Science

Top 10 myths about evolution

Here’s a cool book I’d like to look into. I read about it on evolvgen at Seed Magazine’s scienceblogs.com site.

The book is The Top Ten Myths about Evolution by Cameron McPherson Smith and Charles Sullivan.

What I love about it is that the title sound like it’s going to debunk evolution, but it actually debunks creationism!

Here’s the skinny from the official website:


Though the United States is the world leader in science and technology, many of its citizens display a shocking ignorance regarding basic scientific facts. Recent surveys have revealed that only about half of Americans realize that dinosaurs never lived side by side with humans, and about the same number reject the idea that humans developed from earlier species of animals. This lack of knowledge in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution springs from a number of negative influences in contemporary society: poor secondary education in some regions of the country, misinformation in the mass media, and deliberate obfuscation by supporters of Creationism and Intelligent Design.

In this concise, accessible handbook, educators Cameron M. Smith and Charles Sullivan clearly dispel the ten most common myths about evolution, which continue to mislead average Americans. Using a refreshing, jargon-free style, they set the record straight on claims that evolution is “just a theory,” that Darwinian explanations of life undercut morality, that Intelligent Design is a legitimate alternative to conventional science, that humans come from chimpanzees, and six other popular but erroneous notions.

Smith and Sullivan’s reader-friendly, solidly researched text will serve as an important tool, both for teachers and laypersons seeking accurate information about evolution.

The Top Ten Myths About Evolution is scheduled for release in Fall, 2006, from Prometheus Books.

Although written for an even broader audience, The Top Ten Myths About Evolution is an offshoot of the authors’ 2005 article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Getting the Monkey off Darwin’s Back: Four Common Myths about Evolution.


Here are the 10 myths that get debunked:

Myth 1:
Survival of the Fittest

Myth 2:
It’s Just a Theory

Myth 3:
The Ladder of Progress

Myth 4:
The Missing Link

Myth 5:
Evolution is Random

Myth 6:
People Come from Monkeys

Myth 7:
Nature’s Perfect Balance

Myth 8:
Creationism Disproves Evolution

Myth 9:
Intelligent Design is Science

Myth 10:
Evolution is Immoral

I tried to post a picture of the cover, but I couldn’t get it to upload without an error. When I figure it out, I’ll add it to this post.

Anyone want to read this after the holidays?

Donna

P.S. I am still not sure who read the blog versus the forums, so I’ve posted this in both places. When the new site is set up, I’ll figure out some kind of system of what belongs where! Thanks for putting up with me in the meantime….

writerdd

Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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12 Comments

  1. I think it's a little bit of a failure of science teaching that such books are necessary. I can remember my secondary school teacher debunking many of those points, although he steered clear of religion and morality. It strikes me that many of the points made are tailored to the US market, although I think there is a huge disparity here in the UK between what people are taught and what the consensus opinion is. (see this, but note the age bias).

    I'm quite interested in Myth 10, because evolution seems to be amoral rather than having any particular moral status. After all, the same process that produced Einstein also produced smallpox or malaria.

  2. I've been interested in the evolution/creationism debate for some time. The opponents of evolutionary theory (at least in the U.S.) have gotten increasingly shriller as their stealth weapon, Intelligent Design, has been repeatedly shown up for the sham that it is.

    Of course the shriller they get, the more ridiculous and convoluted their arguments get, and the more they push themselves out to the margins (at best) of the scientific community. From there they loudly declare that they are persecuted visionaries who will ultimately triumph over the current godless dogma, for which there is no evidence anyway…

    (takes a deep breath)

    Where was I going with this…

    Oh yes. To a lot of people though, such catchphrases as "teaching the controversy" and "it's just a theory", sound very reasonable. So works like the Top Ten are invaluable.

    There's more than enough wonder in the universe revealed by science to excite anyone; to teach even a bit of how science works to the relatively uninformed is a worthy thing.

  3. There's a big difference between a-moral and im-moral. The first implies no morals, the second implies bad morals.

    Maybe somebody got their definitions or spelling mixed up and as such the myth was born?

    Or maybe, from a christian P.O.V., anything that challenges the source of morality as being god/the bible is immoral?

  4. I think it could be the case. I read a little on the internet before making the first post and it appears most arguments are of the form:

    If immoral behaviour provides an evolutionary advantage the theory of evolution must be immoral.

    It's similar to misunderstandings of Richard Dawkins' Selfish Gene. There's the presumption that immoral behaviour always provides an evolutionary advantage, when much behaviour is altruistic in human terms (rather than in terms of the unit of selection).

    The reason I raised the point of amorality is that I hope the book hasn't glossed over any of the (superficially) negative aspects of evolution. I'm going to read it at some point just to see ;-).

  5. This sounds like an interesting book. I'm quite curious, actually, about Myth #7: Nature's Perfect Balance. Balance has always been an interesting concept to me and I'm curious what exactly they have to say about it. Anyone have the book that can give a better overview of what the myth there is?

    Also, I only read/post on the blog. I spend too much time as it is on the few blogs/fora at which I do participate! (It's hard to be an active participant on the web when I feel the need to be thorough and try to read EVERYTHING!) Thanks perfectionism, you're my best friend! :)

  6. I read the blog primarily, although being on holiday now till the new year I'll probably miss lots, especially with all the new bloggers (yay for the new bloggers!). Oh how I miss my surf-time in work :)

    I like the sound of this book club, and it's alwyas nice to read aobut what some people think evolution says.

  7. As an answer to this informal cencus, I only read the blog.

    Sounds like an interessting book. The whole teaching intelligent design is not very close to home for me, Danes put this sort of thing "Americans are crazy" category. That kind of thing really belongs in religion class and nowhere else.

    I loved religion class in school, when I was little (1st-3rd grade) we were taught about Christianity and Nordic mythology. I thought the stories were cool. Later on more religions were introduced and explained/discussed. I remember visiting an exhibion about Judaism and I also remeber in 8th grade we were split up into groups and each group had to do a presentation on a religion, and interview some practitioners of that religion. One group got two Hare Krishnas to come in and they did some chants and explained their world view.

    I truely think that having religion class in school is something that everyone can benefit from.

  8. I'd love to read it after the holiday.

    I usually just read the blog but that's mainly because my username and password don't seem to work over at the forum (I registered over there and I'm on the userlist but I can't log in.)

    If someone were do do something about that I'd send them a trilobite or something

    P

    bribing with fossils …. this could be fun.

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