Saturday, May 28, 2005


Before Darwin -- and After and After and....

If you enjoyed H. Allen Orr's fine takedown of Intelligent Design in this week's New Yorker, then you'll also want to check out Keith Thomson's new book The Watch on the Heath, which I see is being published this week in the US by Yale University Press under the title Before Darwin. New Scientist says in its glowing review :

Beautifully written and epigrammatic, it is full of characters of talent, disputatious skill and wit. The "watch" represents William Paley's famous argument for the existence of God: if you stumbled on a watch, abandoned on heathland in Paley's example, and investigated its moving parts and what they did in measuring time and date, you would reasonably conclude that someone must have made it.

Paley's "Natural Theology" argument (and likewise those of William Buckland and Thomas Dick) may seem like a historical artifact, but Intelligent Design is their old wine in new bottles. And, as Orr's article points out, to counter them it is crucial to engage them: they are not easily caricatured Bible-waving science-hating phobics, and indeed never have been. The original proponents of Natural Theology were dedicated geologists, astronomers, and the like; so are some of their modern counterparts. Scoffing at them won't work.

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