David J. Galloway. 2021. John Ritchie Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-1914273018
Reviewed by David G. Pennington MB.BS (Syd), FRCS(Ed), FRACS
Emeritus Associate Professor, Macquarie University Hospital
As a fellow surgeon, who trained in that quintessentially Scottish rival city to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and having a long-standing interest in the origins of life, my attention was doubly- sparked by the publication of this book. Galloway's style is semi-conversational, so he may be forgiven for habitually ignoring the grammatically-correct syntax of comma usage between clauses.
The author, David J Galloway MD, DSc, FRCS, FRCP, FACS, FACP, is an internationally-recognized surgeon of Scottish background, who is renowned for research into the cellular mechanisms of cancer and their applications to patient management. He is a surgeon of considerable experience in that area. David is also the former President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and a fellow of a number of medical and surgical colleges of several countries.
The book opens with an array of complimentary comments from a powerful bevvy of scientific minds, including Prof John C Lennox (Oxford - Mathematics), Stephen C Meyer (Discovery Institute - Philosophy of Science), Michael Behe (Lehigh University- Biochemistry), Douglas Axe (Biola University - Molecular Biology) and Francis C Dunn (University of Glasgow - Cardiovascular Science), amongst others.
The overall tenor of the book is an examination of the irrationality of the evolutionary paradigm in the face of numerous and insurmountable obstacles arising from the complexity of life. He interweaves scientific research with anecdotal experiences from his wide career as a surgeon, which together make his argument difficult to contest. The book is divided into three Sections: Enigmata, Layers of Perplexity, and Thinking About Thinking. He follows each chapter with a pithy “Take-home message".
Frequent meanderings into history and personal experience lighten the otherwise heavily technical discussion, making the book more readable for the less scientifically-minded.
Section 1, Enigmata, begins with the long history of suppression of scientific thought and progress, something we might now call “historical scientific cancel culture". He first discusses the scientific persecution of the 19th century Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweiss, setting the scene for a prediction of things to come. He shows how the most respected scientific minds of the past have not been immune to the herd mentality of “established truth", no matter how the evidence is stacked against it. Not uncommonly, ego, reputation and “consensus" overruled the clear facts established by experiment, a blight which continues to plague evolutionary biology even today.
In Chapters 2-5 Galloway follows with historic examples of the sometimes-blundering process of medical discoveries, from the times of the Roman surgeon-to-the-gladiators, Galen, via the enlightening dissections of Vesalius, to the discovery of blood circulation by Harvey. He makes comparisons with the astronomical enlightenment that followed Copernicus and Kepler, both of whom faced enormous prejudice against the established geo-centric view of the Universe.
In Chapters 6-8 we see Galloway delving into the realms of Philosophy and Epistemology, showing how the concept of ultimate truth (once an accepted Christian dogma), has been denied by modern philosophers like Bertrand Russell. Russell, like others, has borrowed from the scientific theory of relativism to claim that, “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know."
That one statement has established science as a new religion.
In Chapter 7, Galloway argues effectively that to assume science can provide answers to every question is not science, but “scientism".
In Chapters 9 & 10, he describes how modern scientific methods are applied to biology, and in particular to medical diagnosis, which relies on careful data analysis, and statistical probability. He cites personal examples of how difficult and uncertain that can be, due to the subjective nature of history-taking, unprovable assumptions and the multiple possibilities thrown up by biologic systems.
Section 2, Layers of Perplexity
Chapters 11 & 12 explore the “astonishing complexity" of biological systems at a molecular level. Examples of the complement pathway and the blood coagulation cascade are given, as well as the intricacies of the fetal circulation vs the adult. Whilst not plumbing the depths of mathematics, as does Douglas Axe, nor the biochemical improbabilities of random chance mutation effects, as does Stephen Meyer, he uses the human thalamo-pituitary hormone control mechanism as an example of feedback design that “randomology" (if I could coin a term) struggles to explain.
