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So many ID books, so little time! ID-sympathetic book by Gingerich (2006)

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Biologist John Lynch seems to think there is surprising silence over Behe’s book. I speculated that his perception is due to the fact that there are so many pro-ID or ID-sympathetic books and activities out there now. In addition to the activities of the ID community, there is renewed activity in the creationist community. There are at least two creation museums opening in 2007 — one in the USA and one in Canada!

It was through Uncommon Descent that important pro-ID books have gotten some promotion like ReMine’s Biotic Message and Sanford’s Genetic Entropy, or Barrow and Tipler’s Anthropic Cosmological Principle. I will hopefully post in detail on ReMine’s Biotic Message and Davies The Mind of God. It should be noted Barrow and Davies won an almost combined 3 million dollars in the form of Templeton Prizes for their (perhaps unwitting) ID-sympathetic works. Some of the best ID literature is in places you’d least expect!

Uncommon Descent will from time to time point out other books like Tipler’s Physics of Christianity and now this (unwitting) ID-sympathetic book by renowned scientist Owen Gingerich: God’s Universe

Harvard University Press

We live in a universe with a very long history, a vast cosmos where things are being worked out over unimaginably long ages. Stars and galaxies have formed, and elements come forth from great stellar cauldrons. The necessary elements are present, the environment is fit for life, and slowly life forms have populated the earth. Are the creative forces purposeful, and in fact divine?

Owen Gingerich believes in a universe of intention and purpose. We can at least conjecture that we are part of that purpose and have just enough freedom that conscience and responsibility may be part of the mix. They may even be the reason that pain and suffering are present in the world. The universe might actually be comprehensible.

Taking Johannes Kepler as his guide, Gingerich argues that an individual can be both a creative scientist and a believer in divine design–that indeed the very motivation for scientific research can derive from a desire to trace God’s handiwork. The scientist with theistic metaphysics will approach laboratory problems much the same as does his atheistic colleague across the hall. Both are likely to view the astonishing adaptations in nature with a sense of surprise, wonder, and mystery.

In God’s Universe Gingerich carves out “a theistic space” from which it is possible to contemplate a universe where God plays an interactive role, unnoticed yet not excluded by science.

Here is a quote from the book which I expect the Dawkins-inspired witch hunters to latch on to:

At Goshen I was a chemistry major, and I knew that chemistry provided many opportunities for service to humankind. Meanwhile the stars and Harvard beckoned, but of what practical use could astronomy be? Here my mathematics professor came to the rescue. “If you feel a calling to pursue astronomy,” he counseled, “you should go for it.
We can’t let the atheists take over any field.”

There is a small blurb about the scandalous showing of Privileged Planet by the Discovery Institute at the Smithsonian.

As I was beginning to formulate these lectures, there arose a considerable flap at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., because the museum had agreed to show a film entitled The Privileged Planet. I had a minor walk-on role in the controversy because I had written a dust jacket blurb for the book of the same name.
Someone from the museum staff had previewed the film and had found no problem with its science; however, the film was sponsored by the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a think tank well known as a principal proponent of the so-called Intelligent Design movement, and very quickly critics raised the alarm that the showing of the film The Privileged Planet at the Smithsonian Museum would somehow constitute an endorsement of Intelligent Design. I suppose that few of the critics actually saw the film, for it contains no explicit mention of Intelligent Design.

Owen Gingerich

You can read a lot of the book online here.

17 Replies to “So many ID books, so little time! ID-sympathetic book by Gingerich (2006)

  1. 1

    I think part of the issue was that in 1996, Behe verbalized what we intuitively knew. Life was too complicated for blind processes to create. But he fleshed it out and gave us concepts we could work with.

    This work, which I haven’t read, seems to flesh it out a little more. But it isn’t the verbalization of previously inchoate thoughts.

  2. 2
    gpuccio says:

    About Behe’s book…

    It’s probably true that its impact is not going to be so “basic” as in the case of Darwin’s Black Box, and it’s true, as William Bradford says on “intelligently Sequenced”, that the ID community is now much bigger and rich of different voices, so that:
    “It is not that he (Behe)is no longer respected. Only that he has now become one voice among many, albeit still a prominent one.”

