Monday, June 12, 2006

Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing


Whew! This book is astounding! In fact, it is so powerful a collection of articles that I think I need to review each article separately to do them all justice.

I should first say a few words though:

1.) This book is neither a Christian nor a Creationist compilation. It is primarily a book about Intelligent Design. Contrary to what the greater scientific community would have you believe, the critique of Darwinism is not dependent upon "Christian Fundamentalism" in any sense. Quite the opposite, I do not think that even one of these authors is a "Christian Fundamentalist". In fact, most of these authors seem quite unconcerned with establishing any religious notions whatsoever.

2.) This book presents an internal critique of Darwinism. Perhaps the most significant aspect of this book is that it critiques Darwinism from within. These authors seem to have no problem with the concept of evolution, what they have a problem with is methodological/metaphysical naturalism. These are scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and the like who examine the data critically and explain their findings. Darwinists can not cry foul this time; these scholars do not submit easily to the type of character assassination of which Darwinists are so fond. In actuality, this is exactly the sort of critique that the world has been waiting to hear. The public arena is tired of the hyped "Evolution versus Religion" false dichotomy so loudly portrayed. This time we have "Science versus Darwinism" and "Evidence versus Darwinism" or even "Critical Thinking versus Darwinism" (not that Christianity doesn't represent those things, but a Darwinist would never concede such a thought).

I am so excited about this publication that I can hardly contain it. Every person involved in this debate must read this book.

Since I am not yet posting a review of the book as a whole, I will quote a pericope from Dembski's introduction that briefly explains the format, arguments, and authors:
This book divides into four parts. The first part shows why Darwinism faces a growing crisis of confidence. Robert Koons starts the ball rolling with his chapter "The Check Is in the Mail." In this chapter, Koons details how Darwinism substitutes theft for honest labor by insulating Darwinian theories from all possible criticism. Koons argues that the real motivation for Darwinism is to be found in a thoroughgoing metaphysical attack on the idea of agency, both human and divine, that has been ongoing for two hundred years. He also suggests that by undermining the idea of reasonable agency, Darwinism helped prepare the way for a variety of destructive experiments in social engineering. Next comes Phillip Johnson's well-known essay "Darwinism as Dogma," which originally appeared back in 1990 in First Things. This essay masterfully disentangles Darwinism's interweaving with materialist philosophy. And finally, there is Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger's 1996 interview with La Recherche, conducted shortly before his death, in which he recapitulates his ideas about functional complexity and the challenges this feature of biological systems poses to Darwinism. The original interview was in French and was translated into English by David Berlinski for the journal Origins & Design. It has been further edited here for style and clarity.

Part two focuses on Darwinism's cultural inroads. Nancy Pearcy starts things off with a sweeping overview. The effect of reading her essay is dizzying as she documents how Darwinism has inveigled itself into one academic discipline after another. Next comes Edward Sisson's brilliant analysis of how the professionalization of science has rendered science incapable of correcting itself in the case of Darwinism. Essentially, the critic of Darwinism faces a prisoner's dilemma in which perpetuating Darwinian falsehoods, either by actively promoting them or by silent complicity, is the best strategy for advancing one's career. J. Budziszewski's chapter on natural law is a much needed corrective to an emerging literature that seeks to combat postmodern ethical relativism with a distorted version of natural law based on Darwinism. And finally, Frank Tipler's chapter on referred journals shows how the peer-review process increasingly stifles scientific creativity and enforces orthodoxies like Darwinism. Although the chapter was specifically commissioned for this volume, Tipler's analysis has such huge public policy implications for the practice and funding of science that his chapter has now also appeared as an article on the web.

Part three examines the dynamics of converting to and deconverting from Darwinism. Often, in the writings of Darwinists (e.g., Ronald Numbers's book The Creationists), one gets the impression that the more educated people become, the more reasonable Darwinism seems. Part three shows that this is not the case. Michael Behe, raised as a Roman Catholic and trained as a biologist, accepted Darwinism as he began his scientific career. Only later, as he reflected on what he had been taught about evolution, did his doubts about Darwinism arise and finally lead to a full deconversion from Darwinism. Michael Denton, by contrast, never accepted Darwinism. Though early in his life he rejected Darwinism because of his religious faith, Denton continued to reject Darwinism even after he had shed his religious faith and learned an awful lot of biology. James Barham began as Christian fundamentalist, turned to a hardcore atheistic brand of Darwinism, and then, after thinking deeply about the nature of biological function, turned to a naturalized form of teleology at odds with both fundamentalism and Darwinism.

Finally, part four examines the nitty-gritty of why Darwinism is a failed intellectual project. After reviewing and overturning many of the key evidences used to prop Darwinism, Cornelius Hunter shows why Darwinism should properly be regarded not as a positive scientific research program but as a reactionary metaphysical program whose justification depends intrisically on naive assumptions about what God would and would not have done in designing biological systems. Next Roland Hirsch overviews many of the recent advances in molecular biology and biochemistry, showing how Darwinism has failed either to anticipate or to explain them. After that, Christopher Langan carefully examines the nature of causality and shows how Darwinism depends on a superficial analysis of causality to hide is fundamental conceptual problems. Finally, we come to the chapter that inspired this book, David Berlinski's June 1996 Commentary essay, "The Deniable Darwin." In exposing Darwinism's failure to resolve biology's information problem, this essay provoked an enormous response (over thirty published letters pro and con). In addition to the essay, this chapter includes some of the key letters by Darwinists critical of Berlinski's essay. It also includes Berlinski's replies to these critics.
Stay tuned for the first article.

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