Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An excellent review of Fuller's book on Intelligent Design

Well, this new book by Steve Fuller, Science v. Religion? Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evolution, may not hold much promise, but its review is certainly more informative (hat tip Stranger Fruit):
In the contemporary debate over creationism Steve Fuller is best known for his "expert" testimony at the 2005 Dover, Pennsylvania creationism trial during which he defended the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) creationism in science classes in public high schools in the United States. Fuller argued that much of Western science has its roots in traditional ID and, therefore, modern ID creationism belongs in science curricula. According to Fuller neither ID's proponents, let alone its scientific critics, truly appreciate its significance for the development of science: modern science is supposed to be fundamentally based on the idea of Intelligent Design. Fuller apparently thinks that this historical claim has the normative implication that science should continue to embrace ID. The book under review is an elaboration of these arguments though it also traipses, somewhat unsteadily, into the legal territory that was demarcated by Judge Jones' resounding rejection of ID's claim to be anything other than religious dogma masquerading as science.
And here is the rough assessment on his presentation of the Design issue:
Let me now turn from description to commentary. Fuller's analysis of the intellectual disputes over contemporary ID creationism is almost vacuous. The chapter on complexity does not even broach the many fairly sophisticated responses and rebuttals spurred by Behe's and Dembski's arguments (see Sarkar [2007] and Sober [2008] for an entry into this literature). It is less than clear that Fuller has deigned to familiarize himself with the intellectual terrain in which Behe and Dembski operate, let alone the arguments of their critics. ID creationists would serve themselves better by engaging a more competent defender. For readers seeking an introduction to the technical issues surrounding contemporary creationism, this book is useless.
In addition, there are serious problems with his history (read the review for a whole bunch of inaccuracies), but at least the reviewer found it entertaining:
These excursions into fancy allow me to end on a positive note: the lack of depth or insight in this book is more than compensated by the entertainment it provides, at least to a philosopher or historian of science. No one should begrudge us our simple pleasures. I'm happy to have read this book, and even more so not to have paid for it.
Ouch! Read the full review here.