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109 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Demolishes the modern argument from design, December 5, 2004
This review is from: God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (Hardcover)
Professor Shanks has done somebody a real service here in painstakingly demonstrating the utter intellectual poverty of so-called "intelligent design theory." Just who that person is I don't know. Perhaps it's a US congressman. Most people I know either haven't a clue about the subject, or are rationalists and are well aware that the intelligent design argument is scientifically vacuous and actually a religious power play, or they are religious true believers themselves and uncritically accept the notion that the universe was designed by a supernatural being whom they call God.

In other words, all the close and detailed analysis done by Shanks in this book--and trust me, he really addresses the question in the most thorough way--isn't about to persuade anybody one way or the other. Most people won't--and could not even if they tried--read it. It is entirely too finely meshed in technical detail about matters of no particular interest to them: cosmology, quantum mechanics, probability theory, biochemistry, thermodynamics, etc. Yet the book had to be written just for the record, one might say. All the pseudoscience served up by the creationists and the intelligent designers needed to be answered thoroughly, and Shanks has done that in a most impressive manner.

Shanks takes the intelligent designers seriously and presents their arguments, and then, piece by piece, refutes them. Frankly, I believe he gives them more attention than they deserve. After all, how seriously can one take a man (leading intelligent design theorist, William Dembski, for example) who writes: "My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ" (quoted on page 157)? I mean, isn't it enough to just quote such a person? He's a true believer and all his "arguments" are merely attempts to justify his belief in a supernatural being and supernatural causation. No amount of counter argument from logic or scientific experiment or from the multitudinous conclusions of the various sciences is going to sway him one iota.

But of course Shanks is not aiming his arguments at Dembski or his colleagues. Rather, like the good teacher he is, Shanks wants it spelled out for his students and for students everywhere just how absurd and wanting is the case for intelligent design. He is writing for those not yet entirely corrupted by religious propaganda and as yet innocent of the weight of the scientific evidence.

Why, one might ask, are the religious fundamentalists so intent on attacking Darwinism? Is it because they are uncomfortable with being closely related to apes, as were the Victorians? They probably are, but the real reason is that "Darwin's theory of evolution can be viewed as a sustained refutation of the argument from design..." (p. 24) Before evolution it was a mighty mystery as to how species arose, and any argument was as good as another, with the hoary argument from design being especially agreeable; and therefore pronouncements from the clergy held not only psychological, social and political sway over the masses, but intellectual sway as well. Darwinism changed all that, with the result that the Church lost an enormous amount of power and prestige--power and prestige that it has been desperately trying to regain ever since.

Noteworthy is the fine introduction by Richard Dawkins who has fought long and hard himself against the stupidities of the creationists and intelligent designers. Note well his sharp and decisive tone: "Intelligent Design 'theory' is pernicious nonsense which needs to be neutralized before irreparable damage is done to American education." (p. x)

That really is the bottom line. All that we have learned from science and rationalism is under attack from the forces of ignorance, mostly right-wing religious fundamentalists who would substitute their authoritarian mumble-jumble for reality in an attempt to seize the reigns of political power and usher in a return to the Dark Ages with themselves at the throne. Professor Shanks is to be commended for his efforts to prevent such a catastrophe, as unlikely as such a catastrophe might be.
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Dennis Littrell
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