Harmony of Science and Religion: 21st Century Science and Religion ~ Resources – Books and Media

Saturday, March 6, 2010

|| By: Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, Ph.D. ||

Sripad Bhakti Madhava Puri Maharaja, Ph.D.

Bhaktivedanta Institute

Below is a brief list of some recent books and media on the Scientific Critique of Science, especially dealing with Darwinian evolution and the paradigm change in biology.

1. “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design” by Stephen C. Meyer. Stephen Meyer forcefully outlined the positive case for design and refuted arguments that ID isn’t science in his seminal book, Signature in the Cell, published by HarperCollins in June of 2009. The book was named one of the top books of 2009 in the prestigious Times Literary Supplement (TLS) annual “Books of the Year” issue. The selection was made by prominent philosopher (and noted atheist) Thomas Nagel at New York University. A companion three minute animated video, Journey Inside the Cell was released providing a stunning visual illustration of Meyer’s points.

 2. “Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record” (DVD). The final film in Illustra Media’s long-planned Intelligent Design trilogy, Darwin’s Dilemma, was released in September 2009 and quickly made headlines when it was barred from public viewing by the California Science Center. The documentary examines what many consider to be the most powerful refutation of Darwinian evolution—the Cambrian explosion. The Cambrian explosion is the sudden appearance of the majority of phyla over the history of life. Darwin’s Dilemma is a high-quality documentary that includes interviews with world-class paleontologists Simon Conway Morris and James Valentine, as well as leading intelligent design theorists and scientists Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, Stephen C. Meyer, Paul Chien, Doug Axe, and Richard Sternberg. As with the first two Illustra Media ID documentaries, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet, Darwin’s Dilemma is full of high quality animations to help the viewer visualize the amazing complexity and design of the Cambrian creatures.

 3. “Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design” by Bradley Monton. In the breakthrough book of the year, an atheist professor of the philosophy of physics at a secular university has written a book to defend intelligent design. As Professor Monton would admit, it’s a partial defense, as he does not find all ID arguments overwhelmingly convincing, but he also does not find them trivial, and he believes they should be allowed on the table and in the classroom for discussion. He even went so far as to defend intelligent design in a public debate in 2008, and his position as a true educator seeking truth has brought the wrath of Darwinists and fellow atheists down on his head. But that did not prevent him from publishing his position in Seeking God in Science. Monton’s work on a rigorous definition of intelligent design in chapter one is worth the price of the book alone. The good news is you don’t have to be a philosopher to understand this book. Monton has done a great job of making his arguments accessible to the general reader.

4. “Nature’s IQ” by Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi. Hungarian scientists Balazs Hornyanszky and Istvan Tasi offer a novel contribution to the intelligent design literature by extending Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity from biological form to biological behavior. Where did the mysterious instincts of animals originate? Nature’s IQ. The authors document more than 100 astonishing, unexplained phenomena from the animal kingdom, with 200 amazing color pictures. The authors point out how Darwinian “just so” stories fail to explain these irreducibly complex instincts and behaviors. This book is a valuable addition to any library for its amazing photos of animal life and its catalog of fascinating animal behavior regardless of whether you believe they were a product of random mutations and natural selection or a product of artful, purposeful design.

5. “Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves” by James Le Fanu. The second international book to make the Top Ten list this year is Why Us? by James Le Fanu, a British medical doctor who publishes in peer-reviewed medical journals like the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, a columnist for the London Telegraph, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for his book The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine (2001). In Why Us? we discover Dr. Le Fanu is also a Darwin doubter. Le Fanu’s main point is that the more science reveals about the most important question a human can ask—What is man and how did he come to be?—the more we have to admit that we don’t know. Le Fanu demonstrates this by masterfully recounting the epic demise of expectations that prevailed until recently for the prospects of three scientific enterprises. Darwinian evolution, genetics, and brain research were supposed to combine to give a compelling, coherent and united naturalistic account of man’s origin and nature. They did no such thing and the prospect of their doing so in the future appears hopeless. This is a great book to give your Darwin-devoted friends. Intelligent design is never mentioned, but the foundation for the materialist, reductionist worldview is systematically dismantled by a well-known authority on science and medicine.

6. “The Darwin Myth” by Benjamin Wiker. According to Wiker’s provocative new biography, The Darwin Myth: the Life and Lies of Charles Darwin, Charles Darwin was an honorable and likable man, a family man. He loved his siblings; he was devoted to his wife; he loved his children and grieved deeply over his daughter’s death. But Darwin was also someone who presented to the public an elaborate and even deceptive story about himself and his work to advance a philosophical agenda. While there are many biographies of Charles Darwin, Wiker’s deserves attention because of its fascinating account of the complex interaction between Charles Darwin, the man, and Darwinism, the theory he advocated and popularized. Wiker’s presentation of Darwin’s human contradictions is a valuable contribution to the 2009 Darwin anniversary literature (the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species). Anyone wishing to probe the broader implications of Darwin’s theory, as well as the contradictions of Darwin’s character, will want to read Wiker’s book.

