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The Evolution-Creation Struggle [Paperback]

Michael Ruse
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 Oct 2006
Creation versus evolution: What seems like a cultural crisis of our day, played out in courtrooms and classrooms across the county, is in fact part of a larger story reaching back through the centuries. The views of both evolutionists and creationists originated as inventions of the Enlightenment-two opposed but closely related responses to a loss of religious faith in the Western world. In his latest book, Michael Ruse, a preeminent authority on Darwinian evolutionary thought and a leading participant in the ongoing debate, uncovers surprising similarities between evolutionist and creationist thinking. Exploring the underlying philosophical commitments of evolutionists, he reveals that those most hostile to religion are just as evangelical as their fundamentalist opponents. But more crucially, and reaching beyond the biblical issues at stake, he demonstrates that these two diametrically opposed ideologies have, since the Enlightenment, engaged in a struggle for the privilege of defining human origins, moral values, and the nature of reality. Highlighting modern-day partisans as divergent as Richard Dawkins and Left Behind authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Ruse's bracing book takes on the assumptions of controversialists of every stripe and belief and offers to all a new and productive way of understanding this unifying, if often bitter, quest. (20050501)

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (31 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674022556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674022553
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.1 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,550,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Ruse, a philosopher of science, has supported evolutionary biology for decades with perceptive accounts of the cultural factors involved in the very human effort to understand the origins of life. This volume's strengths lie in Ruse's detailed explanation of the common origins of evolutionism and creationism in the Enlightenment's crisis of faith and in his description of the Victorian social forces before and after the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species. He provides a brief history of fundamentalism and of the establishment of evolutionary biology as a professional science during the 1930s and 1940s. Ruse brings the struggle up-to-date by describing the roles of such partisans as evolutionist Richard Dawkins and 'Intelligent Design' proponents. Finally, he makes the case that while creationists misunderstand science, some scientists have made evolution into a 'secular religion' and that both these factors are sources of cultural tensions. Like Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa's Species of Origins, this book takes a nonpolemical approach, which is rare. Highly recommended. -- Walter L. Cressler Library Journal 20050501 This book gives a new perspective on an important contemporary debate, and clarifies many of the issues involved. -- Alan Batten Globe and Mail 20050625 [An] accessible, skilfully written book. -- Karen Armstrong New Scientist 20050730 A rich, thoughtful overview. -- Jerome Weeks Dallas Morning News 20050904 By concurrently investigating evolutionary and creationist histories, and their interrelationship, Ruse seeks to bring light to our confusion and perspective to what is actually taking place. -- Wayne A. Holst Catholic News Service 20051007 [This is] a carefully researched and cogently argued examination of this long-standing controversy by noted philosopher of science Michael Ruse. An observer of and participant in the debate on the topic for the past three decades, Ruse offers his readers historical and philosophical insight into the issues and ideas involved. -- George E. Webb American Scientist 20051101 A prerequisite of progress in this cultural struggle is that we should recognize the metaphysical assumptions underlying dogmatic forms of scientific naturalism, and be willing to investigate the concerns that motivate criticism. Ruse has done his best to reveal both. -- John Hedley Brooke Nature 20051006 Michael Ruse is a well-known philosopher who has spent his professional life analysing clashes over evolution and contributing to the debate on the side of science. This excellent and accessibly written book is based on his deep and sympathetic appreciation of both sides. I learnt a lot from it...Anyone who wants to understand the debate should read this book. -- Harry Collins Times Higher Education Supplement 20051209 Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University, is one of the most stimulating writers on the never-ending cultural debate over evolution. Here, this self-professed 'ardent Darwinian' arrives at a surprisingly sympathetic view of the anti-Darwin crowd. They may be wrong, but they're not quite as crazy as we smugly imagine. -- Jim