- Hardcover: 260 pages
- Publisher: Jones & Bartlett Publishers; 1 edition (September 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0763719234
- ISBN-13: 978-0763719234
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 7.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,482,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Defending Evolution : A guide to the creation/evolution controversy 1st Edition
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"A well-researched, clearly presented, and judiciously argued account of the controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution and a valuable guide." -- Howard Gardner, Harvard University
"At last a book for teachers to help them cope with antievolutionism. Defending Evolution should be on every teacher's bookshelf." -- Eugenie Scott, Director, National Center for Science Education
"This book becomes a vital document in one of the most important issues of our age." -- Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard University
"This book is remarkable and indispensable for its irenic spirit....important and badly-needed." -- Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith
"This book should be in the hands of every educator dealing with the subject of evolution." -- Ernst Mayr, Harvard University
About the Author
Brian J. Alters, Ph.D. lead author, holds appointments internationally at McGill University, Montreal, where he was recently names William Dawson Scholar, and at Harvard University, Cambridge. Dr. Alters is Director of the newly created Evolution Education Research Centre.
Sandra M. Alters, Ph.D. is a former Associate Professor of Biology and Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and former Associate Professor of Biology at Salem State College (MA). Dr. Alters has authored three textbooks in addition to her most recent, Understanding Life, 3/e, and has written over 60 chapters and features in books about biology, evolution, and science education. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
As a high-school Biology teacher, I have often run into many of the beliefs and arguments that the Alters describe, hearing these ideas from students, parents, and administrators. It was helpful to get more background on their thinking, and this book clearly reveals the lack of integrity present in the organizations and some who follow them, as they try to twist the words of others in their "search for truth". It is frustrating to try to explain to students what science has learned, knowing there is very little probability that the student will change their mind, but if they do, the parents and administration would likely be very displeased.
But the Alters provide very helpful ammunition in this "war" (declared so by literal creationists). I am looking forward to applying some of their responses and teaching techniques to more greatly persuade my students, and have indeed already incorporated some ideas into future lesson plans. Of particular help is information notating the predominance of scientists believing evolution to be true, as well as the vast majority of Christian theologians; detailed outlining of the thought processi of literal creationists and their basic errors in logic; the differences in epistemological systems, particularly between theology and science; and detailed teaching techniques presented in the back to help students understand how evolution works.
For our great hurdle is that evolution, while the backbone of all biology, is so complex that it is difficult for students to fully understand it, especially when we have only 3-4 weeks out of a year to spend on the topic. While it is incorporated throughout the teaching year, we can't spend more than a few weeks on the subject in detail, for there are many other subjects in biology to be dealt with as well. And that few weeks is usually not enough time for a student to understand what evolution actually says. In the meantime, literal creationists spend most of their time arguing against the strawmen and strawapes they have created, advocating that scientists say that which they do not, in order to show evolutionists false. Would that we could take such a complex theory and explain it well enough to our students in the short time we have available, so that at least the students would no longer argue against that which we don't believe! I don't know if this is possible, but this book helps get us a lot closer.
The nature and roots of anti-evolution feeling in the U.S., the common misunderstandings students have about evolution, aids to teaching evolution, the nature of science, the importance of learning about evolution, religious considerations, educational considerations, and even significant court decisions are some of subjects covered.
Many teachers will welcome the thorough and thoughtful answers given to the usual, basic questions asked by students. Such questions often reflect a complete misunderstanding of science and/or evolution -- and may even be taken from creationist literature with the intention of intimidating the teacher and ridiculing evolution. Such questions often touch on deep issues and they certainly deserve careful answers.
This is a handbook that every thoughtful, biology teacher ought to have. I give it a "5".
While Moore's "From Genesis to Genetics" does a good job presenting the case for evolution to non-scientists, this book, Defending Evolution, does a far better job pointing out that anti-evolutonists are not all Bible thumping fundamentalists or even anti-scientists. This book also does a somewhat better job explaining why evolutionary theory is useful in biology, rather than just stating the case.
It is a deplorable fact that history has made the teaching of evolutionary science a "separation of Church and State" issue, almost as if evolutionary science were inherently atheistic, or anti-relgious. Some evolution writers have played right into this by linking their own anti-religious views to the defense of Darwin. One of the wonderful things about this book is that it manages to defend evolutionary theory science without attacking religion or the basis of most people's religious beliefs. This is far from an easy task, as many other authors have discovered.
Defending Evolution takes the confusions over evolution seriously rather than just discounting them as wrong, and patiently explains how biological science has resolved each of them. That makes this a very helpful teachers' guide, rather than just another polemic about how science is being abused.
Most importantly, this book does not make the mistake made by many others, equating anti-evolutionism with religion and then going off on an anti-religion argument. People have both religious and logical reasons for failing to understand concepts of evolutionary biology, and it is important not to lump then together, but to recognize the nuances.
Yes, in a sense, this book is "preaching to the choir" meaning that it will probably not itself be likely to go very far in convincing a hardcore anti-evolutionist that Darwin was right. For example, it explains that eyes and wings do not have to simply appear in their current form to be useful, addressing a common creationist misconception, but it does not illustrate the process in a visual way, and so probably would be be very convincing.
As a previous review demonstrated, people who find "macroevolution" implausible, whether on religious or non-relgious grounds, will probably not be tempted to change their mind reading the excellent explanations in this book. Big scientific ideas like natural selection that require inductive reasoning over a web of interlocking data are not going to suddenly make sense to someone opposed to them simply because they are explained patiently and logically. However, this approach probably goes a lot farther than anything previously written on the subject, because it avoids many of the polemics, unites scientists and educators against anti-science, and avoids associating anti-science with religion.
This book is a treasure for teachers facing the challenge of basic education in evolutionary theory in today's cultural climate, and one of the few relatively positive things to come out of the political controversies over teaching evolution in the U.S..
I highly recommend that everyone who teaches biology at least read this book, and perhaps use it to help identify supplementary materials that will address important areas of confusion that this book identifies.