays included are mistaken, wrong-headed, or plain irrelevant, but philosophers and those interested in science and religion issues may find them interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 106 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a debate, August 15, 2004
Another long review: Select see all my reviews link above to see the full text of my review.

While the title suggests that there would be a balance in arguments the anti-Darwinian arguments totally lose out against an overwhelming team of experts. Ruse, Ayala, Sober, Pennock and Miller methodically address the flaws in the scientific and philosophical arguments presented by the ID proponents. The ID proponents such as Dembski, Behe and Meyer mostly seem to be repeating old arguments while ignoring the main criticisms against their ideas.

John Haught's "Darwin, Design and Divine Providence", explains the main reason why Intelligent Design proponents so strongly oppose Darwinism and why they are wrong. Surprisingly it is based on the same argument that some evolutionists use to 'disprove' religion. Namely the idea that "Darwinism renders the notion of a divine Providence implausible". This is an interesting observation which may help explain the strong anti-Darwinism found in ID proponents. While many admit that God (oops, the designer) could have used Darwinian evolution, most seem to reject this based on theological grounds. In other words, rather than being a scientific movement, ID is far more a theological movement. This helps one to understand why ID was quickly to abandon the efforts of teaching of intelligent design in favor of the teachings of 'the controversy'. While little real controversy exists, this allows for a 'wedge' for ID to get its message across. Haught's contribution offers a refreshening insight into why Darwinism can be theologically acceptable. In "God after Darwin" Haught observed that "A God whose very essence is to be the world's open future is not a planner or a designer but an infinitely liberating source of new possibilities and new life. It seems to me that neo-Darwinian biology can live and thrive quite comfortably within the horizon of such a vision of ultimate reality."
Haught shows convincingly how Darwinian evolution does not inevitably entail a materialistic philosophy and that the theological notion of Providence is different from the idea of Intelligent Design. Haught thus argues that evolution and divine Providence are compatible. In fact the ultimate love (God's Providence) can only be found in the contingency of life, free of ant predestination or rigidities. Haught's chapter is a must read for scientists and Christians.

Ayala's argument in "Design without Designer: Darwin's Greatest Discovery" is very similar to Ruse's namely that teleology in nature is the expected outcome of the processes of evolution which include natural selection. Thus the appearance of teleology by itself is not sufficient to infer intelligent design. In other words, even if we can infer design, we cannot exclude "natural selection" as its designer. One of the earliest people to point out this limitation in Dembski's argument was Wesley Elsberry.

In "DNA by Design? Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis " Pennock addresses many of the claims by Meyer and shows why they are without much merrit. Pennock points out the 'cut and paste' approach of Meyer in which old arguments, even after been shown to be erroneous, end up in later publications (especially in publications that are not peer reviewed such as newspapers). Pennock not only shows that the anti-Darwinian implications of the Cambrian explosion are mostly "blown out of proportion" (pardon the pun), but also that ID proponents fail to present much of a scientific argument in favor of their own claims. Questions which remain unanswered inclide "what about phyla which arose after the Cambrian? Where they also 'designed'?", "what about the species that arose since the explosion such as us humans?"

Elliot Sober in "The Design Argument" shows what is wrong with the philosophical and logical foundations of the "intelligent design" argument as proposed by Dembski. By showing that there is no probabilistic equivalent to the "modus tollens" argument, Sober shows how the fundation of the design argument is fundamentally and irrepairably flawed. Modus tollens is the argument that "if P then Q", followed by the observation that "Q" is false, hence P is false. But when dealing with probabilistic arguments, such as found in the intelligent design approach, modus tollens does not hold anymore. In other words, if a hypothesis states that an observation is very unlikely, it does not mean that the hypothesis is unlikely. Probabilistic arguments to show "intelligent design" are quite common and all suffer from the above flaw. Because of this "Intelligent Design" has to show that the probability of a particular observation or event "E" is more probable given the intelligent design hypothesis than a naturalistic hypothesis. But this means that "intelligent design" has to be formulated in a positive rather than its usual negative (eliminative) form. Intelligent Design inferences are typically stated as not(chance and/or regularity) thus intelligent design. This argument, also known as "argument from ignorance" forms a poor logical and scientific foundation for science. Hence we have to reject the "intelligent design" claims based on such an approach. That the "intelligent design" approach is indeed unsuitable for scientific inquiry can be observed in a total absence of "intelligent design" hypotheses relevant to science. As Del Ratzsch has stated (I paraphrase), in order for intelligent design to be relevant it has to show that it can give better 'non ad hoc' explanations of the observations. An "intelligent designer" did it fails that requirement.