Holt New York Magazine 20051219 Ruse sweeps readers through three millenniums of evolutionism and proto-evolutionism, starting with the Old Testament, which introduced the idea of historical change into a world where time had been changeless. He passes through Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and the Reformation before stopping for a long visit with Charles Darwin. Darwin believed in a Designer until he discovered natural selection, the continual culling of less fit forms of life that drives evolution forward. Even then, he didn't reject God altogether. He became a deist, arguing that a God who operates through impersonal laws has more grandeur than one who constantly meddles. But evidence of divine indifference (and, some say, the death of his 10-year-old daughter) eventually drove him to agnosticism. -- Judith Shulevitz New York Times Book Review 20060122 The argument between evolutionists and creationists, Michael Ruse says, is not a debate between science and religion, but one between rival religions the origins of which go back to the Enlightenment. 'Evolutionism' and 'creationism' denote complexes of ideas that surround the concepts of evolution and creation themselves. Ruse has bravely written a book that could offend all parties, and fundamentalists of all stripes. But for those willing to examine their own convictions, The Evolution-Creation Struggle offers a new perspective on an important contemporary debate. -- Alan Batten Globe and Mail 20051126 This well-written and accessible book is aimed at anyone who is puzzled, as the author was, by the extreme polarization between evolutionists and creationists. How did it arise, and are the two positions as irreconcilable as most of their adherents (and many others) seem to believe? -- Athena Ogden Discovery 20060501 I found this book enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the evolution-creation debate...Ruse's arguments are both persuasive and enlightening. He highlights how evolution is historically intertwined with religion, literature, wars, socioeconomic theory, philosophy, and politics. Is it any wonder that evolution is such a controversial topic to this day? -- Meghan A. Guinne American Biology Teacher Ruse argues compellingly that 'evolutionism and evangelicalism were, both, new answers to a new problem: the threatened loss of faith.' His thesis is that the struggle is not one between science and religion, but between two religions, 'siblings' born of the 19th-century loss of faith. This wonderfully readable book is full of insights drawn from many years on the frontline of this bitter ideological conflict. -- P. D. Smith The Guardian 20061223 In view of all that has been written, one might wonder what more there is to be said. Michael Ruse's The Evolution-Creation Struggle represents a genuinely fresh perspective. Ruse, an eminent and well-respected historian and philosopher of biology, has over the course of several decades established himself as a vocal advocate for evolution...The task of Ruse's book is to figure out why the evolution/creation debate is so hotly disputed in the American context, why so many otherwise intelligent people are in such complete disagreement about the scientific status of evolution and creation science. Ruse's answer, in short, is that the debate reflects two fundamentally different reactions to a crisis of faith that started at least 150 years before the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. After reviewing the history of evolutionary theory against the backdrop of this larger crisis, Ruse draws several lessons he suggests may provide a way beyond the impasse that currently exists between advocates on the two sides...It is certainly true that greater insight into the reasons why some Christians feel threatened by evolutionary theory is a necessary step to any reconciliation between these two opposing camps, and Ruse's treatment is particularly useful in clarifying why the issues have become so heated in the American context. For science educators, Ruse's analysis is insightful and entertaining. It is one of a very few books that is accessible to an introductory student while nevertheless providing a sophisticated perspective of value to scholars in this area. -- David Rudge Science Education The Evolution-Creation Struggle is not a manual providing resolutions to deeply held positions nor a pastoral guide for nurturing bruised evolutionists or seething creationists; rather it is a series of excavations of inadequate and confusing assumptions by a philosopher who professes no religious commitment but who has thought and read deeply about the issues involved. I recommend it as a valuable account of how we have got to where we are and as a possible signpost for going forward. -- R. J. (Sam) Berry Science and Christian Belief 20071001 Should be required reading for anyone seeking better to understand one dimension of the culture wars that have preoccupied American society. -- Michael G. Loudin and Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. The Thomist 20070721

