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Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution Paperback – April, 1995
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Top Customer Reviews
The author presents many of the creationist arguments, and spends time refuting them. As I mentioned above, he really gets irate when he considers their criticisms of evolutionary theory. "Abysmally ignorant", "nonsense", and "absurd" are some of the modifiers he uses when discussing them. His main points are that creationists perform no original research of their own, but instead try to discredit evolution by such means as: quoting scientists out of context; using disagreements between scientists as evidence that evolution is in trouble; conveniently disregarding evidence that they cannot explain; and promoting arguments inappropriately such as the second law of thermodynamics.
There are other excellent books to read on this subject. My favorites are The Blind Watchmaker by R. Dawkins, and Abusing Science by Philip Kitcher. This one deservedly belongs on the same bookshelf, unless of course, you are a creationist.
He states, "The facts of embryology... make little sense except in light of evolution. Why should species that ultimately develop adaptations for utterly different ways of life be nearly indistinguishable in their early stages? How does God's plan for humans and sharks require them to have almost identical embryos?" (Pg. 48) He adds, "creationists are quite silent on the question of why the wings of birds and bats should be so utterly different in structure---why the structure of a bat's wing should resemble that of a monkey's hand more than that of a bird's wing." (Pg. 57)
He points out, "Another kind of prediction that taxonomists can make on the basis of logical deduction is that certain kinds of characteristics, not yet examined, should fit a phylogentic tree. Such predictions have been beutifully borne out in many cases when the molecular structure of various species' proteins has been examined." (Pg. 55) He argues that "There is no [fossil] gap between thrushes and wrens, between lizards and snakes, or between sharks and skates. A complete gamut of intermediate species runs from the great white shark to the butterfly ray, and each step in the series is a small one... Naturally, some gaps do exist... But in many such cases, we find that quite discrete categories... become more and more blurred as we go back in the fossil record." (Pg. 58)
About chemical evolution experiments, he observes that "It is important to realize that although human intelligence is guiding such experiments, chemists are not making RNA molecules by carefully stringing together nucleotides with sophisticated chemical techniques. They are simply providing in the laboratory the chemical and environmental conditions that are believed to have existed naturally billions of years ago." (Pg. 96)
He notes, "As Darwin pointed out, humans share with apes vestigial features that are clearly homologous... with those of other mammals, such as now useless muscles that once moved the ears and tail, and the vertebrae of the tail itself." (Pg. 100) Later, he adds, "There is not the slightest reason to think that many vestigial structures, which violate rational design, have any function. The pelvic bones of pythons and the rudimentary wings of many insects have no known function, and related species of snakes and insects lack them altogether." (Pg. 225)
He argues, "So is it true, as the creationists claim, that good mutations are vanishingly rare? Certainly it is true that many, many mutations are harmful. But even if only one hundredth of 1 percent of all mutations are beneficial, 20,000 of them should crop up in the gypsy moths of Long Island just this year." (Pg. 141) Against the creationsts' argument that evolution is not scientifically testable, he suggests, "Many conceivable observations, such as mammalian fossils in Precambrian rocks, could refute the hypothesis of evolution." (Pg. 222)
This is an excellent, detailed critique of creationist arguments as well as a presentation of many persuasive arguments in favor of evolution. Though thirty years old, this book is still an excellent resource for anyone studying the Creation/Evolution controversy.