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Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution Paperback

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Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution + Against the Idols of the Age + What’s Wrong with Benevolence: Happiness, Private Property, and the Limits of Enlightenment
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books (March 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594032009
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594032004
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,107 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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.

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Customer Reviews

And I must admit that, when the question is put that way, it gives one pause.
Geoff Puterbaugh
This is quite ruthless by my estimation, although it is probably not overly significant in terms of evolutionary process.
Brice deGanahl
So if you don't mind wading through a little pessimism I think you will find the book to be a quite stimulating read.
Glenn Yates

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 79 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Geneticist on January 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Even if such a tribe could somehow continue in existence, it is extremely difficult to imagine how our species, as we now know it to be, could ever have graduated from so very hard a school. We need to remember how severe the rule of natural selection is, and what it means to say that a species is subject to it. It means, among other things, that of all the rabbits, flies, cod, pines, etc., that are born, the enormous majority must suffer early death; and it means no less of our species."

~David Stove. Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution (Kindle Locations 132-135). Kindle Edition.

David Stove has fallen into an old trap of thinking. From the start, it is clear that Stove think that natural selection is about death and brutal competition. This is a common misconception, stemming from the poorly chosen phrase "survival of the fittest". Natural Selection is about differential reproductive success. Obviously if one dies young before reproducing, that affects long term reproductive success, but it is not the only means by which differential reproduction occurs. For example, if a trait allows one to simply have more children than those without it, in the long run, those with the trait, could out-compete those without it. Simply by out-reproducing the others. Stove, despite his claim of 40+ years of acquaintance with evolution, seems to have never really grasped such basics and it is evident in the very first paragraph of his first essay:

"IF DARWIN'S THEORY of evolution were true, there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners.
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70 of 98 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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