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Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins Textbook Binding – September, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0914513407 ISBN-10: 0914513400 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Textbook Binding: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Haughton Pub Co; 2nd edition (September 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0914513400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0914513407
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #318,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Biological origins can be one of the most captivating subjects in the curriculum. As a biology teacher, you have probably already seen how the topic excites your students. The allure of dinosaurs, trilobites, fossilized plants, and ancient human remains is virtually irresistible to many students. Indeed, many prominent scientists owe their interest in science to an early exposure to this topic.

The subject of origins, however, is not only captivating. It is also controversial. Because it touches on questions of enduring significance, this topic has long been a focal point for vigorous debate--legal and political, as well as intellectual. Teachers often find themselves walking a tight-rope, trying to teach good science, while avoiding the censure of parents or administrators.

To complicate things, the cultural conflict has been compounded by controversies within the scientific community itself. Since the 1970s, for example, scientific criticisms of the long-dominant neo-Darwinian theory of evolution (which combines classical Darwinism with Mendelian genetics) have surfaced with increasing regularity. In fact, the situation is such that paleontologist Niles Eldredge was driven to remark: "If it is true that an influx of doubt and uncertainty actually marks periods of healthy growth in science, then evolutionary biology is flourishing today as it seldom has in the past. For biologists are collectively less agreed upon the details of evolutionary mechanics than they were a scant decade ago. Moreover, many scientists have advocated fundamental revisions of orthodox evolutionary theory."

Similarly, the standard models explaining chemical evolution--the origin of the first living cell--have taken severe scientific criticism. These criticisms have sparked calls for a radically different approach to explaining the origin of life on earth.

Though many defenders of the orthodox theories remain, some observers now describe these theories as having entered paradigm breakdown--a state where a once-dominant theory encounters conceptual problems or can no longer explain many important data. Science historians Earthy and Collingridge, for example, have described new-Darwinism as a paradigm that's lost its capacity to solve important scientific problems. They note that both defenders and critics find it hard to agree even about what data are relevant to deciding scientific disagreements. Putting it more bluntly, in 1980 Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould pronounced the "neo-Darwinism synthesis" to be "effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy."

In this intellectual and cultural climate, knowing how to teach biological origins can be exceedingly difficult. When respected scientists disagree about which theories are correct, teachers may be forgiven for not knowing which ones to teach.

Controversy is not all bad, however, for it gives teachers the opportunity to engage their students at a deeper level. Instead of filling young minds with discrete facts and vocabulary lists, teachers can show their students the rough-and-tumble of genuine scientific debate. In this way, students begin to understand how science really works. When they see scientists of equal stature disagreeing over the interpretation of the same data, students learn something about the human dimension of science. They also learn about the distinction between fact and inference--and how background assumptions influence scientific judgment.

The purpose of this text is to expose your students to the captivating and the controversial in the origins debate--to take them beyond the pat scenarios offered in most basal texts and encourage them to grapple with ideas in a scientific manner.

Pandas does this in two ways. First, it offers a clear, cogent discussion of the latest data relevant to biological origins. In the process, it rectifies many serious errors found in several basal biology texts.

Second, Pandas offers a different interpretation of current biological evidence. As opposed to most textbooks, which present the more-or-less orthodox neo-Darwinian accounts of how life originated and diversified, Pandas also presents a clear alternative, which the authors call "intelligent design." Throughout, the text evaluates how well different views can accommodate anomalous data within their respective interpretive frameworks. As students learn to weigh and sort competing views and become active participants in the clash of ideas, you may be surprised at the level of motivation and achievement displayed by your students.

About the Author

Percival Davis--Co-Author. Professor of Life Science, Hillsborough Community college, Tampa, Florida, since 1968; author of several college level biology texts, including Biology with Caude Villee and Eldra Solomon (W.B. Saunders, 1985); B.A. in zoology from DePauw University; M.A. in zoology from Columbia University; 60 credit hours beyond the Master's degree at Columbia University and the University of south Florida in zoology, ecology and physiology.

Dean H. Kenyon--Co-Author. Professor of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California; contributing author to festschrifts of A.I. Oparin and Sidney Fox; coauthor of Biochemical Predestination (McGraw-Hill, 1969), which was the best-selling advanced level book on chemical evolution in the 1970s; S.B. in physics, 1961 from the University of Chicago; Ph.D. in biophysics, 1965 from Stanford University; National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow 1965-1966 at the University of California, Berkeley; visiting scholar in 1974 to Trinity College, Oxford University; Associate, chemical Evolution Branch, NASA-Ames Research Center in California, 1974-1976; Phi Beta Kappa.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: Introduction Of Pandas and People: An Overview Excursion Chapter One: The Origin of Life Excursion Chapter Two: Genetics and Macroevolution Excursion Chapter Three: The Origin of Species Excursion Chapter Four: The Fossil Record Excursion Chapter Five: Homology Excursion Chapter Six: Biochemical Similarities

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Customer Reviews

Buy this book if you are an idiot.
This book was written to support the claim that Intelligent Design theory should be considered as a scientific alternative to evolution and common descent.
P. S. Braterman
And religion should stop trying to explain things, since this is science's realm.
R. Leao

