Books of interest Evolution Intelligent Design

What books offer the strongest arguments for evolution?

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A friend wrote around to ask what books offer the strongest arguments for evolution and various suggestions came forward, but one person we located offered some general advice worth sharing:

For each argument or piece of evidence, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What kind of “evolution” this is supposed to prove or could be used to prove? (“Inherited changes”, “Adaptations to ekological niches”, “Common descent with creature X”, “Universal common ancestry”, “The existence of a mechanism that could account for the emergence of heritable features needed if A & B share a common ancestor”, “Different ecosystems at different times”, “More advanced species on top of the geological column” or something else?)

2. Is it useful in what it aims for? How useful? If not, is the problem in the logic or the empirical facts?

3. What is the most it proves? (Every piece of evidence proves at least something, but often the results can be quite uninteresting)


Along those lines, I (O’Leary for News) vote for Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution. Readers?

See also: A biologist’s deep wish for Darwinism to make sense ( J. Scott Turner’s Purpose and Desire:)

23 Replies to “What books offer the strongest arguments for evolution?

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    See also: A biologist’s deep wish for Darwinism to make sense ( J. Scott Turner’s Purpose and Desire:)

    Why I Don’t Think I’m a Darwinian Anymore

    …after many years of being a quite staunch Darwinist, as a result of writing this book, I don’t think I’m a Darwinian anymore.

  2. 2
    goodusername says:

    What books offer the strongest arguments for evolution?

    I think the best book I’ve read that lays out the evidence for evolution is probably Ontogeny and Phylogeny by Stephen Jay Gould,

  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    Coyne’s books are always clear, crisp, funny, and wonderfully supported by many examples.

    The WEIT chapters on, vestiges, bad design, biogeography, and fossils, are positively dripping with examples of each line of evidence.

    His ‘Faith Versus Fact’, is more philisophical, but one which explains his point of view with out undue tedium, and self importance; a hall mark of bad writing I often see in very bad science writing with nothing to offer.

    Of course there is, ‘Origins’ which remains pertenant, and extremely well written, and ‘The Descent of Man’, which I wholly recommend.

    But why books? Surely published, up todate research, is much more important than books?

  4. 4
    ET says:

    Coyne’s books are supported by Coyne’s trope and smell of desperation.

  5. 5
  6. 6
    Florabama says:

    I read Gould’s stuff many years ago and found it beyond “desperate” as ET says of Coyne. The idea that bad design (the Panda’s Thumb) equals no design is so simplistic and jaw-dropping dumb that it is hardly worthy of response — and this being evolutions best argument from the preeminent Harvard paleontologist of my life time — not to mention that in spite of being a blatantly theological argument, it fails to spend one second on theological explanations just as the effect of the fall on creation. Add to that the fact that Gould’s explanation for the lack of fossil evidence is that evolution happened so fast it didn’t leave the millions of transitionals Darwin expected and one is left dumbfounded and wondering if these people really believe this stuff. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve come to terms with the degree to which men will go to escape their creator and nothing much surprises me anymore.

    1. “Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
    2. The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one.
    3 “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” (Psalm 2:1-3 NLT)

    Over the years, I’ve not seen any “strong” arguments for evolution. The best argument IMO is adaptation and Coyne emphasizes adaptation in species like the Stickleback. Of course this is extrapolation. If the Stickleback, Darwin’s finches, etc can adapt and change therefore, molecules to man. The fact that there is adaptive change in species is a point in Darwin’s favor, but that’s about it IMO, and otherwise, the deck is so stacked against Dawinian evolution that it is not even a contest. I have found that contrary to their stated belief in objective science, Darwinist are quite willing to ignore the science and believe by faith because the alternative is slavery to God in their minds and they cannot bear the thought of that.

  7. 7
    News says:

    rvb8 at 3: You write, “But why books? Surely published, up todate research, is much more important than books?”

    No, for large topics, books are better. As you will notice from reading news posts here, published research makes many narrow, often conflicting claims. Books, if written competently, present the current state of best evidence (meta-analysis), which the non-specialist reader requires to make sense of the scene.

    A meta-analysis in the literature, if fair and succinct, is also a good reading choice.

  8. 8
    News says:

    Meanwhile, someone wrote privately to suggest Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish… The link is to a PBS documentary on same.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    rvb8, if your average Jill reader wants to learn about evolution they are not going to go hunting up papers in science journals. Get a clue.

