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Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 12, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Thoroughly enjoyable and informative, this new book by Miller (Finding Darwin's God), a Brown University biologist and leading proponent of evolution, dismantles the scientific basis of intelligent design piece by piece. He does this by taking seriously the claims of intelligent design (though with tongue often in cheek), such as irreducible complexity, and looking at the biological facts and the dubious conclusions ID concepts would lead to. He turns to the peer-reviewed scientific literature to demonstrate that the two biological phenomena ID proponents say could not have evolved—blood-clotting proteins and bacterial flagella—are now well-enough understood to fully rebut intelligent design. Looking at the underlying philosophical issues, Miller explains that ID's proponents want to replace modern science with Â 'theistic science'... that would use the Divine not as ultimate cause, but as scientific explanation. Miller effectively explores the devastating consequences such a change would have on both science and society. In a measured, well-reasoned book, Miller explains why evolution does not deny us our humanity or our unique place in the universe. Illus. Colbert Report appearance on June 16. (June 16)
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"In this powerfully argued and timely book, Ken Miller takes on the fundamental core of the Intelligent Design movement, and shows with compelling examples and devastating logic that ID is not only bad science but is potentially threatening in other deeper ways to America's future. But make no mistake, this is not some atheistic screed -- Prof. Miller's perspective as a devout believer will allow his case to resonate with believers and non-believers alike."
--Francis Collins, Director, the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
"Only A Theory is an original and perceptive examination of the causes and effects of the ongoing civil war over evolution in America. A wise and tested veteran of its front lines, Ken Miller makes the compelling case that there is much more at stake in this conflict than one scientific theory - the fate of America's hard-earned scientific prowess is in the balance. Readers are sure to be inspired by this passionate appeal to defend and nourish one of our most important institutions."
--Sean B. Carroll, author of The Making of the Fittest and Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Ever since the publication of Darwins Origin of Species 150 years ago, the public controversy over creation and evolution has been fought largely in books. For the past two decades, Ken Miller has been a prominent participant in that debate with his books and lectures. In Only a Theory, Miller takes up the cudgels again in a lively new book that persuasively argues for the theory of evolution, penetratingly critiques the claims for intelligent design, and explains why this dispute should matter to everyone. It may be only a book, but its a good one. I highly recommend it.
--Edward J. Larson, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory
Ken Millers new book, Only a Theory, is everything we have come to expect from him informed, witty, and above all deeply serious about matters of concern to us all. He takes so-called intelligent design theory apart, piece by piece, showing it for the sham that it is. In its stead, Miller makes a very strong argument for the truth and beauty of evolutionary thinking and begs that we not keep this wonderful science from our children. Highly recommended!
--Michael Ruse, author of Darwinism and Its Discontents
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For example, some of the most convincing evidence is demonstrated by the genetic flaws of evolution. Although most mammals can synthesize Vitamin C, humans cannot and this is a clear disadvantage. Do we lack the gene for it? NO. We possess the GLO gene but it has been corrupted by mutations and no longer performs its task. Moreover, the gene is similarly corrupted in our closest relatives among the other primates! Intelligent design??
Similar evidence is given in that humans have only 23 pairs of chromosomes whereas other primates have 24. And evidence of the awkward fusion of two pairs is shown to be very obvious.
Echoing Daniel Dennett concerning Darwin and evolution, Miller wickedly comments “If I had to give a prize for the best idea that anyone in the antievolution movement has ever had, I’d award it to whomever came up with the term “intelligent design.”” He points out this term effectively masks what has historically been a religious appeal; moreover, it appeals to our hopes for purpose and meaning.
But Miller makes a real effort to understand and sympathize with opponents. “Evolution strikes at the heart of who and what we are… Does evolution mean that we are nothing more than beasts?” Unfortunately, “it’s simply not a scientific question.” p 135
So, could we simply give in and dispose of evolution? No. “evolution is … the glue that binds the biological sciences together.” p 195
Miller sees a connection of intelligent design with post-modern critiques of the sciences, although the former is associated politically with the right, and the latter with the left. As Alan Bloom did in The Closing of the American Mind, he interprets the relativism of postmodernism as a fundamental attack on science and “the power of reason to seek truth.” Not so far from the aims of “intelligent design.”
One quibble. IMHO the “quote” from St. Augustine on p 160-161is just too good to be true, too reminiscent of Darwin’s last sentence in The Origin of Species. Moreover, the reference to Only Six Numbers by Martin Rees ( p 103 in my edition NOT p 115 as cited) is a dead-end as Rees gives no reference. Couldn’t find it anywhere. If you find it, please comment.
He first provides a background of science and how it was so compatible with the independence of the United States. With the old European social order discarded and an American one yet to be defined, Americans felt the freedom to explore and discover the mysteries of science as well as their frontiers. Science provided the basis for achievement based on individual creativity and industry, and Americans provided scientific discovery decade after decade.
