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Evolution: A Theory In Crisis Paperback – April 15, 1986

4.0 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Denton pursues his avowed purpose, to critique the Darwinian model of evolution, in a manner alternately fascinating and tiresome. He details legitimate questions, some as old as Darwin's theory, some as new as molecular biology, but he also distorts or misrepresents other "problems." For example, he falls into the classic typological trap: organisms with the same name are all the same. He has Euparkeria as the closest possible ancestor of Archaeopteryx, thus displaying either ignorance or disregard for discoveries over the past two decades. He misunderstands or willfully misrepresents the nature of a cladogram as opposed to a phylogeny. Much of the book reads like creationist prattle, but there are also some interesting points. For informed readers. Walter P. Coombs, Jr., Biology Dept., Western New England Coll., Springfield, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Michael Denton is an Australian molecular biologist and medical doctor who has lived and worked in London, Toronto and Sydney, an who is best known of his biological research.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Adler & Adler; 3rd edition (April 15, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091756152X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0917561528
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matt on February 21, 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.
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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.
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Michael Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" is a classic for a reason. After a period of openness towards skepticism of Darwin in the 1960s, there was a revival of Darwinist orthodoxy in the 70s and 80s. Other than those involved with young-earth creationist organizations, there was very little in terms of an attempt at a scientific critique of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis. Michael Denton's book changed that, and it provided the foundation upon which later proponents of intelligent design would build. Most notably, Michael Behe, author of the famous (or infamous) "Darwin's Black Box" traces the beginning of his evolutionary skepticism to this book. In my estimation, Denton's book absolutely deserves its classic status.

The book aims at a comprehensive critique of Darwinian evolution. The essence of Darwinism, suggests Denton, is continuity. Darwinism suggests that life is fundamentally continuous, and that in principle, the gaps between living organisms can all be bridged, and were all bridged at some point in the past. By contrast, Denton holds to the discontinuous, typologist view of biology propounded in the 19th century by Richard Owen. Denton marshals a great deal of evidence, both theoretical and empirical, to buttress his case. He points out that for many organisms, even conceptualizing an intermediate is impossible. For example, the structure of a bird feather is such that its particular features are all required for it to fulfill its function at facilitating flight. The wing itself is a similar feature- anything which was adapted for faster running or gliding would look very different from a wing adapted for bird flight.
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