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By Design or By Chance? The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe Paperback – May 19, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"... clear, evenhanded, and entertaining. A must for anyone who wants to get up to speed on this history-making controversy." -- Jonathan Wells, PhD, Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute

"...a magnificent introduction to the people and issues involved in the greatest intellectual controversy of our time." -- Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial

"...for those who are not specialists in the field, outstanding introduction to ID for lay readers." -- Timothy G. Standish, PhD, Geoscience Research Institute

About the Author

Denyse O'Leary is a journalist who writes on topics related to science, religion, and faith. She is the author of several titles including Faith and Science: Why Science Needs Faith in the Twenty—First Century. The faith and science columnist for ChristianWeek, O'Leary has also contributed articles for Christianity Today, Faith Today, and Christian Times.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 337 pages
  • Publisher: Augsburg Books; 2004 edition (May 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806651776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806651774
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,224,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am a Toronto-based journalist, author, and blogger. I first became interested in these issues becaue materialist, mechanist interpretations of the universe and life do not make any sense. There must be design behind it all.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Gail Turner on June 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
The question in the title of the book is an important one well worth a serious philosophical and theological analysis in light of modern science. Unfortunately, the reader will have to look elsewhere for that discussion. Ms. O'Leary's book is a rehash of Intelligent Design (ID) propaganda which promotes shoddy science, shallow theology and incompetent journalistic research.
The basic problematic of the book begins in the preface where Ms. O'Leary states: "I began to see clearly that Darwinism is a theory of evolution that explicitly denies design in biology in order to leave God out to of the picture." Although, in the body of the text, she does make some effort to discriminate between the scientific theory of evolution and a philosophy which she, following the ID lead, calls Darwinism, this is so muted that the average reader must be forgiven if they equate the diatribes against Darwinism as an attack on the science of evolution.
The first example of shoddy science shows up in the introduction where a side-bar defines the Big Bang as an explosion. The next page labels a highly improbable event as "impossible" even though it is part of probability that improbable, even highly improbable events can happen. There is the usual ID/creationist confusion of the theory of evolution with theories about the origin of life leading to inappropriate commentary on the Urey-Miller experiments. There is the usual ID/creationist quote-mining of Gould's defence of Punctuated Equilibrium and misrepresentation of what that thesis entails. And this merely scratches the surface.
A shallow theology also runs right through the book. It begins by equating evolution with chance, chance with nature and nature with athiesm.
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24 of 38 people found the following review helpful By J. Aubrey on January 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I received this as a gift due to my interest in intelligent design as a response to the theoretical shortcomings of Darwinism. But I'm not looking at ID to confirm religious or philosophical beliefs. Unfortunately, the author spends most of her time dealing with those issues.

She does touch on whether ID is science and the evidentiary and theoretical problems with natural selection as the be-all and end-all explanation of life. But those subjects are not treated in any kind of depth. I was disappointed she didn't explore the mathematical models making it highly improbable that natural selection (chance) can explain the complexity of many life forms, particularly at the molecular level.

I'm a layman but I'm inclined to believe that ID does have scientific implications and that the scientific establishment is overly defensive. It will not do to dismiss all ID proponents as closet creationists.

Bottom line: I didn't come out of it more confident of my grasp of of the subject matter than I did going in.
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21 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mark Scheel on September 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Reading Denyse O'Leary's By Design or by Chance was a particular treat for me because I myself have written on the same subject during the evolution/education debate in Kansas in 2000 and have met and interviewed many of the luminaries she quotes in her pages. Having followed some of the literature of the evolution/creationism/intelligent design debate since then, I was familiar with the context of her subject and the direction this controversy has taken. I must say, I've never seen a clearer and more comprehensive, yet accessible, discussion of the who, what, when, where, why and how of the topic offered in such an entertaining and palatable presentation than By Design or by Chance puts forward. It's both an excellent starting point for the novice as well as a handy resource for the professional seeking additional facts. It quite literally is a book with something for everyone.

O'Leary begins with an overview of the historical speculations on how the universe began and the origin of life in that universe. Was the universe always there, or did it have a finite beginning? What is the Big Bang theory and how was it initially received? What does science say about origins? What does religion say? How have both shaped the prevailing views over time within our culture?

The book next specifically addresses the question of life and how it came into being and changed. Did all life come from a common ancestor? What roles do natural law and chance play? Exactly who was Darwin, what did he believe and what were his major contributions? How did theists initially receive his views? When did creationism arrive on the scene and what precisely does it advocate? What are the different varieties of creationism?
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45 of 73 people found the following review helpful By The Professor on December 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
I estimate that about 3 to 4 books about the creation-evolution controversy are published each week. Many are by non-scientists in favor of creationism of some type, and most repeat the same information. Many are not worth reading. This is a very different book on this topic.This book does not argue for one side, as most books on this topic do, but objectively discusses all sides of the controversy. For this reason all sides of the controversy, from young earth to old earth creationists, to theistic evolutionists to Intelligent Design theorists, to atheist evolutionists, will find this book very useful. It is written by an award winning journalist and has much new material of interest to all sides of this never ending controversy. In many ways it is an update of Ron Numbers classic book titled The Creationists. Numbers focused on the history from 1920 to about 1980 and this book covers 1980 to date, although some background before 1980 is covered. It covers the science issues but much of the focus is on the history and non science area. As such, it stands alone in the field and has no competition. If you want a book that covers the whole controversy, this book is for you. If you want a book that defends one side or the other side I would look elsewhere.
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