Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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Some time ago after a public lecture I gave, I had the pleasure of a long and fascinating conversation with several young men who were obviously very intelligent, educated, conservative Christians. They had good questions and they listened to what responses I could offer them, and in return, they were able to ponder some of my own questions for them...
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This book is being published on the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. It is an impassioned argument in favor of science—primarily the theory of evolution—and against creationism. Why impassioned? Should not scientists be dispassionate in...
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Paul Strode thanks his wife, Sarah Zerwin, for her encouragement, suggestions, and patience, and especially for pushing him out the door on weekends: “Go! Write!” Paul is also thankful for all the great coffee that is brewed in various locations in Boulder, Colorado, especially the Bookend...
Part One: The Basics and the History
Chapter 1: Introduction
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The theory of evolution is one of the most successful in all of science. Its predictions have been verified countless times since the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859. As we will see, the evidence is so stunning and complete that we are confident...
Chapter 2: The Structure of This Book
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A modest fraction of this book is devoted to refuting all varieties of creationism. Hence, we discuss, in chapter 3, a “History of Creationism and Evolutionary Science in the United States.” Before the development of modern science, nearly everyone was a creationist, in a sense. But even those who believed in the Bible literally saw...
Chapter 3: History of Creationism and Evolutionary Science in the United States
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In the beginning, nearly everyone was a creationist, in a manner of speaking. Much about the universe and the earth has the appearance of design, and the only designers we know (humans) are purposeful and intelligent. Lacking any other theory, we find it easy to ascribe the design we see in nature to a deity or, in the case of the Greeks...
Part Two: How Science Works (and Creationism Doesn’t)
Chapter 4: How Science Works
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We will ARGUE in this book that intelligent-design creationism (ID creationism) is not science but pseudoscience. That is, it uses the terminology of science, seemingly applies the tools of science, but in fact only masquerades as science. Before we can establish what...
Chapter 5: How Pseudoscience Works
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How can we distinguish pseudoscience from science? How can we tell that a field is pseudoscience rather than a daring and far-out yet valid approach to a specific scientific problem? The history of science is littered with heresies that were eventually accepted...
Chapter 6: Why Creationism Fails
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This chapter discusses scientific creationism, under which heading we classify both young- and old-earth creationism. Young-earth creationists assume that the earth and indeed the universe are only thousands of years old, whereas old-earth creationists agree that...
Chapter 7: The Argument from Design
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These words by William Paley were written in 1800. They are the classic statement of the argument from design. In Paley’s time, most people believed in fixed species; that is, they thought that the species were set at the creation and remained unchanged thereafter. Many scientific creationists hold that view today...
Chapter 8: Why Intelligent-Design Creationism Fails
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Intelligent-design creationism is the successor to scientific creationism such as that practiced by the flood geologists. ID creationists argue, in a variation on the argument from design, that they can rigorously infer design, whereas William Paley more or less assumed design. The heart...
Part Three: The Science of Evolution
Chapter 9: The Father of Evolution
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When Charles Darwin was sixteen years old, his father decided to send him to school to study medicine, just as Darwin’s father and grandfather had. Darwin lasted two years before his father pulled his easily distracted son out of medical school and enrolled him in the University of Cambridge to study for the clergy. After three years...
Chapter 10: How Evolution Works
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Creationists like to stress chance, as if chance automatically ruled out evolutionary change. Chance is indeed a factor in evolution, but it is not the whole story. Indeed, chance can often lead to very predictable behavior. Thus, before we go on to discuss evolution, let us examine...
Chapter 11: Recapitulation
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In 1874, a German comparative embryologist and Darwin enthusiast, Ernst Haeckel, began publishing his drawings of vertebrate embryos in various stages of development to explain common ancestry and to support Darwin’s theory of evolution. Haeckel drew the first phylogenies and coined the term “tree of life” (see chapter 13). His skillful and...
Chapter 12: Evo Devo: How Evolution Constantly Remodels
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At the turn of the twentieth century, embryologist-turned-geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan began work on understanding genetics using a tiny, neglected little insect called the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster; yes, the same one that’s on your bananas right now!). The normal eye color for...
Chapter 13: Phylogenetics
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Something happened over the last 3.8 billion years to create the biodiversity found on earth today. The job of evolutionary biologists and paleontologists is to ascertain what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. In other words, their challenge is to reconstruct the patterns and the history of evolution, and one of the most illustrative...
Chapter 14: Design by Committee: The Twists, Turns, and Flips of Human Anatomy
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In his book Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin, a biologist at the University of Chicago, argues that “our humanity comes at a cost.” What Shubin is referring to are our numerous fumbled, frail, faulty, and often downright useless structures and functions, many of which have their origin in our fish ancestors. As our evolutionary tree grew and added...
Part Four: The Universe
Chapter 15: How We Know the Age of the Earth
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Darwin well knew that his theory would fall if the earth were not immensely old, far older than the few thousand years that Archbishop Ussher had predicted (see chapter 3). The view that the earth was young was comparatively recent and largely a result of Christians’ literalist reading of the Bible. Ancient Greek scholars, such as Xenophanes...
Chapter 16: Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life?
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The fundamental physical constants are the charge of the electron and the proton, the mass of the electron, the mass of the proton, the gravitational constant, and others. Every electron and every proton has the same mass and charge as every other. Likewise, the charge of the electron is exactly equal to that of the proton but opposite in...
Part Five: Evolution, Ethics, and Religion
Chapter 17: Evolution and Ethics
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Evolution is amoral. The wasp parasitizes the caterpillar, the cheetah preys on the gazelle, and the bacterium infects the child, each without regard to its responsibility to the victim. Indeed, it has no responsibility to its victim. Nature, as Alfred, Lord Tennyson said, is “red in tooth and claw.” Survival of the fittest. It’s a...
Chapter 18: Why Science and Religion Are Compatible
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Science and religion have more in common than many people think. According to the philosopher of religion Ian Barbour, both formulate hypotheses, both test their hypotheses, and both include an element of faith. Science, however, requires precise hypotheses...
Chapter 19: Summary and Conclusion
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This book has been a brief arguing in favor of evolution in particular and science in general, and against all forms of creationism. We began by demonstrating why evolution is important and also why people are, frankly, afraid of it. We noted, in particular, that scientific facts are true whether or not we like them and, indeed, whether...
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 18 photographs
Publication Year: 2009