Friday, August 06, 2010

Forthcoming Book by Dembski and O'Leary Takes Aim at Theistic Evolution

William Dembski and Denys O'Leary are releasing a book called Christian Darwinism: Why Theistic Evolution Fails As Science and Theology. The PR announcement from O'Leary, at Uncommon Descent, starts thus:
In Christian Darwinism: Why Theistic Evolution Fails As Science and Theology (Broadman and Holman, November 2011), mathematician Dembski and journalist O’Leary address a powerful new trend to accommodate Christianity with atheist materialism, via acceptance of Darwinian (“survival of the fittest”) evolution.
I sure hope the book is better than that opening paragraph. It is not clear to me that Denys O'Leary understands science and the scientific enterprise at all. The implication in this paragraph is that evolution=atheistic materialism. How did a biological process manage to become synonymous with atheistic materialism? This is only the case if you don't understand evolution. Dembski has demonstrated repeatedly that he does not (here, here and here). She continues:
Dembski and O’Leary insist that this conflict has nothing to do with the age of the Earth. Darwinism is, as they will show, the increasingly implausible creation story of atheism, which diverges at just about every point from the Christian worldview on which modern science was founded.
I need to read the book before I make wholesale interpretations but if it is what she is painting it to be, it is yet another of the myriad of straw men coming out of the Discovery Institute that strive to link evolutionary theory with atheism and every sort of evil that has seen the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This is little different from the attacks on evolution by Henry Morris, who blamed it for all immoral activity on the globe—despite the fact that such activity dates from biblical times. Abraham, after all, didn't say to God "But LORD, surely I can find ten people that don't believe in evolution in those two towns!"

As long as attention can be deflected away from the status that evolution holds as a scientific theory, the anemic attempts to attack it on those grounds can be hidden. She ends this way:
Reactions – not only praise but criticism – are expected and much appreciated! Regular updates will be provided at, so persons who wish to comment on the project can post there.
This would represent a sizable change in policy for these guys. The Discovery Institute, as I and others have noted, does not publish the email addresses of its fellows and does not provide an avenue for comments. UC does, but only in limited fashion, as this experience with William Dembski shows. My suspicion is that they would only publish positive comments and treat any negative comment, no matter how substantive as being from a troll.

By the way, while it is customary for an author to plug an upcoming book, it is not common to phrase it in the context of a review and to do so this glowingly. That is, at least, conflict of interest. Further, to do it in the third person, as O'Leary does here is pretentious.

Something else to put on my reading list.

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