This is sort of a filler until I have something more significant to say…sorry.
I had a post-Christmas book-buying-binge (okay, so binge might not be the best word, but it’s alliterative) because my family and in-laws apparently thought I’m the kind of guy who would like Borders gift cards (and presumably because I’m too enigmatic to think of anything else I might want, although in their defense I wasn’t too helpful in that regard).
Anyway, I didn’t get a couple of the books I really want (most specifically A Meaningful World by Benjamin Wilker and Jonathan Witt), but I found the following at my local store:
- The God Who Was There, Francis Schaeffer
- How Then Should We Live?, Francis Schaeffer
- Intelligent Thought, ed. John Brockman
- The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
It was sort of a strange spree for me, since I meandered all over the store looking for some of the books I had in mind (including the Wilker/Witt book), but ours is horrendously small with a selection that isn’t quite suited for my tastes in nonfiction books. I say this primarily because their philosophy section consists of Eastern philosophy and their religion section is either the polar extremes of Biblical reconstructionism (á la the Jesus Seminar, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, or other current pop culture trends) or the popular Christian leaders like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes. Schaeffer, Lewis, and Strobel (if I really want to stretch a bit) were the closest things to an exception one could find in these two shelves (yes, two shelves for philosophy and religion together…pathetic).
Had the kid at the register cared enough to look at my selections closely (presuming he knew the broad topics they covered), Intelligent Thought would have probably seemed a very odd companion to Schaeffer and Strobel. Its full title – Intelligent Thought: Science versus the Intelligent Design Movement – bespeaks its stance on the debate right from the beginning, and I (for anyone curious) am far more sympathetic to the claims of the ID movement that those of the scientific Intelligentsia.
So, for what I assume is the same reason die-hard atheists read the Bible and Qur’an, I picked up this book to see what it has to say about the debate. I have followed the debate on the blogosphere for quite some time now, but I have not read much in the way of print about the debate (save for perhaps Strobel’s Case for a Creator, but that of course is far less about the debate itself than the issues being debated). I will admit that my purpose was not so much to be fair-minded and look at both sides – although I attempt to do so when considering the issues – but to see if the sixteen prestigious commentators in the collection committed the same basic sorts of fallacies that I have seen touted by ID advocates in defense of ID theory. And the commentators themselves did seem to represent “mainstream science” at present: Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey, Scott Atran, and Tim Cook were among the sixteen that covered the fields of anthropology, physics, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and perhaps a few others that I’m forgetting (the book is not in front of me at current).
After I saw it, I knew it would be at the front of my list, and although I have not yet finished it, I must say that I was correct in many of my presumptions about the content. Here are a few initial remarks:
- A couple of chapters focused on all the scientific breakthroughs, from Darwin forward, that support evolutionary theory, thereby setting up the doubly false dilemma of “evolution vs. creationism” (doubly because evolution and creationism are not the only two options and because creationism ≠ ID). A similar sentiment can be found in the title, where ID is pitted against science and where (neo-)Darwinism is equated with science…quite a dubious assumption.
- At least one of the chapters avoided the subject of what ID purports to explain altogether, focusing on religion and ethics instead. For a book that pits science against the ID movement, there was a lot of non-science discussion happening. Of course, I’m sure this was in an attempt to explain the matter thoroughly, but having sections devoted to why people might find these arguments convincing (by assuming everything but the fact that there might be genuine appeal in the possible explication of these claims) or why religion is important from a purely evolutionary standpoint (again assuming the tripe that ID is “Creationism’s Trojan horse”, to coopt Barbara Forrest’s phrase) seemed to confuse the issues at hand even further. (Of course, if I wanted to be really cynical, I could note that this is perhaps the point, since the book is directed at laypeople.)
Once I finish the book, I will give my more complete thoughts on the essays, most specifically Dawkins’ on the designer and Humphrey’s on consciousness. The former especially has a lot of material that needs attention.