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(Last Updated: 26 Dec 2004 )
This book was a birthday present for me
from my wife. I have been interested for some time in biology in general; I was
the “top scholar” in biology in New Zealand in my final high school year
(although having followed that up with a Technology degree, I have no real
qualifications in that discipline). The controversy over the theory of
evolution has interested me for some time, especially since at high school I
don’t recall being taught some of Darwinism’s evidentiary problems.
Woodward provides a history of the challenge to Darwinian evolution that has been mounted in recent times by folks questioning the evidence for Darwinism. The “Intelligent Design” movement is a group that consciously distinguishes itself from the “Young-Earth Creationist” stereotype that are often associated with the rejection of Darwinism. The book mostly covers the time from the publication of Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis up to recent work by William Dembski. Although it gives the timeline of events and overview of the main players in this issue (there are chapters largely devoted to each of Michael Denton, Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and William Dembski), the book also focuses on the history of the rhetorical approaches people have taken in debating the issue. So it’s also a kind of history of argumentation. I found that these parts of the book were often interesting because of the lessons they give in how to argue, but occasionally the digressions into rhetorical theory seemed to me to be a bit of a distraction from the “narrative” of the events being talked about.
The book is definitely worth reading in that it succinctly gives an overview of the issues involved in the debate and shows how the argumentation of the protagonists and antagonists have changed and developed (“evolved”!) as they have interacted over recent years. Woodward provides a good shortcut to getting a handle on the debate without having to read all the books that have lead up to the current state of play. Having said that however, I think I’m going to read (or re-read, since I am familiar with some or most of the books of Johnson, Behe and Dembski) some of those books in the near future anyway, because it is a fascinating topic!
A good website for more on this sort of stuff is the Access Research Network.
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