International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological and Scientific Perspectives (Bradford Book)

edited by Robert T. Pennock

Introductory Essay by Michael Ruse

This is the definitive collection on the claims that naturalistic (evolutionary) explanations of organic origins are simply not adequate and that we must therefore invoke the aid of an intelligence from without. It includes contributions from all of the main players in the dispute.

Contributors include, on the one hand, the chief exponents of Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) including the then-Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson (author of Darwin on Trial), the Lehigh University professor of biochemistry Michael Behe (author of Darwin’s Black Box), and the philosopher-mathematician William Dembski (author of The Design Inference). And on the other hand, the volume comprises the major critics of IDT including the editor himself, Robert Pennock (author of Tower of Babel), the philosopher Barbara Forrest (co-author of the definitive history, Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design), and philosopher-historian Michael Ruse (co-editor with Pennock of But is it Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation-Evolution Dispute).

In addition, the book includes major commentators on science, including the late Stephen Jay Gould (author of the science-religion reconciling Rocks of Ages) and new-atheist Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion). Finally, a major strength of the collection is the work of philosophers and others who have written on science and religion, trying to articulate the problems and boundaries. These include the pro-Darwin philosopher Philip Kitcher (author of Living with Darwin) and the Darwin-critical philosopher Alvin Plantinga (author of Warranted Christian Belief).

Particularly helpful for those intending to use this volume in the classroom is the fact that the collection is divided into practical sections. These start by spelling out the issues, then go on to philosophical questions (particularly about the meaning and importance of “naturalism”), and follow by covering issues of biblical interpretation. Next come the scientific claims (or pretensions) of IDT, defenders and critics, followed by questions about the general coherence of the scientific approach, and possible theistic alternatives to IDT. An important and detailed section is provided on the subject of information. This has long been a favorite topic of Creationists and it arises again in IDT discussions. The positive and negative aspects of these issues are studied in detail.

There is a good section on why it might be reasonable to claim that the real backers of religion are evolutionists, rather than the IDT supporters. Is Darwinism any less of a religion than Christianity? (This is one area where there has been continued debate since the collection appeared and the reader might want to update it with such works as Michael Ruse’s The Evolution-Creation Struggle and Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon). The volume concludes with discussion of the educational issues that IDT raises, and whether it has a place in classrooms. Again some updating may be needed, especially discussions of the Dover court case where IDT was ruled to be religion and hence not suitable for class discussion. (There is much pertinent information in Pennock and Ruse, But is it Science?).

This volume is very extensive and is above all cool and balanced. The different voices and approaches are all included in a non-emotional way. It is ideal for classroom use and the definitive introduction for anyone interested in IDT specifically. More generally, it raises many of the significant questions in the science-religion debate and hence can be studied profitably by all.