Believe: Proof That God Is Real, by Ralph Crawford, Jr.
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]
Reading this book convinced me that I needed to read more of the recent books by my beloved Intelligent Design thinkers and scientists. About a decade ago or so, when I lived in Central Florida, I was active with the C.S. Lewis Society that was based in the Tampa Bay area that hosted various talks on issues of natural theology and intelligent design, which I avidly attended, buying books and chatting with the speakers and presenters, and I remember one conversation that I had with one of the thinkers with a few other people where the speaker stated that Intelligent Design was able to prove the existence of an intelligent designer, but that it was then necessary to use a different tack to move from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in intelligent design to a faith-based argument about the nature of that Designer and Creator. All of this context about intelligent design  is useful because this book attempts to engage in both of the tasks of a contemporary natural theologian, both in defending intelligent design and in presenting a specific religious worldview, in this case a Catholic one. The success is, at best, uneven, and the author’s gullibility to claims about near-death experiences brings doubt to his other claims where he stands on more solid ground.
This short book is divided into several chapters, the first half or so of its contents dealing with arguments about design versus evolution and the second half dealing with various matters of religious speculation. In both sections, the author is clearly a second-order writer, seeking to popularize and explain and summarize what has been researched and noted by others. This is not a piece of original research of a scholarly nature, but is written, as the author repeatedly mentions, for all people. It is clearly an accessible work and it explains various aspects of intelligent design and the weaknesses and flaws of Darwinian evolution in a competent fashion. The book is less successful when it changes tack about halfway through and starts discussing various matters of religious speculation, like the shroud of Turin and near-death experiences, with speculations on the immortal soul and so on. If the first half is largely scientific and philosophical, the second half is largely speculative and pro-Catholic in its mindset, not as congenial to a wide and skeptical audience. It is likely, especially in the second half but also in the first, that no one will be convinced of the truth of what this book says except those who already believe.
Although this book is not an unqualified success, and although the claims in the second half of the book are clearly on a much shakier epistemological basis than the more successful summaries of the evidence in the first half of the book, this book is immensely worthwhile in reflecting on a few areas of contemporary apologetics. As someone who reads more than my fair share of books in the field , I often wonder about what makes a book particularly excellent in the field versus a book that is of more limited interest? Writing with a sense of verve and originality helps, and it also helps to be familiar with the more obscure and technical aspects of the field, like Anselm’s argument which basically denies the legitimacy of any thinking which denies a Creator by commenting that the existence of any rational thought itself implies the existence of a rational Creator, and therefore all claims of rational thinking are themselves claims that support the existence of intelligent design at least in its broad level. The author is someone who has read the bestsellers and focused on the big-attention items, but could probably stand to do a bit more research on the larger body of work in matters of intelligent design as well as popular theology. The author has done enough homework to make an entertaining self-published book, if an imperfect one, but with a bit more reading and the development of a more entertaining and original prose style, the author could do far better still in the future.
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