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By Design or By Chance? The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   384
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.08" Width: 6" Height: 0.89"
Weight:   1.26 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 19, 2004
Age  18
ISBN  0806651776  
EAN  9780806651774  

Availability  0 units.

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Paperback $ 17.99 $ 15.29 49749
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Item Description...
A journalist with strong credentials in the fields of science and religion gives a careful, clear-cut picture of the issues involved in intelligent design and the entire gamut of evolution-creation arguments. Her work is a godsend for laypeople who get lost in the technical terms.

Publishers Description
Writing in an accessible journalist style, Denyse O'Leary guides the reader on a fascinating journey through the world of Intelligent Design (ID) and Darwinian evolution. The author approached this subject at the beginning "with no clear convictions about it, nor any desire to enter a controversy." What emerged on these pages is a well-organized and clear introduction to the basic question of life's origins: What is life, and how did it come about? Did the universe arise by change, or was it designed? By Design or by change is a fresh intellectual breeze that clears ways much of the smog and dust obscuring core issues surrounding the origin of life. From cosmology to theology, from the philosophy of science to the text of Genesis, O'Leary address all with refreshing clarity.

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More About Denyse O'Leary

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Denyse O'Leary, born in Saskatchewan (1950), is a Toronto-based Canadian journalist and blogger who is the author of two award-winning books, Faith@Science (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001) and By Design or by Chance? (Minneapolis: Augsburg 2004, an overview of the intelligent design controversy). She is co-author of Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, on The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper: 2007). She went into freelance journalism shortly after leaving university, having completed a four-year degree in Honors English Language and Literature. In addition, she has taught writing, editing, and business practice for writers and editors for many years. O'Leary has two married daughters.

Spanish Language Biography: Denyse O'Leary nacio en Saskatchewan en 1950. Ella es una periodista Canadiense que radica en Toronto y ademas mantiene un blog. Es autora de dos libros ganadores de premios, FE@Ciencia (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001) y Por diseno o por azar (Minneapolis: Augsburgo 2004, un vistazo general de la controversia del diseno inteligente). Es coautora del libro El cerebro espiritual: El caso de un neuro cientifico por la existencia del espiritu (Harper: 2007). Denyse se convirtio en periodista independiente despues de terminar la universidad y sus estudios para obtener un grado en literatura y lengua inglesa. Ademas, ha ensenado escritura, edicion y practicas de negocios a editores y autores durante varios anos. O'Leary tiene dos hijas casadas.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A great briefing book for the controversies in intelligent design  Jan 31, 2007
The format of this book jolted me at first (it's written like a book-length magazine article, with sidebars, information boxes, etc) but I have to admit that it was highly effective, and I ended up understanding every detail of O'Leary's discussions, even those dealing with very complex ideas.

The topics of Darwin, atheism, intelligent design, and religion stir up violent emotions in many people (on both sides of the debate), but this book calmly navigates the waters of intelligent design and gives us a nice "just the facts, Ma'am" presentation of the issues.

It's a terrific introduction to the debate around intelligent design. I walked away feeling enriched and more open-minded about the whole debate, and eager to see how it plays out in the coming decades.
Interesting views from a leading stand-up  Jun 22, 2006
Dennis O'Leary is known to most folks as a funny, sarcastic, and irreverent comedian but few seem to know much about his more serious side, along with his impressive array of academic credentials. That he is also a leading authority on the evolution vs. creationism controversy came as a total surprise to even this well-informed reader (I did already know about his PhD work at Stanford, and of the numerous awards he's received for his work in genetics).

Proceeding along at a rapid clip and carefully setting the trade-mark quips and bon mots aside, O'Leary lunges pell-mell straight into the hot fulminating core of this increasingly important pair or two of challenges to conventional notions of logic, common sense, and classic Western religio/scientific method. In a series of discourses over the course of this series of paragraphs, he first broadly outlines the history of the Creationist Creation that mandates the pro-active "contracting" of a higher intelligence, or "Intelligent Designer" to do the important set-up, and then he covers the evolution of the history of the creation of the origin of the theories of Charles Darwin--a man who may or may not have been ascended from an ape-like creature that he one day realized he superficially resembled (his Eureka Moment or possibly his father). Moving beyond this initial rendering, the author then enumerates the problems with the Theory of Continental Drift (one unresolved one being that if all the continents were once part of a single massive continent clumped on just one side of the planet--as is alleged--why didn't the Earth tip over sideways?)and other so-called "scientific" theories that run counter to native, two-bare-feet-solidly-on-the-ground, good sense.

