Friday, August 22, 2008

Book Review: By Design

book_bydesign What a breath of fresh air it is to read Larry Witham's book By Design: Science and the Search for God. Rather than actually arguing about the relationship between science and religion, Witham transcends the debate and considers the history of science's search for God in the intelligent design movement. It's a great story with lots of people with lots of perspectives struggling to prove they are right. The surprise in this superbly told story is that science itself has begun to provide reasons for continuing the debate. Mounting evidence is forcing many to acknowledge that a materialist view of nature is no longer adequate in explaining reality. The need for some 'intelligent mind' is becoming more pressing. Almost every area of science is contributing to keeping this contentious issue alive.

Witham has two aims in telling the story of science and religion's contentious relationship. Firstly, he

summarize[s] the new mood in a series of sketches, venturing descriptions of the events, ideas, people, institutions and controversies that are part of this ongoing debate between science and belief. Another goal is to give the reader a condensed overview of those areas of contemporary science that impinge on the ultimate questions: the origin of the cosmos, of life on Earth, and of humanity especially.

The contemporary rejuvenation of the science/religion debate is represented by two main contemporary cultural developments. Firstly, the conversation between the Catholic Church and the science establishment. Secondly, the intelligent design movement. This movement is a sophisticated network of scientists, theologians, philosophers, and other who want to be distinguished from the creationist movement. They are less interested in proving the existence of God per se than they are to argue that some form of intelligence is a necessary and better explanation for what we know about reality.

Witham is an engaging storyteller. Beginning with the triumph of Darwinism he takes us on an exciting journey down to the present day when what we are discovering increasingly demands a possible redefinition of the boundaries of science. If you are interested in the current state of the science/religion debate, you will find this book an enlightening read.

Book Details: Witham, Larry (2003). By Design: Science and the Search for God.  San Francisco: Encounter Books.

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