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Great Christmas Gift — Proofs of God Translates Design Arguments for Young Students, Teenagers

Image source: Douglas Ell.

About a year ago, soon before the official announcement of my return to Discovery Institute, I was given a new book to review, Proofs of God: A Conversation Between Doubt and Reason. At the time I was still finishing up final revisions and details of my PhD, and life was complicated. To my dismay, this wonderful little book escaped my attention. But perhaps this was for the best — by reviewing it now I can report that if you are looking for an ideal gift for a kid or teenager who wants to learn the basics of intelligent design, this is the book to get this Christmas!

As the title implies, Proofs of God is a dialogue between “Doubt” and “Reason” that presents various scientific arguments for intelligent design. “Doubt” is the antagonist, constantly throwing up challenges to “Reason” like “You can’t prove God” or “If I type randomly, won’t I eventually type everything?” Reason provides the answers, calmly and rationally presenting the case for design based upon science.

The author, Douglas Ell, knows what he’s talking about and is an excellent communicator. He double-majored in math and physics at MIT, and then went to law school at the University of Connecticut where he graduated cum laude. Some readers might recall Ell’s first book, Counting to God, published in 2014, which we also reviewed. There, Ell told his personal story — a journey from atheism to theism — and recounted key lines of evidence that support ID and challenge materialist explanations of biological and cosmological origins. In Proofs of God, Ell translates those arguments for a younger audience. I would say it’s ideal for kids aged 11 to 17. 

A Three-Part Argument for ID

Sometimes the best way to learn is when you’re having fun and don’t even realize that you’re learning. This is the vibe in Proofs of God. Weighing in at under 140 pages, and full of illustrations and cheeky dialogue that’s easy to follow, the book offers young readers an enjoyable way to learn about ID arguments. Though it’s mostly prose, the many illustrations and occasional comics give it almost a graphic-novel feel. The book opens with arguments for the design of the genetic code. Ell later introduces irreducible complexity as the ultimate problem for Darwinian evolution. His presentation adds up to a three-part case for design:

  1. All life runs on code.
  2. You can’t really get new working code by chance.
  3. Every kind of animal has working code that is new and unique that doesn’t resemble the code in any other kind of animal. 

Throughout the book Ell uses an analogy he calls the “probability wall” — a huge obstacle that must be overcome if you are to achieve your goal. Here’s how the book frames it:

Some imagine recipes — take a little code here, a little code there, shuffle them together, reverse this section or that, add a little fairy dust, and bingo, it all works. No one ever explains how you get over the probability wall! All of these far-fetched recipes involve a contorted series of steps. They never explain how you get over the probability wall, and why all these unrelated changes could possibly happen, given the fantastic unlikelihood of putting it all together just right. 

Or consider this snippet. Ell quotes biologist Ann Gauger who has written, “In fact, the cell is like the most antic, madcap, crowded (yet fantastically efficient) city you can believe.” The dialogue between Doubt and Reason backs her up:

Doubt: Life has advanced technology?

Reason: Technology so advanced it will blow your mind. Fantastic nanotechnology that works at the atomic level. 

Doubt: What?

Reason: We have nanotechnology, futuristic and unbelievably tiny machines, in all of our cells. These machines fix DNA and repair it. Different machines fix different types of errors…

And the book offers this conclusive point: “The only known explanation for technology is that it was designed.”

From Orphan Genes to the Multiverse

Building on fundamental ID arguments, Ell introduces kids to cutting-edge topics that will whet their appetite for more — from orphan genes to junk DNA to objections to the Long Term Evolution Experiment to the multiverse. The book repeatedly gets it right, for example observing, “The multiverse is not a scientific theory. It can never be tested or disproved.” 

Admittedly, the framing doesn’t always have all the philosophical rigor of a work by Dembski, Meyer, or Behe (after all, ID doesn’t say we can “prove that God exists”). And “Doubt” sometimes offers objections to “Reason” that are not just sassy but outright fallacious. However, the book is scientifically accurate and will aid enormously in teaching your kid about intelligent design. Indeed, Doubt’s defiant attitude — occasionally veering into snark or even personal attacks — may remind you of some teens you know, and perhaps some adults, too. The dialogue will, in other words, help the reader navigate the sort of real-world illogical responses one often encounters.

Review from a Middle-Schooler

If you don’t believe me that the book appeals to kids, consider the review of Proofs of God below — written by an actual middle-schooler. I gave the book to my nephew, and he enjoyed reading it and found the book convincing:  

In the book Proofs of God, Douglas Ell convinces the reader of the existence of God using scientific reasoning. The dialogue takes place between two characters, Doubt and Reason, who debate the probability that God exists. In the end, reasoning and logic show that God exists. 

This book will appeal to readers with an open mind who are willing to put in the effort. Some books turn the pages themselves. This book is not that kind of book, but the payoff is worth it. However, several concepts are challenging and may stretch the reader’s brain.  

Using science and clear logic, Ell explains the significant faults in Darwin’s theory. The author clearly states main points like natural selection, the survival of the fittest, in which evolutionists say completely new kinds of animals evolve but in reality is scientifically impossible. Moreover, the probability of creating a new protein is equivalent to a piece of paper with the area of our entire universe and the chances of a pin landing on a dot the size of a carbon atom on the paper. 

This is a valuable book to those willing to examine challenges to the dominant theory of evolution. The book will open readers’ eyes to the giant faults in evolution.    

Now my nephew is very smart (who wouldn’t say as much about his nephew?), and he’s quite an avid reader and has very high standards for literature. So he’s kind of a preteen “book critic.” But as he says, by reading Proofs of God his eyes were opened “to the giant faults in evolution.” If you give this book to the young students or teenagers in your life this Christmas, I suspect their eyes will be opened too. 

Editor’s note: See also, “ID Made Sassy: A New Book for Young People.”