Dallas Conference Will Unveil Intelligent Design’s Original Edition

original edition

We are just a couple of weeks out from the 2020 Dallas Conference on Science & Faith, Saturday, January 25 in Denton, TX. Until today, though, we have withheld one important piece of information about the event: it will be the launch of a wonderful new book from Discovery Institute Press. Actually, it’s an updated, expanded edition of a classic: The Mystery of Life’s Origin: The Continuing Controversy, the 1984 Ur-text or original edition of the modern theory of intelligent design, now with new supplementary essays by scholars extending the work. This is very exciting for us because the three co-authors, biochemist Charles Thaxton, materials scientist Walter Bradley, and geochemist Roger Olsen, will all be on hand for a panel discussion.

To Spark a Debate

The new edition includes the original text of the book plus contributions elaborating on the mystery, as it’s understood today, by synthetic organic chemist James Tour, physicist Brian Miller, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, biologist Jonathan Wells, and philosopher of science Stephen Meyer. I had the honor of writing an introductory historical chapter about how this important book came together, how it sparked the contemporary design debate, and how it influenced leading figures in the ID movement, including Meyer, Dembski, Michael Behe, Paul Nelson, and others.

It considers an ultimate question: How does life emerge from that which is not alive? That mystery has long exercised a peculiar fascination. It possesses the power to elicit remarkable feats of imagination, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to today’s community of origin-of-life researchers. Mystery of Life’s Origin powerfully tackled a problem that may be, along with the origins of physical existence itself, the toughest and most intractable facing materialist and atheist accounts of reality. For anyone familiar with today’s intelligent design theory, to read The Mystery of Life’s Origin is to experience a powerful sense of déjà vu. Surely we have walked these halls before. Or rather, Mystery is the hall down which ID walked before it emerged into history as “intelligent design.” The now familiar phrase appears nowhere in the text. But other phrases, persons, and motifs, the stock-in-trade of the modern ID theorist, are present. 

No Way to Treat a Classic

The book was critical in Stephen Meyer’s intellectual journey. His three books, Signature in the Cell, Darwin’s Doubt, and the forthcoming The Return of the God Hypothesis, all pay tribute to Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen. “Their book marked the beginning of interest in the theory of intelligent design in the United States,” Meyer has written, “inspiring a generation of younger scholars.” Yet until now the book itself had to be hunted down in used editions. That’s no way to treat a classic. DI Press is proud to have fixed the problem in high style. The publication date is January 27 but you can get your copy early in Dallas.

Of course, that’s only one reason to join us. The conference, building on last year’s Dallas event on the same theme, which was an enormous success, is an opportunity to meet and hear from top design proponents, including Behe, Meyer, Douglas Axe, and John West. A tentative conference schedule is here, including a youth track for teens led by Daniel Reeves. And more information about the conference is here, including an online registration form. It’s a full-day conference and includes lunch. We’ll hope to see you there!

Photo: Walter Bradley, a co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin, at the 2018 inauguration of Discovery Institute’s Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, by Nathan Jacobson.

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