Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The book that began the ID movement, by Thaxton, Bradley, Olsen

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The Intelligent Design movement begins with the publication of The Mystery of Life’s Origin by Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen (Philosophical Library, 1984) and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton (Alder & Adler, 1986). These two books presented a powerful scientific critique of evolutionary theory. Moreover, they set the tone for subsequent publications by refusing to mix the scientific evidence for design with theological views about creation.

-Bill Dembski in The Intelligent Design Movement

Three of the chapters from Mystery of Life’s Origin are now available online. However, the best chapters are available only in the book. The book once sold used at Amazon for $480.00. I was lucky to get my copy. It was published by an organization which had published for 8 Nobel Laureates. I hope some of the readers at UD will be able to get a copy for themselves.

Here are the endorsements:

A valuable summary of the evidence against the chemical evolution of life out of non-living matter. It presents a very well thought-out and clearly written analysis of the alternatives to the accepted scientific theory of the origin of life.”
—Robert Jastrow, Founder and Former Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies of NASA, author of several acclaimed books including God and The Astronomers.

“The authors have made an important contribution to the origin of life field. Many workers in this area believe that an adequate scientific explanation for the beginning of life on Earth has already been made. Their point of view has been widely disseminated in texts and the media, and to a large extent, has been accepted by the public. This new work brings together the major scientific arguments that demonstrate the inadequacy of current theories. Although I do not share the final philosophical conclusion that the authors reach, I welcome their contribution. It will help to clarify our thinking…. I would recommend this book to everyone with a scientific background and interest in the origin of life
—Robert Shapiro, Professor of Chemistry at New York University. Dr. Shapiro is co-author of Life Beyond Earth.

“…arguments are cogent, original and compelling…. The authors believe, and I now concur, that there is a fundamental flaw in all current theories of the chemical origins of life.”
—Dean Kenyon, Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University and co-author of Biochemical Predestination.

Here are the chapters available on-line:
Mystery of Life’s Origin, Chapters 7,8,9