A competing phenomenon is the faith of Americans that he describes in a Harris poll of 2005 where most believe in evolution when asked if plants and animals evolved. It was all the more striking when people responded negatively to evolution when asked if humans evolved the same way. Sixty-two percent of the respondents disavowed evolution, leaving the United States with the highest percentage of non-believers in the industrialized world with the exception of Turkey. The Harris poll is the kind of reaction Charles Darwin expected when he wrote, "The Origin of the Species," which might explain why human development is not described anywhere in the book. Only at the insistence of a friend did he put those thoughts to publication years later.
Professor Miller comes from a long list of distinguished scientists who felt that their work and results spoke for themselves. They refused to get in the political debate over intelligent design, leaving the Discovery Institute to champion I. D. not through observation and evidence in the laboratory but by making a full court press in the legislature and with school boards.
The actions of the Kansas school board in 1999 where they introduced intelligent design, and again in 2005 where they attempted to redefine science, plus the trial in Dover, PA. prompted him to write this book and challenge the Discovery Institute and I. D. head on. The Washington based institute created a strategy that came to be known as the wedge document. It was a political strategy for not just competing with the theory of evolution but eventually suppressing it and supplanting it with intelligent design in the classroom. Their proponents used relativism as their tactic. All truth is relative, and is based upon what one believes.
This is where Professor Miller's passionate writing goes into overdrive. In clear, non-scientific language he tells the reader about the Cambrian period in which there was an explosion of organisms that evolved in the millions of species that exist today. Vertebrate embryos in fish, frog, chick, and mouse bear a striking resemblance in structure that was uncovered through the science of molecular genetics. Skeletal bones bear a striking resemblance between fish, bird, or human proving Darwin's theory that animals branched out into different species where many withered on the vine of extinction while other branches survived, changing constantly to keep up with an ever-evolving environment. The development of the eye, long a contention of the I. D. faithful, or so-called proof of a designer's complexity showed how the law of optics was driven by natural selection. Kenneth Miller also takes on Martin Behe's contention of "irreducible complexity" just as he did at the trial in PA showing how such organisms could adapt and change with the loss of one or more of their component parts. As designers have advocated, enzymes are highly specific, and cannot adapt or change because of the chemical compounds they process. This was debunked with nylon, whose compounds remain. Bacteria in these ponds of nylonase did exactly that; they evolved and fed off the nylon waste with perfect adaptation. One commentator was kind enough to write me, "I guess we just have to wait around a few million years, eh [for proof of macroevolution]. And meanwhile just accept those are true based on -- faith...." Actually, no we won't, and we have more than just faith. "We already know enough about the mechanisms of evolutionary change to account for the large-scale changes that produce genuine novelty," according to the author.
Kenneth Miller brings his full weight of knowledge and intellect against intelligent design. Adaptation of light sensitive cells (for eye development) is proven. Evolution is only a theory? No, it's fact. Intelligent design in blood clotting is disproved. But his strongest argument against intelligent design as a science is its complacency that some things cannot be explained and as such should be attributed to an intelligent interventionist that cannot be explored, or should just be accepted as a supernatural phenomenon. To Miller, this is not a science but a dead end that brings discovery of medicine, naturalism, and who we are and where we came from to a dead end. Miller adds, if so many animals were intelligently designed, how come so many became extinct? Good question! But he admits that the greatest critics of evolution are scientists themselves. The "greatest hoax perpetrated on mankind in the past 150 years" according to Ann Coulter, Darwin's theory has been tested millions of times over in order to be proven wrong.
The central fear of proponents of I. D. is that humans have no purpose, structure, conscience, or higher calling if they are the same as any other creature on earth. This Miller opposes sharply with an explanation that is almost spiritual. The human being could never be recreated in its present form if we returned to the Cambrian period millions of years ago and started over again. It was developed through the perfect timing of weather, fate, replication, and adaptation that made it what it is today, the most survivable organism on earth. Therefore, it has a purpose to guard its atmosphere and protect other species from their destruction by keeping the earth with all its atoms, compounds, and cycles in harmony with a fragile environment that is man's to save or destroy alone. He quotes from the "Desiderata":
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
This book is a testament to the purpose of man, and a new testament to evolution.
Coulter, Ann, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," Regnery Press, 2006. This book is a must read that contains about five chapters on evolution, and reveals how Ann Coulter got it all wrong through misinformation and disinformation. Compare her work with this one. Just make sure you get it from the library.
Humes, Edward, "Monkey Girl: Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul," Ecco Publishing, 2007.
Reviews by "Gen. J.C. Christian, patriot." A number of them are relevant, very tongue-in-cheek, well-written, and very witty.
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