Weissmann, Gerald. +quot;The Argument from Design+quot; [Review in] The Scientist, 21 Sept

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Weissmann, Gerald. "The Argument from Design" [Review in] The Scientist, 21 September l987, p. 20. [Weissman is a professor of medicine at the New York University Medical Center, New York, NY, 10016, and is the author of The Woods Hole Cantata (Dodd, 1985) and They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus (Times Books, 1987).] Harold Morowitz is a distinguished Yale biophysicist and former master of Pierson College. [Morowitz was also an ACLU witness in the 1981 Arkansas "Creation Equal Time" case--SOR.] He is also the author of two charming collections of essays: The Wine of Life and Mayonnaise and the Origin of Life. Morowitz spent his last sabbatical on a yacht docked off the West Maui mountains in Hawaii. In that yacht he produced a book that is wise, thoughtful and benign; he has brought Teilhard de Chardin up to date to argue that the laws of physics and evolution reveal the workings of a "plan or cosmic intelligence that somehow had us in mind." Morowitz arrives at his conclusion that it is "hard not to see design in a universe that works so well" after a crisp review for the general reader of the rules of physics, the chemistry of genetics and the speculations of philosophy. Dissenting amiably from the strains of materialism found in the works of Stephen Jay Gould, Jacques Monod and Peter Medawar, Morowitz emerges as a champion of the argument from design. He refuses to believe that blind chance can account for the "richness and beauty of existence." His heroes are Benedict Spinoza, Henri Bergson, Freeman Dyson and Teilhard, fellow scientist-philosophers who have deduced the workings of a universal intelligence from the structure of matter. In each chapter, Morowitz displays those didactic gifts that have made his monthly column in Hospital Practice so popular; his learning is displayed without pedantry and lightened by anecdote. We learn the crystal structure of water and that Teilhard's grave is on the grounds of the Culinary Institute of America; we hear how lipid vesicles mimic membranes and how Chianti wine can ameliorate the gloom of astrophysics. His cosmic joy derives from the anthropic principle. Morowitz persuades us that the music of the spheres is written in the key of humankind. But these gentle musings fall short of accounting for "local pain." The one painful incident recorded in the course of that idyllic sabbatical is a bee sting! No dark night of the soul here, no anguish, disease, or rude injustice. I miss those scars of angst that brand a writer who has undergone what Wiliiam James called the "great initiation" into the problem of evil. Morowitz is embarrassed at playing "cheerleader for a mysterious cosmic intelligence," a sentiment justified by his inattention to the darkest aspects of the mind. His argument from design is stronger on whales and dwarfs than it is on childhood leukemia or senile dementia. Perhaps the harbors of Hawaii and the laws of physics have titled the scales in favor of cosmic joy: the index lists "history" and "radiation," but not "Auschwitz" or "Hiroshima." Like Teilhard, Morowitz finds that the cosmic intelligence is encoded in the laws of nature. Away from the waters of Maui that code is perhaps more garbled. Would a walk through the slums of New Haven or the wards of its hospitals confirm or deny that "the universe works so well?" Only Dr. Pangloss could tell for sure.


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