    This is all true. But I think we should aknowledge something else. I have ordered the book, and not yet received it, least of all read it. And that is true, I think, of many people on this blog and in the community.
    I understand that a few darwinist “reviewers” (not the best guys, it seems) have felt the immediate need to try to libel the book. They are really afraid of Behe, and with good reason.
    But we IDists, let’s take our time, let’s read the book and appreciate it with the thoughtfulness, attention and respect it certainly deserves. It is our privilege.
    And then, after reading it, we are going to discuss. And I am sure we will discuss very much. After all, it will be much more fun discussing the real thing than having to infer it through a few pitiful reviews…

  3. 3
    Larry Fafarman says:

    Re: “So many ID books, so little time” —

    That is what I have been trying to tell people who criticize me for commenting on books without having read them completely — there is just so much stuff out there that I just don’t have time to read everything! Also, it seems that I have been singled out for this criticism.

    My blog has “reviews” of “Monkey Girl” (which is mainly about the Dover case), “IBM and the Holocaust,” and three Darwin-to-Hitler books, and I have not completely read any of them. I read about one-third of “Monkey Girl.”

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    John Lynch was supposing that Behe’s getting a could shoulder from creationists, and that’s why his book is supposedly not getting attention.

    Most of the authors at UD have only recently gotten copies of Behe’s book (myself included!).

    Furthermore, Behe has written editors of journals who published negative reviews (he mentioned this at a public event covered by C-Span in DC last wednesday). The Discovery Institute generally waits for the letters to either be published or rejected before they will actually print Behe’s letter to the editors.

    So we just may have to wait and see before covers the book.

    I should point out, John Sanford’s book was out an entire YEAR before we mentioned it at UD.

    Any one involved in what’s going on with the ID movement knows there is a lot of activity. Post-Dover there has only been an acceleration of activity, not a reduction of it. There are more books, videos, conferences, research, etc. than ever.

    And for what it’s worth, one can go to creationist websites and guess who’s books are being sold by creationists? Behe’s!

  5. 5
    IDist says:

    I have to admit that I was expecting more activity regarding Behe’s book. I knew that it wont have the same impact like DBB, but this is less than what I was waiting for.
    Anyway, I think things will get more interesting when Behe’s responses to his critics get published

  6. 6
    Jehu says:

    I think that discussion about Behe’s book should increase as more people have actually read it and thought about it.

  7. 7
    Larry Fafarman says:

    IDist said (comment #5) —
    I have to admit that I was expecting more activity regarding Behe’s book.

    Actually, considering that the book was released only about two weeks ago, there has been an amazing amount of activity already — see

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Most of the authors at UD have only recently gotten copies of Behe’s book (myself included!).

    I can’t wait for you to explain how Behe has it all wrong, because the malaria parasite and humans really haven’t been around all that terribly long, after all.

    Perhaps we should stick with the HIV virus. Surely that fits neatly within a YEC paradigm.

  9. 9
    jerry says:

    Behe’s book goes way over the edge, to use one of the sub-chapter headings. It will not be well accepted by many since it is very close to special creation for nearly everything in life.

    Behe has tentatively ruled out anything but very trivial results for changes in life due to NDE.

    By showing that three organisms did not produce anything positive or complex with a huge number of reporductive events, Behe by extension says that it probably didn’t happen with all the other reproductive events for multi-cellular organisms. The number of reproductive events for multi-celled organisms are dwarfed by the reproductive events of the three life forms he examines () in detail.

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    My computer is acting strange. It is a borrowed laptop and it sent the comment before I was through so the last sentence was not complete. I meant to include that by far he spends most of his time on malaria and less time on HIV and e coli bacteria.

    But the net result of his presentation is to minimize the role in evolution of natural processes. And this will not be liked one bit.

  11. 11
    Jehu says:

    I was surprised to see the Allan McNeill’s response to Behe’s argument that organisms that achieve maximum fitness was neutral drift. In other words, organisms need neutral drift to position themselves for a selective benefit.

    Neutral drift = purely random mutations without selective benefit. That is the answer? That is how evolution works?

    I have always liked Allan McNeill.

  12. 12
    johnnyb says:

    I know in my case, I have a lot of things going on, and I’m waiting to have time to finish it before reviewing it.

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    Just a brief mention about Gingerich. Carl Sagan (sometimes affectionately known as Pagan Sagan in certain cricles for his anti-Christian bent) advocated the Dawkinsian view that humans are just one among many pointless accidents in a pointless purposeless universe.

