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The Panda's Black Box

Opening up the Intelligent Design Controversy

edited by Nathaniel C. Comfort foreword by Daniel J. Kevles Essays by Nathaniel C. Comfort, Michael Ruse, Scott F. Gilbert, Edward J. Larson, Jane Maienschein, Robert Maxwell Young

Publication Year: 2007

The debate over Intelligent Design seemingly represents an extension of the fundamental conflict between creationists and evolutionists. ID proponents, drawing on texts such as Darwin’s Black Box and Of Pandas and People, urge schools to “teach the controversy” in biology class alongside evolution. The scientific mainstream has reacted with fury, branding Intelligent Design as pseudoscience and its advocates as religious fanatics. But stridency misses the point, argues Nathaniel Comfort. In The Panda’s Black Box, Comfort joins five other leading public intellectuals—including Daniel Kevles and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson—to explain the roots of the controversy and explore the intellectual, social, and cultural factors that continue to shape it. One of the few books on the ID issue that moves beyond mere name-calling and finger-pointing, The Panda’s Black Box challenges assumptions on each side of the debate and engages both the appeal and dangers of Intelligent Design. This lively collection will appeal to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what’s really at stake in the debate over evolution.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. v

List of Contributors

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xv

“Teach the controversy,” the proponents of Intelligent Design say. By “the controversy,” they mean their dispute with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. They claim that such a process, even if it occurred over millions of years, could not possibly have produced something so exquisitely intricate as, say, the human...

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1 Introduction: The Panda’s Black Box

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pp. 1-17

When the topic of the Intelligent Design controversy comes up, mybiologist-friends often shrug and laugh, “What controversy?” This remark illustrates two key themes. First, among biologists, there is no controversy over Intelligent Design. There are real controversies within evolutionary biology, such as over the role and importance of...

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2 The Argument from Design

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pp. 18-39

In 1802, opening his book Natural Theology with one of the most famous passages in the history of philosophy, Archdeacon William Paley wrote: In crossing a heath suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there, I might possibly...

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3 The Aerodynamics of Flying Carpets: Why Biologists Are Loath to “Teach the Controversy”

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pp. 40-62

These are the notes of a person who majored in both biology and religion and who has profound respect for both. I believe Alfred North Whitehead’s dictum that science and religion are two of the most important forces on this planet and that our future largely...

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4 The Classroom Controversy: A History of the Dispute over Teaching Evolution

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pp. 63-82

When speaking at colleges and universities around the country, I frequently ask students what they learned about organic origins in high school. On the one hand, most of them tell me that evolution was touched on only lightly if at all. On the other hand, even fewer report receiving any creationist instruction. Mine is an unscientific survey,...

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5 Untangling Debates about Science and Religion

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pp. 83-108

In September 2005, I entered the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and joined a line of citizens passing through security and heading to the hearing rooms upstairs. Nearly everyone was there for the case of...

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6 Intelligent Design: A Symptom of Metaphysical Malaise

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pp. 109-136

Although I am not an expert on Intelligent Design or the history of creationism, my experiences in writing on Darwin and Darwinism and on metaphysical problems in the paradigm of explanation of modern science may be of some help in understanding some of the deeper issues behind this latest critique of Darwinism. Believers in...


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pp. 137-150

Further Reading

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pp. 151-156


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pp. 157-165

E-ISBN-13: 9780801896903
E-ISBN-10: 0801896908
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885990
Print-ISBN-10: 080188599X

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2007