William Dembski, prominent leader of the Intelligent Design movement, and Michael Ruse, prominent defender of evolutionary theory, have teamed up to give us a rich collection of essays centering on the Design debate. While admitting that they are "at opposite ends of the spectrum", the editors agree that ID is a significant enough movement on the current scene, "if only culturally," that it "should not be ignored." (p.4) But cultural and social agendas, and defenses against them, are thankfully absent from this volume; the focus is on intellectual debate in which each side is supposed to present its best arguments so that each can know what the other is saying, and so that the reader "can quickly grasp the fundamental claims and counterclaims being made." (p.4)
The collection is also helpful in giving a background to the Design debate -- in Ruse's "Brief History" of the design argument and Angus Menuge's "Survey" of the ID movement; and also in Elliott Sober's useful analytical and historical discussion of the design argument -- especially the key claim that the design hypothesis is "more likely" than naturalistic alternatives.
But the main attractiveness of this book for this reader was the variety of viewpoints and issues that radiate out from the two central foci of evolution and design. The discussion ranges far beyond the claims and counterclaims of the two opposing theories. Indeed, there are four very different viewpoints represented about equally in the four sections of the book: I. Darwinism; II. Complex Self-Organization; III. Theistic Evolution; and IV. Intelligent Design, each with four or five contributors. (But one wonders, why is the theory that supposedly generates the whole debate put last? It should be first.) (click for full review)
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