Jason Rosenhouse's book on mathematical anti-evolutionism is available

[Rosenhouse book cover]

Jason Rosenhouse, The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism. Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Written by a mathematician who has paid close attention to mathematical arguments against evolution, this is a beautifully written and careful refutation of those arguments. Actually, that sentence I plagiarized from the back cover of this book. But I don't have to worry about having done that, since it comes from a blurb written by me. I also gave Jason Rosenhouse comments on the manuscript.

Jason Rosenhouse is a professor of mathematics at James Madison University who also writes popularizations of his field, including a book on the mathematics of Sudoku and one on the Monty Hall Problem (you know: the one with the doors and the goats). Is he overreaching by taking on creationist and ID arguments? Hardly: he has written extensively on this, including many posts here in PT starting in its first year. For a while had his own blog called EvolutionBlog. He attended creationist and ID conferences and wrote about that experience in his 2012 book, Among the Creationists. Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line.

This is a lovely and fascinating book which covers the most widely-cited mathematical arguments against evolution, explaining them and their weaknesses lucidly for a general audience. If you are not writing a review for one of the Discovery Institute sites, you will be impressed.

Let me outline the chapters, to give you a general picture of what is covered ...

Here are the chapters and some indication of their contents:

1. Scientists and Their Hecklers. Outlines the types of critics and the way they operate, and explains why mathematics gets involved.

2. Evolution Basics. Outlines evolutionary theory, and introduces the arguments from complex structures, unbridgeable gaps, and irreducible complexity. Plus a section on "Paying A Price for Being Wrong".

3. The Parallel Tracks of Mathematical Reasoning. Explains how mathematical modeling and logical proof interact in explaining natural phenomena, and why arguments such as the rareness of well-adapted organisms in a genotype space don't work.

4. The Legacy of the Wistar Conference. Using the 1966 conference called by some mathematical critics of evolutionary biology, explains why their critiques were refuted, and how present-day creationists misrepresent what was said at that conference.

5. Probability Theory. Examples from cards and from the Hardy-Weinberg calculation in population genetics lead to a consideration of the argument from improbability, and its use in William Dembski's argument from Complex Specified Information and Michael Behe's argument about the Edge of Evolution.

6. Information and Combinatorial Search. Information theory, claims that random mutations always decrease the information content of biological systems. Protein space. Dawkins' Weasel. The No Free Lunch Theorem. Artifical life. Dembski and Marks's Conservation of Information, and fine tuning of the universe.

7. Thermodynamics. Entropy, thermodynamic laws, and statistical mechanics. Arguments from entropy and statistical mechanics. Henry Morris's Second Law argument. Granville Sewell's revived Second Law argument.

8. Epilogue. Bad math can be rhetorically effective. Can human intelligence build complex adaptations?

In addition, each chapter ends with Notes and Further Reading, typically 2-3 pages of notes, each with a one or more references for further reading.

In short, this is a treasure. Is it perfect? Of course not. As someone who, like most of us, thinks visually, I would have liked to see more figures. The argument fom fine-tuning is hammered into the ground at a bit more length than necessary. The cover design is lovely, but I don't know what it symbolizes. And computers have not "been used to simulate evolution since the late 1960s", but actually since the mid-1950s.

Jason Rosenhouse's book will be cited frequently in future arguments about mathematical dismissals of evolution. And should be.