Some recent reviews of Purpose and Desire

The past week or so has seen some interesting reviews come in on Purpose and Desire.

First out of the blocks is from the Washington Book Review, which is a project of AvantGarde Books. You can read the review here.

The final graf:

Purpose and Desire is a valuable addition to the existing books on the science of life. It poses a serious challenge to traditional biology. It is likely to generate a controversy and elicit more research and knowledge of the science of life. This is a must-read for everybody interested in the science of life and evolution. This is one of those rare science books which inquisitive laypeople will equally enjoy. Purpose and Desire will change the way you think of life.

The last week saw two reviews in Evolution News. One was by Brian Miller, titled “In Purpose and Desire, Scott Turner Argues that Cognition Is Foundational to Life.” You can read Brian Miller’s review here. He nailed one of the main points I tried to develop in Purpose and Desire: that evolution is fundamentally a cognitive process. Cognition is where the striving that underlies adaptation resides, and it is adaptive striving that drives evolution. Adaptation is the leading indicator of evolution, while natural selection is the lagging indicator.

Brian Miller’s final graf:

Turner’s propositions are provocative and maybe even disturbing to both traditional evolutionists and many proponents of intelligent design. However, his thesis is well-argued and needs to be examined carefully. Key points are that the evidence of purpose and design permeate life at every level, and this evidence presents ever increasing challenges to all theories of undirected evolution.

The same week saw the second review of the book by Ann Gauger. Her review may be found here. She does me the favor of building her review around several key passages in the book, essentially letting me speak for myself about many of issues I had to struggle with as I wrote the book. Again, her final graf:

“This provocative book deserves to be read and considered by anyone interested in the question of evolution and adaptation. It deals with an important subject — how an organism interacts with its environment. Turner sees organisms as actively receiving information, not in a clockwork, mechanistic manner, but in a holistic manner, where the information is received and processed, then responded to according to the purposes of the organism as a whole. His idea comes from many hours of observing organisms — their purposeful, apparently intelligent striving after goals seemingly beyond their capabilities. Either they do exhibit cognition and intentionality according to something like Scott Turner’s model, or another explanation must be found. If Turner is right, the clockwork, mechanistic, DNA-centric model may have met its match.”

Both Miller’s and Gauger’s review, whether you agree with them (or me) or not, have been drawn from a careful and in-depth engagement with the text of the book itself. Both Miller and Gauger are proponents of Intelligent Design Theory, of course, but both raised critical issues that should be thought-provoking to people on that side of the evolution debate (and believe me, there IS a debate!). Their reviews underscore my intent in writing Purpose and Desire: to present a broad-based challenge to a variety of current evolutionary orthodoxies, while remaining a friendly critic to all.


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