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Evolution Under the Microscope: A Scientific Critique of the Theory of Evolution [Paperback]

David Swift
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Oct 2002
David Swift sets the scene by outlining the rise of evolutionary ideas up to Darwin, who introduced the key concept of natural selection. He then describes how the theory developed as an understanding was gained of hereditary mechanisms, leading to the emergence of Neo-Darwinism - evolution through natural selection in the context of Mendelian genetics. By the middle of the 20th century there were good reasons for the widespread acceptance of evolution - to the extent that many were convinced the theory must be true, no matter what further discoveries were made.

However, what we have learned in the last 50 years of molecular biology has revealed facts that pose fundamental challenges to the theory. This is not based merely on simplistic arguments about the improbability of biological macromolecules (e.g. proteins and genes) - such as have been presented already by various other authors: David Swift examines current theories of how it is proposed such macromolecules might have evolved, and explains why they are totally unsatisfactory; indeed he shows that the complexity of molecular biology completely defies any sort of evolutionary explanation. Further, there is no evidence for the constructive mutations that would be required to fuel long-term evolution (and the book includes a detailed discussion of the acquisition of resistance to pesticides which is frequently portrayed as demonstrating such evolution).

Many advocates of evolution point to the operation of natural selection and the fossil record as evidence, even proof; but David Swift shows that any demonstrable evolution is strictly limited and does not answer the fundamental problems posed by biochemistry, in fact adds weight to them. Even circumstantial evidence such as homology (e.g. the similarity of vertebrate skeletons) is not what it seems; in fact the lack of homology between apparently related groups of organisms further challenges their supposed evolution from a common ancestor.

He brings the book to a close by discussing the nature of science - that it progresses through paradigms which explain some of the facts, but where anomalous ones are suppressed - which is why there is reluctance to give due weight to the many problems with the theory of evolution.

This thoroughly researched book is a must for any with a serious interest in the subject of evolution. It successfully tackles the scientific issues at an appropriate level for consideration by professional biologists, and at the same time makes the subject accessible to the more general reader.

Product details

  • Paperback: 423 pages
  • Publisher: Leighton Academic Press (1 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954358902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954358907
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 892,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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From the Author


The theory of evolution is the leading explanatory principle of biology. Its chief strength is that it provides a unifying rationale for many diverse biological phenomena, and it is also of value to biologists as a working hypothesis which stimulates research. Since being proposed by Darwin nearly 150 years ago, the theory has been eminently successful and, whilst recognising there are differences of opinion over details, it is now widely accepted as fact – as factual as any other established scientific theory. Indeed it is endorsed to such an extent that those who do not share this conviction are likely to be considered ill-informed and/or antiscience.

However, there are scientists who in the course of their work have come across what they see as substantial if not insurmountable obstacles. This is my own position. Because evolution so permeates our education, it is not surprising that from an early age I totally accepted the whole story of evolution from simple forms of life, and probably of the origin of life itself. But in studying for a degree in natural sciences – in which the theory of evolution formed a backdrop to almost every aspect of the curriculum – I was prompted to question whether the biochemical structures and mechanisms which were being discovered at the time could really have arisen in an opportunistic evolutionary manner: and it seemed to me that they could not. Over the years since then, mostly spent as a research scientist, this view has been strengthened as we have learned more of how biological systems work; and I have become well aware that similar issues have been raised by others, including experts in their field. Eventually, the opportunity arose to research the subject more fully, and this book is the outcome.

It is primarily and predominantly an examination of evolution as a scientific theory: how it arose, the evidence on which it is based, the extent to which the theory of evolution is a satisfactory explanation of that evidence – and, importantly, the facts that are inconsistent with an evolutionary explanation and consequently undermine the theory as a whole. A central issue is that, whilst I accept the principle of natural selection, it cannot account for the formation of biological macromolecules, though this is the usual evolutionary explanation for them. Evidence for the operation of natural selection at the level of the whole organism, and evidence from the fossil record do not answer this objection, in fact I show that they add weight to it.

The book is written firstly for biologists because it is primarily they whom I want to challenge to take a fresh look at the facts. However, because of the widespread interest in and acceptance of evolution, I have sought to make the book accessible to a much wider readership. To this end the early chapters describe how the theory of evolution arose (Darwinism), became well established once we understood hereditary processes (Neo-Darwinism), and finally assimilated our modern understanding of the biochemical nature of genetic mechanisms (the modern synthesis). The aim of these chapters is to provide an adequate understanding of the science of evolution to enable subsequent discussion to be followed readily by those with a basic knowledge of biology, and hopefully by many who may not even have that. For example, evolution has become so generally accepted as a factual biological theory that the principle of evolution has been assimilated by many other disciplines – such as sociology, philosophy and even theology. I trust the book will be of interest, indeed of value, to non-biologists from disciplines such as these, who need to hear from a scientist of the substantial difficulties with the theory – that it is nothing like so secure as they have probably been led to believe.

