142 of 159 people found the following review helpful:
Nature of Science
, July 15, 2004
Eugenie Scott explains the nature of science: Science is guided by natural law, is explanatory by reference to law, is testable against the empirical world, is always tentative and subject to revision and is falsifiable. Creationism is an act of faith without testing and fails the nature of science.
What many do not understand is that there is 1) no general all-purpose scientific method, 2) science is not only about experiments, 3) science is not invulnerable to fraud, 4) science can never provide final or absolute truth and 5) there are questions that science cannot answer. Science never proposes an irrefutable hypothesis such as "God did it!" Science accepts what cannot otherwise be disproven - and keeps testing, always looking for the defects and failures.
Following Garrett Hardin's method of taking the opposite view, Ms. Scott makes a concerted effort on behalf of "Intelligent Design" and creationism proponents. The ID folks refuse to allow Ms. Scott to quote from their published materials, contrary to the norms of open and democractic discussion.
The nature of science is that science is an act of nonfaith and is always subject to further testing. Science can never rely on the supernatural. There is no conflict between science and creationism. There is only a conflict in the minds of those who only rely upon the supernatural and faith.
Ms. Scott presents a credible, easy to read and understand discussion. This book belongs in the hands of every K-12 and university educator, minister, school board and the general public.
100 of 113 people found the following review helpful:
If a tree falls . . . ?, December 28, 2004
. . . one can only hope someone is listening. Actually, it's a bit depressing to reflect on the number of trees felled in convincing certain Christians that their notion of life is false. We can forgive Scott her use of more paper. She has produced the most effective and comprehensive work on why evolution is our guide to the natural world to date. Her organisation is excellent and presented in a clear, effective prose style. With her objectives so well outlined and stated, Scott offers a useful synopsis of the struggle educators face in dealing with the creationist crisis.
Scott breaks her presentation into a triad of subjects: science and how it works, the multi-pronged counter-attack of Christians on Darwin and other scientists, and what creationist writers say about evolution by natural selection. The opening section is a vivid presentation of scientific methods and the avoidance of dogma. Science, Scott declares, is "truth without certainty". Science is more than a "collection of facts", but it is the analysis of facts to explain the universe we inhabit. Scott shows how science's lack of absolutes results in a cleft Christians use as an entry point in their attempts to refute science from astronomy to zoology. Their main thrust, however, remains our biological heritage.
In the second part of her book, Scott traces the history of thinking about the universe and life on Earth. She makes clear that "stasis" wasn't the theme adhered to by early thinkers. Variety was in evidence, but poorly understood. The Aristotelian "ideal" became the standard by which life and its processes were considered. Change was obvious and during the Enlightenment the means of bringing it about over time was sought. From "special creation", which many Christians adopted as a supernatural mechanism to explain change, to Lamarck, who thought living things changed traits during their lifetime, a means for explaining the evidence was sought. Once Darwin provided the real insight into life's mechanism, confirmed by the fossils and genetic evidence alike, change was seen as essential for life to proceed. Christians, fearful that natural selection would undermine their view of divine origins, if not of life, then at least of humanity, have challenged evolution on a wide, but constantly shifting, front.
In presenting their case as completely as possible, Scott is forced to reveal that a significant bloc of Christian contenders against "evolution" refused to allow their works to be cited. It's an interesting conflict when the assaulting force suddenly vanishes. Their presence is still made visible by Scott's other sources reviewing their publications. Compounding her task is the reality of "creationism's" almost infinite spectrum of views. They stretch from those accepting Ussher's date origin of the universe six thousand years ago to those accepting all of science's findings from cosmology to human evolution, but who still insist a deity is "the originator of it all". That's a wide range to address, but Scott pairs these expressions with counter findings in nature. The book concludes with a string of creationist writings answered by scientists in appropriate fields.
The book is a fine summation of positions and meets well its subtitle of being "An Introduction" to the issues. Her references are by chapter, always a useful means of focussing on topical entries rather than a general bibliography where you must search for the appropriate entry. There is a fair amount of material on legal decisions and school board pronouncements. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Is all opposition to evolution creationist?, April 7, 2006
The author deserves praise for her reasonableness, allowing for a distinction between "methodological" and "philosophical naturalism" (e.g. page 65), according to which many scientists, as she acknowledges, use the methods of science while philosophically theists.
However, one of the stumbling blocks in her and others' arguments, as indicated in my heading, is that "antievolutionists" (or those partly so) are relegated to adherents of a religion. This of course is a factor in court decisions adducing the First Amendment. But in arguments it is a form of the "ad hominem" fallacy, directing debates at the person instead of the subject matter.