Using famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy and Native American origin myths as suitable metaphors for a sort of sublime "Tinkertoy Universe," O'Leary succeeds in bridging an irreconcilable conceptual gap with a life-line that has so-far posed as an impassable barrier (and a rope for hanging oneself on!) to commentators on this challenging yet pressing topic--perhaps the single most important controversy facing the world today*. By interpolating the two seemingly contrasting traditions in a radical yet highly effective manner (using an almost Rabbinical dialectical style and rhetorical welding tongs) O'Leary then "makes the leap of faith," cuts the Gordian Knot, overturns presumption and applecart, and convincingly shows that, for starters (and beginners), Charles Darwin--his thoughts, his theories--may be viewed (metaphorically, if not spiritually) as an Earthly manifestation of the divine. Those who have worked closely with tenured professors in an academic setting will find this conclusion wholly plausible if not outright worthy of blind worship.

Resolving the two-edged dualistic dilemma at the finely sharpened point at either locus of this particularly linear stick, O'Leary notes (citing countless examples taken from scientific journals, trade magazines, and Jesuitical writings of the 12th and 13th Centuries) that since the beginning of the Christian Era (0 A.D.), the primary argument of Intelligent Design boosters is this: If we don't understand how something works, it must be irrefutable proof of the existence of God. (He tops off this observation by noting that Bertrand Russell frequently used this common sense "law" in the chapter on Godel's Theorem in the Principia Mathematica; and not being mechanically inclined he also had a superstitious fear of clocks) This, he then continues, is a natural step forward from Paleolithic (meaning "before the Creation") notions about the divine origins of species of various "natural" (or are they?) phenomenon/punishments like lightning, darkness, loud sudden noises and the ever-frightening fire. Here he presents the equally controversial and fairly new notion of Intelligent Redesign--essentially the Politics of the Deluge--and explains its all-important economics.

The difficulty for the sharp reader who retains a facsimile of an open mind on this confusing subject, wherever he or she or He may be hiding, is that the endless words and threats hurled--like hot chunks of brimstone--from below by advocates of Intelligent Design, coupled with those slower-appearing and more plodding bookish-isms scribed by Supporters of Evolution, are each so utterly convincing in their taut arguments and smack-in-the-head conclusions that open-mindedness is all but impossible to any but the foolhardy or those feverish with the Black Death. For the average seeker-of-answers, it see-saws back and forth thusly: one month--usually just before the Christmas Holiday shopping season--a controversial pamphlet (or book, if enough loose words are available in mid-winter) will be intelligently designed-and-published that effectively proves the presence of God's Hand in Creation beyond all reasonable or even unreasonable doubt; the next month--often just seconds before the first Fourth of July firecrackers are lit--some immense tome will groaningly and spontaneously self-manifest itself atop the uncomprehending public--one that conclusively settles the tiniest niggling smidgen of doubt about the Theory of Evolution (anyone who worked their way through Steven Jay Gould's ironclad 3000 page proof-of-pudding will agree here and we hope he will follow this last word on the subject with an equally convincing sequel). With so much rock-hard and incontestable evidence for two polar-opposite realities what can any sensible or patriotic person do?

BUY THIS BOOK! O'Leary offers a clear-cut way out of this dark and confusing briar patch. Read it, believe it, stop thinking, and relax.

*The supreme importance of resolution here is missed by many. These days drugged-out, over-medicated students with ADD and dyslexia all across America are being taught (and are almost immediately forgetting) Darwin's theories to the exclusion of the opportunity to forget and ignore any other possibilities about the nature of their prized pets. Official acceptance of the idea of "Intelligent Design" means that forgotten curriculums will need to be reordered and unread textbooks rewritten for the near-illiterate whose briefly flickering attentions are almost always elsewhere--it will be a major and costly restructing of our nation's progressively worsening educational system!
Fabulous source of sources, much better on ID than on Darwinism  Feb 16, 2006
I would urge anyone who is interested in the evolution - Intelligent Design (ID) controversy to pick this up, if only for the enormous number of sources that it points to, many of them on the Internet.

