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Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails).

WHY EVOLUTION WORKS (AND CREATIONISM FAILS) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009. xviii + 241 pages. Paperback; $21.95. ISBN: 9780813545509.

The dedication expresses the hope that this book will not be needed in a generation. Unfortunately, other books are needed if this hope is to be fulfilled. The book does a good job of presenting scientific evidence and particular scientific problems common in young-earth or intelligent design arguments, at a generally accessible level. There are some passing errors in detail: for example, page 69 refers to chemosynthetic bacteria as plants and says that eyes, being soft tissues, do not fossilize (some eyes have hard parts, as in most arthropods; rarely are soft-tissue eyes fossilized). The discussion of pseudoscience versus science is also good, and the index and bibliography are good.

However, on philosophical and religious topics, the book means well, but does poorly. Like many works by nonbelievers who are not antagonistic to religion, there is a mix of statements supporting the compatibility of religion and science, and ones that suggest incompatibility, at least without significant watering down. For example, defining higher criticism as "careful, dispassionate efforts to deduce the origin, age, or veracity of various sections of the Bible" (p. 21) will make many theologically conservative readers question the authors' reliability as judges of credible work. Conversely, asserting that a local Flood is unbiblical (p. 56) provides fodder for opponents of conventional geology. Statements of the erroneousness of creationism are made before the detailed discussion, again probably putting off the target audience.

Poor philosophical arguments against ID (such as who made the designer, p. 62) are included. The glossary definition of ID is that "evolution must have been guided, at least at times, by a designer, who is presumed to be the Christian God." The assertion that God guides evolution is more typical of theistic evolution than of ID, which usually invokes stronger intervention than simple guidance, and not all ID advocates are Christian.

The glossary is very thorough and generally does well with the scientific terms, but sometimes has problems on the philosophical or religious end. On the other hand, probably almost all of the ASA would agree with their assertion that Gould's NOMA is incorrect, because science and religion do interact and overlap in at least some ways.

Thus, this is probably not the book to give to a friend who is skeptical about evolution. It is, however, a good book to read discerningly, picking out useful parts.

Reviewed by David Campbell, Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY 14850.
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Author:Campbell, David
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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