International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA

edited by William A. Dembski , Michael Ruse

Introductory Essay by V. V. Raman

Darwin’s revolutionary work on the origin and proliferation of species is a landmark in science, and a milestone in the history of ideas. It established very convincingly that plants and animals were not created in their current forms and shapes by a stroke of the Almighty, quite independently of one another, but that they evolved over the eons from a common ancestry. Darwin also went on to explain how differences arose, and made it clear that this is a continuing process.

Though this view is scientifically sound, some find the undercurrent of randomness that provokes evolutionary change hard to accept. Moreover, there is so much beauty and harmony, such richness and splendor in the world that it is hard, for many people, to believe that it all arose from mindless forces kicking the world into chance meanderings along a goal-less path.

So, serious thinkers have argued that there is perhaps an invisible intelligence behind it all, that life and the associated bodies are designed rather than shaped by the blind stirrings of environmental constraints and a will to survive. Some who propagate this “Intelligent Design” (ID)hypothesis are not just religiously inclined, but well-informed and thoughtful scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and theologians too.

Most scientists reject such attempts, sometimes accusing ID supporters as religionists in the garb of scientific thinkers. But this has not silenced the latter nor their followers. The fact is, there are deeply religious people who reject the ID hypothesis, and no-nonsense scientists who are not altogether satisfied with the purely materialistic explanation of biogenesis.

In this rich collection of reflections, a number of eminent scholars exchange their perspectives on the question of whether or not there is some sort of a subtle intelligent principle beneath and beyond the perceived world. They discuss Darwinism as an overall scientific framework and DNA by design, complex system dynamics and the emergence of biological value; theistic evolution and entropy, and more.

The book opens with an introduction, jointly written by William A. Dembski – an ardent enthusiast of the ID hypothesis – and Michael Ruse – a philosopher of biology who rejects ID altogether. That these two thinkers, philosophically opposed to each other, have come together to edit a balanced volume on both sides of the issue, is a happy sign that we live in a civilized world wherein opposing ideas can be presented without physical combat, with fervor and conviction for one and all to evaluate and be persuaded one way or another.

It is rather unlikely that ID will or can acquire for itself a significant place in the scientific establishment.  Nor is it likely that purely evolutionary explanations for beauty in birds and butterfly wings or for love and laughter and lofty poetry will satisfy all reflecting humans at any time. But in any case, unprejudiced readers who are interested in listening to reasoned arguments from both sides will certainly benefit from this book, for it is a serious debate on the pros and cons of a topic that is engaging many people in our times.