Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)


I will send an autographed copy of the book Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by me and Paul K. Strode, to the first person who can correctly find a quotation that accurately describes evolution by natural selection and predates Darwin, Wallace, and even Erasmus Darwin by hundreds of years. To enter, just post a comment. To win, you will have to state the quotation, its author, and the approximate year. I have a specific quotation in mind, but I will consider others, as long as they clearly describe natural selection.

For the table of contents and other information about the book, go here.

In a day or so, I will declare the winner and explain why the quotation is so interesting. In the meantime, below the fold, more about Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails).

Now, about the book: It is an impassioned argument in defense of science, mostly but not exclusively the theory of evolution, and against creationism in general, but in particular intelligent-design creationism. Our position is that our most successful scientific theories are under attack by laypeople and even by some scientists who willfully distort scientific findings and use them for their own purposes.

From the preface of the book:

We address this book, in part, to those who, for whatever reasons, deny what we consider well-founded scientific facts such as the antiquity of the Earth and the descent of species. At the very least, they carry an obligation to understand precisely what they reject. We also hope to provide parents, teachers, and others with sound arguments that they can easily understand and give them ammunition with which to defend modern science.

The book is written for the layperson and is appropriate, for example, for a college class in biology for nonmajors or a course in evolutionary science versus creationism. It is also ideal for school-board members and school administrators whose science curriculums are under attack by creationists of any species.

After surveying the history of creationism and evolutionary science in the United States, we focus on how science actually works and how pseudoscience works, and then tackle creationism itself. We concentrate in particular on intelligent-design creationism and explain why its arguments are specious. We next show how evolution works, how it constantly remodels, and how it arrives at less-than-optimal solutions because it can never start from scratch, can never solve a new problem without recourse to old solutions.

Creationists misrepresent not only biology, but also geology and cosmology. They misunderstand, misrepresent, or ignore the evidence from which the ages of the earth and of the universe are deduced, so we discuss that evidence in some detail, before discussing the anthropic principle and the fine-tuning argument, neither of which we find convincing.

Returning to biology, we conclude with a section in which we demonstrate the likelihood that ethics and morality have biological, not supernatural, origins. We ask whether science and religion are compatible and conclude that science by no means excludes religion, though it certainly casts doubt on certain specific religious claims that are, frankly, contrary to known scientific fact.

My colleague Paul Strode, besides being a godsend, is a high-school biology teacher in Boulder, Colorado, and an instructor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has a PhD degree in ecology and environmental science.