Chapters 7,8,9 were the most controversial chapters in the book, and the ones that are still discussed today. The sections on geo-chemistry, Urey-Miller, etc. were right on, and have not be disputed in the 22 years since. At the time, OOL seemed at least marginally promising. As it stands today, hardly anyone takes Fox's Protocells, Urey-Miller, bio-chemical predestination, and other OOL ideas seriously. This book was highly critical of those theories, and the scientific community has basically affirmed the criticisms.... Regarding the convolving of thermal with configurational entropy into traditional thermodynamics, it is controversial from a definitional standpoint, but the issue of the reduction of configurational entropy (or equivalently the increase of specified complexity from generalized boundary conditions), still is a major problem. Whether one frames it as a 4th law problem or simply a matter of probability, it is still a problem for OOL. The modern formulation of the problem of reducing configurational entropy is now expressed in terms of the origin of specified complexity. Thaxton (more likely Bradley) used the term specified complexity in their book and connected it to configurational entropy. At the time they had no formalization for quantifying configurational entropy, and even I pointed out a weakness in their definition. Rigor became possible when the OOL (or dare I say anti-OOL) community began implicitly using the computational Turing Machine as the specification by which specified complexity could be measured in principle. Although I know of few IDers who will frame the OOL problem in terms of configurational entropy today, many will frame it in terms of specified complexity with respect to Turing Machines. To their credit they did use the idea of and exact phrase "specified complexity" in their writings. What remains to this day is "specified complexity". For readers interested in a modern framing of the OOL problem, here is a major OOL article by Trevors and Abel: Perfect architectures which scream design scordova
I'm always a bit averse to saying things like "the ID movement began with" yada yada yada. New ideas don't usually begain in someone's basement, but are born out over a long period of time until the ideas congeal from a complex series of sources and influences. Be that as it may, here's my take. Certainly Thaxton's et al MOLA is important. Ditto for Denton's. Personally, I consider Dr. Dembski's book on ID, though recent, to be the seminal work in the field. Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial, in particular, asks all the right questions. But in terms of the roots of ID, I would go to Brandon Carter's 1973 paper "Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle." Though not a paper arguing directly for ID, it is rife with theistic implications and gave the fledgling ID movement much of its current fodder. And let's also not forget William Paley's watchmaker thesis, which would put the origin of ID somewhere in the late 18th century. TerryL
Salvador, chapter seven is a good summary of thermodynamics, but in chapter eight it gets very dubious. The concept of “configurational entropy” is indeed novel - but has no connection to real thermodynamics. The Pixie
In Denton's defense, he was right on regarding the collapse of the molecular clock hypothesis. The chapter Mario highlights the collossal problems trying to explain the approximate equidistance phenomena. A recent paper by DiPristo on protein evolution acutally highlights the problem enormously. Back to Thaxton's book, the chapters on thermodynamics of life were very accurate. The concept of "configurational entropy" versus "thermal entropy" were novel and important. The idea of reducing configurational entropy is somewhat equivalent to increasing specified complexity. Even the word "specified complexity" is used in Thaxton's book. I think the work on the concept of formalizing specified complexity has been very important in solidifying those 3 chapters in the book. scordova
I know I've read to page 295 and he repeats the same mistake several times. Chris Hyland
Chris There's an awful lot more in that chapter than just yeast comparisons. DaveScot
Thanks a lot Mario. I've read some of it, and Dentons problem is that he thinks that yeast should be transitional between vertebrates and bacteria. The problem with this is that the common ancestor of yeast and bacteria is the same as that between humans and bacteria, so they have both had the same amount of time to mutate independently from bacteria. Therefore the difference should be roughly the same, especially when looking at a protein like cytochrome c. If you were looking at genes that were crucial for morphology you might get a different picture. Chris Hyland
Hi Salvador This is a book we have discussed in a few times at ARN. For anyone interested, see here, here and here. The Pixie
Enjoy. A Biochemical Echo of Typology Mario A. Lopez
"I still find his discussion of the cytochrome C dilemma to be a compelling case for what amounts to a “copyright signature” in the DNA. His case seems to be badly misunderstood by a very dismissive scientific community." Do you have a link to somewhere that explains it properly? I don't want to criticize because I haven't read the book but all the descriptions I've read of Dentons cytochrome C arguments are not very convincing. Chris Hyland
A think that a lot of people have the impression that the book "Of Pandas and People" started the ID movement. I think that conception is partly the result of all the publicity the book got in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. The first edition of Pandas came out in 1989, not long after those other two books came out, in 1984 and 1986. Pandas may be the first -- and maybe still the only -- ID book directed at the level of public-school students. Also, some people might think that other books -- Darwin on Trial (1991), Darwin's Black Box(1996), and The Design Inference(1998) -- started the modern ID movement. In an article dated Nov. 23, 2004, the website of the National Center for Science Education calls Pandas " the foundational work of the 'Intelligent Design' movement" and says,
This was the first book to frequently use now-common buzzwords such as "intelligent design," "design proponents," and "design theory." As such, Pandas represents the beginning of the modern "intelligent design movement." -- http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/8442_1_introduction_iof_pandas__11_23_2004.asp
The Wikipedia article on intelligent design says,
The earliest known modern version of intelligent design began, according to Dr Barbara Forrest, "in the early 1980s with the publication of The Mystery of Life's Origin.
Of course, we know that the concept of ID goes back hundreds, maybe thousands of years. Larry Fafarman
I have Denton's book. It was withdrawn from the local ibrary. I wonder why??? Robo
I think that Denton is an important "side-show" theorist. I know that his second book, "Nature's Destiny" seems to present a plausible alternative - that law alone has caused all that is. If Denton's premise in Nature's Destiny is correct, the big bang was configured from the beginning to obligate the arrival of us. This is a reasonably attractive, albiet rather theistic evolutionary, hypothesis. I still find his discussion of the cytochrome C dilemma to be a compelling case for what amounts to a "copyright signature" in the DNA. His case seems to be badly misunderstood by a very dismissive scientific community. I noticed that Denton got a chapter in "Uncommon Dissent". However, he deserves more airspace than that. I wonder if he doesn't get more airspace because he doesn't want it. I wonder if my library would have "The Mystery of Life’s Origin." If not, I'm doomed until it is reprinted. ReMine's "The Biotic Message" is definitely on my short list of "must have's". bFast
Just a small clarification:
Intelligent Design is compatible with everything from the starkest creationism (i.e., God intervening at every point to create new species)
According to Creation Science, God created the generic kinds, and speciation took over from there. For example, the dog, the coyote, the wolf and the dingo could be descendent of just one pair. ... Of the books mentioned, I have read Denton's and it trully is a masterpiece. I would add ReMine's book "The Biotic Message" as one which suports the design hypothesis and lays down a testable scientific theory aswell (Message Theory). Mats
There are 14 copies advertised on abe.com, ranging in price from $40 to just over $195. tedf
"It says something profound that this book is out of print and so difficult to find, while Dawkin’s (and other’s similar) books are so widely and cheaply available." Comment by dacook — December 11, 2006 @ 2:21 pm The market for such books has changed considerably since 1984--6. I wonder what it would take to get these books back into print? Perhaps Richard Dawkins could be persuaded to attack these books publicly. If the publishers have any marketing savvy at all, they will offer him a fee to do so. russ
I found three for sale through Amazon. Now there's two. Better hurry.... dacook
It says something profound that this book is out of print and so difficult to find, while Dawkin's (and other's similar) books are so widely and cheaply available. dacook

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