    The books that put forth the best evidence for evolution might actually be books that are critical.

    I recently asked over at “The Skeptical Zone” which book or books make the best case for universal common ancestry.

    Crickets.

  10. 10
    tribune7 says:

    Pop culture is the real influencer. Most average folk expressing a dogmatic belief in evolution base their thinking on what they heard from Bill Nye or Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

  11. 11
    ET says:

    Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish” is only a good book for those who already drank the Kool-Aid, ie the true believers of evolutionism. In the book there isn’t any evidence that fish could actually become terrestrial animals. The book is based on the assumption it happened. He thinks that similarities in HOX genes prove fish evolved into land animals. He does give us this bit of a tease, though:

    What if you could do an experiment in which you treated the embryo of a fish with various chemicals and actually changed its body, making part of its fin look like a hand?

    No, he hasn’t done that, yet. No one has as far as we know. Or perhaps they have and failed and that is why it hasn’t been in the news.

  12. 12
    News says:

    Rob Sheldon adds, re books in general:

    There are many things that cannot appear in papers but are ideal for books. Nobel laureate in physics, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar rarely published in journals, even though he was the editor of the prestigious Astrophysical Journal. But every 10 years, he would summarize his research in a book, publish it, and go on to his next project. Like a clockwork, 30 years would pass before the book suddenly became cutting edge research and everyone in the journal articles referenced it.

    I suspect that his derivations were too long for most journal editors, and his results too esoteric for most reviewers. He knew the world would catch up eventually, but he had other fish to fry.

  13. 13
    EricMH says:

    My question would be what is the strongest evidence for evolution? The best I know of is the same mistake occurring in DNA for chimps and humans. Highly unlikely unless they share a common ancestor.

  14. 14
    rvb8 says:

    ET @11,

    From pg105-106 of Shubin’s book you have obviously closely read, you can see the experiments of Hans Sperman, and Hilde Mangold, in the 1920s, were very sucessful at finding embryonic tissue common to all vertebrates that dictate body plans. They named it the embryonic ‘Organizer’.

    I’m sure you read on pgs49-46 of that book that Mary Gasseling and John Saunders discovered two patches of tissue in vertebrate embryoes that control limb and bone pattern, they called these patches the, zone of polarising activity, ZPA.

    Now here’s the thing ET, you can splice this gene into other vertebrates and it produces the required structure in all vertebrates with this DNA.

    Oh and if you add vitamin A, you can also disrupt, or turn on this patch of cells.

    Did you read Shubin, or did you do the typical ID two step, short cut?

  15. 15
    otto says:

    rvb8 @14

    From the message of ET @11 you have obviously closely read, you can see a quote from Shubin’s book in which the author asks us to think about an experiment where the fin of an embryo fish was made look like a hand.

    I’m sure you read on the following paragraph of that message where ET points out that there are no such experiments which we know of.

    You happen to quote two experiments which are related to HOX genes but beyond that they seem to have no obvious connection with what ET commented. (Of course “look like a hand” can be achieved at various degrees, such as killing some tissue [making the fin less flipper-like], or preventing the tissue from growing in the first place, but I’m sure you can see how this is quite an uninteresting degree of hand-look-alike-ness).

    Now here’s the thing, rvb8, the splicing of a switch gene and using it in any vertebrates is simply not interesting concerning the topic that ET commented.

    Did you read ET, or did you do the typical anti-ID two step, short cut?

    And no, I’m not sorry for the sarcasm. I think your message was both arrogant and clueless, and I strongly believe some reflection is the best response for such a combination.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Otto,

    One need look no further than my “Back to Basics” post to understand that arrogance and general cluelessness are what the Darwinians seem to do best. That post was a fairly stunning example. Rant after rant after rant attacking an example of a principle being applied, all the while admitting the underlying point.

  17. 17
    ET says:

    LoL! @ rvb8- Researchers from modern times have demonstrated their aren’t any body plans in the genomes. And no one has turned a fish fin into a hand by adding different chemicals. Clearly rvb8 doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

    Removing HOX genes from one organism, splicing them into another and have them work the same is a sure sign of a common design. Blind watchmaker evolution cannot account for HOX genes in the first place so it loses. HOX genes help control development but they do NOT determine what will develop.