So far as any ‘science versus religion’ debate is concerned, I write entirely as a scientist and my purpose here is not to offer any sort of reconciliation or accommodation between the two camps. To present the scientific advances of the 16th and 19th centuries in a proper light it is necessary to describe something of the religious background; but there is no discussion here of Genesis 1 or any other religious text. My only comment in this area relates to the changing attitude to the concept of a supernatural God who intervenes in the affairs of the world, a

From the Inside Flap

This book is sure to make a distinctive and valuable contribution to the debate about evolution. For too long the debate has been polarized between those trying to defend a traditional creationist position that species were made with little or no capacity for change, and those advocating that all forms of life have evolved from a common source. David Swift examines the evidence from molecular biology, genetics, the operation of natural selection and the fossil record, and concludes that neither position faces up to the facts. Whilst it is evident that some significant changes can occur, which may legitimately be described as evolutionary, he explains why these do not substantiate the supposition that higher organisms evolved from simpler forms. Indeed, his analysis exposes fundamental flaws in the overall theory of evolution.

He calls upon biologists to take a fresh, objective look at all the facts. And this book is not only for biologists: it will be of value for its clear exposition of the history and science of evolution which make the subject accessible to many others. Whatever your current view, be prepared to rethink your ideas on this emotive subject.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
In this book, Swift brings some order to the rather fraught and emotive debate about the validity of the theory of evolution. One of its particularly helpful contributions is to separate out two forms of evolution, and to narrow down the field of controversy: the first type of evolution is that resulting from gene separation and gene mixing; the second is evolution resulting from genuinely new genetic information being produced through mutations. The two types of evolution are considered and analysed from the viewpoint of molecular biology, whereby inheritable changes in an organism or species require new macromolecules to be generated and coded in the DNA.
Swift reveals the surprising amount of variation in a population which can result from the processes of gene mixing and separation, even to the extent of a population diverging into separate 'species'. There is substantial, documented evidence that this form of evolution (which some call 'micro-evolution') happens. Swift's presentation is helpful, because it identifies considerable common ground which objective evolutionists and non-evolutionists can agree on. (It so happens that practically all the commonly quoted examples of evolution in its broadest sense turn out to be cases of micro-evolution, including Darwin's finches, peppered moths and resistance to antibiotics.)
The real controversy, of course, is whether genuinely new genetic material can be generated in an evolutionary way by mutations ('macro-evolution'). Swift looks at this in terms of molecular biology, and insists on investigating how the various macromolecules necessary for life in the cell could have evolved.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good science! 12 Aug 2009
By Gill
A thought-provoking book.I believe that David Swift is right:natural selection (microevolution), coming from the re-shuffling of existent genes is a fact. However now we know so much about the biochemistry, it is difficult for me to understand how many biologists still find macroevolution (requiring the creation of new genetic material) believable. Where did the thousands of complex functional molecules come from? (Richard Dawkins' explanation in "The Blind Watchmaker" is lame.) There are "chicken and egg" questions raised by this book. E.g. protein molecules are part of the machinery required in constructing protein molecules from RNA, so how were proteins replicated in the first place?
Here we get facts: good science.
What we don't always get is answers, which is surely better that force-fitting selected facts to push one's own agenda: bad science.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for the non-scientist also 24 July 2006
Swift takes the reader through this difficult field at a very readable pace. I found it very enlightening as an objective review of what evolution really entails. Swift is gentle with the non-scientist, explaining clearly at each stage. It keeps the reader wanting to know more. Thoroughly recommended.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, efficient academic argument 21 April 2006
David Swift writes efficiently and academically on this emotive subject. Instead of concentrating on the polar arguments i.e. macroevolution vs design he simply and objectively looks at the facts and intrepretation of them by key scientists such as Richard Darwins. He then presents, not an opinion but a factual biochemical analysis on the possibilities, probabilities and as it turns out the improbabilites if not the impossible. There is no theological discussion regarding the facts although he does show the origins of evolution and darwinism. The first five chapters are useful in that Swift discusses why the Darwinist belief became mainstream but i reccomend you skim over them unless you are particularly interested in the history of science and the Age of Enlightement battles between theology and scientific discovery. One key thing these chapters do show is that whilst with limited scientific technologies one could compare morphology and ASSUME macroevolution occured, it is no longer reasonable or indeed scientific to "forget" or simply "ignore" the behaviour of atoms, amino acids, polypeptides and all the substances that cause the morphology. He rightly argues that one should NOT disregard what we know of biochemistry in order to fit it into the evolutionary hypothesis. This is bad science. After all, one cannot come up with a correct hypothesis by blotting out every single piece of evidence that serves to falsify it. Unfortunately this appears to be common practice in only one field- this one.

Before i bought this book i looked on the American sister site and people criticised it for taking the approach of looking at the HOW not when and where something may or may NOT evolved but this was short-sighted.
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