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3.8 out of 5 stars
Evolution: A Theory In Crisis
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54 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2005
Format: Paperback
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.
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208 of 287 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
Denton's book is a first-rate critique of contemporary versions of Darwinism and is filled with original and compelling arguments. The usual suspects have, naturally, attacked the book with the usual generic accusations, but don't be mislead: "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" is not a defense of "Scientific Creationism" and definitely does not go wrong in easy and obvious ways. It is a penetrating account of features of the natural world that mutation and natural selection are simply inadequate to explain. From biochemistry to the fossil record, Denton systematically demolishes the "fact" of evolution as a sufficient explanation for the world as it is. Denton doesn't deny that evolution occurs; he is, for example, sanguine about the "horse series." He claims, however, that evolution, taken as mutation and natural selection, is no more than a partial answer. His his explication and analysis of the avian respiratory system is as convincing as anything in Mike Behe's book. Some have tried to explain away problems in evolution as owing to the paucity of human imagination, but Denton doesn't merely ask, "How could this have evolved?" e.g., the feather, avian respiration, etc. He argues positively that certain features cannot have evolved, that intermediate forms are not just difficult to imagine, they are impossible. There are those who judge books critical of evolution without actually reading them, evidently considering that to be needless toil. They "know" that evolution is true and explains everything, and therefore "know" that all critics have bad motives and worse education. Those who find that they need actually to read a book in order to fairly judge it will find Denton reasonable, extremely well-informed, clear, readable and thought-provoking. I highly recommend "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis."
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
I first read Michael Denton's book shortly after it came out in 1986. Since then I have read many other books on the subject including Michael Behe's excellent book "Darwin's Black Box."

Contrary to what some reviews might claim reading Behe's books or Denton's book is not an either or question. In fact they are very complementary and I would recommend that anyone interested in the issue of Intelligent design vs random chance and billions of years read Denton's book first as it is an overall better introduction to the debate.

Evolution: A Theory in Crisis starts off describing Darwin's voyages aboard the HMS Beagle and explains quite powerfully how Darwin came to believe in natural selection as a driving force for evolution. Denton also eloquently shows how the fact that Darwin's theory was used to justify white / European superiority to what the Europeans of the day considered to be the lesser races. Denton then methodically proceeds to give us a well-written and detailed overview of the many disciplines that touch on this debate and some of the problems they face in making a case for Macro evolution.

While Denton does mention the Bible in the context of describing the thinking of pre-Darwin times, his critique of current evolutionary thinking comes from the basis of science.

While one might be tempted to think that since "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" was written in 1986 it is out of date, if so one would be wrong in that Denton's critiques of the various flawed approaches that attempt to validate purely naturalist evolution are still 100 percent valid, with one possible exception. That exception being Denton's view on the Molecular Clock theory of evolution.

This change in thinking led Denton to write another book "Natures Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe." This book is not a repudiation of Denton's excellent critique of the many scientifically flawed ways evolutionist have tried to support their theory, but instead Denton does do an about face on the importance of the Molecular Clock which in his first book he dismissed as a tautology, but which in his second book he now believes provides evidence for intelligent design of a sort.
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83 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 1998
Format: Paperback
I was expecting the material to be updated since it is a 1996 SECOND EDITION copy. But it was just a reprinting of the original, outdated text. Is there good information in there? Yes, some, but quoting from a 13-year-old book when trying to debate an evolutionist is rather pointless. Besides, in his newest book NATURE'S DESTINY, Michael Denton seems to do a complete turn around - he now states that evolution did occur and did overcome all of the arguments he previously made. As another example of his change, he now embrases the "molecular clock", which he denounced in this book. All in all, I think if you are short on cash, avoid this book (and in my opinion, his new one as well) and opt instead for DARWIN'S BLACK BOX by Michael Behe - it is much better and more up-to-date.
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88 of 127 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
It's amazing to me that Denton's book written 15 years ago (1985)has been largely ignored. It is the best book I have ever read in criticism of The Theory of Evolution; and it does it from a purely scientific basis. Denton a Molecular Biologist removes all of the supports (if there ever were any) from Darwin's theory of macro-evolution (continuity of life). Denton blasts all of the previous arguments made by the pro-evolutionists showing that there is essentially no support of macro-evolution in the fossil record. He also, clearly demonstrates that there is no support coming from his specialty molecular biology. In the end the only sound explanation he can make is that life is profoundly discontinous. Denton makes another point that is particularly interesting, he demonstrates that it is the anti-evolutionists (not to be confused with creationists) that have always utilized a scientific approach to their argument while the evolutionists have been guilty of at best pseudo-science. This book is worth reading for anyone who wants to approach the subject matter objectively and scientifically.
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51 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
It's been at least seven years since I read the first edition of this book, but I remain impressed by the persuasiveness of Denton's argument.
Like some of the other reviewers, I have a strong feeling that the people who have given this book bad reviews have never read it. I gather this not from how they have ranked it, but rather what they've written.
This is too bad because Denton provides a good opportunity for building honest, open-minded dialogue between the two opposing camps in the evolution debate. The book is argumentative, but it is also educational (I especially enjoyed learning about the feather - the complexities of which I was previously unaware).
I would also recommend Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" as an excellent complementary read, since it explores the relevance of molecular biology to this subject in greater detail.
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67 of 99 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This book is outdated. Even when it first came out in 1986 it was outdated. (And the new edition does little to correct this.) I was struck as I read the book that the arguments seemed somehow to be lacking in modern information. So I took a look at the sources, copiously listed in the endnotes of each chapter. And the overwhelming number of the sources date to the 60s and 70s, or even earlier. In fact, the average source date for Denton's cites was 1912! Admittedly, this includes original source dates that refer to The Origin of Species, and responding sources in the years afterward. But as one reads through the endnotes, you can't but be impressed by how even the scientific data that Denton is relying on is usually 20 years out of date- *from the time when this book was written*!

