In an age as scientifically savvy as ours, when naturalistic science has paved the way for mankind's most breathtaking achievements, is it intellectually respectable to hold a view of the cosmos other than "free of supernatural and mystical elements"? Or, put the other way around, in a universe that is life-friendly, one which is so finely tuned and balanced that the slightest variation in any of its "universal constants" would mean the end of intelligent life, is it intellectually responsible to be an atheist?
 These are two of the questions explored in this month's set of book reviews. Intelligent Design: William Dembski & Michael Ruse in Dialogue is an important contribution to the on-going conversation - and sometimes heated debate - on the issue of Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design or ID is the proposal that evolutionary biologists unnecessarily restrict their view of the world and their attitude toward religion by their unexamined "first principles". From this standpoint, a scientist's 'philosophy of science' can so skew her view of what is real and possible in the world that she loses true "objectivity". The opposing side sees ID as a reworked version of a discredited creationism. Whichever side of this debate you find yourself on, this book contains a chapter which will cheer you on.
 In the span of twelve chapters, plus an Introduction and an Afterword, sixteen scholars present "pros" and "cons" to this thesis in a thoughtful, respectful and balanced discussion. Ranging from William Dembski in theology, math and philosophy to Michael Ruse in science and philosophy to the theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, these essays offer an overview of the debate which has been raging since Richard Dawkins published The Blind Watchmaker in 1987, and the response by Michael Behe in Darwin's Black Box (1996), and the further creative work by our own Ted Peters.
 This book is edited by Robert B. Stewart, associate professor of philosophy and theology at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, where he teaches Faith and Culture and is published by our own Fortress Press. Every Lutheran, clergy or lay, who has worried about some of the material published at Fortress of late will welcome a book of such substance and currency.
 The reviewers this month:
Logan Gage is a policy analyst with the Discovery Institute in Washington, D.C. Serving as a liaison to policy makers regarding intelligent design and Darwinian evolution, Gage has written widely for such publications as Christianity Today, First Things, and Touchstone. He received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington where he studied philosophy, history, and American studies. Logan studied philosophy of science with Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at Whitworth, not long after he completed his dissertation at Cambridge regarding the methodology of the historical sciences. Meyer had begun to develop an argument for design based upon the semantic content of DNA. This "rocked my young mind, and so I read heavily in the intelligent design literature but was most interested in the criticisms of intelligent design offered by Darwinian scientists. When I came to understand that the major objections to ID were not scientific but were philosophical (amounting to: "hey, you're not allowed to conclude that in science!") I was hooked." Anyway, Meyer's argument will be published next year by Harper One. Logan and his newly-wed bride live across the Potomac in Virginia and attend Grace Presbyterian Church of Washington, D.C.
Anthony is a Ph.D. candidate in his fourth year at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, but currently finishing his work in St. Paul, Minnesota. His field of study is Theology and Culture, and his dissertation is on theological anthropology and recent Marvel Comics superhero films! He is currently a lay member of an ELCA congregation in Minnesota; and hopes to teach in the areas of systematic theology, theology and culture, and theology and film. Anthony credits his roommates with keeping him in touch with the "nerd culture" of comic books.
Matthew Puffer is a third year graduate student at Princeton Theological Seminary with backgrounds in science and theology. Prior to seminary Matthew taught Moral Philosophy and Physics at St. David's, an Episcopal preparatory school in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has also served as an Area Director for Young Life, an inter-denominational youth organization, and holds a B.S. in chemical engineering. His recent work pursues the confluence of theological ethics, philosophy and the development of the scientific understanding of the world - particularly in the theology and ethics of the Lutheran pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This is Matthew's second review for the Journal of Lutheran Ethics.
Donald is Department Chair, and Professor of History at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he has taught since 1977. In addition to heading the History Department, Dr. Yerxa is the director of the Pre-law program at ENC. He has authored several books on naval history, as well as on science and culture. He is coauthor of Species of Origins: America's Search for a Creation Story. He and his wife live in Weymouth, Mass.
© October 2008
Journal of Lutheran Ethics (JLE)
Volume 8, Issue 10