Rob's Reviews > Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design

Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer
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Dec 18, 07

bookshelves: 2007, skepticism, biology
Recommended for: Nonscientists interested in the creation/evolution "controversy"
Read in December, 2007

Why Darwin Matters, by well-known skeptic author Michael Shermer, is an excellent introduction to the science, and lack thereof, behind the "controversy" between evolution and "Intelligent Design" (ID) creationism that has jeopardized science education in the USA. Those who are seeking an in-depth criticism of current ID arguments, however, will find this book lacking in particulars.

Shermer begins with a concise survey of what evolution really is, and masterfully sets the historical stage in which evolution is pitted against Christian fundamentalism. He accurately pinpoints the major logical fallacies characteristic of ID creationists' arguments, and briefly surveys the "best" arguments put forth in favor of ID, touching on the flaws in each. Finally, he reveals some disturbing facts about the true motives of the ID movement. All in all, the book is beautifully organized and extremely well written.

Nonetheless, it is not until the Coda—after the Epilogue—that Shermer drives home the central argument against ID, that it is scientifically vacuous: "The problem with the supernatural explanations of Intelligent Design is that there is nothing we can do with supernatural explanations. They lead to no data collection, no testable hypotheses, no quantifiable theories: therefore, no science." Moreover, Shermer does an admirable job explaining the key role of evolution in modern biology, yet somehow fails to mention its enormous potential to improve human health, as geneticists and molecular biologists have already begun to unravel the secrets of the human genome, drawing crucial information from the genomes of the chimpanzee and other animals. To the average American, that's why Darwin matters.

The battle-hardened scientist or science teacher already embroiled in the "controversy" will learn little from Why Darwin Matters—but will still enjoy reading it. And for any up-and-coming defender of science, this book makes a perfect springboard from which to explore the politico-religious phenomenon of ID in greater depth.
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