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The Triumph of Evolution: and the Failure of Creationism Paperback – December 1, 2001


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Amazon.com Review

Is evolution a religious belief? Is Genesis a scientific report? These are two of the tacks taken by "scientific creationists" to reach their goal of stopping the teaching of evolution in public schools, a goal paleontologist Niles Eldredge claims is purely political. In The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism, Eldredge exposes the deep flaws in creationists' arguments and calls for those who love and respect the scientific process of gathering knowledge to engage their opponents in the culture war wholeheartedly. This brief but powerful book by one of our leading evolutionary theorists is careful not to dehumanize the intellectual and political adherents of "intelligent design theory." It focuses on the importance of teaching all children in our society how science and technology work. To do this, he tells us that we must not muddy the waters by agreeing that science and religion have overlapping domains. Skillfully explaining the theory and the most popular arguments against it, Eldredge arms the reader for battle with creationists. Three appendices offer information on recent court decisions and means to get involved in the continuing struggle for proper science education. It's time to take the creationists seriously, and The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism is a great place to start. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Kansas educators delete Darwin. A Berkeley law professor treats evolution as just another hypothesis. Other high-profile creationists turn up on TV and influence local school boards. What's a science educator to do? Though theorists argue ancillary issues, scientific debates on Darwin's core ideas have been over for a century: Darwin's side won. But the proven theory still requires public advocates. Eldredge (The Pattern of Evolution), a paleontologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, has tangled with creationists before (notably in 1982's The Monkey Business); his new work is mostly an articulate, clear and unstinting brief for evolution by means of natural selection, and for the scientific method against its enemies. Evolution's other public champions often content themselves with explaining its workings: Eldredge does so ably, demonstrating how the fossil record functions as testable evidence for evolution, and what sort of speciations and extinctions it contains. He then dissects specific creationist programs, contending that public figures like Duane Gish and Philip Johnson exhume disproven Victorian geology; that they misunderstand complex structures (like wings and eyes); and that they distort evidence and misrepresent working scientists (among them Eldredge himself) to create a false impression of fair debate. Other biologists simply maintain that science and religion are apples and oranges. Eldredge instead suggests that belief and biology can and should collaborateAnot in the classroom, but in raising public awareness of mass extinctions and other threats to the environment. Readers of all kinds will appreciate his energetic exposition; Eldredge hopes in particular to reach people involved in ongoing political battlesAteachers (and others) confronted with creationist arguments, and students (and others) who don't know what to believe. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805071474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805071474
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,858,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 148 people found the following review helpful By Evan K. Yeung on May 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Eldridge's book is primarily for the "already converted" (of which I am one) who are convinced that evolution occurred. His book gives a cursory overview of the arguments that creationism uses against evolution, but his book really breaks no new ground in this argument. What he states in this book has been already stated numerous times by other authors. Perhaps it is because there doesn't seem to be any NEW arguments for creationist theory (unless you count Behe's molecular irreducible complexity hypothesis). However, from one of the pre-eminent "deans" of evolutionary theory, I would have thought that he would have given more specifics from the scientific literature, including discoveries of feathered dinosaurs, amphibian transitional fossils with gills AND lungs, and the step-by-step transitions of land mammals to whales. I was hoping for more details about new findings on the lineage of hemoglobin, and the development of the clotting cascade and krebs cycle (of which Behe is so fond of)... Eldridge describes in adequate detail the evolutionary lineage of humans, but most of his rebuttal arguments for evolution and the facts supporting it are are very general. Instead of explaining how isotopic dating works, he merely states in essence that "scientists have done it and it works". When explaining the nuances of horse evolution, he summarizes by telling us that individual species got bigger and some of their toes got smaller. He does not show us... only tells us this happened and then trusts us to believe him and scientific data.
Unfortunately, this may not work well in the popular literature.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By W. S. Jones on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Being a Christian I read this book with the intention of understanding what evolutionists believe more accurately. The snippets of quotes from creationist literature didn't provide me with enough material in context to understand scientific ideas (I didn't think). I was correct.
This book really explained some things to me that I didn't understand before, like how the Linnaean classification system fit within evolution and how punctuated equilibrium was explained. It also gave some answers to the creation scientists' claims (gaps in the fossil record, "kinds" reproducing, etc).
This said, I was actually very happy with the book until I came to Chapter 7, "Can We Afford A Culture War". For a paleontologist (who ostensibly is interested only in communicating "good science") to explain the role religions of the world have in saving the environment and how we can all live together in peace and harmony seems to me a bit of a stretch. I think he should have stuck to the subject.
The author is rightly disturbed by the way creationists discuss several different fields of specialty during a debate when the scientist on the other side of the issue can only discuss his or her specialty. Of course you wouldn't expect a biologist to discuss the fossil record - that's the job of a paleontologist. Yet this is exactly what the author does in chapter 7 - he plays the role of philosopher and theologian by explaining how outmoded the "narrow minded" evangelical Christians will continue to hold back the "true" religion of the universalist.
I would recommend this book to creationists and others sans that last chapter. I also like the new formatting style of leaving a line between paragraphs - much easier on the eyes.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was dissapointed with this book. I was looking for a good book that could really make the case for evolution over creationism. (I am a firm believer in evolution but wanted the book for a creationist friend.) However, instead of really stepping through the logic, the author rests on claims that this issue or that issue has already been thoroughly proven. Although I don't disagree with the author, it hardly makes a compelling case for people who don't already believe in evolution.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to reading this book when I ordered it. However, I was very disappointed in it once it arrived. As a professional biologist and an evolutionist, I found Elderidge's arguments weak and unconvincing. He missed many modern examples of transitional species such as feathered dinosaurs like Protoavis. At times, his argument seems too passionate for scientific discourse. I also got the impression that this book was an advertisement for his up-coming book on "god", which he mentioned at least 5 - 10 times throughout the text. I guess I expected more from one of the "big names" in the field.
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49 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Eldridge may have been motivated by the opportunity to lay to rest an absurd battle, but he has also chosen to use this book as an excellent introduction to scientific enquiry and the fascinating process by which the theories of evolution are developed. A worthy read for anyone who is interested in scientific progress and evolutionary theory over the past two-hundred years. And a very worthy read for anyone interested in non-scientific challenges that must be combatted, especially in the on-going unilateral war against science education in public schools.
Eldridge is eminently clear about the battle lines: science v. biblical literalism. (See review above for a vision of what our collective future might be. Ouch!) He does not underestimate his opponent, although he is happy to give them a good ribbing where needed. In angrier hands, this book might have been nothing more than vindictive, but Eldridge maintains a pretty level head; I suppose twenty years of debate against fundamentalists would foster patience. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, as it augers well for the future our public education system might enjoy, and encourages readers to lead the way.
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