Monday, November 05, 2007

Why Darwin Matters

Why Darwin Matters is the latest book by Michael Shermer. I've read and reviewed many of Dr. Shermer's books before on this blog. The main focus of this book is to explain and detail the current attacks on science that originate from the Intelligent Design community. Shermer does an excellent job of explaining the history of both evolution theory and the intelligent design/ creationism movement.

Unfortunately I feel that the people who could benefit the most from this book, the ID proponents, are the least likely to actually read it. If anyone were to read this with an open mind I think they could see that Shermer successfully defuses the false dichotomy that an acceptance of evolution necessitates an atheist theology. I've never quite able to see how observations in the natural world could have any implications at all about things that are, by definition, outside the natural world. Personally I've always felt that trusting a theologian over a scientist to answer scientific questions is roughly akin to taking your social studies teacher's advice over you Science teacher when it comes to physics questions. Why do so many people have such a hard time making this distinction?
One minor frustration with the book is that Shermer seems to have written it as if this was the first time his target reader had even picked up any book on the issue. As such it is very well detailed and he does a good job of detailing evolution v intelligent design 101. As someone who has read all of Shermer's previous books and follows this debate pretty thoroughly, much of the material came across as a little bit remedial. However, if you are interested in getting a handle on this issue I think this book is very well done.
The most damning quote from the entire book came not from Dr. Shermer but from the judge in the Dover school board intelligent design case from 2005.

"Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure,
Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the
Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

John E. Jones III

Now before you try to dismiss this guy as another "activist judge", keep in mind that he is a self-confessed evangelical Christian, a Republican and was appointed to the bench in 2002 by George W. Bush.

If you have any doubt at all as to the illegitimacy of intelligent design as science please read this book.


  1. Victoria7:21 PM

    I am in the camp that can't fathom why folks have such a hard time with evolution. I see evidence of it everywhere. At the same time I have a testimony of a Heavenly Father and the Savior, Jesus Christ.
    I am most curious and disturbed by the venom from the groups who purport themselves to be Christian, but act in ways that show them to be anything but.
    I don't get into conversations on the subject very often because the group of people I am usually around have already formed an opinion and I don't feel it necessary to bring it up. From the smattering of comments my assumption (and I do realize it is an assumption and give it the latitude of the nebulous thing it is)that the folks I know are in the intelligent design camp, so to speak. I suppose I see many religious things as figurative and symbolic, while looking at scientific things as literal.

  2. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Not Darwin or Shermer exactly, but given your recent comments about facilitated communcation on the Sanjay Gupta blog, you might want to look at the Behavior Analysis Association of Michigan (BAAM) resolution against FC:

    Michael Shermer is a signatory. So is James Randi. Just thought you might be interested as well.