Item description for Evolution Controversy, The: A Survey of Competing Theories by Thomas B. Fowler & Daniel Kuebler...
Overview Provides a balanced survey of the evolution controversy, introducing critical issues and clarifying key points of disagreement.
Publishers Description In the emotional debate surrounding evolution, it is often difficult to cut through the competing agendas to gain an unbiased understanding of the scientific issues involved. "The Evolution Controversy" provides a resource for doing so. The authors leave aside the profound philosophical and religious issues involved in the controversy in favor of a balanced and critical examination of the four major schools of thought involved: Neo-Darwinism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Meta-Darwinism. The focus is on an objective evaluation of the scientific merits of each school, as well as an examination of areas of agreement and disagreement among the schools. The goal is to equip readers, whether students, church leaders, or the general public, to come to their own informed conclusions.
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Studio: Baker Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.26" Height: 0.94" Weight: 1.35 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2007
Publisher Baker Publishing Group
ISBN 0801031745 ISBN13 9780801031748
Availability 0 units.
More About Thomas B. Fowler & Daniel Kuebler
Thomas B. Fowler (ScD, George Washington University) is senior principal engineer at the Center for Information Technology and Telecommunications at Noblis, formerly known as Mitretek Systems, a not-for-profit consulting firm working in the public interest in Falls Church, Virginia. He is also an adjunct instructor at George Mason University and Christendom College. Daniel Kuebler (PhD, University of California, Berkeley) is assistant professor of biology at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio. He has written a number of articles for scientific journals as well as for the "National Catholic Register."
Reviews - What do customers think about Evolution Controversy, The: A Survey of Competing Theories?
Somewhat Balanced Dec 4, 2009
Authors Fowler and Kuebler take up the daunting task of comparing and contrasting the various school of thought regarding origins and the development of life on Earth. The function of this book has to do primarily with biological issues Questions regarding the origins of the Universe (astronomy, cosmology), psychology (consciousness), sociology, linguistics, religion are left largely unaddressed. Other books of this nature have used the method of having proponents of a school of thought write a chapter supporting their viewpoint. Then the proponents of the other schools would critique the chapter. Sometimes the original author would then respond to the criticism. Then another school's advocate would present their case and a similar cycle of criticism and response would ensue. This is a typical debate format. However, Fowler and Kuebler chose a different format where they evaluate each school of "evolution" giving the evidence pro and con for each position.
The book begins with four introductory chapters which given a brief history of the controversy, a limited review of the evidence and the principle points of dispute. The next section discusses the major school of thought. These are the Neo-Darwinian, Creationist, Intelligent Design and Meta-Darwinian schools. The Neo-Darwinian camp claims that natural selection working with mutations is sufficient to explain the development of life on Earth. The Creationist school is represented by the Young Earth position that sets forth the concept that God was creatively active in establishing the original life forms and change in morphology and genetics is limited within a comparative brief time frame. Other creation positions like theistic evolution and long-age creationism are only briefly referenced. The Intelligent Design school has much commonality with Creation emphasizing irreducible complexity while ignoring the age of the earth/universe issue. Lastly is the Meta-Darwinian school which consists of a collection of macro-evolutionary theories such as punctuated equilibrium, exaptation, neutral theory, complexity theory, endoymbiosis and others. The supporters of these theories support naturalistic evolution but believe that the neo-Darwinian synthesis (acting alone) is an inadequate explanatory mechanism. The last section deals with public policy issues concerning the debate and a final summary analysis of all four schools of thought. Among the most valuable features of this book are its many tables that summary the basic pro and con arguments for each school. The final chapter likewise produces tables that briefly sum up the each school's accomplishments, issues and challenges. This volume also includes a helpful glossary of terms, a bibliography and an index.
