Most helpful critical review
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A concise beginner's walk-thru of biological evolution with ample documentation, and an ideological bias that would kill a horse
on December 12, 2006
This book clarifies a number of possible amateur misconceptions about the biological theory of evolution with well documented notes, adds a few comments to the evolution/creation debate, and goes outside of science to promote evolution based on an ideology that excludes the possibility of design. Thus, while clarifying misconceptions about evolution, this book harms the public's understanding of the theory by presenting information from a philosophical bias that would render the theory true regardless of the evidence.
The book clarifies nine myths about evolution. The title claims ten myths, but "Myth Nine: Intelligent Design is Science", is not about evolution at all, but is a promotion of the philosophy that makes evolutionary theory true by default by excluding the possibility of design. Such an argument would make evolutionary theory unfalsifiable.
Some of what the book labels "myths" are not misconceptions, but simply differences in philosophy. The authors state that investigating biology via "methodological naturalism" will provide the best explanation for life. Such a belief is based on the assumption that either life is not designed or such is not determinable. "Methodological naturalism" makes evolution the "best explanation" by arbitrarily making it the only possible consideration. Ironically, the ability to scientifically distinguish that which is designed from that which is evolved is precisely what is needed in order to scientifically show that species evolved from a common ancestor.
While explaining current evolutionary theory well, the book is also a treatise for a world view based on the evolutionary paradigm. The introduction implies that people reject evolution only out of ignorance, and says that evolution is central to making moral and political decisions about such things as endangered species, stem cell research, and genetic engineering. To the authors, ignorance of evolution is ignorance of not only a biological theory, but ignorance of the correct world view.
Though claiming evolution as the scientific foundation of modern biology, the book does not adequately explain how rejecting the theory would hinder further biological study. Instead, the authors criticize Intelligent Design theory by saying ID prematurely stops scientific inquiry. The fact that physical phenomenon remain open to scrutiny regardless of their method of production (e.g., the intelligently designed Antikythera mechanism is as open to scientific investigation as the bacterial flagella) shows that the authors' critique concerns a historical world view, not threats to scientific analysis.
"Myth Three: The Ladder of progress" posits no teleology, design, or purpose in biological systems. Such a metaphysical assertion is out of place in a book about science, but fits well into the ideology the book promotes. The authors do not recognize that their definition of science excludes teleology a priori; hence anyone investigating reality using the authors' version of science would be unable to recognize design even in a computer.
In spite of a concise description of evolutionary theory, the authors appear disingenuous in comparing biological evolution to a parody of the creationist argument that changes within a species can produce only sub-species. The authors misinform the reader by commenting throughout the book that creationists believe that all organisms are "unchangeable over time" and remain genetically the same today as when they were originally created. The book uses no quotation to back these statements; a testament to the fact that no creationist believes such.
All in all, while this book does a good job explaining modern evolutionary theory, be aware it also perpetuates misinformation about creationism, and promotes a philosophy of science that would make evolutionary theory true on philosophical, rather than empirical, grounds.