Origins & Science
The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent," on explanation, and Dembski's "The Explanatory Filter," on her God of the gaps concern. Since the concerns Matsumura raises have been so thoroughly discussed by the Intelligent Design movement, it is hard not to wonder why she exhibits no familiarity with their proposed solutions. David Kornreich's, "Why Creationism is not a Science," (link expired) seems equally oblivious to these discussions. Behe's Empty Box, on the other hand, is a glimpse of the possible dialogue prompted by taking Intelligent Design theorists' criticisms seriously.
Robin Collins in Reason for the Hope Within
Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for example, was set around 70o F and the humidity was at 50%; moreover, there was an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole system for the production of food. Put simply, the domed structure appeared to be a fully functioning biosphere. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure. That is, the only alternative explanation we can think of — that the structure was formed by some natural process — seems extremely unlikely. Of course, it is possible that, for example, through some volcanic eruption various metals and other compounds could have formed, and then separated out in just the right way to produce the "biosphere," but such a scenario strikes us as extraordinarily unlikely, thus making this alternative explanation unbelievable.
E.O. Wilson (Vintage: Mar. 30, 1999), 384 pages.
The biologist Edward O. Wilson is a rare scientist: having over a long career made signal contributions to population genetics, evolutionary biology, entomology, and ethology, he has also steeped himself in philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences. The result of his lifelong, wide-ranging investigations is Consilience (the word means "a jumping together," in this case of the many branches of human knowledge), a wonderfully broad study that encourages scholars to bridge the many gaps that yawn between and within the cultures of science and the arts. No such gaps should exist, Wilson maintains, for the sciences, humanities, and arts have a common goal: to give understanding a purpose, to lend to us all "a conviction, far deeper than a mere working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws." In making his synthetic argument, Wilson examines the ways (rightly and wrongly) in which science is done, puzzles over the postmodernist debates now sweeping academia, and proposes thought-provoking ideas about religion and human nature. He turns to the great evolutionary biologists and the scholars of the Enlightenment for case studies of science properly conducted, considers the life cycles of ants and mountain lions, and presses, again and again, for rigor and vigor to be brought to bear on our search for meaning. The time is right, he suggests, for us to understand more fully that quest for knowledge, for "Homo sapiens, the first truly free species, is about to decommission natural selection, the force that made us.... Soon we must look deep within ourselves and decide what we wish to become." Wilson's wisdom, eloquently expressed in the pages of this grand and lively summing-up, will be of much help in that search. ~ Amazon.com
Michael Ruse (University of Chicago Press: Jan 1999), 368 pages.
Originally published in 1979, The Darwinian Revolution was the first comprehensive and readable synthesis of the history of evolutionary thought. Though the years since have seen an enormous flowering of research on Darwin and other nineteenth-century scientists concerned with evolution, as well as the larger social and cultural responses to their work, The Darwinian Revolution remains remarkably current and stimulating. For this edition Michael Ruse has written a new afterword that takes into account the research published since his book's first appearance. "It is difficult to believe that yet another book on Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution could add anything new or contain any surprises. Ruse's book is an exception on all counts. Darwin scholars and the general reader alike can learn from it." ~ David L. Hull, Nature
Stephen Shapin (University of Chicago Press: 1998), 232 pages.
TThere was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it," says Shapin, a professor of sociology at U.C., San Diego in his introduction, "There was, rather, a diverse array of cultural practices aimed at understanding explaining, and controlling the natural world." Shapin's treatise on the currents that engendered modern science is a combination of history and philosophy of science for the interested and educated layperson, and it is indeed considerably more readable than many of the other philosophy of science books currently available. Several puzzling aspects of the writings of 16th- and 17th-century scientists are put into new perspective in his section titled: "Science as Religion's Handmaid." There are three basic sections of the book: "What Was Known?" covers major differences between the "new knowledge" of the scientific revolution and received wisdom of the ancients. "How Was It Known?" covers sources of authority (e.g., books or experience) and some of the experimental groundwork of major players such as Boyle and Galileo. And "What Was The Knowledge For?" explores the interactions of the new science with the political, religious and cultural dimensions of the European society in which it was embedded. This slim book would have benefited from a deeper consideration of the rivalry between English and Continental science (and scientists) and the relationship of the new science to the design and production of war machines. But Shapin does help the reader understand the direct intellectual link between that time and our own. Illustrations, all taken from original sources, add a nice touch. ~ Publishers Weekly
Larry Arnhart (State University of New York Press: May 1, 1998), 332 pages.
