cover image The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism

The Triumph of Evolution: And the Failure of Creationism

Niles Eldredge / Author Henry Holt & Company $24.95 (223p) ISB

Kansas educators delete Darwin. A Berkeley law professor treats evolution as just another hypothesis. Other high-profile creationists turn up on TV and influence local school boards. What's a science educator to do? Though theorists argue ancillary issues, scientific debates on Darwin's core ideas have been over for a century: Darwin's side won. But the proven theory still requires public advocates. Eldredge (The Pattern of Evolution), a paleontologist and curator at the American Museum of Natural History, has tangled with creationists before (notably in 1982's The Monkey Business); his new work is mostly an articulate, clear and unstinting brief for evolution by means of natural selection, and for the scientific method against its enemies. Evolution's other public champions often content themselves with explaining its workings: Eldredge does so ably, demonstrating how the fossil record functions as testable evidence for evolution, and what sort of speciations and extinctions it contains. He then dissects specific creationist programs, contending that public figures like Duane Gish and Philip Johnson exhume disproven Victorian geology; that they misunderstand complex structures (like wings and eyes); and that they distort evidence and misrepresent working scientists (among them Eldredge himself) to create a false impression of fair debate. Other biologists simply maintain that science and religion are apples and oranges. Eldredge instead suggests that belief and biology can and should collaborate--not in the classroom, but in raising public awareness of mass extinctions and other threats to the environment. Readers of all kinds will appreciate his energetic exposition; Eldredge hopes in particular to reach people involved in ongoing political battles--teachers (and others) confronted with creationist arguments, and students (and others) who don't know what to believe. (June)