Doubts About Darwin: A History Of Intelligent Design, by Thomas Woodward
The author is someone I happen to know (slightly) personally, largely because he got his Ph.D from the same university where I got my first master’s degree and because he founded the C.S. Lewis Society of which I happen to be a member. At any rate, I mention this personal context because this book is an intellectual history of the intelligent design movement that demonstrates just how close-knit of a group it is, with some definite insiders as well as a small but not insignificant group of those on its outskirts, like myself . The author wears his bias openly but also gives a thoughtful and fair-minded review of the early years of the ID movement and its roots in the post-Kuhnian world of the rhetoric of science. The author also manages an impressive task in showing some of the inchoate concerns that lead so many evolutionists to attempt to conflate Intelligent Design with various forms of Young Earth Creationism, something which has thus far been successful largely only in their own minds and, sadly, the justice system, to date.
At about 250 pages, including four appendices that provide deeper information about various matters of interest, this book does not overstay its welcome. It is concise but also thorough about the beginnings of the ID movement, in which the author has some influence, not least as the “court historian,” as it were. One wants to see a sequel, in fact, to this book that shows the response of Darwinists as well as some of the more recent works in the field as well as some of the thinkers like Axe and Meyer whose writing has come a bit later than this particular volume covers. The author begins this book with a look at the incipient paradigm crisis and the awakening from a belief in the efficacy of macroevolution. A couple of chapters then look at Denton’s landmark work Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, and its radicalism. Three chapters then follow that demonstrate Philip Johnson’s initial forays into the science wars and how he earned a hearing as a lawyer and amateur philosopher of science. A chapter on the early 90’s and the initial converts to ID precedes a discussion of Michael Behe and William Dembski’s importance as early theorists of a positive theory of design that placed a scientific and rational alternative to the discredited evolutionary mechanism. The book then follows with a discussion of the recalcitrant aspect of creation that inspired intelligent design and its roots in the philosophy and history and rhetoric of science.
Although this book makes for a challenging read, not least because it is so detailed about the meetings between early ID thinkers and the rhetoric of their writings, this book is an essential volume to read if you want to really understand the history of the Intelligent Design movement as well as the grounds of its hostility to Darwinism in science and especially in culture. One can read a lot of ad hominem attacks on the movement from incompetent and hostile writers, but until you take the movement seriously and address its sound grasp of empirical data as well as its fierce and on-point rhetoric, you will be missing the boat in your understanding of it. The book is sufficiently detailed and ends sufficiently early as well that one awaits a sequel that will show the second wave of intelligent design starting in the early 2000’s and progressing to this day, including a forthcoming treatment of Theistic Evolution that addresses the lingering and unfortunate attraction on the part of many for some kind of vain compromise between materialism and design that remains open largely thanks to the intellectual dishonesty of evolutionists who seek to corrode human dignity on the one hand while claiming facetiously that science only requires a methodological materialism on the other.
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