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Michael Ruse

Extended Book Review

This well-crafted book considers Darwinism, from the “-ism” point of view–for “-ism” Darwin has become. This is the fault of modern society whose discontents are ”ism” followers and "ism" creators in their own right. The last thing Darwin had in mind was to create a quasi “cult.” He did not, of course. However, unlike most cults, Darwin’s detractors created Darwinism by labeling what they PROJECTED as a threat–-a threat to their sense of self, their self image, their salvation. This is not at all bad in-and-of-itself; we all have a right to protect our individuality. The problem comes from the collective result when sociopaths use anti-Darwinism to further their grips on the human mind in order to achieve their own ends. We strongly recommend this book. It is a well-balanced read.

There is much to be learned from this well-annotated book. Michael Ruse quotes others liberally, giving due credit as he creatively weaves diverse sources into a coherent whole. To others he extends the benefit of doubt. Ruse is careful not to offend those who discontend. We applaud him for that. In less than 300 pages of paperback press, Ruse presents both sides of the Darwin question. He does a remarkable job in recreating Darwin's thinking and illustrates well what biological science is really about.

Ruse is also brutally honest by indicting occasional scientists with simple error in ignorance, carelessness, deliberate plagiarism, or outright fraud--which he considers the highest crime a scientist can commit. All the while, Ruse understands that scientists are emotional creatures, and, like the rest of us, often subject to bias.

When hubris substitutes for common sense, a scientist lands in troubles of his own making. The same, of course, is also true of the critics of science, but Ruse does not dwell on that issue.

Ruse traces both the origins of life and the concept of religion invented by the most thoughtful level of life. That both evolved, there can be no doubt–-to the logical mind. To believers, brought up in monotheist homes, there may be equal certainty that Genesis describes how man came into being. Ruse treats each concept with the respect it deserves. He respectfully illustrates that religion and science are simply different things: One is predictive and subject to test, the other is not. One addresses the known, the other what is beyond.

Nevertheless, just as well-trained engineers build better dams than do beavers, Ruse comes down on the side of science as providing better recipes than sheer belief ever can for how the real world operates. Science is predictive and has, for a purpose, exploring the not-yet known. We live better and longer because of the discoveries of Newton, Pasteur, Watson and Crick.

All branches of science have their limits of course. And this is especially true of biology, which is still a comparatively young science. Nevertheless, evolution is predictive in that organisms evolve, and their societies evolve with them. Limitations in biology come simply because science cannot predict exactly what direction evolution will take beyond a central principle that evolution proceeds toward complexity, and mutations are selected when they improve a species' ability to survive. These are simple, historic facts.

Ruse freely uses some vocabulary not in common use by lay people; so also with concepts. Nevertheless, he makes ideas easy to navigate with simple definitions and illustrations, each with copious examples.

For those who love to browse before buying, an outline of Ruse’s topics follows:

Charles Darwin and His Revolution
    • The Problem and Its Final Causes
    • Charles Robert Darwin
    • The Darwinians
    • Summing UP
The Fact Of Evolution
    • Fact or Theory
    • Darwin’s Three Approaches
    • The Direct Evidence
    • Consilience of Inductions
    • Consilience of the Origin
    • Is It Really True?
    • Really a fact?
    • Methodological Naturalism
The Origin of Life
    • Vitalism and Its Critics
    • Organization
    • Spontaneous Generation
    • The Oparin-Haldane Hypothesis
    • RNA world?
    • An Impenetrable Barrier
The Path of Evolution
    • The Fossil Record
    • The Pre Cambrian
    • The Cambrian and After
    • Life Underway
    • Patterns
    • Cladism
    • Problems?
    • Molecular Clocks
    • Consilience
The Cause of Evolution
    • Population Genetics
    • The Level of the Gene
    • Tautology
    • Empirical Evidence: Artificial Selection
    • Natural Selection
    • Speciation
    • Adaptation
    • Optimality Models
    • Reverse Engineering
Limitations and Restrictions
    • Is Natural Selection All-Powerful?
    • The Maladaptive Costs of Evolution
    • Levels of Selection
    • Constraints
    • Punctuated Equilibrium
    • Order For Free
    • Selection Slain?
    • The Past
    • Causes
    • Talk
    • Thought
    • Human Nature
    • Race
    • Reductionism
Fact Or Fiction?
    • Darwin and Progress
    • Read In or Read Out
    • Niche climbing
    • Moral Directives
    • Conflicting Prescriptions
    • Objectivity
    • Values
Dishonest Science
    • Plagiarism and Fraud
    • Reasons For Making Changes
    • Haeckel’s Pictures
    • If Not Dishonest Science, Then Bad Science
    • Piltdown Man
    • Culprits?
    • Peppered Moths
    • Conclusion
    • Traditional Evolutionary Epistemology
    • Darwinian Epistemology
    • Circularity
    • Darwinian Ethics
    • Game Theory
    • Meta-ethics
    • Erewhon
    • Critique of Darwinsim
    • George Bernard Shaw
    • Social Darwinism
    • Determinism
    • Is Biology Enough?
    • Creation
    • Humans
    • Miracles
    • Design
    • Intelligent Design
    • The Problem of Evil
    • Free Will
    • Not Doing the Impossible
    • Conclusion


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