Kenneth Miller in the chapter "The Flagellum Unspun: The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity", shows in intricate detail how the homology between type III secretory apparatus and the bacterial flagellum gives us a fascinating insight into the likely evolutionary pathways where the two share a common ancestor. In "Why intelligent design fails Young and Edis (ed)", Ian Musgrave shows in even more detail how science is unraveling much of the mystery behind the bacterial flagellum, leaving little room for an intelligent designer to hide. Miller also addresses the 'probability calculations' by Dembski in his book "No Free Lunch" to show how Dembski's model has little similarity to reality.

Dembski in "The Logical Underpinnings of Intelligent Design" continues to argue his fallacious claim that his explanatory filter has no 'false positives' despite the fact that such false positives are unavoidable. Failing to address the criticisms by his opponents and even fellow ID proponents such as Del Ratzsch, Dembski still argues the logically impossible namely that his filter does not suffer from false positives. In fact Dembski more recently has accepted false positives as an inevitable risk of doing science but he also maintains that false positives would render the explanatory filter useless. Seems to me that the only logical conclusion thus is that the explanatory filter (which is used to infer intelligent design) is useless. A conclusion already reached by intelligent design proponents such as Del Ratzsch who stated

"So typically, patterns that are likely candidates for design are first identified as such by some unspecified ("mysterious") means, then with the pattern in hand S picks out side information identified (by unspecified means) as releavant to the particular pattern, then sees whether the pattern in question is among the various patterns that could have been constructed from that side information. What this means, of course, is that Dembski's design inference will not be particularly useful either in initial recognition or identification of design."

From page 159 of Del Ratzsch's "Nature design and science: The Status of Design in Natural Science", Suny Series in Philosophy and Biology, State University of New York Press (April 1, 2001) which is an excellent book by an intelligent design proponent who often takes an unpopular stance within the ID movement.

Behe, in "Irreducible Complexity: Obstacle to Darwinian Evolution ", focuses on the concept of irreduble complexity as a reliable indicator of intelligent design but irreducible complexity has been shown to be able to arise under fully natural processes thus it is not a very reliable indicator of design. In fact the argument from IC (irreducible complexity) mostly centers around our ignorance of the actual details. While the bacterial flagellum may have appeared to be IC, more and more research provides us with fascinating insights as to how it may have evolved (Musgrave, Matzke). See also Kenneth Miller in this volume.

Finally, Meyer, in "The Cambrian Information Explosion: Evidence for Intelligent Design" raises the old canard (can we say Icon of Intelligent Design) of the Cambrian explosion much of the arguments seem to be contrary to (again) recent scientific findings making the Cambrian explosion as an argument for design one based on our ignorance more than on a positive contribution to our scientific understanding. Contrary to what ID proponents seem to suggest, the Cambrian explosion was not the origin of complex life although it was a period of rapid divergence. Multicellular life can be traced back to the pre-cambrian and bacteria to more than 3.5 billion years ago. Beautiful transitional fossil evidence and evidence of phyla level evolution can be found. The Cambrian explosion is hardly the enigma Meyer seems to want it to be. In other words, the Cambrian explosion, as described by Meyer mostly is a strawman argument, or in simpler terms an argument at odds with both the evidence and the scientific understanding of this event. But even ignoring these shortcomings, Meyer does not present any scientific evidence why the Cambrian explosion should be seen as 'evidence of intelligent design'. Kenneth Miller raised a good question: If all these organisms were designed by an intelligent design during the Cambrian why did most of them go extinct?
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars 20 Essays and 20 Blindspots, March 21, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Paperback)
Chapter 1 William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse
"Intelligent Design is the hypothesis that in order to explain life it is necessary to suppose the action of an unevolved intelligence. One simply cannot explain organisms, those living and those long gone, by reference to normal natural causes or material mechanisms...Although most supporters of Intelligent Design are theists of some sort..."[229]

This quote is supposed to be an explanation of what Intelligent Design is, however, it modifies the word causes with the adjective natural without explaining what a supernatural cause is. It also uses the word theists without defining this concept. The entire chapter is an exercise in circular reasoning. It purports to explain Intelligent Design by using the undefined words natural and theist.

