God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theoryby Niall Shanks
Pub. Date: 01/08/2004
Publisher: Oxford University Press
In the last fifteen years a controversial new theory of the origins of biological complexity and the nature of the universe has been fomenting bitter debates in education and science policy across North America, Europe, and Australia. Backed by intellectuals at respectable universities, Intelligent Design theory (ID) proposes an alternative to accepted accounts of evolutionary theory: that life is so complex, and that the universe is so fine-tuned for the appearance of life, that the only plausible explanation is the existence of an intelligent designer. For many ID theorists, the designer is taken to be the god of Christianity.
Niall Shanks has written the first accessible introduction to, and critique of, this controversial new intellectual movement. Shanks locates the growth of ID in the last two decades of the twentieth century in the growing influence of the American religious right. But as he shows, its origins go back beyond Aquinas to Ancient Greece. After examining the historical roots of ID, Shanks takes a hard look at its intellectual underpinnings, discussing modern understandings of thermodynamics, and how self-organizing processes lead to complex physical, chemical, and biological systems. He considers cosmological arguments for ID rooted in so-called "anthropic coincidences" and also tackles new biochemical arguments for ID based on "irreducible biological complexity." Throughout he shows how arguments for ID lack cohesion, rest on errors and unfounded suppositions, and generally are grossly inferior to evolutionary explanations. While ID has been proposed as a scientific alternative to evolutionary biology, Shanks argues that ID is in fact "old creationist wine in new designer label bottles" and moreover is a serious threat to the scientific and democratic values that are our cultural and intellectual inheritance from the Enlightenment.
Table of Contents
Foreword Richard Dawkins vii
Introduction: The Many Designs of the Intelligent Design Movement 3
The Evolution of Intelligent Design Arguments 19
Darwin and the Illusion of Intelligent Design 50
Thermodynamics and the Origins of Order 93
Science and the Supernatural 135
The Biochemical Case for Intelligent Design 160
The Cosmological Case for Intelligent Design 191
Conclusion: Intelligent Designs on Society 224
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Shanks provides one of the best critiques of modern creationist theories that has ever been writen. Although I am but a humble student and do not posses the credentials that other reviewers of this book have, I found the book to be incredibly informative and helpfull. He lays down a very easy to follow series of arguments which upturn every major argument being made by creationists today. The point is not to disprove creationism, but rather to remove it from the realm of scientific fact. His logical and precise arguments do a superb job at accomplishing this goal. Everyone intersted in how life or our universe came into being should find a copy of this book and read it. In reply to the previous reviewer calling this book 'irresposible', the only thing I found the slightest bit faltering in this book was a hint of arrogance that Shanks could leave behind after thoroughly disproving an Inteligent Design claim. After reading the book, I find it hard to understand why someone would slander this book as badly as 'a review, biology professor' has done.
There exists a clear need for a book debunking Intelligent Design (ID), but this book failed miserably and will do more harm than good. The author spends an enormous amount of time on numerous topics that most readers of this book should have a good knowledge of, such as basic genetics. He also covers many topics that are only marginally related to his topic, such as a select history of philosophy, which probably does more to support ID than to refute it. This book will do little to dissuade ID advocates because most of them could easily counter its arguments, most of which have been refuted time and time again in the ID literature. Probably the only readers who will like this book are those who do not have enough knowledge of the topic to critically evaluate it, or who are already totally committed Darwinists. He covers basic neoDarwinism theory fairly well, but at an elementary level, and does little to defend his summary. Even a creationist could rip to shreds his overly broad high school explanations. On the other hand, ID advocates will love the book because it makes extreme statements that they can use to show the ignorance of their critics. I am sure I will see gems such as ID believers are 'parasites crawling on the body of science' (page 49) endlessly repeated in ID literature as well as creationist literature. We complain about their quote mining, but we sure put a lot of gold in the mine for them to dig up. This book is full of such quotes. This quote is especially ignorant because most all scientists until the last century were creationists of some type and thousands are today (at my university, I know of several, including several administrators and biology professors). Friends like Shanks do more harm than a thousand creationists and ID advocates put together.