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Design or By Chance? The Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe.

Design or By Chance? The Growing Controversy On the Origins of Life in the Universe BY Denyse O'Leary Published by Augsburg Book, 2004, ISBN: 1-894860-03-9 Softcover, pp. 384, $21.95 CAN

By Design or By Chances? explores the assumptions of Darwinism, Creationism, and the theory of Intelligent Design i.e., the theory that the universe has been designed with purpose, as have human beings:

"One of my main concerns is that there is a lot of prejudice out there--about evolution, creation, design, and so forth--so there is a lot of hostility and stereotyping on all sides. That makes it really hard to discuss these issues. I want to help people talk about what the new findings really mean."

Her discussion is straight forward enough for the lay reader with limited scientific background to easily understand. For the reader more well versed in science O'Leary's references to scientific theory as well as her robust notes section are well grounded in standard scientific references.

The author writes with carefully measured arguments that draw on the writings of respected scientists and religious thinkers. With a clear conversational prose she takes the reader through scientific theory regarding the origin of the universe and our place within it. Her book guides the reader with humour and a 'common sense' approach:

"While science strives to be objective, it is not dune in a philosophical vacuum. The philosophical beliefs of neo-Darwinists can be just as important in shaping their views as the philosophical beliefs of creationists and ID proponents are in shaping theirs," (p. 91).

This even-handed approach allows the reader to see the perspectives and biases from the various groups and theories discussed and to place them within both social and historical contexts in both science and faith.

In addition to drawing on examples from science O'Leary also uses real world images, such as dice and gambling odds, and humour to illustrate her points. O'Leary's friendly style comes from decades of writing for educational publishers. Chunked information, bolded text, charts and information boxes help the reader make sense of what otherwise could have been daunting and complex scientific arguments. A section of detailed notes at the book's end anchor the author's arguments in writings of respected scientists as well as providing additional information about specific concepts. Her approach enables the reader to easily understand the historical and contemporary scientific information she uses to illustrate her points.

While she was living as a youth in Whitehorse O'Leary looked out at the Yukon's rugged expanses and felt the call to become a writer. The author has said that living in the Yukon taught her both about community and about nature. Her ability to look beyond the accepted landscape/horizons of science has lead to a successful 30-year career as a science writer and author. O'Leary has also written Faith Science: Why Science Needs Faith in the 21st Century. Additionally she contributes to Christianity Today and Christian Week, and is also a regular contributor to Crucible, the magazine for the Science Teacher's Association of Ontario. It is O'Leary's forte to bring together the communities of faith and science together in a companionable and educational fashion.

O'Leary's book takes a vast amount of information and makes it an enjoyable easy read. The author observes:

"The evidence of intelligent design of the universe and life is a surprising--and, for some, uncomfortable--finding in science. By Design or By Chance? provides a road map to the controversy. Many scientists thought that the more they investigated both the universe and life, the less remarkable both would turn out to be. But both are so fine-tuned and complex that they show evidence of intelligent design."

It is quite possible for readers, who may object to arguments presented in By Design or By Chance?, to at least question the basis for their own convictions. This book would appeal to readers, whether they are high school students or adults, who are interested in science, faith, and politics. I recommended this book for readers who like to challenge themselves and who welcome seeing a new interpretation of established ideas.
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Author:Fraser, J. Lynn
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:681
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