Chapters 13 & 14 explore the aspects of biological complexity at the subcellular level. As do Behe and Meyer, Galloway frames complexity in the historical context of the discovery of DNA and subsequent investigations via both chemical and information theory pathways. In citing the work of James Shapiro, and mentioning the adaptive, algorithmic control of genetic information in biological systems, it is obvious that only complex human reverse engineering has been able to partly and very incompletely explain the information contained in DNA. His statement that, “for any language of any kind, there is always a mind behind it" (p. 151) is in a nutshell what the DNA code shouts loudly to us.
Chapter 15 has an Australian flavour, something close to my heart! In Chapters 15 & 16, Galloway deals with some of the metaphysical questions of life's origins, citing the work of the South Australian born physicist and philosopher, Paul Davies, as well as that of the clinical researchers from Western Australia, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who discovered the bacterial cause of peptic ulceration. Mentioning the work of Alexander Fleming in discovering penicillin, Galloway explores serendipity, the closest we get to something apparently random, but mystical as well. He might well have mentioned yet another Australian, Howard Florey, Fleming's co-worker in that discovery.
Chapter 16 ends with a discussion of information specificity, the bete noir of “randomology" in biological information systems.
Section 3, Thinking about Thinking opens up a different topic, which evolutionary theory has never had a satisfactory answer for. Chapter 17, Levels of Awareness and What It Is Like to Be Me, begins the discussion about consciousness, using personal experience and those narrated by others, to open up the question, “Just what is consciousness?". Galloway uses anaesthesia and some historic stories of brain injuries to explore the concept of consciousness. I myself can recall the story of a young lady who spent over a decade in a vegetative state in one of Sydney's major hospitals, only to one day “wake up" and later proceed to undertake a tertiary education! Science has no adequate explanation for something that would otherwise be described as a miracle.
After first describing the “naturalistic" (or materialistic) explanation of consciousness, Galloway describes the alternative in these words, “...there are those who do not accept this naturalistic explanation and recognize an immaterial quality about certain aspects of mental activity. The implication here is that the mind is not wholly explained by the brain."
Galloway goes on to quote CS Lewis, and to mention the views of such diversely-educated thinkers as JBS Haldane, Erwin Schrodinger, and Sir John Eccles (another Australian!), all of whom acknowledged that there is more to consciousness than can be explained by purely materialistic means. Chapter 17 ends with this quote, “Consciousness is a feature of life. It is fanciful to imagine that higher mental properties such as reasoning, computation, memory and emotion just somehow emerged from irrational, inert building blocks. To do so takes a considerable measure of completely blind faith."
Chapters 18 & 19 explore the questions of Cosmic Consciousness? How Grand Is the Design? and (in a way only a Scot could think of), The Golfer's Questions.
Here Galloway poses the question, “Is it reasonable or even scientific to infer the existence of real design, rather than simply the appearance of design?" (p. 198). And, like an increasing number of contemporary scientists, he opines that a random occurrence of so many interdependent variables is woefully inadequate to explain the existence of living things.
Chapter 20, Design All the Way Down? ends Galloway's thesis that a Designer is a necessity to explain life, let alone the existence of the cosmos. He deals with the naturalistic arguments of Sagan and Dawkins with a surgeon's precision, pointing out the illogicality of a position that claims to be scientific, while ignoring the evidence pointing to an alternative conclusion.
Dawkins' proposition that it is more difficult to explain the existence of God by naturalistic means, is dealt with by a single stroke of the literary scalpel, when he states,
“...if the Designer is a being that is self-existent, that is, a being that necessarily exists by virtue of its own nature, then the enquiry about the design of the designer becomes meaningless."
Galloway ends his work with the take home message,
“The choice is evident. The puzzle is in the nature of a worldview. Answering the questions of causation from a naturalistic 'bottom-up' approach runs counter to observed evidence. The weight of evidence supporting real design brings the theistic view to center stage."
I would recommend this book to both the biologically-educated and open-minded thinker, as a worthy contribution to the debate about the nature of life itself.