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Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution Hardcover – February 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (February 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594031401
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594031403
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like a clever agnostic in Sunday school, Stove (Scientific Irrationalism) relentlessly frustrates Darwinism in this posthumous collection of 11 linked essays. To the chagrin of creationists, however, he also takes pains to note he is of no religion and believes it's "overwhelmingly probable that humans evolved from some other animal." His more modest objective is to show that Darwinism, while largely valid, fails to explain known humanity. Unfortunately, this effort is confused: if Darwin's theory of evolution were true, "there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive," when "it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that." To illustrate, Stove cites altruism, alcohol, anal intercourse, abortion and other behaviors that shorten lives or lessen the number of children people have. He goes so far as to condemn Darwinism as a "ridiculous slander on human beings," whom he views as mammals, but not animals in the evolutionary sense. The great unexamined problem in all of this is how did humans jump off the evolutionary track? This is not to say that Stove, who made a name for himself as a conservative philosopher (most recently at the University of South Wales), is necessarily wrong. Rather, he exists in a skeptical abyss, borrowing from two distinct and potentially correct perspectives. This makes his work provocative, but flawed.
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From the Publisher

Philosopher David Stove concludes in his hilarious and razor-sharp inquiry that Darwin's theory of evolution is "a ridiculous slander on human beings." But wait! Stove is no "creationist" nor a proponent of so-called "intelligent design." He is a theological skeptic who admits Darwin's great genius and acknowledges that the theory of natural selection is the most successful biological theory in history. But Stove also thinks that it is also one of the most overblown and gives a penetrating inventory of what he regards as the "unbelievable claims" of Darwinism. Darwinian Fairytales is a must-read book for people who want to really understand the issues behind the most hotly debated scientific controversy of our time. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Scott C. Locklin VINE VOICE on April 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Stove is one of the great underappreciated writers of the late 20th century. He's also dead, which doesn't generally do much for one's ability to slay dragons. It is fortunate the good people at the New Criterion have more or less sponsored his revival; he deserves to be much more widely known. Stove was an Australian academic philosopher who became embroiled in a university in-fight against what I like to call, the "know nothing academics" who came to prominence in the 1960s. Know nothings essentially make their livings making raspberry sounds at Western civilization. Stove was outraged such people could be taken seriously by anyone, and so he devoted a large amount of his considerable remaining wit and energy making such people miserable. This book represents one of his efforts in that direction. Contrary to what many people are saying in the reviews, Stove explicitly believes in Darwinian evolution, "more or less." I.e. he states that he believes in the broad strokes of evolutionary theory. He is, as others have stated, an atheist (as am I, if that matters to anyone).

He very specifically doesn't believe in nonsense views of evolution; in particular, the "hard man" view of Herbert Spencer or its intellectual descendant, the "selfish gene" view of Dawkins and company. Stove ruthlessly mocks the preposterous premises of these ideas (which even a 'good' Popperian would instantly recognize as non-falsifiable piffle), simply by examining them for what they really are. He also points out numerous giant conceptual lacunae, counterfactuals and the examples of flat out nonsense that make up the evidence for sociobiological "theory." Why does Stove do this? Apparently, he was ahead of his time.
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39 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Wesley L. Janssen VINE VOICE on October 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
"[Stove] is particularly good at exposing the `amazingly arrogant habit of Darwinians' of `blaming the fact, instead of blaming their theory' when they encounter contrary biological facts. Doctrinaire Darwinists have an answer for everything, always a bad sign in science, since it means that mere facts can never prove them wrong." - from Roger Kimball's Introduction

It is not at all the case that Stove objects to Darwinism on religious grounds, in fact he believes that present life has by some means evolved from earlier forms; however he is quite certain that "Darwin's explanation of evolution, even though it is . . . still the best one available, is not true." Stove would object, and strongly so, to having his essays cast as being sympathetic to `creationism' or, so far as I can tell, `intelligent design', as he defines himself as a man "of no religion." His knowledge and scholarship of Darwinian theory is self-evidently vast; he suggests that he has "wasted" his time reading hundreds of Darwinism's books and `Darwinian Fairytales' makes it quite evident that he has indeed studied every prominent Darwinian "from 1859 to the present hour."

I had just begun reading Richard Dawkins' `The Blind Watchmaker' when I noticed that David Stove's `Darwinian Fairytales' had been reprinted. While reading them both it quickly seemed imperative that I read Dawkins' `The Selfish Gene' before proceeding with either TBW or DF. So that is what I did. Reading the three books in close conjunction was quite a fascinating experience, and, as I have indicated elsewhere (my review of TSG), Dawkins didn't fare to well.

Stove, the late Australian philosopher of science, effectively skewers Dawkins (especially TSG, but, to a lesser extent, TBW as well), Stove nails E.O.
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72 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Stebbins on April 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Many scientists and laypersons, sadly, never read philosophy of science. Though informal and humorous, this is a fine introduction to the genre. Those who grasp its importance may also enjoy Midgley's "Darwinism as a Religion" and Polanyi's "Science, Faith, and Society." Like Stove, but with less humour, they harangue those (such as Dawkins and Sagan) who publish popular propaganda or religion disguised as science.

Stove highlights how illogical science can be silly or, in the case of neo-Darwinism applied to humankind, insulting. Midgley does that and more--especially by showing how Darwinism's core tenets are held by faith. Polanyi, though, is the scariest of the lot, for he describes (from his experiences of Nazism and Stalinism) how pop evolution has led to the inhumanities of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics and genocide.

When Stove attacks neo-Darwinians' use of purposive language (for, in order to, plan, strategy, etc.), and especially, when he compares it to the language of Intelligent Design, he is very, very good. I've long wondered how unguided natural forces, without the benefits of intent, are supposed to "adapt for" anything. Perhaps most delightful is Stove's description of how the anti-religious Dawkins has ordained himself the high priest of gene worship. At times, Stove takes too long (by, say, 20-30%) saying what he says. His prose is so delightful, though, that I forgive (even welcome) his verbosity.

Reviewers read books. Since "reviewer" John's last sentence points out that he has not read this one, I'm not sure what he was reviewing. If, however, he's looking for "real scientists" (i.e. not philosophers or Christians!
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