My definition of an atheist is someone who thinks believing in life after death is irrational. Defining theism is pointless because very few people understand the cosmological argument for God's existence. Most of the contributors to this book, I don't doubt, think the argument has to do with the Big Bang or "first causes." The cosmological argument is based on the metaphysical principle that a finite being needs a cause.

Chapter 2 Michael Ruse
"And although natural theology has recovered somewhat, there seems to be general recognition among theologians that old-fashioned approaches--supposedly proving God's existence beyond doubt--are no longer viable enterprises."[782]

The Catholic Church teaches that you can prove God exists. According to the Baltimore Catechism, "We can know by our natural reason that there is a God, for natural reason tells us that the world we see about us could have been made only by a self-existing Being, all-wise and almighty." Catholic theologians and philosophers explain the proof in many works, for example, The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics

Chapter 3 Angus Menuge
"Now suppose one thinks that there are exactly four possible explanations for the origin of life: chance, necessity, a combination of chance and necessity, and design. And suppose also that one believes on has reason to eliminate the first three candidates. However surprising or bizarre, design is then the rational inference." [1044]

This fallacy is repeated a number of times in this book because it is equivalent to John Leslie's analogy of a condemned man not being struck by bullets from a firing squad. Leslie thinks the choice is between the squad's deliberately missing or the misses were a matter of chance. The other possibility is that the bullets disappeared on the way to the victim.

Likewise, Menuge has a blind spot. There is a fifth answer: The universe is not intelligible. The rational answer is the one supported by the evidence. Since there is no evidence for a designer, chance, necessity, a combination of chance and necessity, the universe must not be intelligible.

Chapter 4 Francisco J. Ayala
"The theory of evolution manifests chance and necessity jointly intertwined in the stuff of life; randomness and determinism interlocked in a natural process that has spurted the most complex, diverse, and beautiful entities in the universe: the organisms that populate the Earth, including humans, who think and love, who are endowed with free will.[1612] .....The creation or origin of the universe involves a transition from nothing into being. But a transition can only be scientifically investigated if we have some knowledge about the states or entities on both sides of the boundary. Nothingness, however, is not a subject for scientific investigation or understanding. Therefore, as far as science is concerned, the origin of the universe will remain forever a mystery." [1683]

Ayala is saying free will is the result of chance and necessity, but we don't know what caused the Big Bang. Hence, free will is not a mystery, but the Big Bang is a mystery.

What caused the Big Bang is a scientific question, and the scientific method has a tremendous track record of success. Free will, however, is not something we observe with our senses. We know we have free will because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. Free will raises metaphysical questions, and Catholic philosophers and theologians think that free will is a mystery and that humans are embodied spirits.

Chapter 5 Kenneth R. Miller
"Anyone can state at any time that he or she cannot imagine how evolutionary mechanisms might have produced a certain species, organ, or structure. Such statements, obviously, are personal--and they say more about the limitations of those who make them than they do about the limitations of Darwinian mechanisms. [2038] ... Living cells are filled, of course, with complex structures whose detailed evolutionary origins are not known." [2070]

