A thoroughly researched—and irreverent—reconsideration of Darwinian evolution.
An engineer by profession, first-time author Anderson meticulously dissects the regnant wisdom regarding evolution in an attempt to demonstrate its lack of scientific rigor. The author’s argument begins by distinguishing evolutionary theory from natural selection, two notions typically conflated since Darwin made the latter the causal lever that moves the former. Anderson explains that natural selection is only one possible way to account for the movement of evolution among at least five competing alternatives, and it’s not the most empirically attractive. In fact, he contends that natural selection is largely generated out of complex inference and testimony rather than unvarnished observation. The centerpiece of this repudiation is a searching discussion of the key concept of “variation,” the historical accumulation of which Anderson says is something that simply cannot be perceptually pinpointed. Some of the book is devoted to Darwin’s own thought and some to his legacy as interpreted and reinterpreted by self-proclaimed disciples. Here Darwin emerges as a surprisingly derivative thinker who borrowed and reshaped the ideas of his predecessors. Darwin’s disciples, insistent on advancing their personal ideologies, transformed Darwin’s theory into a fully confirmed scientific consensus. The entire book rests on an uncompromising view of science as free from theoretical inference and testimony: “It should be remembered that testimony, of which inference is a part, has no merits in nature, whether it be from Darwin, Wallace, Dobzhansky, or the NAS [National Academy of Sciences]. Testimony adds faith, not fact, to the public debate.” Many will find this take on science gratuitously narrow; however, Anderson ably raises questions about the scientific status of Darwinism as well as its philosophical coherence. While informative, the section detailing the appropriation of Darwinian thought by nefarious political groups, like Nazi propagandists, doesn’t itself discount Darwin’s views. Still, this is a provocative book that thoughtfully reopens debates unfortunately closed by collective dogmatism.
A thorough introduction to scientifically reasonable objections to Darwinian evolution.