Home » The Design of Life » Reviews, reviews of The Design of Life: Pats and pans, ink and angst

Reviews, reviews of The Design of Life: Pats and pans, ink and angst

The reviewers start to look at The Design of Life, a design-friendly biology textbook.

Excerpt: “In this atmosphere, The Design of Life was bound to be controversial. It actually shouldn’t be. It’s a good book and well written, but the fact that it is even remotely controversial shows just how committed the science establishment is to ideas about evolution that do not conform to the current available evidence.”

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13 Responses to Reviews, reviews of The Design of Life: Pats and pans, ink and angst

  1. 1

    That’s correct, it shouldn’t be controversial. Where we have lost this battle is not offering a clear and alternative definition of science to my knowledge. Making appeals to the inference to the best explanation is valid, but seems ambiguous to many.

    I have formulated a definition of science that may solve this problem. It’s not tremedously long, and I encourage everyone to read it thoughtfully.

    http://rob-lock.livejournal.com/

    Keep up the good work folks!

  2. Denyse – in your comment on the review, you write

    I assume that Mohrhoff refers here to the two three-star reviews and the one four-star review as worth checking out – because they are probably normal reviews, like his, as opposed to elements in a campaign for or against the book.

    The one review Mohrhoff refers to is by “David Springer”, i.e. your good friend DaveScot. I’m not sure I’d classify his review as “normal” in this sense: Dave is pretty partisan.

  3. Robert:

    On “defining” ‘science’ . . .

    Actually, for a good working start, it is hard to beat:

    science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford, 1990 -- and yes, they used the "z" Virginia!]

    scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate, 1965]

    GEM of TKI

    __________

    This is part of the discussion in my always linked:

    “God of the Gaps!”

    At the mere mention of the term — one dripping with memories of now-filled-in “gaps” in scientific explanations that were once used as “proofs” of God’s existence, many thinkers (especially some theistic ones) wish to look no further. Thus, under this banner, the issue of inference to design as discussed so far is then brushed aside as “obviously not proper science.” That is, in large part through the rhetorical power of the phrase, God of the gaps, the attempted redefinition of science as methodological naturalism — in effect “the best evolutionary materialist account of the cosmos, from hydrogen to humans” — has far too often been allowed to prevail without facing squarely (much less, having to satisfactorily work out in detail) the many thorny challenges that lurk in the underlying demarcation problem.

    But, in fact, not only across the past 350 years but currently, it is simply not accurate nor justifiable to reduce science to such terms. For, it is abundantly warranted by the history of the rise of modern science, and by contemporary praxis, to accept the more traditional — and less philosophically loaded — definition of science, such as we may easily read in high-quality dictionaries:

    science: a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiment with phenomena, esp. concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. [Concise Oxford, 1990 -- and yes, they used the "z" Virginia!]

    scientific method: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge [”the body of truth, information and principles acquired by mankind”] involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. [Webster's 7th Collegiate, 1965]

    Further to this, not only in science but also in wider worldview analysis, we are not dealing with that mythical holy grail: proof beyond rational dispute. Instead, we must grapple with the messy world of creative abductive inferences to explanations and provisional warrant in light of the challenge of comparative difficulties. That is, serious explanations must face the three-headed issue of explanatory adequacy directly and as compared with live option alternatives:

    (1) adequacy relative to the material facts — those that make a difference to the conclusion;

    (2) coherence: logical consistency without undue circularity; and,

    (3) power: elegant simplicity as opposed to being either simplistic or an ad hoc patchwork . . .

  4. Bob O’H,

    Why don’t you review the book and we can have a discussion here on how unbiased your review is.

    By the way, Dave did not post a review of the book, only gave it three stars with no comments about the content of the book. Did you read it to see if Dave sounded partisan?

  5. jerry – I suspect I would be considered as partisan as Dave.

    If Dave’s review wasn’t a review, then Denyse should perhaps acknowledge that it wasn’t a “normal review” as she suggested.

  6. I reviewed the reviews and gave a neutral number of stars so that my review would stand out. Evidently it worked the way I wanted it to.

  7. Bob O’H,

    “I suspect I would be considered as partisan as Dave.”

    We do not mind partisan reviews especially if your objections had merit. you are depriving us of a learning experience and letting us flounder here, missing your insights.

    There is always a 2 star review to stand out.

    Actually, if I reviewed the book I would give it 3 1/2 stars. There is a lot of good stuff in it but several places where I did not like the presentation but I won’t be able to compare my thoughts to yours.

  8. Robert Lockett: While I prefer kairosfocus’ derivative definition of science to yours, I believe that your formulation is worthy on many levels. If effect, you have made explicit that which until now has only been implied. Until now ID has described the scientific journey by insisting that we must go “follow where the evidence leads.” By adding “where logic will go without bias,” you have described the vehicle in which we must travel to get to our destination. Clearly, science is inseparable from the law of non-contradiction.

    If science cannot legitimately claim complete autonomy from philosophy, it follows that methodological naturalism cannot be what science is. Just as methodological naturalism rules out ID in principle, your definition rules out methodological naturalism in principle. Nice! I would go even one step further. Very few people understand that science rests on a metaphysical foundation from which in cannot logically be extricated. Methodological naturalism not only inhibits science, it violates the principles of right reason. Both points are worth dramatizing. He who frames the issue wins the debate.

  9. Who are ‘the reviewers’?

  10. I am quite sure that Ulrich Mohrhoff did not mean that a normal review could not be partisan. One must read the review to decide that.

    But that’s the point. We assume that the author of the review has read the book and can say things for and against it intelligibly.

    So partisanship can be evaluated on the basis of the points made by the reviewer.

    However, a distribution where the vast majority of suddenly appearing reviews are either one star or five stars suggests a campaign in progress.

    Where that appears to be the case, I would agree with Mohrhoff in ignoring all reviews that fall in those distributions because only a few will be normal reviews.

    Trying to figure out which few are normal reviews is not a worthwhile use of one’s time.

    That, by the way, is the reason that the campaign against The Design of Life failed. The campaigners assumed that the whole world agrees with them and with their campaign. That doesn’t happen to be true. And it shouldn’t be.

    There needs to be a serious discussion about the limits of Darwinism.

  11. 11

    I recomend the Design of Life to anyone interested in ID.

    There are chapters on common design/common descent, irreducible complexity, specified complexity….

    Nice pictures too.

  12. 12

    kairosfocus & StephenB: Thanks for your comments.

    Clearly science is inseperable from the law of contradiction.

    I’d sure like more people to feast on the idea…

  13. I took the trouble to read all of the 5 star reviews. Having skimmed the entire book and checked out a few sections more thoroughly, I’m of the opinion that anyone giving the volume a 1 star rating is merely in the grip of an ideological snit. However, the 5 star reviews are quite different. Some are reactions to the swinishness of the 1 star adolescents; some are definitely partisan in their own right; but most are truly appreciative of the book and indicate that the reviewer has read it with care and sincerely commends it to others.

    Time was when I majored in both physics and English literature, at least half a lifetime ago. Given this background, I was much impressed with the 5 star reviewers’ literacy, clarity of thought, and facility with logical presentation; something in short supply on the 1 star side of the aisle. Many of the reviews written by individuals whose native tongue is not English were of the same high caliber and a joy to read – a truly impressive achievement.

    ‘Tis a pity that these excellent reviews, made in good faith and so carefully crafted, end up being discounted because of the contemptible behavior of those with an ideological axe to grind.

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