I have a few problems with the book as a whole. Despite O'Leary's insistence that this is not an issue of religion versus science, religion, almost always Christianity, keeps coming through her arguments like a mark on a wall that can't be painted over. If her issues are scientific, why does she constantly berate Neo-Darwinists for being atheists, not just for making non-theistic assumptions? This is especially dubious since, as she occasionally states, at least a sizable number of them do believe in deity(s). She doesn't seem to be able to decide whether to welcome these beliefs or deny them since they contradict her view of Darwinism. Her remarks about Kenneth Miller's religious convictions and theistic evolution in general (p.240) seem out of place if science is really the issue.

When she quotes, with apparent approval (p.200) Phillip Johnson's complaint that Darwinian theory is adjusted every time it is presented with new facts, one has to think that there is some basic flaw in her understanding of science.

This is purely a matter of taste, but I find many of her subheadings a bit twee, although they are helpful in locating material, especially since the index leaves a bit to be desired.

I think that she has also created considerable ambiguity on certain points and she ought to try to be clearer in future editions. She says that "For practical purposes, in this book, "God" and "design" are generic terms, except where qualified in context". In the former case, I don't think that this has been too practical, especially when she is quoting other people, and I think she should find a real generic, "deity(s)" for example. The reader should also be aware that at one point she equates "creationism" solely with Young Earth Creationism (YEC). I would use the term to refer to any system involving a supernatural creator, and I think that, again, especially when she is quoting other people, it can lead to confusion.

O'Leary appears to be an advocate of Intelligent Design, and this book explains it much better than many that I have read, e.g. Phillip Johnson. I am still left with the feeling that ID isn't quite ready for prime time or science classes. While I am glad to read that ID leaders like William Dembski and Michael Behe recognize the need for rigorous research, this appears to be something that they intend to do in the future. I am all for people following their ideas, and maybe eventually there will be a fruitful dialogue with other scientists but O'Leary doesn't give any evidence that they have much to show so far.

She says that the originators : "... decided to assume that the information was not organized by chance, but by a designing intelligence." That is far too big and basic an assumption for this to qualify as a science. It is using the desired conclusion as the premise. Dembski, et al., can certainly believe that some things cannot be explained except by an intelligent designer, but Darwinists can simply argue back that they can, and we are nowhere until someone comes up with some proof. O'Leary argues (p. 175) that it can be demonstrated statistically in forensics, archaeogy and SETI when something is design and when it is chance. O.K., but where are the figures for ID? I don't accept Stephen C. Meyer's argument that information requires an intelligent source: that dripping sound outside my window informs me that the snow is melting, but water doesn't have much intellectual capacity. As for more complex sets of information, animals can perform feats of navigation and homing that would require considerable intellect on our part, but they are not generally thought to do this by conscious calcuation. (Deva Sobel's Longitude shows just how difficult it was for us to develop reliable navigation.) If the reference is to "information" as in Information Theory, Mark Perakh, in his somewhat vituperous work Unintelligent Design critiques William Dembski's analyses in his books Intelligent Design, The Design Inference and No Free Lunch.

I find her arguments that ID does not require a deity(s) unconvincing: what are the alternatives? She quotes Michael J. Denton, in a magnificantly ambiguous statement (p. 212-213), as suggesting that perhaps living things or the biosphere are intelligent. If we are discussing the origin of life, neither of those can be the source: by definition they wouldn't be pre-existing. If we are discussing the development of life once it was established, is he suggesting that bacteria might have designed the cilia of paramecia? The idea that she develops at length is panspermia, or the seeding of the earth with life from outer space, but even she concedes that that doesn't really resolve the issue. I don't want to make too much of this point - an observation can be accurate even if the underlying mechanism cannot be explained, e.g., I could confidently declare that airplanes don't fly by flapping their wings like a bird, even if I couldn't explain how they do fly. Throughout history, observations which later proved to be significant and accurate have been ridiculed because the scientist couldn't initially produce an explanation. If ID advocates could convincingly demonstrate the need for an intelligent designer, it would not be immediately necessary to identify the designer, but thus far they haven't done even that, as noted above.