7. “Alfred Russel Wallace’s Theory of Intelligent Evolution” by Michael A. Flannery. Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), co-discoverer of natural selection, was second only to Charles Darwin as the 19th century’s most noted English naturalist. Yet his belief in spiritualism caused him to be ridiculed and dismissed by many, leaving him a comparatively obscure and misunderstood figure. In this volume Wallace is finally allowed to speak in his own defense through his grand evolutionary synthesis The World of Life published nearly a century ago in 1910. More than just a reprinting of a near-forgotten work, Michael A. Flannery places Wallace in historical context. Flannery exposes Charles Darwin’s now-famous theory of evolution as little more than a naturalistic cover for an extreme philosophical materialism borrowed as a youth from Edinburgh radicals. This is juxtaposed by his sympathetic account of what he calls Wallace’s intelligent evolution, a thoroughly teleological alternative to Darwin’s stochastic processes. Though based upon very different formulations of natural selection, the Wallace/Darwin dispute as presented by Flannery shows a metaphysical clash of worldviews coextensive with modern evolutionary theory itself – design and purpose versus randomness and chance. This book will be of value to scholars and students alike seeking to understand the historical and philosophical roots of a controversy that still rages today.

8. “The Deniable Darwin & Other Essays” by David Berlinski. It only takes one dose of Berlinski to get hooked. His wit, his way with words, his sharp mind, and the ease at which he is able to poke holes in the Darwinian worldview catch you off guard. Those who watched Expelled were treated to a taste of Berlinski as Ben Stein interviewed him in his flat in Paris. Now you can get a “seven course meal” of Berlinski with this new compilation of 32 of his best essays written over the past fifteen years. The volume is named after his 1996 essay “The Deniable Darwin” that appeared in Commentary and launched Berlinski into the middle of the Darwin or Design debate, where he has happily remained ever since. What makes this volume so great is it includes not only Berlinski’s essay but also reprints the dozens of letters received in protest and support from notable scientists and philosophers (Allen Orr, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Arthur Shapiro, Paul Gross, Tom Bethell, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson, M.P. Shutzenberger, etc) along with a response to the letters by Berlinski. Berlinski’s replies are witty and sharp. For the first time, The Deniable Darwin collects all of these essays and exchanges into a single volume.

9. “The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism” by Michael Behe. The top intelligent design book honors for 2007 goes to Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution. Biochemist Behe reviews the scientific data and lays out clearly what evolution can and cannot do which he identifies as the “Edge of Evolution.” The genomes of many organisms have been sequenced, and the machinery of the cell has been analyzed in great detail. The evolutionary responses of microorganisms to antibiotics and humans to parasitic infections have been traced over tens of thousands of generations. As a result, for the first time in history Darwin’s theory can be rigorously evaluated. The results are shocking. Although it can explain marginal changes in evolutionary history, random mutation and natural selection explain very little of the basic machinery of life. The “edge” of evolution, a line that defines the border between random and non-random mutation, lies very far from where Darwin pointed. Behe argues convincingly that most of the mutations that have defined the history of life on earth have been non-random.

11. “The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues” by Mike Gene. Ask a group of scientists how life on earth arose, and you will get a multitude of answers. In the field of origin-of-life research there is little consensus and much speculation. Any good researcher knows this, and is careful to remember that what seemed clear today may be wrong tomorrow. It is with this in mind that that the author proposes the Design Matrix. The Design Matrix is a method for assessing a design inference and can help when using the hypothesis of design to guide research. This method is both tentative and open-ended, and can be used by both supporters and critics of intelligent design. The book is an attempt to make sense of a question where the evidence about origins is ambiguous. In The Design Matrix, the author considers a number of clues that, when merged together, point to new ways of thinking about evolution and intelligent design.

12. “Explore Evolution: The Arguments for and Against Neo-Darwinism.” Finally, a biology textbook that presents the scientific evidence both for and against key aspects of Darwinian evolution. Co-authored by two state university biology professors, two philosophers of science, and a science curriculum writer, Explore Evolution was peer-reviewed by biology faculty at both state and private universities, teachers with experience in both AP and pre-AP life science courses, and doctoral scientists working for industry and government. The textbook has been pilot-tested in classes at both the secondary school and college levels. The textbook looks at five areas of biology that are typically viewed as confirming the modern theory of evolution: fossil succession, anatomical homology, embryology, natural selection, and natural selection and mutation. For each area of study, Explore Evolution explains the evidence and arguments used to support Darwin’s theory and then examines the evidence and arguments that lead some scientists to question the adequacy of Darwinian explanations.