This book shows how Darwinian biology supports an Aristotelian view of ethics as rooted in human nature. Defending a conception of "Darwinian natural right" based on the claim that the good is the desirable, the author argues that there are at least twenty natural desires that are universal to all human societies because they are based in human biology. The satisfaction of these natural desires constitutes a universal standard for judging social practice as either fulfilling or frustrating human nature, although prudence is required in judging what is best for particular circumstances. The author studies the familial bonding of parents and children and the conjugal bonding of men and women as illustrating social behavior that conforms to Darwinian natural right. He also studies slavery and psychopathy as illustrating social behavior that contradicts Darwinian natural right. He argues as well that the natural moral sense does not require religious belief, although such belief can sometimes reinforce the dictates of nature.
Michael Behe (Free Press: Mar 20, 1998), 352 pages.
Charles Darwin's theory of life's evolution through natural selection and random mutation fails to account for the origin of astonishingly complex biomolecular systems, argues Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. In this spirited, witty critique of neo-Darwinian thinking, he focuses on five phenomena: blood clotting; cilia, oar-like bundles of fibers; the human immune system; transport of materials within the cell; and the synthesis of nucleotides, building blocks of DNA. In each case, he finds systems that are irreducibly complex?no gradual, step-by-step, Darwinian route led to their creation. As an alternative explanation, Behe infers that complex biochemical systems (i.e., life) were designed by an intelligent agent, whether God, extraterrestrials or a universal force. He notes that Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA's double-helix structure, proposed that life began when aliens from another planet sent a rocket ship containing spores to seed Earth. Perhaps Behe's plea for incorporating a "theory of intelligent design" into mainstream biology will spark interest. ~ Publishers Weekly
J. A. Cover and Martin Curd (W.W. Norton & Company: Mar 17, 1998), 1408 pages.
Gathering 49 readings on a variety of topics — science and pseudoscience; rationality, objectivity, and values in science; laws of nature; models of explanation, among others — this anthology introduces students to the often challenging problems examined by major thinkers in the field. Combine this with thoughtful and thorough apparatus, and Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues is the most flexible and comprehensive collection ever created for undergraduate courses. ~ Product Description
William A. Dembski, ed. (InterVarsity Press: 1998)
Nineteen experts trained in mathematics, mechanical engineering, philosophy, astrophysics, ecology, evolutionary biology, and other disciplines challenge the reigning ideology of materialistic naturalism on both scientific and philosophical grounds, as they press their case for a radical thinking of established evolutionary assumptions. ~ Synopsis
Ian G. Barbour (HarperOne: Aug 2, 1997), 384 pages.
Religion and Science is a definitive contemporary discussion of the many issues surrounding our understanding of God and religious truth and experience in our understanding of God and religious truth and experience in our scientific age. This is a significantly expanded and feshly revised version of Religion in an Age of Science, winner of the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence and the Templeton Book Award. Ian G. Barbour — the premier scholar in the field — has added three crucial historical chapters on physics and metaphysics in the seventeenth century, nature and God in the eighteenth century, and biology and theology in the nineteenth century. He has also added new sections on developments in nature-centered spirituality, information theory, and chaos and complexity theories. ~ Synopsis
Phillip E. Johnson, Adapted from Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds.
People who only want unbiased, honest science education that sticks to the evidence are bewildered by the reception they get when they try to make their case. Their specific points are brushed aside, and they are dismissed out of hand as religious fanatics. The newspapers report that "creationists" are once again trying to censor science education because it offends their religious beliefs. Why is it so hard for reasoned criticism of biased teaching to get a hearing? The answer to that question begins with a Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee play called Inherit the Wind, which was made into a movie in 1960 starring Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and Frederic March. You can rent the movie at any video store with a "classics" section, and I urge you to do so and watch it carefully… The play is a fictionalized treatment of the "Scopes Trial" of 1925, the legendary courtroom confrontation in Tennessee over the teaching of evolution. Inherit the Wind is a masterpiece of propaganda, promoting a stereotype of the public debate about creation and evolution that gives all virtue and intelligence to the Darwinists. The play did not create the stereotype, but it presented it in the form of a powerful story that sticks in the minds of journalists, scientists and intellectuals generally…
"Billions and Billions of Demons", New York Review of Books, (January 9, 1997), p. 28.
