Discovery Institute Touts Denton’s New Book

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?

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Discovery Institute Touts Denton’s New Book

  1. He’ll have to mambo without my money.

  2. No, I’ll wait for the Reader’s Digest version.

  3. michaelfugate

    I think we just read the Reader’s Digest version.

    It is funny how Denton forgot to mention 150 years of research post-Darwin. It’s like they never happened.

  4. Apparently Denton has not read anything written after Darwin.

  5. The example of Newton’s physics seems appropriate.
    For a couple of hundred years, the basis for the understanding the mechanics of the Solar System was an extrapolation of the theory of the mechanics of things near the surface of the Earth. The “micro-gravity”, so to speak, of the falling apple and F=ma explaining the “macro-gravity” of the planets and moons and comets, with no direct observation until the space age. One could have asked “were you there”, and complained about the illegitimate “remote science” (remote in space rather than time). (It is still remote beyond our direct experience beyond the Solar System.)
    Meanwhile, “Creationism, still the scandal”, there being the scandal that there is no alternative after 150 years.

  6. michaelfugate

    But one can believe Newton; he was a theist and maybe even a Christian, but Darwin was an agnostic and maybe even an atheist. Darwin had to be lying according to AiG, ICR, and the DI.

  7. “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”

    Denton is, of course, completely correct. Darwin’s theory that evolutionary changes are produced by natural selection has been subsumed into a more general theory, where most change is the result of neutral drift caused by mutations (of which Darwin knew nothing) in a genetic material whose existence Darwin did not even suspect. This ensures massive variation within a wild population, and enables a lot of things to fall into place at once when opportunity presents itself.

  8. Hey ED! He aint never read Darwin either!! Most of what he says is wrong!

  9. 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.

    I see. Never mind that “all the order of nature” can be “assembled into functional continuums”—and has been. Never mind that “type” is a term creationists define as whatever they find convenient in any particular instance—species, genus, family, whatever. And never mind that it’s “continua.”

    I believe this will prove to be the case with Darwin’s mutation-selection mechanism.

    Ah, yes—“I believe.”
    Evidently Mr. Denton doesn’t believe in actually understanding either evolutionary theory or its scientific history. Charles Darwin paid little attention to mutation as an evolutionary mechanism; that was the work of later scientists. What he does believe is rooted in a book written centuries before Darwin was born and which reflected the primitive beliefs of Bronze Age tribesmen who lived even earlier.

    The fact that Denton’s drivel can be reviewed favorably on Amazon (presumably by other committed—committable?—creationists) merely proves that the online retailer doesn’t censor its review process.

  10. Does anyone know anything about a Dr Bo Kirkwood, Pasadena Texas?
    Apparently he has a family practice and is an ID author. Is he associated with the ‘tute? I see a book, The Evolution Delusion credited to him on a search.

  11. @Eric Lipps
    The denial of evolutionary biology is not rooted in the Bible. The Bible has nothing to say about the sort of things that evolutionary biology treats: the variety of life, the relationships between living things, taxonomy, biogeography, species, ecology, extinctions, clades, etc. etc. The closest that the Bible comes to something related to evolution is the age of life – and “Intelligent Design” does not insist on a “young Earth”. Even most of the Young Earth Creationists do not follow the Bible when it is a matter of geocentrism (among other beliefs).

  12. Coming attractions:
    2045: Evolution – A Theory Buried Right up to Its Ass in Crisis.
    2075: Evolution – A Theory Buried Almost to Its Knees in Crisis.
    2105: Evolution – A Theory Whose Boots are Mired in Crisis.
    2135: Evolution – A Theory Spelled with Letters, Just Like a Crisis.

  13. @ Paul Braderman:

    Denton is, of course, completely correct.

    It may be a litle more precise to say that Denton is being deceptive and following in the grand tradition of Henry Morris and Duane Gish.

    As we always should note with every ID/creationist book, paper or video, they are never ever placed into the crucible of peer review in the manner followed by all working scientists with their own work. And, after something like fifty years of these ID/creationist shennigans, the reason is obvious; the materials ID/creationist crank out are meant to provoke public debates by distorting the concepts and historical record of science. These materials can never stand up to genuine scientific scrutiny at even the most elementary levels.

    The effects of sectarian religion on the minds of some humans is devastating; these people are so committed to their dogma that they fall into the habit of distorting everything they encounter into a narative that fits their sectarian beliefs. Everything from science, to history, to human psychology, to politics is formulated as satanic deceptions on the part of the secular world to send them all to burn in hell for eternity. Every ID/creationist author is acutely aware of the paranoia, fear and loathing that exist in the minds of their followers; and they pander to it. Fundamentalist sectarians are extremely gullible and poorly educated.

    This is why ID/creationists never succeed in science and should be kept out of the classroom. They screw up every concept imaginable in their drive to sneak their sectarian dogma into every aspect of life.

  14. Michael Denton, the Discovery Institute’s own Erich von Däniken.

  15. The whole truth

    Och Will asked: “Does anyone know anything about a Dr Bo Kirkwood, Pasadena Texas?”

    I’ve never heard of him until now and I don’t know if he’s associated with the discotoot but I did a Google search and found that he’s an “elder at the Parkview Church of Christ in Pasadena” (Texas), a YEC cult.

    His church cult has a website (link below) that is quite revealing of their barbaric dogma. Among other things, be sure to look at their “Self-Grading Bible Study” and at “Men’s Work Assignments” on their site. In addition to being bible inerrantists (their version of it of course) the male cult members obviously believe that women don’t deserve to lead anything.