Book Reviews

Intelligent Design 101

Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues

H. Wayne House, editor Grand Rapids 2008-03-11

House has gathered a stable of top-notch experts to write on various topics related to the subject of intelligent design (referred to hereafter as ID). This book is eye-opening and engaging to the uninitiated. All chapters are well written and quite readable. Among the authors are such well-known proponents as Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, J. P. Moreland, Casey Luskin, Eddie N. Colanter, Logan Gage, and Jay Richards.

One of the strengths of the book is its identification of the key issues related to ID. Besides issues related to biology and evolution, the book also discusses philosophical and legal matters. Most of the book is within reach of the general reader, though some may struggle with the more technical aspects of philosophy and biology. Legal arguments can also be labyrinthine at times. However, the gist of each can be mined with patient and reflective reading of the material.

A couple of key premises repeatedly surface. First, ID is not creationism. Writers are somewhat emphatic about this, not because they necessarily reject creationism, but because the starting place for ID is distinct. Also ID primarily mounts its argument on the basis of evidence; “follow the evidence” is its repeated mantra. ID is presented as a superior theoretical and presuppositional base because it better explains the evidence. Thus the religion-science distinction that has burdened creationism is potentially neutralized. In this way, apples are compared with apples and arguments can compete on the same footing. But this is true only if congruent issues are recognized by opponents, which is not always the case.

Second, an intelligent agent is the cause and designer of material reality. Casey Luskin defines ID this way: “The theory of intelligent design (ID) states that some natural phenomena are best explained by an intelligent cause because, in our experience, intelligence is the cause of their informational properties” (p. 69). However, this is not the same thing as saying “God” created material reality based on a religious viewpoint. On the contrary the intelligent agent is somewhat neutral, a blank space left for people to fill in for themselves. It could be God, Buddha, Allah, aliens, or whatever. Obviously, ID is a view of reality “friendlier” to religious thinking than is Darwinism, but that should not obscure its merits.

Some other key aspects of ID follow.

First, the strategic triad of ID—biology, philosophy, and legality—is the same for Darwinism or neo-Darwinism. Their arguments and litigation have depended on the same three pegs. However, scientists, judges, educators, and the general public have failed to understand and distinguish this threesome. This is important because, when mounting arguments, Darwinian proponents have confusingly, though convincingly, moved in and out of these three disciplines without being caught or held accountable for their fallacies. The authors of Intelligent Design 101 discuss these nuanced differences and cogently demonstrate the weaknesses of each one when argued from an evolutionary view. Unless judges, courts, educators, members of state boards of education, and academe in general are able to make the same distinctions, they find themselves over their heads and are thus unable to render fair and judicious decisions.

Second, the concept of irreducible complexity is fundamental to ID. Bacteria provide one of the most notable examples of this concept. As Luskin says, bacterial flagellum “fails to assemble or function properly if one mutates or removes any one of its approximately thirty to fifty genes. In this all or nothing game, mutations cannot produce the complexity needed to provide a functional flagellar rotary engine one incremental step at a time, and the odds are too daunting for it to assemble in one great leap” (pp. 86–87, italics added).

Third, there is no agreed-on definition of science—what it includes and excludes, where the line between science and nonscience is to be drawn (p. 54). Colanter states, “The definition and discipline parameters of science are not always agreed upon. As stated by J. P. Moreland in ‘Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Investigation,’ ‘defining science can be a difficult project with no clear definition; it is largely philosophical’ ” (p. 162).

This reviewer heartily recommends Intelligent Design 101. In this debate, scientific, educational, and legal leaders need to know about the issues involved, parents need to be informed, and Christians in general need to be able to enter conversations, debates, and legislative causes armed with this understanding of how and why things are as they are.

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Linden D. McLaughlin
Dr. McLaughlin brings a love for the church to the classroom. His forty years of ministry encompass aspects of church administration and Christian education. He brings to DTS a wide variety of experience, ranging from campus staff minister for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to a guest professorship at the Greek Bible Institute in Athens. Dr. McLaughlin also has been active on the boards of the Texas Sunday School Association and the Professional Association of Christian Educators.
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