- Paperback: 278 pages
- Publisher: Zero Books (September 16, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1780996497
- ISBN-13: 978-1780996493
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,545,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mythology of Evolution
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About the Author
Chris Bateman is a game designer, outsider philosopher and author, best known for the games Discworld Noir and Ghost Master, and the books Game Writing: NarrativeSkills for Videogames, 21st Century Game Design and Beyond Game Design. He has worked on more than thirty digital game projects over the last fifteen years, primarily with his acclaimed consultancy International Hobo.Graduating with a Masters degree in Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Science, he has since pursued highly-acclaimed independent research into how and why people play games. In 2009, he was invited to sit on the IEEE's Player Satisfaction Modelling task force, in recognition for his role in establishing this research domain. His most recent player model, BrainHex, is based upon neurobiological principles published in his paper 'The Neurobiology of Play', and the BrainHex test has been taken by more than 75,000 people.Chris has also travelled the world studying religious practices and beliefs, and has taken part in everything from Native American sweat lodges to Pagan solstice celebrations, as well as visiting Buddhist and Shinto shrines in Japan, and witnessing traditional tribal religions in Africa whilst visiting the Sahel Reserve near the Sahara desert.His blog Only a Game (http://onlyagame.typepad.com) deals with both philosophy and digital game theory, and contains a prolific array of articles, many of which have been featured elsewhere. He is considered to be one of the major commentators on the videogame industry, an expert on player satisfaction modelling, and a proficient philosopher.
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Top Customer Reviews
But this is no anti-evolution book. It is a plea for scientific honesty. It is a well reasoned destruction of the existing logical battlements erected in the 100 year war between Evolutionists and Intelligent Design adherents. It offers new alternative scientific mythologies to replace "Survival of the Fittest", pointing out that "nature red in tooth and claw" is only useful in explaining apex predators, challenging the definition of Success in an evolutionary context. Success may reasonably be defined as being alive--each of our ancestors was undeniably successful. If you measure success by biomass, single celled creatures are the winners! Plus, predators are actually more prone to extinction since they are dependent on the success of the animals on their menu.
The complaint against the scientific merit of the Evolutionists' mythology is its poor service in explaining all the verifiable facts. The book offers alternative metaphors to reopen the discussion about the mechanics of Evolution in the hopes of breaking the current stagnation of entrenched positions on both sides of the debate.
Bateman also cautions against playing "How-Why" games--telling "folktales dressed up as Science". Is the polar bear white because white fur confers selective advantage for sneaking up on seals? Or did white bears evolve as a defense against other predators, and as a result find they could more easily sneak up on seals? There is no truly scientific experiment to determine whether the seal diet is a cause or an effect of having white fur!
Attention to attribution gives a more academic feel to this book than you might get a from a Richard Dawkins book. When you successfully challenge the scientific merit of a popular science author's position, you can expect a counter attack on the merits of your argument, so Bateman can be forgiven for focusing on building a logical foundation first and leaving out the literary drama. This is just an early step on the road to recovery: first, admit there is a problem with the scientific integrity of the Evolutionist position! The bibliography is a good starting point for those interested in further research into the philosophical underpinnings of the author's perspectives.
I recommend this book for anyone who has sensed an over-reach of "scientific" conclusions based on discoveries related to Evolution and has been at a loss to articulate their concerns in an honest debate on the subject.
As a student studying astrophysics, Bateman experienced classmates who tweaked their lab findings to meet their professor's expectations for the gravitational constant. Apparently this bad experience left him skeptical about the truth seeking of science and later led him to abandon astrophysics altogether. Ultimately, he seems to find truth nowhere stating, "fact is not the opposite of fiction, but a different kind of fiction". I do not know about you, but when I look outside and see my car in the driveway and remember parking it there, it is a fact that my car is sitting in my driveway. Some facts are facts and truth does exist (at least in my world).
Heavily leaning on the science philosophies of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper Bateman distorts their work to conform to his own mythology, concluding that science is not truth seeking, which neither philosopher claims. Instead, Kuhn claims that science advances in stages including normal science which conducts experiments against the current prominent paradigm, and paradigm shifting which involves a metaphorical redefinition of a particular scientific space, e.g., the shift from Newtonian theory of gravitation attraction to Einstein's gravitation distortion of space. Kuhn adds that with his incommensurability concept that these theories cannot be directly compared because they exist in different conceptual frameworks. It is possible and general practice, however, to test which theory fits the data better and provides the better predictions for new situations. Popper accepts that the sciences are informative truths but a scientific theory requires necessarily a way to demonstrate it is incorrect by the results of experimentation resulting in its falsification. Instead, Bateman states unequivocally that science in pursuit of the truth is a mythology and is false (even though everything appears false to Bateman).
Bateman proceeds to reject the evolutionary concepts of ladder of progress (which is not accepted by evolutionists), survival of the fittest, the selfish gene (which a minority of evolutionist accept), kin selection, intelligent design (which almost no one believes) and/or natural selection (which most scientists believe) and adaptationism (a concept basically of the gene centric). He offers his alternatives chain of inheritance (no one would argue with that one), refinement of possibilities (what does that mean?), advantages persist (what?), co-operation is an advantage, metaphor of design, and conditions for existence. These are generally poorly defined or already accepted and are undefended with evidence of any kind. He starts first of all with a very dated view of current evolutionary theory but instead is apparently continuing a debate with Dawkins and Dennett extending from his past. His arguments against these are restatements made by others for the most part and probably better studied via the original publications. He rejects intelligent design along with design by natural selection for reasons including that "nature" is not selecting and that natural selection does not meet Popper's requirement for science that a theory be falsifiable. The last argument is false since fossil evidence, molecular genetics evidence and laboratory studies with a range of species have all resulted in confirmatory results and any of these might have falsified the theory.
