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Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing Paperback – July 9, 2004

47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1932236316 ISBN-10: 1932236317

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If you’ve never heard the term "post-Darwinian," welcome to the world of thinkers who reject evolutionary theory and its reliance on the notion of chance (i.e. "random mutation"). In this provocative volume, biologists, mathematicians and physicists as well as theologians and other intellectuals—many affiliated with the Discovery Institute, which espouses the concept of intelligent design—argue, as editor Dembski writes, that "the preponderance of evidence goes against Darwinism." The contributors invoke mathematics and statistics to support their theory that an "intelligent cause is necessary to explain at least some of the diversity of life." In other words, the degree of diversity and complexity in life forms implies the need for an intelligent designer. The nature and identity of this designer is not discussed by all the writers; others call this intelligence God. Supporters of intelligent design differentiate themselves from creationists, but they, too, argue that their theory should be taught in high school biology courses. Anyone interested in these debates and their implications for education will find this collection to be important reading.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

William A. Dembski is associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University and a senior fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. The author of numerous articles on intelligent design and mathematical, philosophical, and theological matters, his books include The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities and No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence.

John Wilson is the founding editor of the bimonthly review, Books & Culture, and an editor at large for Christianity Today. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (July 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236316
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #484,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A mathematician and philosopher, William A. Dembski is Research Professor in Philosophy at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, where he directs its Center for Cultural Engagement. He is also a senior fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle. Previously he was the Carl F. H. Henry Professor of Theology and Science at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he founded its Center for Theology and Science. Before that he was Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University, where he headed the first intelligent design think-tank at a major research university: The Michael Polanyi Center.

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, he also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

Dr. Dembski has published articles in mathematics, engineering, philosophy, and theology journals and is the author/editor of more than a dozen books. In The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (Cambridge University Press, 1998), he examines the design argument in a post-Darwinian context and analyzes the connections linking chance, probability, and intelligent causation. The sequel to The Design Inference appeared with Rowman & Littlefield in 2002 and critiques Darwinian and other naturalistic accounts of evolution. It is titled No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence. Dr. Dembski has edited several influential anthologies, including Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing (ISI, 2004) and Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA (Cambridge University Press, 2004, co-edited with Michael Ruse). His newest book, The End of Christianity, differs markedly from his others, attempting to understand how the Fall of humanity can be real in light of modern science.

As interest in intelligent design has grown in the wider culture, Dr. Dembski has assumed the role of public intellectual. In addition to lecturing around the world at colleges and universities, he is frequently interviewed on the radio and television. His work has been cited in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, including three front page stories in the New York Times as well as the August 15, 2005 Time magazine cover story on intelligent design. He has appeared on the BBC, NPR (Diane Rehm, etc.), PBS (Inside the Law with Jack Ford; Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson), CSPAN2, CNN, Fox News, ABC Nightline, and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

[Photo by Laszlo Bencze]

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

200 of 240 people found the following review helpful By Hunter Baker on June 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Uncommon Dissent" is a great read. The contributors to the volume provide critiques of the neo-Darwinian synthesis from a variety of angles. Accordingly, the best way to read the book is to look at the table of contents, flip to the back to read about the contributors, and then choose the chapter that seems the most compelling. This is the way I've read it and have found it entertaining and rewarding.
Besides the great look, feel, and organization of this volume from ISI, readers will get a bracing charge from the sheer controversy inside. Challenges to Darwin have long been stock material in religious bookstores, but since the publication of "Darwin on Trial" well over a decade ago, the critiques have become increasingly sophisticated. "Uncommon Dissent" captures much of the best critical material.
Although many of the chapters are worth special mention, the best is the last, which is a reprint of a famous Commentary essay by David Berlinski. His arguments are rhetorically devasting and come from a non-religious point of view. As much fun as his piece is to read, the letters written in response to it and his responses to them constitute a spectacular battle of the brainiacs with Berlinski returning fire magnificently.
If you are interested in the "evolving" controversy over biological origins, "Uncommon Dissent" is an indispensable addition to your collection.
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171 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Hackman on November 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is better than I could have hoped for. There are a variety of different topics relating to Intelligent Design (ID) covered here and the depth of thought is impressive. It is really impossible, in the space of a short review, to cover the richness and breadth of everything in this book.

