By R.N. Carmona
Prior to closing thoughts and problems with chapter eleven (which is a summary chapter), I’ll link my review of the chapters below:
One cliche we’re all familiar with is never judge a book by its cover. Alternatively, we’re told never to judge a book by its title. In this case, however, the title says it all. Though the book argues for a specific creator in places, it is meant to demonstrate the case for a creator. In every chapter of the book, no concern is shown for keeping this creator consistent with the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient creator Strobel and his interviewees believe in. William Provine’s quote puts it perfectly:
A widespread theological view now exists saying that God started off the world, props it up and works through laws of nature, very subtly, so subtly that its action is undetectable. But that kind of God is effectively no different to my mind than atheism. (p.26)
This is precisely the kind of creator they argue for throughout the book: a creator that started the universe, fine-tuned its constants, guides evolution, and so on. Even if the Bible is taken allegorically, there’s no theological defense for such a view.
The biggest problem I had with the book was the lineup of interviewees. All of them fall squarely on one side of the fence. They’re all Christian and most of them are ID advocates. In chapter three, Strobel interviewed Jonathan Wells, who is an ID advocate and a Christian; in chapters four and nine, he interviews Steven Meyer–an ID advocate and a Christian; in chapter five he interviewed William Lane Craig who is a Christian apologist; in chapter six Strobel interviewed Robin Collins, who is an ID advocate and a Christian apologist; in chapter seven he interviewed ID advocates Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards; in chapter eight he interviewed Michael Behe, who is an ID advocate; and in chapter ten he interviewed J.P. Moreland, a Christian apologist.
Another issue is that Strobel said that his “approach would be to cross-examine authorities in various scientific disciplines about the most current findings in their fields“ (p.33). Jonathan Wells, though he wrote a doctoral thesis on fossils, isn’t a paleontologist; furthermore, he’s no longer a practicing scientist. William Lane Craig, regardless of his pretensions, is no cosmologist. Robin Collins isn’t a physicist, Meyer isn’t a biologist, and Moreland isn’t a neuroscientist, a psychologist, or a cognitive scientist and though he has written about the philosophy of mind, he is a proponent of a view that’s not only outdated but also unsupported by data. Jay Richards was a useless third wheel and though Gonzalez is an astronomer, his arguments were fairly typical and unconvincing (see ch.7). Michael Behe has a background in biochemistry, but none of his publications support ID; moreover, ID is demonstrably pseudoscience. Irreducible complexity isn’t a theory nor a hypothesis; it’s a view rooted in religious predilection.
Now to the glaring issue with chapter eleven, which is Strobel’s summary chapter. He actually calls evolution a hypothesis (p.346). I understand that he’s speaking in a more general sense–specifically in its ability to explain the world. That is, however, misleading. Evolution remains a scientific theory. Though it plays a role in successfully explaining certain aspects of the world, it is not a be-all explanation. Thus, Strobel is wrong when saying that the “hypothesis” has us believe that “Nothing produces everything; Non-life produces life; Randomness produces fine-tuning; Chaos produces information; Unconsciousness produces consciousness; Non-reason produces reason” (p.346). Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of the universe, the origin(s) of life, and the origin of information. It plays a role in explaining the origin of reason and it may play a role in explaining the origin of consciousness. Again, it isn’t the be-all explanation for either of those things.
Ultimately, I came to the book with an open mind. I wanted to hear strong, convincing arguments for a creator–specifically the creator Strobel believes in. The book is rife with quote mining, misrepresentation, skewing of data, and most importantly, non-expertise–since most of the interviewees aren’t experts in the field(s) their interviews focused on. Strobel didn’t stick to his approach; he didn’t interview actual experts–many of which are featured in my review, and he didn’t interview skeptics. The book was a one-sided affair meant to further convince them who are already convinced and to convince the gullible. Unfortunately, this isn’t how an “investigation” is conducted; this isn’t how research works.
Note: I wasn’t aware of this podcast when writing my review of chapter ten. If you want a relatively short talk on consciousness, science’s ability to explain it, where we are, and what’s left to explain, then this podcast is worth the listen. The podcast features experts Dr Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at Sussex University; Professor Chris Frith, professor emeritus at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London; and Professor Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.