Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at the (UK) University of Warwick, defends Intelligent Design (ID), aka Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) in this book. It deserves a better review than I can now offer, as I have read it carefully through only once (I usually aim at two or more readings), but I feel that I should go live in order to promote it as soon as possible.
It will be clear that Fuller does not equate ID with `young earth creationism'. The latter view promotes the idea that the universe and the earth and all living things were created somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. It is worth emphasising that much criticism of IDT - almost universally in `popular' blogs, but also often in more serious writing too - quite foolishly and utterly wrongly takes these two views as identical. Most supporters of ID accept the general scientific view that the universe is about 14 billion years old and the earth about 4.5 billion years, with life beginning about 3.7 billion years ago. It is childish (and irritating) to read put-downs of `young earth creationsim' as if they discredited ID. No way. It is also, in my view, childish to suggest that a believer in religion makes a less competent scientist than an agnostic or atheist.
The most interesting feature of this book is its extended treatment of the 2005 legal case in the US, `Kitzmiller et al. v Dover Area School District et al.', where ID, and specifically a biology textbook, `Of Pandas and People', in many ways linked to supporters of ID, were challenged by ID opponents as being explicitly religious, and these opponents therefore claimed that to teach ID or use the named textbook in schools would be to teach religion, which would be contrary to the United States Constitution. I leave it to the reader to study for himself or herself the intricacies of the US Constitution on exactly what contradicts its position on the public teaching of religious views.
I also leave it to the reader to decide whether the final ruling of Judge John E Jones III, on 20 December 2005, in the Kitzmiller case, is correct: that ID is only religious, Christian, biblical `creationism' in disguise, that it is not science, and that it is unconstitutional to teach it in the US public education system. (There is massive information on Google.)
The significance here is that Steve Fuller was one of three `expert witnesses' who testified in defence of the ID position. I think, on my first reading of his book, that he probably thinks that the judge's verdict was inevitable on the evidence as presented, but that the pro-ID case was not well presented.
Fuller makes the point, as others increasingly do, that although the motivation for many of the pro-ID scientists (including philosophers and historians of science) to begin supporting ID may have been triggered by religious considerations, ID is now developed as a proper scientific critique of neo-Darwinism. ID defenders insist that none of their objections to the prevailing neo-Darwinist consensus depend in any way on biblical quotations for their validity. Fuller says (p. 122): "But how seriously should a theory's origins be taken as a mark of its validity? ... While IDT may appeal to those who believe in divine creation, its knowledge claims, and their evaluation, are couched in terms of laboratory experiments and probability theory that do not make any theistic references. Of course, this does not make the theory true, but (so I [i.e.Fuller] believe) it makes it scientific."
In other words, I [the reviewer!] believe that if the Kitzmiller case were re-tried today, in the light of the careful re-assessments made in just the past three years, the verdict would have to be different. The unsatisfactoriness of the neo-Darwinian position that increasingly finds there is everywhere evidence of "design" but [of course!] "without a designer" would be highlighted, and the ID case would more firmly distance itself from Christian fundamentalism and the weak 'science' found in 'Of Pandas and People'.
Fuller quotes an interesting statistical analysis. "Published biological research makes surprising little reference to evolution or its principal Darwinian process, `natural selection'. This point had been already made over a decade ago by the historian of 20th-century biomedical sciences, Nicholas Rasmussen (1994), who contended that neo-Darwinism was largely a philosophical cottage industry with little bearing on day-to-day biological research. I updated his finding. Based on the 1,273,417 articles from 1960 to 2006 indexed on the two main on-line biology databases on October 1, 2005, `evolution' and its variants appeared in the keywords and abstracts of 12 percent of articles, and `natural selection' in a mere 0.4 percent" (p. 131).
On his last page (164) Fuller says: "Were Darwin transported to today's world, and educated in such largely design-based sciences as genetics and molecular biology that were developed after his death, would he continue to interpret the balance of the evidence as telling against intelligent design in nature? Evolutionists take for granted that the answer would be `yes'. However, if you believe (as I [i.e. Fuller] do) that the advent of genetics and molecular biology in the first half of the 20th century, culminating in the discovery of DNA's double-helix structure in 1953, outweighs the significance of Darwin's own work, you would be forced to conclude that Darwin would reinterpret natural selection as a design-based mechanism, possibly propelled by a divine engineer who could even command Newton's respect." [Fuller has often mentioned Newton's search for an overarching blueprint for the entire universe.]