Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins 2nd Edition
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From the Publisher
The subject of origins, however, is not only captivating. It is also controversial. Because it touches on questions of enduring significance, this topic has long been a focal point for vigorous debate--legal and political, as well as intellectual. Teachers often find themselves walking a tight-rope, trying to teach good science, while avoiding the censure of parents or administrators.
To complicate things, the cultural conflict has been compounded by controversies within the scientific community itself. Since the 1970s, for example, scientific criticisms of the long-dominant neo-Darwinian theory of evolution (which combines classical Darwinism with Mendelian genetics) have surfaced with increasing regularity. In fact, the situation is such that paleontologist Niles Eldredge was driven to remark: "If it is true that an influx of doubt and uncertainty actually marks periods of healthy growth in science, then evolutionary biology is flourishing today as it seldom has in the past. For biologists are collectively less agreed upon the details of evolutionary mechanics than they were a scant decade ago. Moreover, many scientists have advocated fundamental revisions of orthodox evolutionary theory."
Similarly, the standard models explaining chemical evolution--the origin of the first living cell--have taken severe scientific criticism. These criticisms have sparked calls for a radically different approach to explaining the origin of life on earth.
Though many defenders of the orthodox theories remain, some observers now describe these theories as having entered paradigm breakdown--a state where a once-dominant theory encounters conceptual problems or can no longer explain many important data. Science historians Earthy and Collingridge, for example, have described new-Darwinism as a paradigm that's lost its capacity to solve important scientific problems. They note that both defenders and critics find it hard to agree even about what data are relevant to deciding scientific disagreements. Putting it more bluntly, in 1980 Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould pronounced the "neo-Darwinism synthesis" to be "effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy."
In this intellectual and cultural climate, knowing how to teach biological origins can be exceedingly difficult. When respected scientists disagree about which theories are correct, teachers may be forgiven for not knowing which ones to teach.
Controversy is not all bad, however, for it gives teachers the opportunity to engage their students at a deeper level. Instead of filling young minds with discrete facts and vocabulary lists, teachers can show their students the rough-and-tumble of genuine scientific debate. In this way, students begin to understand how science really works. When they see scientists of equal stature disagreeing over the interpretation of the same data, students learn something about the human dimension of science. They also learn about the distinction between fact and inference--and how background assumptions influence scientific judgment.
The purpose of this text is to expose your students to the captivating and the controversial in the origins debate--to take them beyond the pat scenarios offered in most basal texts and encourage them to grapple with ideas in a scientific manner.
Pandas does this in two ways. First, it offers a clear, cogent discussion of the latest data relevant to biological origins. In the process, it rectifies many serious errors found in several basal biology texts.
Second, Pandas offers a different interpretation of current biological evidence. As opposed to most textbooks, which present the more-or-less orthodox neo-Darwinian accounts of how life originated and diversified, Pandas also presents a clear alternative, which the authors call "intelligent design." Throughout, the text evaluates how well different views can accommodate anomalous data within their respective interpretive frameworks. As students learn to weigh and sort competing views and become active participants in the clash of ideas, you may be surprised at the level of motivation and achievement displayed by your students.
About the Author
Dean H. Kenyon--Co-Author. Professor of Biology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California; contributing author to festschrifts of A.I. Oparin and Sidney Fox; coauthor of Biochemical Predestination (McGraw-Hill, 1969), which was the best-selling advanced level book on chemical evolution in the 1970s; S.B. in physics, 1961 from the University of Chicago; Ph.D. in biophysics, 1965 from Stanford University; National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow 1965-1966 at the University of California, Berkeley; visiting scholar in 1974 to Trinity College, Oxford University; Associate, chemical Evolution Branch, NASA-Ames Research Center in California, 1974-1976; Phi Beta Kappa.
TABLE OF CONTENTS: Introduction Of Pandas and People: An Overview Excursion Chapter One: The Origin of Life Excursion Chapter Two: Genetics and Macroevolution Excursion Chapter Three: The Origin of Species Excursion Chapter Four: The Fossil Record Excursion Chapter Five: Homology Excursion Chapter Six: Biochemical Similarities
- Publisher : Haughton Pub Co; 2nd edition (September 1, 1993)
- Language : English
- Textbook Binding : 170 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0914513400
- ISBN-13 : 978-0914513407
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 7.5 x 1 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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These authors do not seem to understand that ALL species are transitional because evolution is a continuous ongoing process; each species is not some kind of endpoint - rather they are snapshots of this process. The authors' misunderstanding of this point is evident from their diagrams of "presumed fossil sequences", their discussions of archaeopteryx, the australopithecines, and so forth all throughout the book. (They also seem unable to understand that because fossilization can only occur under suitable conditions, the fossil record is necessarily incomplete.)
Based on their approach, I am convinced that given ANY two species imaginable, these authors would claim a missing link between them, in much the same way that given ANY two real numbers, I can always name another ("missing") number between them.
It is a crime to call the stuff in this book science.
The authors simply do not know what they are talking about, and serious errors abound. For instance, they completely misinterpret the results of molecular phylogeny, because they do not understand that a modern fish and a modern man are equally remote in time from their last common ancestor. This leads them to conclude that the data favor separate creation rather than common descent, whereas the exact reverse is true.
This book was written to support the claim that Intelligent Design theory should be considered as a scientific alternative to evolution and common descent. But the theory itself is never clearly stated. In particular, there is no explanation of how the design comes to be incorporated into actual living beings. Absent such explanation, the origin of each species requires a separate and mysterious act, and Intelligent Design is just another name for Creationism.
A few of the claims of the book are rather embarrassingly bad (see the reviews of opposing reviewers for examples), while others are short on details, but the claims of unreadablitily, incoherence, etc., are just absurd.
This book is absolutely useless from a scientific perspective but if you're looking for the full ID argument, look no further. This book is horribly organized and repetitive in the extreme but I think it is probably the best text on the full scope of ID and provides useful insight into the minds of ID proponents and the reasoning used to declare, with conviction, goddidit.
Top reviews from other countries
I like to think that I have an open mind, but some of the postulates held up in this book as 'evidence' for life on earth being 'designed' rather than evolving from organic chemistry, are both far-fetched and short-sighted simultaneously. Needless to say, the ID believers didn't get a convert, but don't take my word for it, read the book, at least it provides a good chuckle at the more outlandish claims and "facts" enclosed within.