Particularly enjoyable for me were the essays that don't deal with ID or Darwinism as such, but with the related issues, such as argumentation tactics and intellectual culture. Edward Sisson analyses the rhetoric and argumentation tactics of the anti-ID/pro-Darwin crowd and shows how they are often invalid and unfair. Frank Tippler takes on the peer review system (which is often used as club to beat on ID), and shows how it is both historically anomalous and is used to enforce ideological correctness. Dembski does a nice job of showing how, often, supposed scientific refutations of ID cited by its opponents amount to little more than intellectual bluffing. When the bluff is called there is nothing behind it. Rob Koons has an excellent essay on why the burden of proof should lie with those who wish to deny the basic human intuition towards accepting design. He also lays out nicely how the Darwinian crowd has actually done very little in terms of meeting this burden of proof, whatever their claims may be.

Also very interesting and encouraging is the fact that, contrary to the (bogus) claims regularly made by Darwinists, the contributors to this book do not display a uniformity concerning religious beliefs. They run the spectrum from evangelical Christians like William Dembski and Nancy Pearcey to completely irreligious folks like David Berlinski and Christopher Michael Lanagan, who proposes the idea of a non-supernatural, teleological universe.
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95 of 116 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In any field marked by an endless proliferation of droning monographs and marred by polemical debates, a collection of honest and well-thought essays written by various authors is always refreshing. Each contributor has a unique perspective, and because the essay format allows each one only limited space in which to express his or her views, the writing tends to be clear and punchy. And if the collection is skilfully compiled, it can reveal a broad spectrum of viewpoints while baring the cutting edge of the field in full gleam. Uncommon Dissent realizes all of these advantages.
Uncommon Dissent is divided into four sections: (1) A Crisis of Confidence, (2) Darwinism's Cultural Inroads, (3) Leaving the Darwinian Fold, and (4) Auditing the Books. The oddly-numbered sections contain three essays each; the even ones contain four each. Section 1 deals with the question of why an increasing number of people question Darwinian premises and conclusions. Section 2 deals with the effect that these premises and conclusions have had and are having on society and culture, largely through the offices of public and higher education. Section 3 deals with the intellectual transformations of three contributors (Behe, Denton and Barham) who have embraced and rejected Darwinism at different times in their lives. Finally, Section 4 - in my opinion, the section of greatest scientific and philosophical interest - deals with the internal and external consistency of Darwinism, offering more detailed analyses of the profoundly circular relationship between Darwinian premises, models, and conclusions.
The highlights of the book will be different for everyone. For me, they are too numerous to list here.
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53 of 68 people found the following review helpful By L. Herd on May 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
I recently picked this book up and was extremely impressed by it. As someone who has frequently been frustrated in getting supporters of naturalistic evolution to lay out their case and intelligently respond to the obstacles obstructing its path, this book did a fantastic job of getting to the crux of the matter and discussing not only the evidence that evolutionists conveniently ignore, but the underlying philosophy behind evolutionary theory and how it is gone from a valid explanation of the diversity of life to an indefensible theory stretched beyond reason to explain how life spontaneously generated itself and accidentally came to it's breath-takingly complex form.

One quick note that should give you an idea on how well-informed this book was - the two negative reviews of Uncommon Dissent on this site as of the date of this post are quite amusing because they are both jam-packed with arguments that fall in line with the tired rhetoric that is actually discussed in-depth several times in the book. This rhetoric includes such classics as "Creationists are stupid", "Most scientists believe, and so should you", and then the classic straw men that evolutionists love to build of anyone who questions their precious theory as an uninformed religious zealot. God forbid anyone ever question evolution, and if they do, you are well within your rights to dismiss them instead of actually listening to their arguments. This line of reasoning (namely that disagreement isn't allowed) and defending a position is simply stunning and has no place in the world of academia. One of the reviews even takes Johnson's quote about science studying the purpose of the universe completely out of context and deceptively changes the meaning of it to make his quote seem mindless when it clearly wasn't.
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