Most helpful critical review
55 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2005
I just wanted to provide a clarification for the benefit of the readers. Several of the reviewers have implied that Denton is a Creationist or a member of the teleological design movement. That is untrue. Denton makes it very clear that he believes there are natural causes for life that have yet to be discovered. He believes that life can not be completely explained by Neo Darwinian evolution but makes no claims that it was specially created.
In an interview he is quoted as saying
"There are various forms of teleological theories, extending from Creationist intervention theories to nature mysticism. But these theories are (I don't want to be derogatory) an occultist type of theory. You can't really find any evidence that such phenomena are operating in nature, but you can see that natural selection can operate. This is a great strength of Darwinism. Although I think it is totally incapable of accounting for the broad picture, the complex adaptations required by the tree of life, it's certainly capable of generating a certain degree of evolutionary change. That is its great strength."
It is very clear throughout Denton's book that he considers creationism to be a myth and teleological design in general to be unscientific.
In his own words, Creation and design hypotheses in general are an "occultism type of theory."
So the accusation that he wrote this book with a certain philosophical priori in mind are unfair and inaccurate.
As to the criticism that Denton offers no alternative to Neo Darwinian theory, I can only say that that's a very large burden to place ont he shoulders of one man. Scientific revolutions are rarely made by a single individual. Even Darwin's hypothesis was spawned initially from the works of others before it came to stand on its own. Darwin's claim to fame is suggesting that changes in organisms are random and not directed. Before Darwin it was accepted that organisms change, but the idea is that change was somehow directed by the organism in some mysterious fashion. Those are the key differences in evolutionary thought before and after Darwinism.
In this book Dention is merely trying to get us to consider that Neo Darwinian evolution does not explain life completely, and should be reconsidered in some areas of science where it is applied.
It was said by one reviewer that Denton fails to provide another theory to replace evolution, yet that is circular logic. The implication in the reviewer's words is that Neo Darwinian evolution should be accepted until such a time as another theory can be provided. Yet, according to that logic, how can the sythesis of another theory explaining the origins of life even be attempted if one refuses to admit that there are problems in Neo Darwinian theory? Furthermore why should one even attempt to create another theory if no problems are perceived in the current theory?
Denton's purpose in writing this book therefore, is getting us to analyze the claims of Neo Darwinian theory, acknowledge the problems , and then proceed on the path to discovering a more complete theory of life.
As I stated before however, none of this can happen until it sufficiently demonstrated that there is a problem with the current theory. This is the purpose of Denton's book.
A theory should not be accepted just because there is nothing better to replace it.
I give this book three stars because the reviewer did have one good point. The information in Denton's book is severely outdated. To give just one example, one of the items in his list of proofs of evolution is Kettle's peppered moths. In 1998 however, Kettle's work was determined to have been falsified.
Since Kettle however, many other researchers have proven that evolution does happen. Or at least, we hope they've been far more honest than Kettle.
Also, this book lacks the insights from more recent research such as the human genome project. However, I cannot state for certain just how much recent research impacts Denton's arguments. Perhaps someone else can enlighten us on just how much the human genome project has taught us about macroevolution and Neo Darwinian theory.
All the recent research in the world will not matter if it does not give us new insights into how Neo Darwinian evolution might work on a macroevolutionary scale.
Despite its dated nature however, I found Denton's book to be enjoyable. He is objective and fair minded and that is quite rare in this modern age. If nothing else his book is valuable for its historical content. illustrates how the idea of evolution has changed throughout the years, and in doing that reminds us that even scientists are vulnerable to the human desire to "see what one wishes to see." Of looking through colored lenses so to speak.