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A Reasonable God: Ordinary Action in a Supernatural World.

A REASONABLE GOD: Ordinary Action in a Supernatural World by Arnie Berg. HYTEC Press (htttp://www.hytecpress.com), 2011. 238 pages, index. Paperback; $22.96. Kindle; $9.99. ISBN: 9780986801006.

A Reasonable God is an examination of intelligent design (ID). The author's stated purpose is ". to examine the scientific enterprise as it is related to a Christian worldview." Berg finds ID to be deficient both scientifically and theologically, but considers the evidence for biological diversity through natural evolutionary processes convincing. He concludes that a Christian worldview can allow for the creation of the diversity of life through ordinary natural processes while still acknowledging a supernatural purpose.

Berg, a computer scientist and consultant, begins with an introduction to the nature and practice of science, current theories of cosmology and biological diversity, and brief historical surveys of young-earth creationism and the more recent ID movement. He presents propositions advanced by ID proponents followed by critical responses from both nontheistic and theistic dissenters. A section on evidence for common descent as the explanation for the currently observed biodiversity is given as an alternative to the propositions of ID. A brief assessment of the surveyed material then leads to the author's aforementioned conclusions.

Berg defines ID as "a belief system that reacts against an increasingly secular worldview that posits ultimate natural causation for all events." He maintains the ID movement is an attempt to defend theism by questioning the scientific adequacy of the neo-Darwinian model of biological evolution. ID proponents consider the Darwinian model to be a result of, and a path toward, "naturalism" and "scientific materialism," which are perceived as threats to theism. Berg initially offers support for his description of ID by surveying themes associated with the Discovery Institute and the film Expelled by Ben Stein. He continues with a review of well-known ID authors such as Phillip Johnson, William Dembski, Michael Behe, and Stephen Meyer. Some of the recent court cases involving the teaching of ID in public schools are also briefly addressed.

Berg continues his discussion of ID by examining critical responses by nontheists, such as Michael Ruse and Mark Perakh, and a number of theists. Scientific concepts such as "irreducible complexity" and the inclusion of supernatural causation within natural science are criticized. The question of "bad" or "nonoptimal" design is also proposed by critics as a means of falsifying the testable portions of ID theory. Theists echo the scientific critique of the nontheists and offer additional reflection on the theological implications of ID. Some of the theists considered are Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, Denis Lamoureux, John Walton, John Haught, Francis Collins, and Nancey Murphy. The theological concerns expressed about ID range from comparisons with young-earth creationism to a god-of-the-gaps approach. The implications of ID for thinking of God as an illusionist and as a source of natural evil involving illness, disease, and repulsive natural behaviors within the animal world are also addressed. Berg concludes this section by stating: ". Intelligent Design is now a fringe activity with little credibility in the mainstream scientific community."

After having offered a negative critique of ID, Berg proceeds to provide supportive arguments for neo-Darwinian evolution. In this section, which addresses biodiversity and common ancestry, Berg surveys many areas of study: morphology, paleontology, biogeography, embryology, genetics, and sub-optimal design. He provides an introduction to each field of study, and then he discusses how common descent offers a better explanation than common design.

The book specifically focuses on the origin of species and limits discussion to a comparison of common design, as proposed by the ID model, with common descent, as proposed by the neo-Darwinian model. To survey this topic within a few hundred pages is indeed challenging. The result is a book which reads with the dry tone of a master's thesis. Despite this tone, the book does make progress in reaching its stated objective.

The book is recommended for anyone interested in comparing the models of ID and Darwinian evolution.

The reading level is that of post-secondary undergraduate and graduate students engaged in science studies at colleges and universities. Well-read science professors, philosophers, and theologians will also find new material in this book to catalyze their thoughtful engagement with evolutionary science.

Reviewed by Gary De Boer, Professor of Chemistry, LeTourneau University, Longview, TX 75607-7001.
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Author:De Boer, Gary
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Words:710
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