Arguing by Design

David Nash on how Victorian arguments about design in the universe echo in science-theology debates today.

Do not talk down. Try to inspire everybody with the poetry of science and make your explanations as easy as honesty allows, but at the same time do not neglect the difficult. Put extra effort into explaining to those readers prepared to put matching effort into understanding.

So begins Richard Dawkins' latest argument against the existence of 'God by design', Climbing Mount Improbable. Dawkins' mission, as Professor for the Understanding of Science, is not simply to expound a scientific materialist interpretation of the universe, but the arguably more difficult task persuading the general public to take seriously the cause of science and science education. As such Dawkins is not the first scientist to twin materialist versions of the universe with the advocacy of science as an educative force. The Victorian age which produced Darwin and Huxley also produced others anxious and willing to communicate the nature of the ultimate question.

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