First, Miller implies that there are no limits to the explanatory power of Darwinian mechanisms, and then he says that there are. Unfortunately, this way that Miller has of expressing himself deceives and misinforms laymen about evolutionary biology. The following quote shows that a linguistics Ph.D. thinks the known Darwinian mechanisms explains how mammals evolved from bacteria in only a billion times as much time as it takes a fertilized human egg to generate all of the cells in an adult: "They [Pinker and Bloom] particularly emphasized that language is incredibly complex, as Chomsky had been saying for decades. Indeed, it was the enormous complexity of language that made is hard to imagine not merely how it had evolved but that it had evolved at all.
"But, continued Pinker and Bloom, complexity is not a problem for evolution. Consider the eye. The little organ is composed of many specialized parts, each delicately calibrated to perform its role in conjunction with the others. It includes the cornea,...Even Darwin said that it was hard to imagine how the eye could have evolved.
"And yet, he explained, it did evolve, and the only possible way is through natural selection--the inestimable back-and-forth of random genetic mutation with small effects...Over the eons, those small changes accreted and eventually resulted in the eye as we know it."The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language

Chapter 6 Elliot Sober
"The design argument is one of three main arguments for the existence of God; the others are the ontological argument and the cosmological argument...And whereas the cosmological argument can focus on any present event to get the ball rolling (arguing that it must trace back to a first cause, namely God)..."[2391]

In the cosmological argument, God is not the "first cause." God is an infinite being that exists outside of any chain of causality and gives existence to all finite beings, such as human beings. Humans are finite beings because they possess a center of action (free will) that unifies them with respect to themselves and separates them from other beings. Like a being that begins to exist at some point in time, a finite being needs a cause. In the West, the infinite being is called God.

Chapter 7 Robert T. Pennock
"Human beings, so far as all experience has shown, are made of ordinary natural materials, which is good evidence that natural process can produce CSI [complex specified information]."[3430]

The human mind has four levels of structure: observations, inquiry, reflective judgment, and free will. All of these levels give rise to questions that there is no answer to: What the relationship is between my self and my body? What is the conscious knowledge of humans? This means humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilities that become conscious of their own existence.

Chapter 8 Stuart Kauffman
"The strange thing about the theory of evolution is that everyone thinks he understands it. But we do not. A biosphere, or an econosphere, self-consistently co-constructs itself according to principles we do not yet fathom."[4007]

I agree with this statement. My criticism of Kauffman is that he does not say it often enough and loud enough. It is as if he is in a theatre with a friend and whispers, "I smell smoke. Let's get out of here before we get trampled."

Chapter 9 Bruce H. Weber and David J. Depew
"The danger of ID, considered as a theological position rather than in the scientific light in which we have discussed it here, is that it potentially implies a limiting conception of God (while adding nothing to the pursuit of scientific exploration). These facts suggest that from a theological and well as a scientific perspective, the presumption should be in favor of methodological naturalism--the working hypothesis that a scientific explanation for a puzzling phenomenon will be found that does not invoke a source of functional design outside of nature. It is important to add, however, that it is not logically necessary that methodological naturalism must lead to metaphysical naturalism or materialism, which must deny any type of theology." [4354]

Usually, intelligence is a measure of how fast or how slow it takes someone to grasp a theory or insight. About religion, there is so much anxiety that people are inhibited from thinking intelligently. They have blind spots. The blind spot of most "materialists" is that they can grasp only two solutions to the mind-body problem: dualism and materialism. They literally cannot grasp the theory that the human mind is a mystery. Most "materialists" would agree with the following quote from a major biology textbook: "And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we'll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes' concept of a mind-body duality more attractive." (Biology )

Chapter 10 Paul Davies
"He [Hermann von Helmholtz] based his prediction on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, according to which there is a natural tendency for order to give way to chaos. It is not hard to find examples in the world about us: people grow old, snowmen melt, houses fall down, cars rust, and stars burn out. Although islands of order may appear in restricted regions (e.g., the birth of a baby, crystals emerging from a solute), the disorder of the environment will always increase by an amount sufficient to compensate. This one-way slide into disorder is measured by a quantity called entropy." [4499]

The second law of thermodynamics only applies to thermodynamic systems. It does not apply to the evolution of stars or living organisms. The idea that the growth of an embryo represents a decrease in entropy and that this decrease is compensated for by an increase in entropy in the environment is nonsense. It is not harmful nonsense because it gives rise to the fallacy that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. This fallacy gives rise to the absurdity that evolution does not violate the second law because of the sun. This absurdity gave rise to an article titled "Entropy and evolution," (Am. J. Phys., Vol. 76, No. 11, November 2008) with a fake equation proving that evolution does not violate the second law.

