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Unintelligent Design Hardcover – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"...a devastating refutation of ID nonsense in all its forms." -- Reports of the National Center for Science Education, May-Aug., 2004

" important addition to the science and religion debate...those interested in the field should read it." -- Metanexus Online Journal, December 8, 2004

"...this book would be useful for those wishing to sharpen their critical thinking skills generally..." -- Fortean Times, May 2004

"If you enjoy watching a first-rate mind at work, you will get a lot of pleasure from reading this book." -- Australian Humanist, Winter 2004

"It would be a real service...if the book was required reading for school board members and teachers..." -- Quarterly Review of Biology, September 2004

From the Inside Flap

Spurred on not only by the quasi-scientific agenda of the so-called intelligent design theorists, who seek to prove the existence of God mathematically, but also by his personal contact with otherwise rational scientists, physicist Mark Perakh sets out to reveal the falsity of the claims of neocreationism with a thorough, carefully detailed series of arguments aimed at the very heart of those who would see evolutionary theory discarded. Perakh strips away the reader-unfriendly "mathematizing" present in the neocreationist theses in order to reveal their flawed logic and their meaninglessness.

His work is divided into three parts: first, an attack on the specifics of intelligent design, a theory spearheaded by the writings of William Dembski (THE DESIGN INFERENCE, INTELLIGENT DESIGN, NO FREE LUNCH), Michael Behe (DARWIN'S BLACK BOX), and Phillip Johnson (DARWIN ON TRIAL, THE WEDGE OF TRUTH, DEFEATING DARWINISM BY OPENING MINDS); second, a critical dismantling of several arguments closely related to the intelligent design movement, such as attempts to "harmonize" the Bible with modern scientific understanding of the universe, the anthropic principle, and nonrandom evolution; and finally, a discussion of proper scientific method and probability theory, as well as an infamous account of science gone bad for the sake of religion--the Bible code theory propagated by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg.

This thoughtful and incisive critique from a veteran scientist genuinely concerned about the integrity of the scientific enterprise wastes no diplomacy on those who would see its purpose twisted to ideological ends. Perakh successfully ties his opponents' arguments together by demonstrating how most of them are based on the same mistaken view of probability theory and the same disregard for impartial objectivity in testing hypotheses. This is a must-read for anyone interested in separating scientific facts from religion masquerading as science.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 459 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020844
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

283 of 314 people found the following review helpful By Gary S. Hurd on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perakh organized his text into three sections. The first two take up issues of creationism, first Intelligent Design (ID), and second the earlier but still influential Scientific Creationism. Significant authors from each of these pseudosciences are addressed in their own chapters. William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Phillip Johnson are the ID representatives. Perakh's thorough demolishment of Dembski's thesis in Chapter 1 (the longest single chapter) alone is worth the price of the book. Not only was Perakh thorough, but understandable using clear language and reasoning. His many years as a teacher are obvious in these pages.
I had expected that this would be the only highlight of the book, but there is a considerable amount of good reading in the seven chapter second section addressing the Creation Science authors. What I particularly enjoyed was that Perakh did not merely stay with the well known ultra-biblical-literalists from the Christian Right, but also addressed Judaic creationists in four chapters. In fact, there were only 3 out of the first 317 pages that I had any quibble with, and these (290-292) are the reactions of a specialist toward a generalist. I shudder to imagine what Perakh could do to any attempt on my part to write about physics.
A "reader from Riesel, TX" wrote an unfavorable review of Mark Perakh's new book last December. Bill Dembski was "outed" as the "reader from Riesel, TX" by the Amazon (Canada) software glitch a month or so ago. I would have suspected this anyway, as "reader from Riesel" nee "Waco" is typical of Dembski's other responses to critics -- attack obliquely, avoid their actual positions, claim that their criticisms have been addressed elsewhere, or that you will totally answer them in your next book.
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Sam S on December 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A new player seems to have appeared on the field, and he seems to be indeed a good player. There have been many books published which approach the Intelligent Design-related controversy from various vantage points, and some of them have been quite good.
To find an additional niche for another book was not an easy task. Perakh, in my view, has done it quite successfully - his book is unlike any other published so far about Intelligent Design or about biblical neo-apologetics.
The format of this book is rather unconventional - it is built around a set of publications (books and articles) by, first, the most prominent defenders of the Intelligent Design and, second, by some Christian and Jewish writers, all of whom Perakh unequivocally debunks.
I was impressed by the strict logic of Perakh's narrative. For example, after having read chapter 1, which contains a very meticulous analysis of publications by William Dembski (perhaps the most prominent champion of Intelligent Design), I could not help but to say to myself, "Gee, the king is naked." Using unrelenting logic, Perakh has demonstrated the lack of substance in Dembski's theory, whose quasi-mathematical appearance serves as pure embellishment covering the lack of meaningful contents.
I will be looking for other publications by Perakh, starting from his posts on the Talk Reason web site. Welcome to the fray, Perakh, you get five stars from me.
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195 of 223 people found the following review helpful By Michael Booker on February 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been reading about the creationism/evolution debate for twenty years now, and this book is an extremely important addition to that discussion. Perakh has two basic points as he works his way through the major advocates of ID (Intelligent Design). One is that they misuse statistics is ways that are intuitively reasonable but ultimately incorrect. This is why he includes a discussion of the Bible Code, another case of statistics gone awry.
His second point, and one that I hadn't seen spelled out so well before, is that the idea of irreducible complexity is a jumbled compilation of observations which Paley and others have offered much more clearly long ago. Perakh breaks down each component of irreducible complexity and shows how it does not justify the strong claims made for it by ID theorists.
My frustration in all of this is that the people who most need to read this book aren't going to take the time and effort necessary to engage in his arguments.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By gjc on December 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Given the title, I had expected to see humorous examples of bad "design" in nature, as a demonstration that nature was most likely not designed. For example, ground dwelling parrots in New Zealand who are highly vulnerable to predators and have a very difficult time locating mates because their calls echo too much, or the problems with the human legs, spine, and hips that come from incomplete evolution from pre-humans to walking people. I was a little disappointed that similar examples of "unintelligent design" weren't covered. Nevertheless, it's a good book.

Professor Perakh's book is written as a series of book reviews and critiques, with a couple of chapters toward the end on what science is and how probabilities are determined. His reviews start with the chief proponents of intelligent design theories, and move on to others who have tried to reconcile science and religious texts.

I found that this book was occasionally dry and difficult to read. I have to confess that I put some of my difficulty in reading this book down to the fact that its author is a physicist, and I am not used to the style of that discipline. Although this book is intended for a general audience, the author's professional area of expertise does strongly influence the style, content, and focus.

Having said that the book is sometimes difficult, I found that I could understand the challenging sections with a little effort and re-reading. That aside, what was very striking is that, at times, beautifully clear and incisive points made by the author criticizing proponents of "intelligent design" theories jump off the page. There is some truly razor-sharp logical and evidentiary analysis.
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