EVOLUTION VS. Creationism, An Introduction, by Eugenie C. Scott. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. 272 pages, References, index. Hardcover; $49.95. ISBN 0-313-32122-1. P> At last -- a book that both Henry Morris, of the Institute for Creation Research, and Niles Eldredge, a prominent scientist, can agree upon as worth reading. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, is an articulate and engaging author. She has written a book suitable for a wide audience, young adults, college students, teachers and non-specialized general readers. The book is comprehensive and balanced, treating scientific evidences for evolution, religious views, and a brief history of the so-called "evolution-creation" controversy. It is a "best buy" for school and college libraries; its stiff price may preclude an appeal to a private library. ASAers already familiar with the issues are urged to read it; it does not attempt, however, to break new ground in the debate.
Scott makes the point both early and often that the so-called "creation-evolution" controversy is NOT a scientific one, but one confined entirely to social debates. (Page xx) "Students are ill-served if in the name of "fairness" . . . they are misled into believing there is a controversy in the scientific world over whether evolution occurred. There is none. . . .. It would be dishonest . . . to pretend that a public controversy . . . is also a scientific controversy . . . .."
Scott writes well, but unevenly; some sections are high school level, a few are too technical, particularly those when she treats her own specialty of biology. She is very careful to define terms clearly; this is a definite strength of the book. For instance, in her Introduction (page xxii), she carefully separates the two components of evolution, (1) descent from common ancestors, and (2) natural selection as the major cause. Sometimes she "talks down" to the reader; phrases such as "you will learn about," suggest her primary target audience is the young scholar. This is annoying, but understandable.
In writing this book, and selecting articles to contrast views, Scott received courteous cooperation from the two primary Young Earth Anti-evolution organizations, ICR (Institute for Creation Research) and AIG (Answers in Genesis). She also found Phillip Johnson to be cooperative; however, the Intelligent Design people at the Discovery Institute refused to participate. Scott refers disparagingly (page xviii) to their "my way or the highway" response! As a result the special creationists speak for themselves, Morris, Sarfati, etc. but the discussions of IDC (Intelligent Design Creationism) are those of Scott. There is no direct mention of the ASA, but there is a reference to ASAer Glenn Morton's "delightful" web site (page xxi) in the Introduction. Also, (page 157) there is a citation of Roger Weins' paper "Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective" as accessed on the ASA web site. ASAer Richard Dickerson's 1992 article "The Game of Science," from the Journal of Molecular Evolution, 1992 is reprinted on pages 252-254; a version of this article also appeared in PERSPECTIVES.
Niles Eldredge has written an excellent Foreword, "The Unmetabolized Darwin," setting forth the primary reasons for the book. First, he writes, evolution (page ix) ". . . still does not sit well with an awful lot of (people). . . .." Second, social discourse on origins ". . . has been stuck in a rut since . . . (1859)." Third, (page xii) "It is because creationism transcends religious belief and is openly and aggressively political that we need to sit up and pay attention. . . .. Creationists persistently and consistently threaten the integrity of science teaching in America--and this, of course, is of grave concern." Like it or not, Eldredge argues, one MUST enter the political arena to combat creationism.
The book is divided into three sections, three chapters on science, evolution, religion and creationism, three chapters on the history of the controversy, and six chapters containing literature selections. The areas of cosmology, astronomy, and geology are the chief scientific focus. Legal, educational and religious issues each have their own chapter. The final chapter discusses the nature of science. This third section is poorly edited; the literature selections appear abruptly, with the citation source following each selection; this causes some confusion in understanding each part. Generally, the literature selections are appropriate; in one or two cases, however, the excerpts criticizing a preceding creationist argument are much too technical for a younger audience.
In sum, this is a book I definitely recommend, even though its price is high and it is not done "perfectly." Scott, no Christian, does a fair job of representing the religious positions. This may be a book to give to a young relative who is struggling with the issues and, perhaps, too much influenced by ICR, AIG, James Kennedy or other Christian preachers who base their theology on young earth anti-evolution arguments.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson
Retired physicist, IBMer, Stephen Minister.
Rico Community Church