Chapter 11 James Barham
"If the functional logic of the cell is irreducible to physical law as we currently understand it, then there would appear to be only two ways to explain it naturalistically. Either the teleological design of living things is, at bottom, a matter of chance; or else there is some unknown qualitative difference inherent in the material constitution of organisms that gives them an intrinsic functional integrity." [ 5012]

This statement implies that there are supernatural explanations. According to the cosmological argument, an infinite being created the universe of finite beings because a universe with only finite beings is less intelligible than a universe with an infinite being. This raises the question of what motivated the infinite being to create finite beings. The only thing that could motivate an infinite being to do anything is self-love. Hence, finite beings exist because the infinite being loved itself as giving. But, the infinite being could just as well love itself without giving. The existence of an infinite being has no explanatory power. There is no such thing as a supernatural or a natural explanation. There are only explanations that are supported by the evidence or not.

Chapter 12 John F. Haught
"For example, don't the elements of chance, suffering, and impersonal natural selection, operative over the course of a wasteful immensity of time, entail a materialist and therefore Godless universe. Aren't Dennett, Dawkins, Rose, Cziko, Crews and, the rest fully justified in reading evolution as the direct refutation of any plausible notion of divine Providence?" [5563]

Haught never acknowledges that these are good reasons for not believing in divine Providence. Dennett, Dawkins, and others usually give bad reasons for not believing. For example, free will is an illusion and God does not exist. When they give good reasons, it should be acknowledged.

Chapter 13 John Polkinghorne
"Metaphysical questions do not lend themselves to categorical knockdown answers. There will always be some room for more tacit considerations to come into play in determining a personal conclusion (room for the commitment of faith, a theologian might say."[5890]

Metaphysics is a method of inquiry that consists mostly of "knockdown answers." For example, humans have free will and are embodied spirits, finite beings need a cause, God exists, a being that is a member of a class of beings is composed of form and matter, etc. Personal conclusions are required when trying to decide whether there is life after death. In this context, it is reasonable to ask if free will is an illusion, if a finite being is really a composition of essence and existence, etc.

Chapter 14 Kieth Ward
"It is an evaluation of personal existence that springs from a sustained attempt at reflexive understanding--an understanding not based on experimental observation and hypothesis but on the effort to understand from within, from one's own personal experience, one's own distinctive form of existence as a human being. If this is admitted as a source of knowledge and understanding, then it must stand alongside the experimental observations of the natural sciences as a way of providing an adequate account of human nature and the nature of the universe of which humans are an integral part." [6137]

Ward is saying we know we have free will and conscious knowledge because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge, not because we can see, hear, touch, or smell free will. Ward is saying it is just as okay to ask, "Why is the sky blue?" as to ask, "What is knowing the sky is blue?" I agree that the method of inquiry called metaphysics "stands alongside" science as a source of knowledge.

Chapter 15 Michael Roberts
"This opens up the question of miracles, as any creed that accepts the Virgin Birth or the Empty Tomb of the Resurrection must, in a sense, be super--or possibly supranaturalist in the eyes of through going naturalists." [6592]

The primary believe of Christians is that Jesus is alive in a new life with God, and that if you follow Jesus the same good thing can happen to you. We are not promised salvation, but we can hope for it "with fear and trembling." The doctrine of the Virgin Birth means that we can't assume anything natural about the birth of Jesus. The stories in the gospels about the empty tomb of Jesus constitutes just one kind of tradition about the Easter experience.

Chapter 16 Richard Swinburne
"In order to be a person, you need to have some power to perform intentional actions and some knowledge of how to perform them. God is supposed to have power and knowledge with zero limits."[7013]

According to Thomas Aquinas, a person is a being that has self-knowledge, self-determination, and self-expression. God has knowledge by analogy. Humans exist and humans have knowledge. Worms exist and worms have knowledge. By analogy, God has knowledge.

