Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Review of

Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

by Michael Denton

This is the text of the somewhat hurried review I dashed off to Amazon. - C.S.

A molecular biologist refutes evolutionism.
(I was astonished to find Mr. Denton described as an agnostic. If this is true, this book is even more amazing for its intellectual honesty.)

A molecular biologist, Mr. Denton marshals various facts mitigating against the theory of evolution. Indeed, one of the strengths of this book is its "big picture" approach to refuting evolution - arguing for the existence of distinct classes of organisms by asking hard questions about homology, embryonic development, amino acid design, and, of course, the bugbear of evolution and origins science - DNA.

Although published before Behe's wonderfully controversial "Darwin's Black Box", Denton examines several black boxes - the astonishing complexity of avian feathers, the incorporation of the Page-Handley slot in avian wings, the specialized breathing system of birds; hard questions about supposed transitional forms such as Archaeopteryx; the mind-boggling, inexplicably different migration pathways of cells in metamorphosizing insects; the much-touted but misleading "horse series"; and so on. As one reads through this amazing dissection of these subjects, the disturbing (and sad) thought arises: Why aren't these questions being asked in public, as it were? Why do the textbooks and museums present such poorly understood (and sometimes outrightly false) material as fact? Why aren't more scientists thinking as critically? It's tragic that these questions are not raised in biology classes to sharpen and stimulate young (?) minds but that the "doctrines" he questions are routinely presented as gospel. Sometimes we can have too much faith, it seems.

Perhaps what the reader will find most fascinating is the revelation that the evolutionary classification scheme falls on its face even at the molecular level - the very area in which it had hoped to triumph. Science now has a quantitative method of measuring supposed ancestral relationships - percentage sequence difference comparison of amino acid and DNA - and that method shows amphibians to be just as far away from fish (ancestrally) as humans are (to pick just one example), an unwelcome finding apparently raising much ire in the evolutionary community.

The sheer amount of misinformation contained in tirades against this book only attests to the religious nature of the adherents of evolution. The constant refusal, however, of evolution's defenders to meet Denton's challenges head-on with objective and undisputed facts should encourage other scientists to "come out of the closet" with their own doubts - if for nothing more than a love for science.

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