    Gingerich argues the opposite, and thus argues for a position sympathetic toward cosmological ID.

    Gingerich is like Francis Collins and Charles Townes in that he rejects biological ID but accepts cosmological ID. This is is still progress imho.

    Barrow and Tipler argue quite well, from accepted physical principles alone, that there is an Intelligent Designer for the universe. The differential equations of physics find a solution in the Intelligent Designer of the universe.

    Paul Davies argues that it is a highly fortuitous miracle that the scientific enterprise succeeds at all, and that the discoverability of physical laws is a significant property of the universe. Scientific discoverability does not seem to be accidental. The cardinaiity of non-computable numbers is vastly beyond that of computable numbers. So then, why is our universe computable?

    Davies and Barrow received about 3 million dollars for their work toward such conclusions. Unfortunately for Tipler, he received a 40% pay cut, which he believes is due to his pro-ID position. Gingerich is now retired and immune to persecution. His fame and reputation give him the privilege of writing such ID-sympathetic works which can even be published by Harvard University Press!

    Finally, Townes also wrote a ID-sympathetic book, Making Waves some years ago. He won the Nobel Prize prior to writing the book and then won the Templeton prize (1.4 million). So, all told I count over $4,000,000 in prize money to ID-sympathetic books by Barrow, Davies, and Townes.

  14. 14
    gpuccio says:


    I have read Allan McNeill’s response too, and I was equally surprised. You say:

    “Neutral drift = purely random mutations without selective benefit. That is the answer? That is how evolution works?”

    I agree with you completely. I have never understood the reasonings of many evolutionists about neutral mutations and genetic drift. How is that supposed to explain the genesis of information? They seem to be satisfied with the notion that genetic drift can “shuffle” the alleles, and randomly fix some. How is that supposed to create new alleles, new proteins, new functions? What’s the difference, from an informational and mathematical point of view, with RM? Any random event is random, whatever the modality, point mutation, deletion, crossing over, genetic drift, and so on. It’s strange how some evolutionsts choose to minimize the “supposed” role of NS (which at least is an attempt, however wrong, to explain the non randomness of biological information) in favour of the totally random genetic drift.

    If, as Jerry says, “Behe has tentatively ruled out anything but very trivial results for changes in life due to NDE”, I am very happy for that. I am perfectly convinced that NDE can do nothing at all in the sense of generating significant new information, so maybe that even Behe’s “very trivial results” are too much…

  15. 15
    jerry says:

    Has anyone read Behe’s book? It is clear that he rules out nearly everything of importance for NDE whether it is natural selection or drift. These are of no consequence if there is nothing to work on. What is important is mutations that NS and drift work on and Behe says that none of any consequence happen or when they do they are so trivial and so infrequent to be meaningful.

    That is the message of the book. It is interesting to read John Lynch’s blog and no one picks this up so no one is reading the book but they are all giving their two cents.

    Behe has gone further than anyone has ever done before and no one is discussing this aspect of it. They will have to be informed on just what the book is saying so they can go into a differnt attack mode.

    One guy actually said this

    “Behe is a mole. He will come out one day and declare that he was wrong all along and that people should just ditch ID altogether. His sleeper cell status will probably expire after 20 years or so, so look for his big awakening is about 5-7 years.”

    When what is being said in the book completely undermines the “mutation” part of NDE.

  16. 16
    mike1962 says:


    “Paul Davies argues that it is a highly fortuitous miracle that the scientific enterprise succeeds at all, and that the discoverability of physical laws is a significant property of the universe.”

    And let’s not forget what that rabid Bible-thumping creationist, Nobelaureate, and all around wacky guy, Sir Roger Penrose, wrote in Road to Reality: that the conditions at the Big Bang were precise to one part in 10^10^123 of the volume of the phase space.

    I guess in the multiverse, SOMEBODY had to win the lottery. 😉

  17. 17
    Borne says:

    “His sleeper cell status will probably expire after 20 years or so, so look for his big awakening is about 5-7 years.”

    They accused Sternberg of being a sleeper cell too.

    So many Darwinists are now illness-level paranoid.

    They squirm and squeal every time someone like Behe comes out and disturbs their comfort zone.

    Light always disturbs darkness, and darkness cannot resist light.

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