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The Top 10 Myths About EvolutionReview - The Top 10 Myths About Evolution
by Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan
Prometheus Books, 2006
Review by Bob Lane, M.A.
Aug 21st 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 34)

The Top 10 Myths about Evolution is an easy book to review because it is concise, readable, and intelligently designed [pun intended]. It is an important book for anyone wanting to know the basics about evolution and its detractors. It is aimed at the general reader but provides a general discussion of the science involved as well as an extensive bibliography for those who want to read more about the current science and philosophy of biology. In addition the notes at the end of each chapter are worth reading to amplify even more the material presented in the text. Every high school library, college library and public library should have copies of the book available.

Since the Dover trial [Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District] in 2005 there has been an enormous interest in the conflict between the religious right and the science of biology. The entire transcript of that landmark trial is available from the ACLU website.  That trial was to have been the endgame for the Intelligent Design effort to get creationism into the biology classrooms of the USA by re-describing creationism and dressing it up as science. The effort failed very publicly in that trial and the transcript is well worth reading to get a real sense of the conflict and of the fact that no matter how the ID folks dress their  product it is definitely not science. About that the Judge was clear.

The best way to give readers a sense of the book under review is to list the ten chapters which are bracketed by an introduction and an afterword:

  1. Survival of the Fittest
  2. It's Just a Theory
  3. The Ladder of Progress
  4. The Missing Link
  5. Evolution is Random
  6. People Come From Monkeys
  7. Nature's Perfect Balance
  8. Creationism Disproves Evolution
  9. Intelligent Design is Science
  10. Evolution is Immoral

Each chapter provides, in a clear and intelligent manner, the arguments for and against the idea or claim of the chapter title. The authors do a commendable job in each case and particularly in the discussion of what counts as a theory. Pointing out that in ordinary language we use the word "theory" in an ambiguous way they point to the difference between the scientific use of the term and the everyday use of it as meaning something like guess or myth. Getting that point clear would stop most of the confusion that is manifest in letters to the editor all over North America, which often begin with the claim "Evolution is just a theory." Yes, but so is the theory of gravity.

Chapter 10 is also to be commended for taking on the claim that Darwinism leads to Atheism leads to Immorality. Smith and Sullivan go back to Plato to show that the so-called Euthyphro dilemma proves convincingly that morality is logically prior to religion.

 

Overall the book presents arguments and facts, and backs them up with copious notes and references. It neither preaches to the choir nor condescends to the ignorant, but lays out a balanced case for the power of the idea that Charles Darwin presented in The Origin of Species, a book that everyone should read or reread. The attack on science is not going to go away.

As Barbara Forrest writes, "Public education and the separation of church and state are interdependent; the strength of American constitutional democracy depends on the preservation of both. Although implementing the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom has sometimes been difficult, public schools have been generally successful in providing an educational environment free of religious strife for 90% of American children, thus enabling them to concentrate on acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to economic and civic life (Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Doc. 623). As the largest public institution in the first secular democracy in history, public schools, with 48 million students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005), must not become the vehicle for an attack on science and secular society (Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Doc. 601)."

[UNDERSTANDING THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN CREATIONIST MOVEMENT: ITS TRUE NATURE AND GOALS -- A POSITION PAPER FROM THE CENTER FOR INQUIRY OFFICE OF PUBLIC POLICY -- AUTHOR: BARBARA FORREST, Ph.D.]  NB. Dr. Forrest's paper is available online at http://www.mala.bc.ca/www/ipp/pdf/Forrest_Paper.pdf

 

© 2007 Bob Lane

 

Bob Lane is a retired teacher of English and Philosophy who is currently an Honourary Research Associate in Philosophy at Malaspina University-College in British Columbia, Canada. His paper "Challenges to Science" is available online at http:// www.mala.bc.ca/www/ipp/science.doc


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