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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 121–123 

Book Review

Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design

Thomas Woodward. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003. 303 pages.

Reviewed by Allen G. Hiebert

Doubts about Darwin is adapted from Thomas Woodward’s Ph.D. thesis (University of South Florida, 2001) titled, “Aroused from Dogmatic Slumber,” a survey of the rhetorical history of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. Woodward applies rhetorical theory as a way of understanding how ID developed as a potential challenger to Darwinism. The analysis also assumes the Kuhnian principle that, up to this point, the priority of the paradigm rendered Darwinian problems and anomalies invisible.

The analysis of four major publications and the conferences and debates that resulted occupies eight of the ten chapters. The publications are Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, by Michael Denton (1986), Darwin on Trial, by Phillip Johnson (1991), Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe (1996), and Intelligent Design, by William Dembski (1999). Denton’s work was more effective among scientists with its appeal to empirical facts within conventional science. Previously, challenges to evolution were primarily from creationists committed to a literal Genesis. As an agnostic with no religious agenda, Denton was more credible. Johnson became part of the ID movement as a result of a side-by-side reading of Denton’s book and the strong defense of Darwinism by Peter Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker (1985). In addition to agreeing with Denton, Johnson also concluded that Darwinian macroevolution is ultimately based on the philosophical assumption {122} of naturalism. This became his argument in Darwin on Trial.

Behe’s reaction to Denton was anger and frustration that legitimate questions and anomalies were being ignored by Darwinists because they didn’t fit the model. While the work of Denton and Johnson was primarily anti-narrative and designed to generate questions about Darwinism, Behe supplied the first positive element with a suggestion of design as necessary to account for irreducibly complex structures. He quickly became the most powerful spokesperson for the ID movement to both the scientific establishment and the general public. A key accomplishment was to have ID seen as different from literal Genesis creationism, thereby gaining a broader hearing for the ideas presented.

Woodward’s rhetorical analysis of ID includes consideration of the basics: ethos—audience perception of character and credibility, pathos—feeling, emotion, and passion apparent, and logos—grasp of the scientific issues combined with the ability to communicate to a variety of audiences. Behe is shown to excel in all areas. Johnson, as a law professor, initially was not credible in the scientific community; in two debates with Steven Jay Gould, one of the masters of scientific discourse, Johnson, with style and intelligence, was able to establish himself as knowledgeable about evolution.

I am not aware of another book that provides the history and rhetorical analysis of the ID movement. Although it could be used by itself, Woodward’s book will be most useful to a person already familiar with the other books noted above.

As for Darwin’s Proof, the dust cover identifies Cornelius G. Hunter as a former vice-president of Seagull Technology and currently engaged in post-doctoral molecular biophysics research and engineering. He sets a very ambitious agenda for this book. In 153 pages, he reviews Darwin’s theory, cell biology and biochemistry, difficulties with complex structures, natural philosophy from the 1800s, and Intelligent Design. In addition, he uses two chapters to present the gospel, starting with a sovereign Creator, a perfect world, the reality of the Fall due to sin, and ending with redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The result is that the science topics are not treated in sufficient detail to be helpful to a person with little or no background on these topics. There is also little that has not been presented in books by Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, and William Dembski. These are better alternatives for the person interested in the topics covered in this book. {123}

Allen G. Hiebert
Professor of Chemistry
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas

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