When I saw this book at Frugal Reader, I figured that I was seeing my best chance to give a fair reading to the Other Side of this surprisingly ubiquitous question. The authors put their M.D. and PhD on the cover, implying (I thought) that they were qualified to write about evolution in the same way that, say, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins are. In conversation with people who do not accept the idea of evolution, there will always eventually be a story about some biologist who used to believe in evolution but then when he kept studying, he was convinced that it was impossible. Perhaps, I thought, these guys were in that group.
Nope. They are an ophthalmologist and a Doctor of Theology. They start their book claiming that the Intelligent Design movement has shaken up the scientific community so much that “the teacups haven’t stopped rattling yet.” Actually, Intelligent Design has made and is making political waves, not scientific ones. Biologists have benefited from the upsurge in the controversy by gaining the opportunity to write more and more books showing how clearly the scientific evidence supports the theory of evolution, but evolution continues to be pretty well universally accepted among scientists.
Splendid Swatches reported that the Vatican has also accepted the evidence for evolution. You can read the details here. She is also making some Fuzzy Feet. And is not, as you will see, the only knitting blogger to remark on the creationism controversy.
The title of this book refers to “Darwinism” in order to make it sound like an alternate religious viewpoint — because the authors believe that it is. They claim that scientists only continue to accept evolution because they are wedded to its philosophical premises, just as the authors of this book are wedded to the religious premise that God created all life instantly.
At one point, the book makes this summary:
“The essence of the Darwinian argument on origins is that random mutations, random changes in DNA acted upon by environment over enormous expanses of time, lead to minute advancements in an organism that eventually add up to wholesale changes in complete systems and morphologies. The essence of the design argument is that a designed system would cease functioning if one of several component parts were missing, and so, gradual, minute alterations could not lead to a fully functional, complex system.” (p.51)
That seems pretty fair, although in this statement — and in the various mathematical arguments sprinkled through the book — the process of natural selection is ignored. Gould and Dawkins both have led readers through the photosensitive “eyespot” and its usefulness, as well as all the various varieties of eyes in the animal kingdom, but this book continues to claim that the human eye in all its complexity is just so cool and perfect that it can’t possibly have evolved.
We can look at any completed sequence of events and say how remarkable it was that all these events took place, what are the chances? But that is only after it is completed. Our earth’s atmosphere is perfect for the creatures that live here — either because God planned it that way, out of all the millions of possible ways an atmosphere could be, or because since the atmosphere was here, only creatures that could breathe that atmosphere could possibly have evolved. Had there been some other kind of atmosphere, there would be some other kind of creature here. Mathematicians are constantly trying to clarify this for people who see remarkable similarities between Kennedy and Lincoln, but the rest of us continue to be dazzled by coincidence.
What the argument in this book really boils down to is this: Gee, life is so impressive and complicated, it must be a miracle.
It is true that many people who accept evolution make similar kinds of arguments. She Just Walks Around With It says “it may or may not come as any sort of shock to you that i’m not so much pro- ‘intelligent design’ because ohmygodpeople.” I can’t say that her argument is as cogent as some, but I can relate. (She also has a link to the noodly appendage site, if you missed it here.)
#1 daughter also was expressing this view last night. A sort of general mind-bogglement that people can look at the sheer quantity of evidence for evolution and reject it. I think the key tends to be that they don’t look at the evidence. I have not yet met even one person — and you know I have been discussing this subject with people for months — who both understands evolution and rejects it.
The authors of this book, though, appear to have looked at the evidence, felt their minds boggling, and rejected evolution in favor of intelligent design.
And that seems to me to be another problem with this debate. While several respectable scientists have publicly said that they believe in God and find evolutionary theory compatible with their belief, the anti-evolution brigade continue to contrast evolution with faith. They do not seem troubled by the idea that God planned sexual reproduction, rather than creating every individual living thing individually, but cannot consider the idea that God planned evolution.
Yes, well, I just wanted to share that.
My son-in-law’s parents are driving out to visit family in the Frozen North and have kindly offered to carry a package to the kids for us, so today I will have the impetus to get their gifts (such of them as I have already bought or made) wrapped up and ready. We are having a gray day with rain predicted, the perfect kind of day for staying in the house working on Christmas presents (after the housework is done, of course). I intend to do the Swiss ball workout in the privacy of my home where I can fall down as much as I need to without concern for my dignity and I suppose I will have to sally forth at some point for groceries, but otherwise I plan to spend the day reading and knitting. It seems unlikely, even so, that I will complete Son-in-law’s planned knitted gifts in time to take them over to his parents’ house tomorrow. The box will be rather heavy on presents for #1 daughter. I will be shipping Son-in-law’s remaining stuff later, so he must be sure not to conclude that we don’t love him.
Now, do not think that I am the only (or even one of just three) knitting blogger who writes about evolution when you just came here to see my knitting. The Knitting Fiend, the Keyboard Biologist, and Bron are among the many who have broached the subject.