O'Leary complains that opponents of ID encourage a false perception of their underlying philosophy by failing to interview non-Christian advocates, but oddly enough, she fails to redress this lamentable oversight. Since she claims that Berlinski, at least, has no religious convictions, surely this would have been one of the best strategies for convincing us that the science is the real issue. Readers regretting her omission can find writings by Berlinski on and a (self?) interview on O'Leary declares that some ID advocates believe in evolution, and it would have been helpful if she had been more forthcoming on this topic.

Her discussion of the relationship between ID and other opponents of Darwinism, chiefly YECs, is quite interesting, as is her discussion of the social and political history of creationism.

As for her discussion of Darwinism, less would have been more. O'Leary's "any weapon that comes to hand" approach seriously undermines her credibility with me, as do her self-contradictions. These include those classic clashing cliches of anti-Darwinism rhetoric, the claim that biologists are simultaneously an oppressive monolith crushing dissent under the Darwinian juggernaut AND that they are deserting Darwinism in droves. The juggernaut image also seems contradicted by the Phillip Johnson quote mentioned above.

O'Leary starts off with a lengthy section on cosmology which doesn't seem to be terribly relevant. The main temporal concern for Darwinists is the age of the earth, and only indirectly the age of the universe. I cannot imagine how the theory would be affected one way or the other by whether the universe is Big Bang, or Steady State, etc. If the universe were eternal, but the earth was only 6,000 years old, Darwinism would be in trouble. She asserts, without documentation, that in Darwin's time, the dominant view was that the universe is eternal, which she associates with godlessness. This is a new one on me, and seems to be contradicted by the historians that she quotes: Del Ratzch (p.73), Ronald Numbers (p.75) and Edward J. Larsen (p.118)who argue that in Darwin's time, most western scientists were committed Christians, and most Christians had no problem with evolution. She presents no evidence that these people had abandoned the traditional Christian belief that the universe had a beginning and that history has an end. (Arguably, if souls continue with God for all eternity, the universe doesn't have an end, but the metaphysics of whether or not God and Heaven are outside of the universe are beyond me.) For a better understanding of Darwin's thought and its relationship to Christianity, I recommend William E. Phipps Darwin's Religious Odyssey. The book does not focus solely on Darwin, but discusses the history of the relationship between Christianity and science.

She also blames Darwinian theory for Social Darwinism and other undesirable philosophical positions, although she states(p.72) "Darwin's theory of natural selection does not provide a basis for the Social Darwinists' eugenic beliefs." Darwinism is likewise blamed for World War I, the historical flaws of the movie "Inherit the Wind" and various other things that O'Leary doesn't care for. I suspect that she doesn't like it when people argue that religious violence and corruption invalidate the idea of a creator.

A good book to read if one is interested in the controversy, but I will take a wait-and-see attitude towards the future of ID and science.
A Quagmire of Viewpoints  Jan 12, 2006

I received this as a gift due to my interest in intelligent design as a response to the theoretical shortcomings of Darwinism. But I'm not looking at ID to confirm religious or philosophical beliefs. Unfortunately, the author spends most of her time trying to sort out those beliefs.

She does touch on whether ID is science and the evidentiary and theoretical problems with natural selection as the be-all and end-all explanation of life. But those subjects are not treated in any kind of depth. I was disappointed she didn't explore the mathematical models making it highly improbable that natural selection (chance) can explain the complexity of many life forms, particularly at the molecular level.

I'm a layman but I'm inclined to believe that ID does have scientific implications and that the scientific establishment is overly defensive. It will not do to dismiss all ID proponents as closet creationists.

I did find some useful information, but did not come out of it feeling any more confident of my grasp of of the subject matter than I did going in.

Very biased. Make that EXTREMELY biased.  Oct 26, 2005
Though this book pretends to show all sides fairly, it's extremely biased against evolution (and poorly researched on that side too). A quick look at the positive reviews here will show you that they are from people who are on the ID/Creation side. It's a waste of time and paper, unless you just want to make yourself feel good about believing in ID/Creation.

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