Why is this an issue? After all, why would having old sources make a difference, if the arguments are sound? Because it claims to be a scientific text. And it is precisely in the area of science that discovery and information change and progress so rapidly. A scientific paper written ten years ago is usually passe- unless it was groundbreaking to begin with.

This source problem is seen in a number of specific areas. When Denton wrote his work, there was no Human Genome Project- we hadn't even mapped the genetic code of a Nematode at that point! Having a complete map of the genetic code of an organism makes a big difference in understanding evolutionary theory. Chaos Theory was in its infancy, if present at all, and there was therefore no mathematical formulas to demonstrate how random events can have an underlying logical consistency allowing for progression. Or there was the old creationist argument of the problem with whale evolution, that there were no transitional fossils, and how illogical it was to claim that whales could evolve from hoofed hyena-like animals, when there were (admittedly) so many great changes that must occur in the organism. That is, until the 1990s, when we discovered every single transitional fossil in whale evolution, showing the complete progression from a land animal to the modern whale, giving us today one of the best fossil lineages in evolutionary theory.

There are other serious problems with the book. Denton makes claims that were not true even in the 80s (or 60s), such as the lack of transitional fossils in general. He seems to focus on the lack of transitional fossils between classes, and then makes the claim that there is a mystical class boundary, denying evolution occurs *within* classes, and ignoring all the transitional fossils within classes. He conveniently ignores all the transitional fossils between different fish classes, reflecting his human terrestrial bias, probably lumping Petromyzone, Myxini, Chondrichthyes, and Osteichthyes as just "fish". He suggests that things are too improbable, making the argument of "irreducible complexity", that the cilia and flagella and bird's wing couldn't have evolved, citing a few sources from evolutionists to support his claim. In the process he ignores a lot of much more recent research which has found transitional forms, and discovered ways that these structures could have evolved. He makes strong arguments to imply that evolution only occurred because it satisfied the philosophical needs of the popular theories of Darwin's day and subsequently. He's probably right on that one. But he skips over how every theory ever believed is generally held true because it fulfills the philosophical ideas of the people of their day- including the belief in immediate divine creation.

I appreciate that Denton came from a scientific perspective. But his arguments don't hold up. I firmly believe in the God of the Old and New Testament. I don't believe evolution is perfect in it's theory- it's still being worked on. It's simply the best theory we've got. And in the end, Denton does nothing to change that. At the end of his book Denton refers to how, throughout human history, a theory is believed until a new, better one comes along. Precisely. This is standard scientific method. And Denton doesn't guide us to an alternative; he gives nothing to indicate a new encompassing theory that might have half the evidence to support it that evolution currently does.

If you want to read a book that explains ideas that are outdated from 15 years ago, 35 years ago, 100 years ago, and understand it as modern science, this is the book for you. Otherwise, I'd recommend Darwin's Ghost, by Steve Jones, which updates Origin of a Species, and Finding Darwin's God, by Kenneth Miller, which deals with the issues of Christian theology and evolution from an author who holds to both.

(This review refers to the 1985 hard copy.)
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Those who wish to know how Denton stands should browse his last chapter. He regards Darwin's views as "thoroughly substantiated" (p344) for "microevolution" (including speciation), but not for "macroevolution". He has an emotional bias against Darwinian theory, and regrets (357)"the lack of any scientifically acceptable competitor". He dismisses Creationism (p355) and says "Darwinism remains, therefore, the only truly scientific theory of evolution". His hoped-for alternative apparently involves unexplained "fundamental discontinuities".
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found Denton's book quite interesting but the critique slightly limited in its scope. Richard Milton's "Shattering the Myths of Darwinism" was for me, a much better read and a lot more informative. I believe Milton also claims to be "non-creationist".
Anyway, the heart of the issue for both books is the veracity of the theory of general or macro-evolution.
Going by the latest issue of Time magazine, many of us continue to be fascinated by the topic. I suspect we seek the answers not so much because we are interested in Archeopteryx or Australopethicus or biogenesis per se, but because we want to be a little clearer as to whether we are accountable to God.
For what it's worth, I think we are.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 1996
Format: Hardcover
A must for anyone interested in understanding the fundamentals
of Evolution. Mr. Denton performs the near-impossible as he brings
the basics of Evolution to a level comprehendable by the layperson.

From fossils to microbiology, explore the origins of man as presented
by few others. A little foggy on the details? Unable to discuss the
subject in an expert manner? This book is a must. Denton may be the most honest
scientist in the field today!
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