Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

O’Leary’s favourite science books


This question started out as “science and religion” but the religion part got lost somehow, not because I am unreligious but because I wasn’t sure how much religion, as such, you can learn from a serious exposition of the reasons for thinking that design is a feature of our universe.

All you can really learn from books about design is that materialist atheism is nuts. And, not surprisingly, all the materialist atheist mooches and tax burdens do everything they can to try to sink design friendly books in the ratings. Don’t usually succeed, of course, but can’t blame ’em for trying.

Anyway, here are my five top picks (exempting any book for which – so far as I know – I had anything to do with the text):

1. Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny: Denton discusses the world I know, all the more authentically because he addresses the southern cone, not my beloved northlands. I first got interested in design issues about a decade ago, and Denton’s book was a key reason. I was sitting in a bookstore cafe in a northern city, and my brother saw I was interested, so he bought me a gift certificate so I could buy the book. The book just made so much sense. It describes the world I know, where things do not happen simply by chance or survival of the fittest.

2. Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. When I first encountered the book, I was flush with the success of having landed a science and faith column in a Canadian Christian publication (since, abruptly cancelled). When I first read Behe’s book, I was astonished to discover that there is a lot of evidence against Darwinism and little for it – despite endless local obsequious coo’s from bible school profs that “there is no conflict between science and religion (even though I knew of theist profs who were at that very time under serious threat.).

The “no conflict” profs really meant, of course, that there is no conflict between Darwinism and Christianity, as the Biologos Institute would have us believe. But, of course, “survival of the fittest” and Christianity are irreconcilable, as I noted when I saw former Biologos golden boy – and still a golden boy in many Christian circles – beaming with joy over human embryonic stem cell research.

I myself was astonished to discover, in interview, how foolish Christian women abandon live human embryos (their early stage children) in fertility clinics, so the kids end up getting processed for – whatever.

And if that is the “religion” part of “no conflict between …”, deal me out right now! Elsewhere, it is called being a “useful idiot.” But you will see a lot of it in the Christian press these days.

3. Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial: Still a classic in asking the right, serious questions, principally about the way in which Darwinism became popular culture’s icon, and what that actually means.

You can see it if you travel the subway in a major city today – full of tattooed, pierced, unemployable people, absolutely convinced that the “government” owes them a living, because they are the somehow surviving apes. It is hard to know where to begin, in countering this view because it is implicit in their education. Johnson was especially good at skewering “theistic evolution” (= how to sell out to atheism without openly admitting it).

4. Steve Meyer’s Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009). Meyer explains how new information about the cell shows that Darwinists and “Christian” Darwinists are simply wrong in supposing that Darwin’s ingenious “survival of the fittest” explanation shows how intricate machinery can occur with no design at all. Darwin’s claim is a complete imposture, and should have occurred to anyone who works for a living, but many British aristocrats like himself in his day and many civil servants and lobbyists today never did practical work, and wouldn’t really know why we cannot create intelligence from mere matter by accident.

5. Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution was one of those books everyone heard of – if they work this beat – but no one had read. After all, Darwin’s mob did a pretty good job of wasting his co-theorist Wallace, right? And Wallace’s only serious crime was not to be a materialist atheist.

In the world according to Darwin, you are either a materialist atheist or a useful idiot for same.

Wallace understood the world I know much better – not at all surprising, because he was a much better naturalist than Darwin. In the world I know, co-operation matters.

Eighty-five years ago, my devout grandmother told my five-year-old father to follow a turkey hen up into the hills and find out where she was caching her eggs. The trouble was, a coyote could get them. The boy – not much taller than a turkey hen himself – had to follow the hen discreetly, because she would turn around and look at him. But he found the eggs, and his mother promptly put them under a broody chicken hen, in the henhouse, so they could be safely hatched.

(Note: Obviously, I have avoided speaking of any book with which I was in any way involved – so far as I know. Because I work in publishing, it is always possible for some Darwinist sponge or tax burden, with no more useful activities to occupy his time, to pretend some case for my involvement with a book, but, as I always say in such cases, … pffft.

