Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Science, evolution and creationism

A selection of Darwin's finches

“I have stated, that in the thirteen species of ground-finches, a nearly perfect gradation may be traced, from a beak extraordinarily thick, to one so fine, that it may be compared to that of a warbler.”

Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

To celebrate Darwin's 207th birthday a week ago, National Academies Press offered a selection of their titles on evolution. One that especially caught my eye was Science, Evolution, and Creationism, 2008, by the Committee on Revising Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences; National Academy of Sciences; Institute of Medicine; and National Academies. It is offered as a reasonably-priced paperback or e-book and a free PDF download.

Beautifully designed and illustrated it, of course, is written from the scientific perspective and the chapter Creationist Perspectives, rightly, does not treat the subjective as an alternative science but as examples of bad science. Information on how science and religion are not in competition is covered, somewhat briefly in the chapter: Frequently Asked Questions and with directions to Additional Readings. It thus takes a far more gentler approach to this subject than I do as I see Creationism, in all of its forms as bad religion. Any sort of Fundamentalism, Christian or otherwise, is not fundamental at all but is Modernism in religious garb.Such ideas would have been seen as very strange, indeed, by the founders and first followers of these religions.Still, Zen-like shock techniques might not be to everyone's taste.

The first two chapters: Evolution and the Nature of Science and The Evidence for Biological Evolution are  very interesting and contain many fascinating examples. I highly recommend it.

As a companion volume, they are also offering Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science by the Working Group on Teaching Evolution, and the National Academy of Sciences, 1998, which is aimed more at educators and community leaders and which also addresses the Creationism controversy. It is available both as a paperback and a free PDF download, but not as an e-book. I can imagine that the latter volume, in communities where the matter is of some controversy, could make way for the former volume to be used by students.

John's Coydog Community page

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