How does one present the various lines of thought on such a contentious issue and do so without taking sides? Early in the book (p. 15) the authors claim "that this book is more objective than any other that we know of on the subject." They proceed to spell out their claims to objectivity which include that they hold no theory as assumed to be truth (a priori), all arguments will be considered on an equal basis and they will be evaluated on a strictly scientific basis. Also they claim that no school must emerge as the winner, that science call explain all observable phenomena associated with evolution and they have received no funding to write the book. The authors also claim because of the limitations of such a volume certain issues may not be covered which some readers will deem important and that there has been a host of pre-publication reviewers who have striven mightily to ferret out an hint of bias (pp. 16-17).
However bias does crept in. Bias begins with the title-- "The Evolution Controversy". In the public's mind "evolution" is here called "Strong Darwinian Evolution" which is "common descent ... by natural forces alone are responsible for the emergence of all organisms." (p. 366). The first sentence of chapter one begins "Charles Darwin's theory of organic evolution..." (p. 21). Since Neo-Darwinism is the reigning consensus of the intellectual/academic establishment the other competing schools are constantly playing catch up or reacting to this naturalist paradigm. Perhaps a more neutral title like "The Origins Controversy" would have prepared the reader for an equal start at the opening gate. Each school should begin with a clean slate in presenting their evidence. For example, the authors assume the validity of vast geological time without proving it (pp. 84, 86) appealing to the authority of "the commonly accepted chronology."
The Creationist chapter consists of brief descriptions of the major creation U.S. creation science organizations, The Institute for Creation Research, Creation Research Society, Answers in Genesis, Geoscience Research Institute and Center for Scientific Creation (Walt Brown). Six major hurdles (pp. 195-196) are erected for Creation Science to be viable alternative to evolutionism. They are: the distant star light problem, terrestrial evidence for a very ancient earth, Radiometric dating, the fossil record, uniformity of the genetic code (pseudogenes, synteny blocks) and similarities of physiological and function of organisms suggesting common ancestry of all life. Creationist answers to these problems are given and evaluated. For creation friendly readers of this section a sense of frustration results because of the seemingly superficial examination of the evidence and arguments. While the authors strive for balance it seems as if they pick and chose from the Creationist literature giving an uneven evaluation of the positions. One example is the treatment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) argument. The authors parrot the evolutionist "open system" response (p. 225-226) without evaluating the creationist counter arguments. Having raw energy alone coming into an open system will not create complexity. A coded plan or template needs to exist for growth to take place. Another example of superficial handling of the RATE group findings. While the first RATE book is referenced (p. 219) and the 2005 RATE conclusions are mentioned (p. 220) but the final results are not evaluated.
Fowler and Kuebler did a reasonable job in presenting the various schools of thought in a fairly objective fashion. The Evolution Debate primary merit is that it describes the major current theories of origins and presents some of the evidence with arguments and counterarguments. However, many partisans of each school will not be satisfied with their presentation or evaluation.
Good outline of issues, neutrally presented, but inadequate in the facts Feb 7, 2009
The work gives creationists (those currently most prominent) involved in the "evolution controversy" a fairly neutral hearing, which one doesn't often find outside the Christian/creationist press. But creationism has many very different streams, and authors are inconsistent in lumping them and separating them. And they go overboard in places when working to deflect criticism away from creationists. For example, they accuse a prominent evolution supporter of "propaganda" and trying to "smear" creationists with the label of flat earthers and geocentrists. Consulting the text they cited for the claim shows this is to be a patently false and grossly unfair accusation. The author made it quite plain creationists with those views were on the extreme fringe, very few in number remaining any more (though they aren't extinct yet!), a different breed from the young earth creationists and inconsequential in the modern evolution debate. Authors also overstate the influence of today's more scientifically rigorous creationists as well, and minimize the influence their slip-shod brethren in the movement still hold. Tsk tsk. The information put forth by the most prominent and influential spokespersons in today's creationist circles has changed little in the last twenty or thirty years.
