=====FOREWORD TO _HOW BLIND IS THE WATCHMAKER?_=====

 

For many critics of intelligent design, it is inconceivable that someone

once properly exposed to Darwin's theory could doubt it. It is as though

Darwin's theory were one of Descartes's clear and distinct ideas that

immediately impels assent. Thus for design theorists to oppose Darwin's

theory requires some hidden motivation, like wanting to shore up traditional

morality or being a closet fundamentalist.

 

Neil Broom has no hidden agenda in challenging Darwinism or the scientific

naturalism that buttresses it. In this book Broom shows conclusively that

intelligent design's opposition to Darwinism rests in the first instance on

scientific grounds. Yes, Broom also explores cultural, theological, and

philosophical implications of intelligent design. But the only reason he can

take seriously such implications is because Darwinism is on its own terms an

oversold and overreached scientific theory. Indeed, his scientific case

against Darwinism is devastating.

 

Critics who think they can defeat intelligent design merely by assigning

disreputable motives to its proponents need to examine their own motives.

Take Michael Shermer, publisher of _Skeptic Magazine_. What are his motives

for taking such a hard line against intelligent design? Trained in

psychology and the social sciences, Shermer endlessly psychologizes those

who challenge his naturalistic worldview. But is he willing to psychologize

himself? Look at his popular books (e.g., _Why People Believe Weird Things_

and _How We Believe_), and you'll notice on the inside dustjacket a smiling

Shermer with a bust of Darwin behind him as well as several books by and

about Darwin. Shermer's devotion to Darwin and naturalism is as fervent as

any religious devotee's.

 

The success of intelligent design neither stands nor falls with the motives

of its practitioners but with the quality of insights it inspires. Yes,

Broom is a Christian theist. But he offers compelling arguments that need to

be taken seriously on their own terms regardless of one's religious or

metaphysical beliefs. Broom's _How Blind Is the Watchmaker?_ belongs to the

informed critiques of Darwinism and origin-of-life studies that have

consistently appeared ever since Darwin published his _Origin_ (cf. the work

of Louis Agassiz, St. George Mivart, Richard Goldschmidt, Pierre Grassé,

Gerald Kerkut, Michael Polanyi, Marcel Schützenberger, and Michael Denton).

 

Criticism, however, is never enough. I'm fond of quoting the statement by

Napoleon III that one never destroys a thing until one replaces it. Although

it is not a requirement of logic that scientific theories can only be

rejected once a better alternative has been found, this does seem to be a

fact about the sociology of science -- to wit, scientific theories give way

not to criticism but to new, improved theories. Concerted criticism of

Darwinism within the growing community of design theorists is therefore only

the first step -- it is the "thin end of the wedge," as Phillip Johnson

calls it.

 

Nonetheless, critiques like this one by Broom constitute a necessary first

step since confidence in Darwinism and especially in the power of natural

selection needs first to be undermined before people can take seriously the

need for an alternative theory (this is entirely in keeping with Thomas

Kuhn's stages in a scientific revolution). Once that confidence is

undermined, the next step is to develop a positive scientific research

program as an alternative to Darwinism and more generally to naturalistic

approaches to the origin and subsequent development of life. I have no doubt

that Neil Broom, supremely competent biophysicist that he is, will have much

to contribute in this respect.

 

Intelligent design is only now beginning. When Broom published the English

version of this book (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998), he included almost no

references to American design theorists. What impressed me enormously about

this earlier edition was that Broom, despite moving outside the circles of

the intelligent design community, had almost point for point come to the

same conclusions (in the present edition Broom makes explicit connections to

the work of American design theorists). To me this demonstrated the

robustness of his work as well as that of the design community, and

indicated that both have drunk at many of the same wells, notably the work

of Michael Polanyi, who is the main inspiration for Broom's work. One of the

great selling points of this book is that Broom updates Polanyi's pivotal

work on life's irreducible structure from the 1960s.

 

If there is one theme in _How Blind Is the Watchmaker?_ it is freedom. Broom

wants to free science from arbitrary constraints that stifle inquiry,

undermine education, turn scientists into a secular priesthood, and in the

end prevent intelligent design from receiving a fair hearing. Broom's title

is of course an allusion to Richard Dawkins's _The Blind Watchmaker_,

subtitled _Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design_.

Unlike Dawkins, Broom rightly insists that science address not only the

evidence that reveals the universe to be without design but also the

evidence that reveals the universe to be with design. Evidence is a

two-edged sword: Claims capable of being refuted by evidence are also

capable of being supported by evidence. Even if design ends up being

rejected as an unfruitful explanation in science, such a negative outcome

for design needs to result from the evidence for and against design being

fairly considered. On the other hand, the rejection of design must not

result from imposing arbitrary requirements that rule out design prior to

any consideration of evidence.

 

Many in the Christian academic world will find Broom's rejection of

reductionism and scientism congenial. On the other hand, they will be less

comfortable with Broom's call to take teleology seriously in science.

Consequently, this book is not an invitation for Christian academics and

scientists to continue business as usual. Broom's is a far-reaching critique

that calls for a crisis in the basic concepts of science. To heed this call

is to liberate science from the suffocating power of scientific naturalism.

To ignore it is to prolong what Mark Noll calls "the scandal of the

evangelical mind." Would that the Christian community heed the call.

 

William A. Dembski

Baylor University

Waco, Texas