Chapter 17 William A. Dembski
"For many natural scientists, design conceived as the action of an intelligent agent, is not a fundamental creative force in nature. Rather, material mechanisms, characterized by chance and necessity and ruled by unbroken laws, are thought to be sufficient to do all nature's creating. But how do we know that nature requires no help from a designing intelligence?"[7184]

We know because there is no evidence for an intelligent designer other than human beings. The evidence for God's existence is that humans are embodied spirits and all the evidence that the universe is intelligible. The Big Bang, origin of life, fine-tuning, and evolution constitute evidence that the universe is not intelligible.

Chapter 18 Walter L. Bradley
"The total entropy change that takes place in an open system such as a living cell must be consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics and can be described as follows: ∆S(cell) + ∆S(surrounding) > 0." [7904]

This is like saying ∆S(airplane in flight) + ∆S(surrounding) > 0. An airplane can be broken up into a number of thermodynamic systems, e.g., the engine, pilot's cabin, metal wing, etc. Each thermodynamic system will have its surroundings and this law will apply. But to suggest that there is such a thing as the entropy of an airplane in flight is nonsense. A living cell has much more machinery in it than an airplane. It is like an airplane that can replace or repair a broken wing.

Chapter 19 Michael J. Behe
"Many scientists of Darwin's era took the cell to be a simple glob of protoplasm, something like microscopic piece of Jell-O. Thus the intricate molecular basis of life was utterly unknown to Darwin and his contemporaries." [8138]

Darwin knew how complex life is on a macroscopic level and understood the limited explanatory power of natural selection. His comment is well known: "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." (The Origin Of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition

Chapter 20 Stephen C. Meyer
"Many scientists now openly acknowledge the fundamental difficulties facing chemical evolutionary theories of the origin of life, including the problem of explaining the origin of biological information from nonliving chemistry. Nevertheless, many assume that theories of biological evolution do not suffer from a similar information problem." [8576]

This may be. But it does not prove that there is a disagreement about evolutionary biologists about evolution. All biologists agree that natural selection acting upon innovations only explains adaptive evolution. There is a conflict, of course, about the theory of intelligent design. It is a conflict, not a disagreement, because neither side is able to define the word intelligence. They are fighting about something they don't understand.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A continued debate that misses the conclusive, June 8, 2006
By 
Paul Vjecsner (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As indicated (p.388) by the last of the authors, Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin's natural selection, in its central distinction, lacks purposiveness or goal-directedness in organisms. To argue for or against that presence of goals, the authors as customary look into minutest and latest biological findings.

It has been my attempt in these reviews to bring to attention that the questions at issue can be answered on simpler grounds, on the basis of broader and more general and fundamental experience. I have in my own book gone into this and other explorations of possible knowledge--their subjects suggested in my other reviews here--and presently wish to briefly repeat the simple reasoning recognizing goals in organisms, without now dealing with the related question of a supreme being.

What the participants in present-day debates have overlooked--because of their concentration on the organisms' functional structure in similarity to man-made artifacts--is the significance of the live organism's behavior. Everyone is conscious of the organism's predominant aim toward self-preservation, but attention is paid to it only inadvertently, in the course of other arguments.

In the book reviewed, author Michael J. Behe discusses (p.360) the blood-clotting cascade, and relies in his argument for end-directedness exclusively on the complex components involved, forgetting the end-directedness of the clotting itself. Author James Barham notes (p.222): "A broken bone heals; a broken stone doesn't", yet he fails to take pertinent account of the goal-directed event, speaking (p.214) about the "problem...of explaining the...teleology [goal-directedness] inherent in life".

The goal-directed activities characterizing all the living do not require explanation. Explanation of natural events is understood in terms of causation, and the underlying causal laws are not explained but are of basic observations taken as self-sufficient. Likewise, observation of the all-inclusive goal-directedness in live activities can be taken as self-sufficient, with no explanation. But there is the preconception that all must be explainable by aimless causes and hence so must the live activities possessing aims. These activities cannot of course contradictorily be also aimless, and the aimless causes would have to somehow bring about the live activities as a whole. This supposition, however, becomes irrelevant. It remains that goal-directed life exists, whatever its origin, negating the Darwinian contention of aimlessness in all of nature's events.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA
Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA by William A. Dembski (Paperback - November 5, 2007)
$29.99 $25.22
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.