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
Michael Devitt (Princeton University Press: December 1996), 340 pages.
In this provocative and wide-ranging book, Michael Devitt argues for a thoroughgoing realism about the common-sense and scientific physical world, and for a correspondence notion of truth. Furthermore, he argues that, contrary to received opinion, the metaphysical question of realism is distinct from, and prior to, any semantic question about truth. The book makes incisive responses to Putnam, Dummett, van Fraassen, and other major anti-realists. The new afterword includes an extensive discussion of the metaphysics of nonfactualism, and new thoughts on the need for truth and on the determination of reference. ~ Product Description
Michael Denton (Adler & Adler:Dec 1, 1996)
In a penetrating account of features of the natural world that mutation and natural selection are simply inadequate to explain. From biochemistry to the fossil record, Denton systematically demolishes the "fact" of evolution as a sufficient explanation for the world as it is. Denton doesn't deny that evolution occurs; he is, for example, sanguine about the "horse series." He claims, however, that evolution, taken as mutation and natural selection, is no more than a partial answer. His his explication and analysis of the avian respiratory system is as convincing as anything in Mike Behe's book. Some have tried to explain away problems in evolution as owing to the paucity of human imagination, but Denton doesn't merely ask, "How could this have evolved?" e.g., the feather, avian respiration, etc. He argues positively that certain features cannot have evolved, that intermediate forms are not just difficult to imagine, they are impossible.
"Comparing Hostage Takers", The Pascal Centre Notebook, 1997
Philosophical naturalism is not merely a gratuitous conclusion that neo-Darwinists draw from their scientific theory; rather, it is the powerful metaphysical basis of the theory itself. How do Darwinists know that natural selection, in combination with random mutations, can produce such apparent wonders of design as the wing, the eye, and the brain? How do they know that preexisting intelligence was not required to produce life in the first place, to guide unicellular life in its progress to more complex forms, and to develop eventually the human mind? In fact Darwinists do not know these things by experiment, or by any other form of scientific investigation. They know them by philosophical presupposition, because their naturalism tells them that nature cannot be affected by anything outside nature. Darwinism is not merely a support for naturalistic philosophy: it is a product of naturalistic philosophy.
"Comparing Hostage Takers", The Pascal Centre Notebook (1997)
If the matter were considered open to question, there would be plenty of reason to doubt that natural selection has the vast creative powers Darwinists attribute to it. What we actually know from scientific investigation is information like the following: artificial selection can produce diverse varieties of dogs and monstrous fruitfly variants; the relative frequency of dark and light peppered moths in a population was observed to vary as the trees became lighter and darker; differential survival causes bacterial populations to develop resistance to antibiotics; living forms share a common biochemical basis and genetic code; new body plans tend to appear in the fossil record fully formed with no record of the transitional intermediates that should connect them to presumed ancestors; and finally, the prevailing pattern of fossil species is stasis, meaning that observed evolutionary change is limited and directionless.
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 147.
[T]he philosophical presuppositions of science [include]: the existence of a theory independent, external world; the knowability of the external world; the existence of truth; the laws of logic; the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment; the adequacy of language to describe the world; the existence of values used in science; the uniformity of nature and induction; and, the existence of numbers and mathematical truths.
J.P. Moreland on Scientism said...
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 144-145.
Strong scientism is the view that some proposition or theory is true or rational if and only if it is a scientific proposition or theory. That is, if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition or theory that, in turn, depends upon its having been successfully formed, tested, and used according to appropriate scientific methodology. There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them... [W]eak scientism allows for the existence of truth apart form science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But, science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning. If strong scientism is true, then theology is not a rational enterprise at all and there is no such thing as theological knowledge. If weak scientism is true, then the conversation between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support. For thinking Christians, neither of these alternatives is acceptable.
Richard Dawkins (W.W. Norton: Sep. 19, 1996), 400 pages.
Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype) trumpets his thesis in his subtitle almost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin's fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: "The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity." Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their "punctuated equilibrium" thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of "taming chance" by breaking down the "very improbable into less improbable small components" is daring neo-Darwinism. ~ Publishers Weekly