A very worthwhile book, with a few flaws Jan 25, 2009
This is a book that is difficult to rate, because it varies so in quality. Most of it is very good, and I think that I have learned a lot from reading it. With the reservations that follow, I would recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in the evolution controversies, and more generally to people interested in scientific issues associated with evolution. The authors have included a bibliography organized by subject as an aid to those wanting to read further. It is perhaps unfortunate that one tends to be briefer in praise than in criticism, perhaps because in the former case the work speaks for itself. Please do not let the length of my criticisms overwhelm my genuine praise for the work.
The authors bravely set out to examine the scientific arguments, and those only, of four camps in the evolution disputes: Neo-Darwinists, the overwhelming majority of naturalistic scientists; creationists, here meaning only Young Earth Creationists (YEC); Intelligent Design; and Meta-Darwinists, meaning naturalistic scientists who think that natural selection may be over-rated as the engine of evolution. It may seem redundant to speak of naturalistic scientists, but the subject calls for clarity and precision. For the most part, they have done a creditable job at this difficult task, which makes it a very worthwhile read. Theistic evolutionists and Old Earth Creationists (OEC) are excluded on the grounds that they do not propose different scientific methods, but believe in non-naturalistic mechanisms supplementing the scientific processes.
It is easier for me to critique the chapter on Intelligent Design (ID), as it is less technical than the others. The authors do not deal with another criticism that I have read of Dembski's filter; that is necessity, chance, and design do not necessarily function discretely in the real world. Where would one place natural selection (which IDers often accept to a degree) on the filter given that it functions through the interaction of chance and necessity? Neo-Darwinism is not the only naturalistic system that the authors need to consider; Meta-Darwinism offers mechanisms that avoid requiring a function to be built stepwise. One must keep in mind that according to naturalistic explanations, most individuals don't reproduce and most experiments fail. To take the authors' example, if organisms developed a light-sensitive patch, some might swim toward the light, some might swim away from it, and some might do a little dance. The organisms whose reaction was most useful would produce more of the next generation. The authors don't address the question of precisely what we have said if we say something is designed, although they note the problem of presenting positive evidence. The IDers have argued that it is possible for the non-naturalistic to be considered in science, but we are left wondering how they propose to do this.
The penultimate chapter: "Public Policy Implications of the Evolution Controversy" is atrocious, and in many ways undercuts the careful work of the rest of the book. The discussion is generally shallow, and often involves broad, unsupported generalizations about large groups of people, which are often elsewhere contradicted. Theistic evolutionists and Old Earth Creationists may not have unique scientific arguments, but they are essential to make sense of evolution theory as a public phenomenon and should have been included more consistently here.
I will discuss only the section on education. The authors speak very vaguely about education without considering that what is appropriate may depend upon the level and time spend on the class. If high school students are going to spend a total of ninety minutes on evolution, or any other topic, there is no time to consider more than the most generally agreed-upon highlights. As an analogy, when I attend a several hour course on life-after-death at a friend's church, the teacher explained the basic beliefs; he did not review abstruse theological points, the beliefs of other sects, or general institutional problems of the church. Not everything that is useful or broadening can be taught in twelve years of basic education. Among the things that I did NOT learn in school are how to write a check; how to balance a bank account; how to do laundry; and, most germane in this case, non-Euclidean geometry. Given that most Americans don't believe in naturalistic evolution, the alternatives are widely available in society at large. Indeed, according to histories of the subject, the main reason that evolution is taught in school at all in many places is that Sputnik frightened the Federal government into emphasizing science, which the authors agree is very important in our society, and Neo-Darwinism is the most commonly held position by scientists, as the authors also admit. In addition, the authors do not consider what exactly would be taught as an alternative. On a scientific level, they credit Intelligent Design with few scientific achievements thus far; Creationist work deals more with astronomy and geology than evolution per se. In his book Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, Michael Shermer lists at the end the variety of religious beliefs towards the formation of the universe, and variety of just Christian attitudes towards evolution. Young Earth Creationists may cheer on Intelligent Designers in attacking naturalistic evolution, but I suspect that if some sort of non-naturalistic theories were introduced, they would be at odds, not to mention what non-Christians would have to say. As students spend more time on a subject, especially as it becomes their profession, it becomes more appropriate and necessary for them study exceptions, fringe ideas, and criticisms. They could serve as a helpful stimulus to clarifying and understanding one's own views, at very least.