    As Dr Denton tells us:

    To understand the challenge to the “superwatch” model by the erosion of the gene-centric view of nature, it is necessary to recall August Weismann’s seminal insight more than a century ago regarding the need for genetic determinants to specify organic form. As Weismann saw so clearly, in order to account for the unerring transmission through time with precise reduplication, for each generation of “complex contingent assemblages of matter” (superwatches), it is necessary to propose the existence of stable abstract genetic blueprints or programs in the genes- he called them “determinants”- sequestered safely in the germ plasm, away from the ever varying and destabilizing influences of the extra-genetic environment.

    Such carefully isolated determinants would theoretically be capable of reliably transmitting contingent order through time and specifying it reliably each generation. Thus, the modern “gene-centric” view of life was born, and with it the heroic twentieth century effort to identify Weismann’s determinants, supposed to be capable of reliably specifying in precise detail all the contingent order of the phenotype. Weismann was correct in this: the contingent view of form and indeed the entire mechanistic conception of life- the superwatch model- is critically dependent on showing that all or at least the vast majority of organic form is specified in precise detail in the genes.

    Yet by the late 1980s it was becoming obvious to most genetic researchers, including myself, since my own main research interest in the ‘80s and ‘90s was human genetics, that the heroic effort to find information specifying life’s order in the genes had failed. There was no longer the slightest justification for believing there exists anything in the genome remotely resembling a program capable of specifying in detail all the complex order of the phenotype. The emerging picture made it increasingly difficult to see genes as Weismann’s “unambiguous bearers of information” or view them as the sole source of the durability and stability of organic form. It is true that genes influence every aspect of development, but influencing something is not the same as determining it. Only a small fraction of all known genes, such as the developmental fate switching genes, can be imputed to have any sort of directing or controlling influence on form generation. From being “isolated directors” of a one-way game of life, genes are now considered to be interactive players in a dynamic two-way dance of almost unfathomable complexity, as described by Keller in The Century of The Gene- Michael Denton “An Anti-Darwinian Intellectual Journey”, Uncommon Dissent (2004), pages 171-2

    Yes I read Shubin and no he doesn’t have any idea what makes a fish a fish other than a fish hatches after a successful spawning between a male and female fish. Neither Shubin nor anyone else has done the experiment Shubin was talking about to make a fin look like part of a hand.

    And no one knows what determines body plans. No one. What we do know so far is it is NOT the genomes.

    Do you know anything beyond what you believe and don’t have evidence for, rvb8?

  18. 18
    ET says:

    Thank you, Otto

  19. 19
    ET says:

    They took a HOX gene from a mouse- PAX6- that is responsible for controlling eye (and apparently head) development and placed it in a fruit fly that had its similar gene removed. The fly developed FLY eyes and not mouse eyes. That is how we know HOX genes control development but do not determine what type of eye develops. And the thing is no one knows what determines what type of eye develops. All evolutionists say it comes down to interactions between the genomes and the environment, albeit without and supporting evidence.

  20. 20

    Otto @ 15: Well done. Rvb8 is a mere debunker, of course, but even he should appreciate how poorly he represents the a/mat faith with such posts.

  21. 21
    drc466 says:

    The strongest argument, I think, for Darwin’s evolutionary theory is the simple one he made – homologies. A chimp does, indeed, look very much like a man, and four-footed mammals surely have much in common with each other. Even much(most?) of modern research done in evolutionary theory is based on comparisons, just now being done at molecular rather than morphological level. Any book that focuses on homologies between species therefore fits the criteria of this post. Even rvb8’s examples are basically exercises in similarity (except for “bad design”, which is a theological argument not a scientific one, and biogeography, which is a fairly weak leg to stand on IMHO).

    I think it says a lot about Evolutionary theory that they haven’t really come up with anything more significant than homologies.

  22. 22
    gpuccio says:

    drc466:

    Homologies and differences (especially differences) are arguments for common descent.

    In no way they explain how new functional complexity arises.

    So, neo-darwinism has really zero arguments in its favour.

  23. 23

    Florabama @ 6: Excellent comment. The following is well-worth repeating:

    “I have found that contrary to their stated belief in objective science, Darwinists are quite willing to ignore the science and believe by faith because the alternative is slavery to God in their minds and they cannot bear the thought of that.”

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