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Michael Denton’s Intellectual Evolution

Michael Denton

“Life’s order,” say biologist Mike Denton, “is written into the very fabric of reality itself. It’s not an add-in. It’s in there from the very beginning.” That is his fascinating and compelling version of structuralism. And what’s that? It’s the “essentialism of pre-Darwinian biology” which sees, in structures like the maple leaf and others, forms not explicable on the basis of Darwinian functionalism. Denton has, in fact, called himself a pre-Darwinian biologist.

His new book is Children of Light, third entry in the superb Privileged Species series, following The Wonder of Water and Fire-Maker. Here’s a really charming interview with him by Robert Crowther. They chatted in the conference room of Discovery Institute’s Seattle offices.

Denton, for the first time that I’ve heard, details his intellectual evolution. It’s been a journey from youthful Christian fundamentalism, to Darwinism in medical school, followed by a year in Jewish studies and archaeology at Hebrew University in Israel, and on to his PhD at King’s College London. There, studying red blood cells and photoreceptor cells, he became a scientific Darwin doubter. Denton embraced the “ancient theory of types,” which informed Evolution: A Theory in Crisis and his later work.

After Dr. Denton’s recent visit to Seattle, to celebrate the publication of his new book with a public presentation, someone in the audience asked how he relates to the intelligent design movement. It’s a fair question that he addresses in the video. He is “one of the founding fathers of the ID movement,” says Denton. “I admit to it.”

Photo: Maples leaves, by Willow [CC BY-SA 2.5 ], from Wikimedia Commons.