Moreover, the authors make the sweeping, and to my mind offensive, generalization that people who want to specify what type of evolution children learn, in this context meaning naturalistic science, take an anything-goes attitude towards ethics and morality. (p.335) Have the authors any data to back up this statement? I question the validity of this point of view, even if we were talking only about atheists like Richard Dawkins, but I find it unacceptable that the authors are ignoring the existence of theistic believers. Does this include that theistic evolutionist Pope John Paul II? How about two well-known Christian scientists Kenneth Miller and Simon Conway Morris? Are the authors implying that "liberal Christian" is an oxymoron? The authors have strayed from their intention of rising above insults and ad hominem attacks.
This book, in short, would be a lot better for being shorter.
Even handed discussion of Theories of Evolution May 11, 2008
A tour de force!
Though I was familiar with many concepts regarding evolution and Darwinism, this book opened my eyes to many, many other issues of evolution.
It read like a detective novel. As I went through each chapter, I would think, this must be the right theory. What can be the objections? Then, in the next chapter, I would think, "No. It's not the "butler", it must be the gardener." In each chapter, I felt the particular theory that was being discussed was handled objectively and without revealing the authors' own beliefs or prejudices.
The book explains the difference between Creationism and Intelligent Design. I, too, had thought they were in the same camp, but after reading those chapters I realized that Intelligent Design does not deserve being tarred with the same brush as Creationism.
Mr. Fowler deftly handles so many disciplines: physics, chemistry, mathematics, bio-chemistry. There were many more sciences involved in studying evolution than I had known.
It has so many attributes that books don't any more. I think the prose is quite good. Nice balanced sentences, varied vocabulary. There seem to be so many subtleties and nuances in all this research. You also handle all the chemistry and physics adroitly and clearly. I never understood that there were some real leaps of faith in radioactive dating. Most writers make it sound like they can tell when Beethoven took his paino in for repair based on carbon-dating.
I have bought several copies and sent them to friends, after they expressed interest because of my enthusiasm and increased understanding.
An excellent, well-organized overview Feb 18, 2008
This was a refreshingly balanced overview of the scientific aspects of four competing schools of thought: Neo-Darwinian, Creationist, Intelligent Design and Meta-Darwinian (punctuated equilibrium, hierarchical selection, exaptation, neutral theory, evo-devo, morphogenic fields, self-organization/complexity theory and endosymbiosis).
In addition to textual descriptions of the current scientific case for and against each school, there are summary tables of the position of each school on six disputed points (common descent, genetic information and random mutation, adequacy of random mutation/natural selection to account for change, age of the universe and of the earth, scope of naturalistic explanation, and employment of bona fide scientific methods and theory). The book also has a diagram of each school's logical structure (key explanations, postulates, core beliefs, and underlying assumptions) and tables of how each school stacks up against ten criteria of a genuine scientific theory (compactness, simplicity, falsifiability, verifiability, retrodiction, prediction, exploration, repeatability, clarity and intuitiveness).
The book concludes with summary tables of the accomplishments, issues and challenges for each school, a table of proposed tests to distinguish the four schools, and the authors' positions on the issues (not in a table).
I'm making it sound like the book is mostly tables, which isn't the case. Most of the tables are less than a page long, interspersed among 360 pages of text, along with other helpful tables and illustrations. The book does not explore theological issues, only scientific isues.
My only beef with the book is the authors' careless handling of Old Earth Creationism, which begins by referring to "a second Creationist camp, known as 'ordinary' Creationists" (p. 31) and ends by lumping Old Earth Creationists in with "Creationists" and then using the term "Creationist" when they mean Young-Earth Creationist (p. 92, p. 133, etc.). I gave the book five stars because it was otherwise very well done.