Another problem is leaning on language, as in the above "naturalism". A persistent distinction is made between the "natural" and "supernatural", the latter understandably dismissed as not conducive to demonstration. But if theistic issues like purpose in phenomena are considered as part of the world, they become accessible to scrutiny like other worldly matters. Also linguistically, the author strives to distinguish scientific meanings from ordinary ones of words like "facts" and "theories" (p.11 and following). She puts theories on top of the list in scientific importance, and facts on the bottom. She calls facts "confirmed observations", and contends they, and laws, change with new findings. This omits then actualities that are independent of man's determinations, since theories and hypotheses, the other items there named, are likewise admitted to be changeable. Facts and laws of nature are usually considered such independent actualities, and findings that do not comport with them are concluded not to be facts or laws. Ironically, the author mentions (p.241) scientific claims that "Evolution is a FACT!", elevating fact above theory.
The point is that however she tries to give primacy to inconclusive theory, there are conclusive actualities out there regardless of how named. The author calls theories explanations, presumably mainly causal explanations, and that they are not demonstrated even if implying observed realities I pointed out in the review here of "Breaking the Spell". There I also brought up why the principal Darwinian contention that adaptation in organisms results from aimless changes is false, as I fully describe in my book beside its treatment of other questions of knowledge. Let me repeat the here concerned reasoning.
The arguments about whether organisms adapt at random or by purpose have revolved around their functional structure, in likeness to the structure of human artifacts, discussed in the past in support of purposeful design. What both sides of the arguments failed to consider is the difference between life and the lifeless. Organisms are distinguished not only by their structure but also by their activities. And it is these where, unlike in structure alone, the presence of aims is unquestionable. Organisms aim in all their behavior toward preservation of themselves and their species. It is accordingly needless to argue whether or not living things came about by design or by accident. Their individual activities, from indeed coming about to continued goals of sustaining themselves, uncover the disputed goal-directedness or purpose.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
A brief comment, March 27, 2006
This is a well written, informative, even-handed and objective, and scientifically accurate book discussing and comparing ID and Creationism and evolution. Although no true scientist claims that the theory of evolution is complete, so much evidence exists for its validity and it explains so much that it is unlikely that the theory as a whole will ever be proven false. It is one of the simplest and most powerful scientific theories ever conceived, and in the last 100 years, the sciences of molecular genetics, population biology, cell biology, and others have given it an even more rigorous basis, which weren't around during Darwin's time.
This contrasts with the anti-evolution side of the debate, whose more philosophical, aesthetically oriented, politically motivated, and theologically based theories simply don't explain as much or are as well supported and rigorously thought out. Most don't even get to the level of respected and well validated theory status, which evolution achieves easily, as they are really more like partial and fragmentary hypotheses or explanations.
Take for example, the claim that intermediate species have never been observed, and therefore macroevolution is false. There are actually many intermediate species, such as eohippus and mesohippus in the case of the modern horse, and there is even more evidence of intermediate species in the case of primitive plants and trees, since their parts fossilize more easily. Anyone who doesn't believe this should read the great botanist, K.R. Sporne's book on paleobotany, The Morphology of Gymnosperms, one of the very fascinating botanical books on this subject. Because of this fact, for many gymnosperm genera (which is the group that contains pines, firs, spruce, larches, redwoods, sequoias, hemlock, etc.) we actually know of more extinct species than extant ones, making the evolutionary sequence much easier to see.
In any case, even if intermediate species didn't exist, we have species whose genes still contain intermediate developments, such as cetaceans which are occasionally born with a leg rather than a flipper or a fin. Evolution handles this easily, whereas the anti-evolutionary theories cannot, since cetaceans are thought to be land mammals that returned to the sea. They didn't lose the genes for legs and arms, however,; they were merely repressed, and sometimes something goes wrong in the gene transcription process and a leg is produced. This is one difficulty Creationism has never been able to overcome.
Anyway, just a few comments on this now heated debate.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A good overview, but biased, February 21, 2006
Following the news of the recent court case in Dover, Pennsylvania, I was eager to read more about the scientific response to the challenges brought forth by Intelligent design. I bought the book looking for a broad defense of evolution, and was not disappointed. In the first half of the book, the author presents a scholarly and thorough, yet easy to read summary of the various aspects of the debate: scientific, historical, theological. If you are interested in why and how various uses of the word "theory" provide fertile ground attacking evolution, this book provides a discussion. If you'd like to know why US school districts are home to this debate, but not non-US schools, this book provided much information. If you'd like to know why evolution is so upsetting to fundimentalist Christians, again, this book provides insight.
Yet, reflecting on one of the earlier reviews, I would tend to agree: the author presents, probably unintentionally, the material in a way that reads somewhat more as a defense of evolution than an even-handed debate of the issue. Perhaps this is unavoidable, given that the theory of evolution is so dominant in biology today. Still, even with the small bias, I found the book left me with a better understanding of the creationist point of view.
The second half of the book, which contains a point-counterpoint style reader with extracts from various articles, is hampered by the inexplicable refusal of one of the Intelligent Design think tanks to allow use of their material. So, while understanding this school of thought is crucial to understanding the debate, this book is unfortunately a bit light in that area, occasioning my four star rating. But otherwise, I found the book to be a very good overview, if perhaps a bit biased.