THEMAYAN, I suppose you mean this interview? http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/6515194 It is lengthy and Mazur sounded like she needed an extra cup of coffee, but it is worth listening to nevertheless. To get an even better picture about the peer review and its history, read Mazur's Counterpunch interview with David Noble, many interesting points about modern science and peer review: http://www.counterpunch.org/mazur02262010.html It has raised the eyebrows even among the staunch ID critics, see here http://recursed.blogspot.com/2010/02/susan-mazur-perpetually-clueless.html See also Shallit's response to Denyse O'Leary's book selection, and book selections suggested by some contributors to Shallit's blog: http://recursed.blogspot.com/2010/06/worst-science-books.html rockyr
Phaedros, your conversion story is interesting, and it proves that reason and logic can prevail and lead one to truth. What I am worried about is that not too many ordinary people in our busy and dumbed-down society have the necessary education, intelligence and resolve to follow such arguments through to their logical conclusion. rockyr
8 If anyone is interested in the state of affairs and just how bad of shape the truth keepers of science are in right now, then you should listen to an interview of Suzan Mazur on internet radio. She’s the one that broke the story on the Altenberg 16 meeting that was supposed to have original been kept from the press. She claims insiders have been contacting her about all the BS that has been going on behind the scenes in Academia. The url doesn’t work but if you type in (Suzan Mazur is the author of Altenberg 16) then hit the Google video button, it should be the first thing that pops up. I have also posted video of her interview with evo devo Stuart Newman who was one of the attendees, and he spoke of new extended synthesis that was proposed in Altenberg and the calling for a relaxation of the assumptions of the current Darwinian synthesis. Massimo Pigliucci is trying to downplay it, but its obvious the Modern synthesis is on its last legs. The video I posted is on You tube entitled, “Will The Real Theory of Evolution Please Stand Up” http://www.youtube.com/results.....P&aq=f THEMAYAN
Thomas Cudworth (#4): Very good points. Phaedros (#5): They certainly are. gpuccio
Mr. Cudworth- TEs are a strange breed IMO. Phaedros
Phaedros: I'm grateful you've taken the time to set forth your story. Intelligent design is not intrinsically tied to revealed religion, let alone any particular revealed religion, yet, as your story shows, it can play a facilitative role in the acceptance of a revealed religion. While some ID proponents stop at agnosticism, and others at Deism, others are led beyond these positions, to contemplate the visions of the various religious traditions, and in some cases to embrace one of those traditions. I have heard some TEs belittle or dismiss the value of ID as a possible pathway to religious faith. Your story ought to give them pause. Thomas Cudworth
Mr. Cudworth- Sorry I'm getting back to you after so long. I was an agnostic (basically atheist) for quite some time, but I've always been skeptical of materialistic theories on the mind and materialism in general. I think this probably stemmed from everyone's spiritual nature and an inkling that there is more to existence than matter and energy. My problem with the major religions and Christianity in particular was that I didn't see how or why God would either reveal himself in any way to mankind or how anyone would really claim to know anything about God if God did in fact exist. I also bought into the popular notion that Christianity is responsible for any bad thing that happened in world history since the Church was established and that the U.S. is not a Christian nation and the founding fathers were Deists or even less. When it comes to biology in particular I was becoming less and less convinced of the grand narrative of Darwinism, universal common descent according to Darwinian mechanisms, and the way in which evolutionary thinking has been incorporated into just about every discipline (i.e. sociology, history, religion, critical theory, etc.). Recently I had been having debates with a friend of mine about science and culture and in particular evolution. I began to realize that relativism cannot apply to science in a very constructive way and that I needed to find a philosophy that had a stronger foundation in Truth. So, finally when I began thinking more and more about evolution and how it seemed to largely serve as an ideological framework for many people rather than a hard science I became open to new ideas. I watched Expelled and was astonished at the way that people that even thought about Intelligent Design were being treated in universities, schools, and other places. Eugenie Scott is particularly unnerving person, to say the least. After that, I really wanted to learn about what the arguments and ideas were that were so dangerous to these people. Darwin's Black Box convinced me that ID was a valid scientific outlook and project, just as valid as strict evolutionary biology (if not more so frankly). I think that if one really looks at what kind of intelligence would be needed to do such things and why trying to explain it away as though aliens did it doesn't help solve the problem, one has to look for greater intelligences. I had also always been taught that Paley had been refuted by the cool and brilliant reasoning of Charles Darwin. I found by reading Natural Theology and delving into Darwin's basic argument and the evidence he produced did no such thing. Not even close really. The argument that time cannot be infinite because if it were we would never get to this moment in time also plays into my conviction that the universe had a clear beginning. Also, Paley's analogy concerning an infinite regress of past causes as a chain with infinite links but with no support is also important. Of course, Paley's central argument based around design in regards to function and purpose helped me to realize that anything like Darwinism is inadequate to produce anything that would have a complex function such as an eye or a nervous system or a brain. I began to think more from an engineering/structural viewpoint about a complex organism with integrated cells, tissues, organs, organ systems and the way that all of the organ systems have to work together for the organism to live. Also, gender is something that hardly makes sense from a Darwinian perspective. It's not only function within an organism but function concerning another organism. Not only that, but to think of everything required to reproduce successfully in a mammal is astonishing really. (I read the first few chapters of Paley's Natural Theology that I downloaded from the University library's website, by the way) I realized that an argument that the Intelligent Designer might be some kind of guiding principle in the universe was unconvincing because the kind of intelligence required to design the constants of the universe and biology would have to be more active in the universe. So yes, I did become open to revealed religion more than ever before. I had been interested in Buddhism before and various other New Agey type stuff. I think that there is an irrational aversion to the Bible in our culture at this time, I think I know why now, but I began reading The Gospel according to John, chapter 3 in particular. I started to realize the gravity of the eternal truths taught by Jesus Christ, how God is not only a timeless, immaterial entity but also is a personal entity, and the only person that would be even close to knowing anything about God would be Jesus of Nazareth. I realized that if God is active in the universe then the possibility of someone knowing God is wide open. I read about some of the defenses of Christian history in particular and I am convinced that the skeptics don't have much of a case. I noticed how all of the skepticism of Christianity and of events like the resurrection of Jesus Christ are mostly attempts at avoiding the issue. I guess you would say I am a born-again Christian but just starting out on the journey of a Christian. Phaedros
Phaedros: Thanks for your comment. May I ask some semi-personal questions about your intellectual journey? Would you say that you started from an unbelieving (either atheist or agnostic) position, and first read Behe in that frame of mind? And if so, when you moved on to read some natural theology (I'd be interested in hearing what you read), did you find yourself willing to believe in the existence of God, even if not the God of any particular religion -- just a general sort of creating or at least organizing God? If so, have you since moved beyond a generic deism or theism to accept any particular revealed religion? And finally, if so, would you say that Behe and/or your reading in natural theology facilitated your acceptance of revealed religion in any way? I think your story might be of interest to many here at UD, and elsewhere. Thomas Cudworth
I've only been able to skim through all of those books at the bookstore except I was able to read Darwin's Black Box which opened my eyes to the design argument. After reading Darwin's Black Box I read some of Natural Theology and found it to be far more convincing than anything I read in The Origin of Species. Phaedros

Leave a Reply