One of the arguments that we attempt to make in this journal to demonstrate the existence of God is the position that there is design in the creation that precludes any possibility that the creation could have occurred by chance. This book was not written for that purpose, but it fulfills that purpose in a marvelous way.
Dr. Comins is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Maine. This book is actually a series of "What Ifs?" What If the Moon Didn't Exist? What If the Moon Were Closer to the Earth? What If the Earth Had Less Mass? What If the Earth Were Tilted Like Uranus? What If the Sun Were More Massive? What If a Star Exploded Near the Earth? What If a Star Passed Near the Solar System? What If a Black Hole Passed Through the Earth? What If We Saw with a Different Part of the Spectrum? What If the Ozone Layer Were Depleted? These are the chapter headings and the content of this book.
What Comins does is to take each of the cases listed above and try to make an educated guess as to what the result would be. NeoDarwinism and modern relativity and quantum understandings are used to explain what would be likely to happen if these theories were true. In the process of doing this, Comins has to explain how the earth works. He bases the evolution of life from nonlife and its adaptation to various environments on theories from Oparin and Miller as well as Darwin. Much of the physical science (which is his specialty) is very good. Much of the biology is highly speculative. All of the book is written without any religious purpose or overtones. Comins is clever, writes well, and handles the material in an interesting way. The major impression an open-minded, thinking person will get from this book is how incredibly well designed this planet is. Without the moon or with any variation from what the sun and earth are, life would be a total impossibility
We recommend this book to mature readers who want some indirect fuel for the anthropic principle. The book is challenging, deep, academic, and a useful source of information. It can be used to show the wisdom and design that leads us as Christians to say that you can know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:19-23).
I have often wished that someone would write a book on the design features of the cosmos that would be written at such a high level that I could use it with well-educated skeptics who reject my simplified examples that I use in my lectures and materials. That wish has been answered in this book.
What Templeton has done is to bring together 10 respected scientists to write on the theme of the evidence of design and purpose in the creation. These scientists are Owen Gingerich, Russell Stannard, Paul Davies, Walter Hearn, Robert Russell, Arthur Peacocke, John Polkinghorne, John Eccles, Daniel Osmond, and David Wilcox. These are all outstanding scientists writing in their own fields. They come from all different shades and stripes of belief and disbelief, but they all in one way or another testify to the evidence of design in the creation.
This book is very technical and assumes Darwinian evolution to be factual. Even with this theistic evolutionary approach, however, there is a wealth of information and good arguments for design in the creation. Cosmology, philosophy, relativity, quantum mechanics, biology, brain dynamics, and psychology are all explored. Challenges by atheists such as Dawkin's Blind Watchmaker argument are answered very well in various essays in all areas of science.
There are two major weaknesses in the book in the opinion of this reviewer. The first is that some articles like Robert Russell's link fields that are so complex that the arguments get hard to follow. Russell bridges philosophy with the Big Bang cosmology in a complex way that is difficult for readers not familiar with his approach to follow.
The second weakness is that some of the authors are too cautious about their arguments. Owen Gingerich, for example, refuses to consider any quantification of his arguments about the uniqueness of the nuclear resonances that allow carbon and oxygen atoms to exist in the same universe. It seems to this writer that a probability approach could be considered very profitably in discussions about the uniqueness of the physical constants that allow atoms critical to life to exist.
We recommend this book to readers who are well educated and
want a challenging approach to the question of design in the cosmos.
You will not agree with everything you read, but you will enjoy the
challenge and the freshness of the ideas.
Back to Contents November/December 1995