The Discoveroids are promoting a new book by Michael Denton, a Discovery Institute “senior fellow.” It’s an update to his 1985 creationist classic, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Regarding the first book, Wikipedia says:
Reviews by parties within the scientific community were vehemently negative, with several attacking flaws in Denton’s arguments. Biologist and philosopher Michael Ghiselin described A Theory in Crisis as “a book by an author who is obviously incompetent, dishonest, or both — and it may be very hard to decide which is the case” and that his “arguments turn out to be flagrant instances of the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion.”
Creationists including John W. Oller, Jr of the Institute for Creation Research, and Answers in Genesis positively reviewed Denton’s book. Intelligent design proponents Phillip E. Johnson and Michael J. Behe say that they rejected evolution after reading the book.
The new version of Denton’s book is Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Amazon listing). And get this: it’s published by the prestigious Discovery Institute Press.
The latest post to promote the new book at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog (we ignored at least two earlier posts) is What the Galápagos Finches Tell Us About Evolution, written by Denton himself. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis
Remote, arid, and uninviting, the Galápagos Islands are a curiously inauspicious site for the dawning of an intellectual revolution. However, on his fateful visit in September 1835 aboard the British survey ship HMS Beagle, what Darwin saw on this remote archipelago would be vital to the development of his radical new evolutionary worldview.
Then he discusses the various finches Darwin found there and says:
Reflecting on this remarkable group of birds, Darwin famously (and rightly) inferred: “Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends.”
He goes on:
In other words, species were not specially created. Existing species had descended with modification from pre-existing species. …. Darwin also inferred that the major causal mechanism responsible for their adaptive divergence — the shaping of their beaks for example — is the simple mechanism of natural selection. More specifically, the cumulative selection of successive small adaptive changes has fashioned each species step-by-step with a morphology perfectly suited to thriving in “its” special ecological niche.
Fine. We all know that. Denton continues:
As far as the evolution of finch beaks is concerned, there is no need either at the morphological or genetic level to call for any causal agency other than cumulative selection. Here I concur with classic Darwinism.
Don’t misunderstand, dear reader. Denton doesn’t concur all the way. Here’s more:
But the highly touted success of Darwinism in explaining the evolutionary adaptation of the finches is a two-edged sword. While these cases demonstrate that cumulative selection can generate small degrees of adaptive evolutionary change in tiny incremental steps, they also reveal what is necessary for natural selection to explain any change in a species. … The problem, as I show throughout Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, is that the origin of the majority of novelties are not approached via functional continuums and cannot be explained in the same way.
Huh? Why not? Moving along:
In many places in the Origin, Darwin conceded that cumulative selection necessitates a long series of adaptive intermediates linking ancestor with descendant. Indeed over and over again he confesses the need for “innumerable transitional forms.” Acknowledging “that natural selection generally acts with extreme slowness,” he admits that “as natural selection acts slowly by accumulating slight, successive favorable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modifications; it can only act by short and slow steps.”
Yes, we know that too. What’s the problem? We need another excerpt:
If Darwin had gone no further than providing an explanation for the evolution of finch beaks and other cases of microevolution, he might have gone down as a notable Victorian naturalist. But Darwin went much further. He became one of the most influential thinkers in Western intellectual history by making the radical claim that the origin of all the novelties in the history of life, all the taxa-defining traits, all complexity, all biological order, could be explained by extending or extrapolating, over great periods of time, the same simple, undirected, and 100-percent-blind mechanism of cumulative selection that fashioned the different finch beaks on the Galápagos.
Ah, now we see it. Finch beaks are only microevolution. Denton is doing the micro-macro mambo, which we discuss in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. On with the article:
The extrapolation from micro- to macroevolution is certainly seductive. But the fact that an unseeing watchmaker can work his magic on a small scale (as on the Galápagos) does not warrant the assumption that all the order of nature (including all the type-defining novelties) is adaptive and can be assembled via functional continuums.
Yup, he’s doing the mambo. And now we come to our final excerpt:
There is an almost universal precedent, as the history of science testifies, that over and over again theories that were once thought to be generally valid have proved eventually to be only valid in a restricted sphere. I believe this will prove to be the case with Darwin’s mutation-selection mechanism. The need for adaptive continuums brings us to the nub of the problem, and one of the major points defended in Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis.
Now that you know what the book is all about, would you like to buy it?
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