Bateman's disdain for science is surprising because he claims to be a student of it and a practitioner. Disdain for Dawkins and Dennett is understandable with their publications having definitely overstated the gene centric argument and aggressively defended their approach even as evolution science is moving on without them. They go further to conclude that evolution eliminates the need for God making belief in God no longer necessary. Obviously this is upsetting people and coupling these is totally unnecessary with the former a hypothesis to be tested by science and the latter a theological discussion as Bateman points out. There are similar outlandish scientists that make even wilder claims: e.g., the universe as a quantum computer, cosmological natural selection, multiple universes, etc. None of these metaphors is testable today, nor do we have any path forward to the day when they can be tested. These apparently are less objectionable because they do not cause anyone unpleasant feelings.
His conclusions must partly be due to his requirement for "proofs" or perfect outcomes and his apparent disregard for statistical or probabilistic arguments. I would offer instead of labeling new scientific theories as mythologies one might call them new theories, theories with some a priori beliefs, e.g., a Bayesian approach. Experimental data is combined with the probabilities of the a priori beliefs to obtain an a posteriori probability. Each theory has one or more alternative theory which might be more probable if the experimental evidence points in that direction. As multiple scientists conduct independent experiments the evidence builds toward one or the other theory as being better at explaining the natural system. A high probability gives the scientist confidence that a theory is true and enables the consumers of these results -- engineers, technologists-- to use the predictability often in a very practical way. This is the way science can work in the absence of absolute proof and is why the scientific realists believe an accepted scientific theory is "true, approximately true, or likely true".
Bateman makes the often stated claim that the existence of God is not a scientific question because this question lies outside the realm that Popper claims is the domain of science. I would dispute this saying if a scientific hypothesis regarding God is made then it is likely testable. An example might be "A God does not exist who can appear in material form or work through a human agent and perform miracles that can be observed by multiple independent objective witnesses". We can test any such claims of miracles with objective evidence supported by multiple and independent witnesses by investigating any and all such occurrences. We can also have Saints, Priests, Pastors or any such practitioners who claim to be able to perform miracles through the power of God to perform in the presence of scientists to test their claim. Any demonstration of such an appearance of God or God acting through a human agent and performing a miracle would falsify the theory that such a God does not exist. You can easily add the argument that the sciences of geology, cosmology, biology, and evolution have theoretical constructs that explain how nature works without the need of God. Adding God violates Occam's Razor because these theories do not require God to work and because adding God solves nothing since someone then needs to explain where God came from.
Probably the most disturbing element of this book is that Bateman argues against evolution being taught in American schools. He argues that scientists have caused the issue by making evolution an argument against God which has offended the religious. Bateman also questions natural selection as the designer of Earth's creatures concluding this to be as false as intelligent design. He totally misses the fact that America was formed as a secular state by design mostly by religious people and deists who wished to have religious freedom from institutionalized religion that was practiced in the most oppressive way in Europe. His equating the teaching of evolution in schools to the historic suppression human religious rights including the burning of infidels in Europe is pathetically ridiculous. He grants that intelligent design is based on religion so that cannot be taught in American schools without violation of the separation of church and state and would limit religious freedom because it would represent an institutionalized religious belief. His belief that evolution is too controversial to be accepted science is an extremely outlying view. Evolution is overwhelming accepted by scientists and the basic components of common ancestry, inheritance with modification and selective inheritance of advantageous traits are also generally accepted. There is still much debate on the specifics of evolutionary details and a new extended evolutionary synthesis maybe emerging that includes multilevel selection along with epigenetic inheritance. That is the way science works and is totally consistent with the ideas of Kuhn. I would argue that instead of scientists being responsible for the recent debate which has been quiet since the period of the Scopes trial, it is the evangelicals that are causing the fight by insisting creationism be taught in schools. Bateman raises the point himself that scientists are often able to draw a line between science and religion but religionists are not able to draw that line.
Bateman also argues that teaching evolution in high school has no benefit to students at that level. What a ridiculous point of view! My granddaughter is being taught about dinosaurs in pre-school. What are we going to tell her is the reason they no longer walk the Earth (they fly around instead) and mammals are the dominant large species? As a biochemist myself and having been a student of biology, zoology, physiology, chemistry and physics in high school I could not imagine teaching these while eliminating one the most important scientific theories of all time. You simply cannot learn zoology, biology or physiology without evolution. Evolution is science end of story. We teach science in our high schools because most students do not go beyond that level of education, those who do go beyond are often require knowledge of science. We do not need the kind of ignorance in the American public that Bateman approach would instill. The world of the future is going to be very much impacted by science, and the public needs to understand it! Granted the teaching of evolution should be careful, be limited to the science and not follow the missteps of Dawkins and Dennett. Sure some student may read something written by them and question their belief. Isn't that what is supposed to happen? Are you recommending suppressing these inconvenient scientific theories so that people can raise their children only according to their own beliefs? Isn't that just another level of oppressive coercion?
I have to rate this book a 1 and would go lower if I could. This book is not only wrong but it is just as misleading as books by the authors that Bateman criticizes.