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Best Books of the Year — Discovery Institute Takes Honors in World Magazine’s “Origins” Category

David Klinghoffer

It’s hard to argue with World Magazine editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky’s assessment that debates about life’s origins form the “most significant worldview clash of our time outside those concerning theology itself.”

Yes, the science behind the design controversy clearly poses an ultimate question, from which — it’s surprising to say — many otherwise thoughtful people turn away, assuming that the experts have got it all figured out so intelligent laypeople can give their attention to other matters. Wrong!

Against that backdrop, it’s satisfying to see Discovery Institute-related books and authors nearly sweeping World’s assessment of the best books of 2017 in the category of “Origins.” The top “best” book is Tom Bethell’s Darwin’s House of Cards (Discovery Institute Press), while the “short list” also includes the beautiful monster, Theistic Evolution, with numerous Discovery contributors and editors; Purpose & Desire, by our friend J. Scott Turner; Zombie Science, by Jonathan Wells; and Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, in which Stephen Meyer goes (graciously) head-to-head with prominent representatives of other perspectives on origins.

On Tom Bethell’s book, which is also the subject of the short video Iconoclast (watch it above):

Darwin’s House of Cards (Discovery) by Tom Bethell is not the hurricane that will collapse the evolution empire, but it’s a gusty and gutsy look at a dogma edging beyond its sell-by date — and that makes it our Book of the Year for exploring the origins of the world and of life. Today’s progressives aren’t progressive: They are defending mid-19th-century scientific understanding. As Bethell writes: “Darwin and his contemporaries had no way of knowing just how complex a cell is. Today it is sometimes compared to a high-tech factory. But a cell is far more complex than that. For one thing, factories can’t replicate themselves.”

More:

This “science of the gaps” attempt to bulwark a crumbling structure gives Bethell plenty of opportunity to point out inanities. In chapter after chapter he reports the disappointments of those who put their trust in material things changing human nature or transcending it, as proselytizers for artificial intelligence (AI) propose. Bethell shows how Darwinists offer bait-and-switches — moths in England changing color, finches developing larger beaks — that depend on listeners not understanding the difference between microevolution (changes within kinds that happen all the time) and macroevolution, where a creature truly new and different emerges.

The overarching bait-and-switch may be the distinction some scientists make between methodological naturalism (MN) and philosophical naturalism (PN).

On Theistic Evolution, which is out this week:

This 962-page book edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann Gauger, and Wayne Grudem is a tremendous achievement. Its bulk and $60 list price will overawe typical readers, but it’s a must-read for pastors and professors taken in by the well-funded BioLogos campaign to sell macroevolution to Christians.

Correction: Theistic Evolution is still available on Amazon at a 24 percent discount, or $45.57, which is of course welcome and better than $60.

On Purpose & Desire:

Darwin’s House of Cards is a good gift for someone who already sees the weaknesses of macroevolution. Purpose & Desire is perfect for a Darwinist just starting to wonder whether he’s pledged allegiance to the modern version of the geocentric solar system: Hmm, the new data undermine it, but add an epicycle here, a few fixes there, and some tweaks on the fixes, maybe that will work. J. Scott Turner explains homeostasis, the incredible resiliency of living things seeking equilibrium, and raises questions about our essence with a measured tone that will entice scientific materialists to look in the mirror and wonder what they’re missing.

On Zombie Science:

Jonathan Wells has fun zinging Darwinists in Zombie Science. If you’ve fallen for tree-of-life charts, embryo drawings that make us start off looking like little animals, or lectures on how eyes slowly evolved and how “god” (if there was one) botched the job, you’ve fallen for zombie science. The same goes if you applauded science illuminati who waxed on about “junk DNA” and thought “vestigial organs” had no purpose.

On Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design:

The format works, and the result is a lively discussion that shows the sharp differences among the various positions. Editor J.B. Stump works for BioLogos but played fair and hopes the book will be “a first step that leads to some in-person interaction” down the road.

Congratulations to our friends and colleagues! What I take away from this is that in the most significant intellectual battle going on in our culture at the moment (leaving religious questions aside, as Olasky notes), Discovery Institute and the intelligent design movement are leading the way and posing the most important challenges to the stale orthodoxy that still reigns in the media and academia. I knew that to be true already, but it’s good to hear it confirmed by an objective source.

It’s also a timely reminder to check out the new Discovery Institute Bookstore, where all these books and many more are conveniently gathered. Find it here.