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Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism 1st Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262161800
ISBN-10: 026216180X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The face of creationism has been through some major plastic surgery in the past decade or so. The leading proponents of "intelligent design theory" have left the ranting flat-earth types behind and found respected positions in the academic world from which to launch attacks on mainstream science. Philosopher of science Robert T. Pennock has explored all sides of the ongoing debate, which remains (despite the protestations of many creationists) more about biblical inerrancy than scientific evidence. His book Tower of Babel examines the new directions antievolutionists have taken lately, but goes beyond a mere recounting of recent history by proposing a new avenue of counterattack: linguistics.

The parallels are striking once we look closely: Genesis proclaims that God created all human languages at one stroke, while modern scientific thought proposes linguistic evolution similar in form to genetics. Best of all for scientists, though, linguistic change is much more rapid than biological change, and we have actually observed what might be called "speciation events" to have occurred historically in languages. While not meant to supplant traditional arguments against creationism, Pennock's ideas certainly supplement them and will be useful to educators and researchers alike. His sense of urgency is compelling; he sees the future of scientific education and freedom at stake and argues strongly for a separation between private beliefs and public knowledge. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

According to University of Texas philosopher Pennock, creationism has been evolving, changing from an unsophisticated attack on biological evolution to a more refined and polished assault on the nature of science itself. Rather than offering sophomoric arguments and forged archeological displays, he contends, the new creationists are attempting to promulgate a philosophical construct, theistic science, that is both more subtle and more insidious. With great insight and good humor, Pennock catalogues the wide range of creationist beliefs, dissects their main arguments and highlights what he sees as their internal inconsistencies. He focuses most of his attention on explicating the alleged weakness of the premises of theistic science and its reliance on an "intelligent designer," contending that its incorporation of miracles into its explanatory sphere undermines all aspects of science. In clear, direct prose, Pennock uses the basics of linguistic evolution to go after the foundation of the new creationism while employing sound philosophical arguments to demonstrate that an evolutionary worldview is neither immoral nor the first step toward the acceptance of atheism. With the new creationists claiming that an evolutionary perspective is responsible for virtually all of the world's ills and their desire to make amends by restructuring public education and the legal system, the stakes are huge. Pennock's response, thoughtful, thorough and respectful, deserves to be widely read.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 440 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (March 19, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026216180X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262161800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #926,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carl Flygare on November 2, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism" is a cogent history of creationism and its sophistic spawn "creation science" - and a devastating refutation of the inane bibliolatrous arguments utilized by anti-Darwinists as the gaps available for polemics become increasingly circumscribed by the explanatory power of science. Pennock refutes creationist babble through a novel discussion of linguistic evolution and pays special attention to Paleyesque fallacies embedded in the "Intelligent Design" movement.

Pennock's bestiary classifies all anti-evolution Christians as creationists - kinds include Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Evolutionary Creationists, Progressive Creationists, and Intelligent Design Creationists - squabbling schisms whose theologically impelled supernaturalism places all variants well outside a scientific mainstream united in support of methodological naturalism.

Internecine creationist spats receive a useful historical, theological, and social context treatment, and the preponderance of crank creationist websites is ruefully noted - along with their intellectual and ethical squalor. Pennock debunks the most egregious examples, including the infamous "Lady Hope" hoax (Darwin's fraudulent deathbed conversion and recantation).

After lampooning creationist comedy websites (Google AiG for a slick but sick example), Pennock discusses the Genesis myth meme echoed in the title - the Tower of Babel. Scholars realized that languages were shaped by evolutionary processes and common descent before Darwin burst on the scene. Biological and linguistic evolution contradicts special revelation hallucination, and both have been obdurately attacked by bloviating biblical literalists.
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Format: Paperback
Pennock's book denounces the attempts to incorporate religious dogma into public education. It is the finest of several analogous efforts published over two decades. With penetrating insight, he presents the full range of Christian creationist ideologies, many self contradictory. He examines how slandering Darwin's concept of natural selection ["evolution"] goes beyond biology. The real issue, he assures us, is the curtailing of the liberalisation of American society. In well-crafted prose, the author maintains your interest in a subject at once hilarious and terrifying. He declares that the issue is greater than religion versus science. It is one striking at the very root of American ideals.

The book provides a general history of 20th Century "creationism", its programme and its proponents. The later "Intelligent Design" movement, which declares itself a "science" instead of a religious concept, Pennock declares a sham. Its influence is far too great, yet built from shoddy materials. Tracing the ideas and publications of such figures as Henry Morris and his followers, Pennock describes the propaganda techniques of the Institute for Creation Research and the recent wave material camouflaged under "scientific" or "legal" disguises. Pennock pores over their material, pinpointing their fallacies and exposing their tactics. He shows how evidence is ignored or twisted, explaining how ideology governs speeches, publications and strategy. Through it all, he shows how the Christians are as much at war with each other as they are with "materialism", the label they apply to Darwinian scholars.

Pennock adopts the unique method of showing how the evolution of languages repeats the biological pattern.
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Format: Paperback
The audience of such a confrontational book will usually fall in three categories: (1) creationists who want to refute the arguments presented, (2) people who don't know much about biology but were told there was a debate between "creationists" and "evolutionists", and (3) biologists who look for simple ways to explain things to a lay public.
I hasten to point out that no, evolution itself is not a controversial scientific subject and hasn't been for a century. However, the public's perception of it clearly still is in certain parts, and that's why such books can be very helpful.
Pennock's book is very well researched, well developed, and most importantly given its target audience, a lot of fun to read! I would recommend it to anyone, put especially to high school biology teachers who want simple material devoid of jargon to explain the principle of evolution to children.
Five stars, and well deserved.
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By A Customer on September 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
In "Finding Darwin's God" (see my Amazon.com review of 8 April 2000 "God Is a Creator, Not a Creationist") Kenneth Miller finds common ground between God and evolution. Mainstream science and most major religions found that long ago, of course, but Miller also criticizes the "mutually contradictory" creationist positions that persist in trying to discredit evolution as an atheistic worldview (with the ironic help of some outspoken atheist scientists). While Miller notes primarily the differences in the creationist approaches, in "Tower of Babel" Robert Pennock traces their "common ancestry," and concentrates on how the new "intelligent design" creationism (IDC) evolved.
Although it is tempting to think that IDC was "designed" to get around the Supreme Court decision that banned the teaching of creationism because it is a religious view, the approach was in fact "pre-adapted," as evidenced by such books as Michael Denton's "Evolution - A Theory In Crisis." Unlike classic creationism, IDC generally avoids stating its own alternative hypotheses and origins models, and does not identify the designer. Rather, IDC recycles long-refuted arguments against evolution, and builds upon them with some original ideas, none of which, however, qualify as science.
Pennock's novel approach uses linguistics, both as an analogy for biological evolution, and as an example of how anti-evolutionists of all stripes try to hide their internal disagreements, such as on the origin of human language diversity.
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