13. God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox. This captivating book written by John Lennox, M.A., Ph.D., D.Phil., D.Sc. (a professor of mathematics and the philosophy of science at Oxford University), is an excellent short primer providing basic coverage of key intelligent design issues and is written for a lay audience. Lennox addresses topics such as worldview and the impact it has upon our thinking and reasoning; the limitations and scope of science; information theory and other topics as they relate to faith, science and the interaction between the two. Throughout his book, he fastidiously presents his positions with remarkable clarity and insight. Lennox also takes on several arguments proposed by Richard Dawkins and others who dismiss intelligent design theories.

14. “There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind” by Anthony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese. In one of the biggest science and religion news stories of the new millennium, the Associated Press announced that Professor Antony Flew, the world’s leading atheist, now believes in God. Flew is a pioneer for modern atheism. His famous paper, Theology and Falsification, was first presented at a meeting of the Oxford Socratic Club chaired by C. S. Lewis and went on to become the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last five decades. Flew earned his fame by arguing that one should presuppose atheism until evidence of a God surfaces. He now believes that such evidence exists, and There Is a God chronicles the logic, evidence, and journey that converted Flew from staunch atheism to belief in a designed universe.

15.”Probability’s Nature and Nature’s Probability” by Don Johnson. The author once believed anyone not accepting the “proven” evolutionary scenario that was ingrained during his science education was of the same mentality as someone believing in a flat earth. With continued scientific investigation, paying closer attention to actual data (rather than speculative conclusions), he began to doubt the natural explanations that had been so ingrained in a number of key areas including the origin and fine-tuning of mass and energy, the origin of life with its complex information content, and the increase in complexity in living organisms. It was science, and not religion, that caused his disbelief in the explanatory powers of undirected nature. The fantastic leaps of faith required to accept the undirected natural causes in these areas demand a scientific response to the scientific-sounding concepts that in fact have no known scientific basis. Scientific integrity needs to be restored so that ideas that have no methods to test or falsify are not considered part of science. Too often “possible” is used by scientists without considering that “possible” has a scientific definition within the nature of probability. For example, one should not be able to get away with stating “it is possible that life arose from non-life by …” or “it’s possible that a different form of life exists elsewhere in the universe” without first demonstrating that it is indeed possible (non-zero probability) using known science. One could, of course, state “it may be speculated that … ,” but such a statement wouldn’t have the believability that its author intends to convey by the pseudo-scientific pronouncement. This book reviews the many prevalent scenarios that are widely accepted, but need closer examination of their scientific validity. It will also examine the scientific validity of Intelligent Design (ID) as a model that can be empirically detected and examined. For example, the book uses known science (including Shannon and Functional information principles) to prove that it is impossible (zero probability) for life’s complex information system to have an undirected natural source. The usefulness of the ID model for furthering scientific inquiry is also analyzed. One chapter is devoted to exposing fallacies, presuppositions, and beliefs that attempt to prevent acceptance of ID as “science.”

16. “Evolution: A Theory In Crisis” by Michael Denton, Australian biologist, agnostic.

17. “Biocentrism” by Robert Lanza, M.D. is currently chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, and a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

How could a Big Bang create a universe that is exquisitely fine tuned to support life?

Rather than being a belated and minor outcome after billions of years of lifeless physical processes, life and consciousness are absolutely fundamental to our understanding of the universe. This new understanding is called biocentrism.

Life is not an accidental by product of the laws of physics that we have been taught since grade school.

The atomic materialist model of the universe has brought us many insights but with advances in science it has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced with a radically different paradigm that reflects a deeper reality.

Consciousness is not just a issue for biology, it is a problem for physics.

18. “Biology Revisioned” by William Harman and Elisabet Sahtouris. Harman and Sahtouris base their logical groundwork on a concept of all being organized into holons (identity units) which are part of a larger holarchy (complex of identity units). Holons, say these two, take their purpose from the holarchy in which they are embedded, and take their ability from the holons which are embedded within them. Thus, your liver exists to serve your body, and draws its capacities from the health of its individual cells.

Take this concept outward to Gaia–nay, to the penultimate Cosmos–and you may find, as I do, profound spiritual implications. You will also understand why these two respected scientists had to present this book as a speculative conversation. Pushing the outer edges of thought, challenging academia’s entrenched mindset, is professionally risky. But Sahtouris has no less a motive than the saving of the planet. She holds that only by understanding what we are, can we save Ourselves from physical destruction. Some online videos featuring Elisabet Sahtouris:

Confessions of a Creationist Evolution Biologist

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7xPMfUlS1c&feature=related

After Darwin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_immL2m1tg

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