=====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
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