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

835 of 955 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Brauer on January 29, 2004
Format: Textbook Binding
I finally got around to reading this book, and was astonished to find that nearly all of Michael Denton's impossibly wrong account of hierarchies in taxonomy was included as chapter six. Denton, in his "Evolution: A theory in crisis" bases the whole of his argument against common descent on a profound misunderstanding of the nature of molecular data. The error is so egregious that, had he submitted it to any organismal biologist for review, it would have been obvious enough to warrant the cutting of the chapter. Denton himself has acknowledged the error, and retracted his attack against common descent.
So what does it say that this "textbook" accepts with an uncritical eye the argument, verbatim, and makes it the foundation of its discussion on molecular systematics? Only that the authors were ill-informed about the field.
It is unfathomable that any student will get anything of scientific substance from this book. The arguments are incoherent, and the data are woefully out of date. The representations of modern biology are laughably simplistic.
As a propoganda tool, Of Pandas and People is of marginal value, as its muddy arguments are not likely to make much of an impression on thoughtful students. As a "science textbook" it is downright shameful.
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515 of 607 people found the following review helpful By James on February 19, 2003
Format: Textbook Binding
This book engages in simple false alternative negative argumentation against evolutionary theory and provides no positive arguments in support of intelligent design.
The book opens stating, "...we will present interpretations of the data proposed by those today who hold the two alternative concepts: those with a Darwinian frame of reference, as well as those who adhere to intelligent design.", yet research scientist George Gilchrist of the University of Washington was able to find only 37 instances of the keyword "intelligent design" in over 6,000 scientific and academic journals worldwide. Of the 37, most were irrelevant dealing with computer software or hardware, architectural or engineering design, advertising art, literature, fertilizer manufacture, or welding technology. Only 7 had anything to do with biology, and of these, 5 were discussions of the debate over using the Pandas textbook by various school boards and 2 were comments on Behe's book in a Christian magazine.
There is not a single instance of biological research using intelligent-design theory to explain life's diversity, and though both Davis and Keynon are professional scientists, neither has apparently published anything in the professional literature about their theory.
This book is systematically dismantled by Robert T. Pennock in his book, "Tower of Babel" and has been criticized by creationist, Norman L. Geisler, professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, because the book "appeas[es our] enemies [by] avoiding the word 'creation' like the plague" and for not clearly distinguishing their view from that of "naturalistic (pantheistic) 'creationsits' who see the creator within the universe.
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218 of 262 people found the following review helpful By "porutpaal" on May 13, 2003
Format: Textbook Binding
This book is a pseudoscientific masterpiece. Laudatory reviews from the authors' own corner musn't mislead us into giving this book anything less than two-thumbs down. The authors have used many tools of bad reasoning to establish their deliberately flawed theory - for instance presenting the Cambrian Explosion as an instantaneous event; rather than an 'explosion' in cosmic timescale. So the typical high-schooler who has little idea of the scope of cosmic time (in which a million years is mere table stakes) will deduce that the Cambrian Explosion is evidence of instantaneous Intelligent Creation! Voila! How fabulous! To develop a substantial understanding of the Cambrian Explosion one has to read much more beyond an Undergrad text book - one has to comb thru a 100 papers and at least 3 textbooks on evolution. Only then will one understand that the Cambrian Explosion happened over several millions of years and it in fact is one of the strongest bodies of evidence that supports evolution. The sections on molecular biology are so incorrect that it is virtually useless. "Creationism" sympathisers derive their opinions from such pseudoscientific tracts and swallow the incorrect criticisms therein and make statements like, "there are serious flaws and yawning gaps in explanations of evolution..." instead of taking the time and trouble to read through the voluminous scientific literature on the subject or at least going through a good text book in their library. But then who is interested in the pursuit of knowledge?
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129 of 154 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on August 18, 2005
Format: Textbook Binding
One doesn't have to open this book to appreciate how eager the authors are to make their point, even at the expense of truth and respectable scholarship. The blurb they wrote to attempt to get their work into the schools under guise of a textbook offers "in 1980 Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould pronounced the "neo-Darwinism synthesis" to be "effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy."

Anyone who has ever read Stephen Jay Gould (as opposed to merely fishing for anti-Darwin quotes out of context) would know that he is one of the most devoted proponents of evolutionary theory in the world today. Books such as "the Panda's Thumb" (ironic title given this book, eh?) blow to pieces the usual arguements about "structure of the eye", and similar complex biological structures, that are so often raised by creationists to discredit Darwin. In its place he presents the facts supporting a theory so elegant, logical, and just downright correct that the more we learn about biological systems, the more we see evolutionary theory supported down to the smallest microbe.

What Gould and many other scientists have long acknowledged was that while Darwin's basic theory of evolution is cleary correct, the fine points of the mechanism of genetic change are not yet fully understood. Gould points out the flaws in Darwin's original assumptions on this count, and analyzes the fossil record and other scientific evidence in a SCIENTIFIC manner to offer up what is now one of the leading modern theories to explain this mechanism...Punctuated Equilibrium.
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