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Sean McDowell: As an Introduction to Intelligent Design, Heretic Is a Top Pick

David Klinghoffer

Matti Leisola

Sean McDowell at Biola University makes a great point about the new book by Leisola and Witt, Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design. As a memoir, that of Finnish biochemist Matti Leisola, the book fills a space that had been vacant on the otherwise rich and well stocked shelf of works on intelligent design. It’s a scientist’s own story, and it’s kind of surprising to reflect that no scientist up till now had fully shared his own experience in rethinking Darwinism and embracing design.

In a review of the book, Dr. McDowell perceptively emphasizes this narrative element.

Heretic would be an excellent book to give to someone who is new to discussions over Darwin and design. Along with being interesting, the narrative approach is also much “softer” to read. Rather than directly trying to persuade readers, Leisola simply shares his personal conclusions regarding origins. And yet it is impossible for the thoughtful reader to miss the force of many of his arguments, even if he or she ultimately disagrees with Leisola’s conclusions.

Two other points seemed especially noteworthy to him:

Leisola shared two experiences in the book that particularly stood out to me as memorable. First, in his conversations with dozens of colleagues throughout the world, he has found that very few are well-acquainted with the basics of evolutionary theory. “Most,” he says, “just accept it on faith.” This is my experience with many religious believers, but it is interesting to hear that it may be true (according to Leisola) for many scientists too.

Second, he notes that the scientific literature is replete with claims that Neo-Darwinism is an established fact. Yet many scientists have privately relayed their doubts to him. The professional cost for doubting Darwin is simply too high, according to Leisola, and so many scientists simply stay quiet — even if they don’t buy the Darwinian story.

Yes, this confirms my own perception that there’s a lot less to the Darwinian “consensus” than at first meets the eye.

The book is now one of Sean McDowell’s top picks for the reader new to arguments for ID.

If you have followed the debate over Darwin and design, then you will enjoy the story that frames Heretic and likely take away a few new scientific insights. If you are newer to these discussions, Heretic is a wonderful place to start. It is now one of the top books I will recommend of its kind.

It’s “a good, introductory text to help understand the current debate,” and “an excellent place to start.” True, the book’s intent isn’t to roll out any groundbreaking ID arguments. As a side point, though, even many molecular biologists will find stimulating the scientific detail Leisola lays out in Chapter 10, where he tells what he learned doing cutting edge work bioengineering enzymes and microbes as part of a distinguished career in that field.