About the Author

Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, Florida State University. He is the founder and editor of the journal Biology and Philosophy, and has appeared on "Quirks and Quarks" and the Discovery Channel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Quiet Man 16 Sep 2005
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Hardcover
Michael Ruse must hold some kind of record for his effort in reconciling disputes and bring calm to contentious arenas. The evolution-creation conflict has raged around him for thirty years. He's attempted to impart the issues, describe the contenders and resolve the philosophical differences. His many books have covered the viewpoints from several directions. He presents various perspectives as dispassionately as these may be conveyed. He obviously abhors strife. This book may be the penultimate effort on his part to parley the current dispute in the USA over "intelligent design" and evolutionary biology.
His method is almost military. Assemble the warring troops and conscript them into a single force. He introduces nearly every figure in Enlightenment Protestantism on the Continent, Britain and the Western Hemisphere. Puritan Jonathon Edwards stands, if uneasily, with Matthew Arnold and pre-conversion John Henry Newman. Ranks of evolutionists, from the Darwins, grandfather Erasmus and the renowned Charles, through Thomas Huxley and Ronald Fisher. As the phalanx swells in number, Ruse struggles to show where similarities imply some level of uniformity. Darwin started out to be a cleric and various churchmen sought to find a divine plan in the evidence Nature depicted to those willing to observe and record.
On the Continent and Britain, "creation" as a firm stance receded quietly in the background. As Ruse has stated elsewhere, it was possible for a Darwinian to be a Christian, and vice versa. In the USA, the picture was different, beginning even before independence. Distance from European influences and the sense of mission many settlers brought in their knapsacks led to the rise of "exceptionalism" there.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ours But To Reason Why 21 Jan 2009
By Neutral VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Michael Ruse has written an excellent book which should be read by everyone with views about the origins of humankind. He provides an invaluable historical survey of how the debate developed and, although in my view, he fails to attach the correct degree of importance in some instances (the philosophical influence of Malthus on Darwin's ideas, for example) such disagreements should be expected in matters of opinion. I agree with the previous reviewer that we should pay heed to what Ruse attempts to achieve, although I disagree with the suggestion that one side more than the other bears the greater responsibility for the failure to agree.

Ruse points out that, even before the publication of the Origins Of Species in 1859, "Charles Darwin's own grandfather went beyond trying to devise a theory of evolution and endorsed a philosophy of evolutionism". When Darwin read Thomas Malthus's Theory of Population in 1838 it provided him with the philosophical framework within which he could fit the adaptation of creatures to their environment. His Origins of Species arose from the desire to find fulfillment for the developmentalist ideas of his grandfather. Whether he recognised it or not, Darwin's theory was a political document measuring the shift of power within Victorian Britain from one ruling elite to another.

This is confirmed by the activities of T H Huxley who never allowed facts to interrupt his argument. "In my public lectures I am obliged to pass rapidly over the facts and I put forward my personal convictions." It is a tradition of intellectual dishonesty continued with equal vigour by Richard Dawkins. Huxley lambasted the Salvation Army, ignoring the social good it did, because it restricted the space in society he thought should be his.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable, and highly recommended. 11 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
The terms `creation' and `evolution' should be defined before they are analysed. It should be remembered that the doctrine of `creationism' means that God created the universe out of nothing (cosmology) and the `evolution' means that organic life naturally evolved from lowly means (biology). It is clear that these two terms are not mutually exclusive. Given this Ruse begins his book by considering how the idea of `evolution' began and why it is thought to be in conflict with `creationism'.

The first chapter considers Christianity's crisis of faith and the growth of the doctrine of progress. The second chapter then looks at how the doctrine of progress led to Plato's philosophy being challenged by ideas of evolution - evolution itself being a progressive philosophical idea. The third chapter looks at how the scholars of the day argued in favour of Plato's position, and in doing so attempted to discredit evolutionary arguments. At this point the main problem rests on the conflict between Plato's idea of fixed forms and the idea of transmutation of species.

The fourth chapter look at the person behind the theory - Charles Darwin, and how his works delivered the death blow to Plato's thought. Ironically, Ruse argues that many of Plato's followers were so dedicated to promoting his thinking that in doing so they simply provided further evidence in favour of evolution.

The fifth and sixth chapters look at how evolutionary theory has been used, by some, as propaganda to further their political/philosophical agendas. The seventy chapter looks at how the 18th century Christians responded positively to Evolutionary Theory (contrary to Dawkins). The eighth chapter looks at the rise of fundamentalism in the Southern US.
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy this book 6 July 2005
By hallucigenia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With this book Michael Ruse brings some of the fruits of his less accessible scholarship to a popular audience, and it is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on the creation-evolution divide. Unlike the first reviewer on this page, Ruse is an internationally-reputed philosopher of science who knows most of the important living evolutionists personally, and is thus admirably well qualified to speak critically on these matters. His writing style is also one of the most readable and engaging you are likely to find.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Tone - But Nothing New 4 Aug 2005
By Reader From Aurora - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
In "The Evolution - Creation Struggle" well known philosopher and evolutionary commentator Michael Ruse discusses the development of evolutionary science. I offer the following thoughts to potential readers.

First, it should be noted that this is not a book for readers seeking a rigorous examination of current evolutionary theory. This work is largely a survey of the historic developments in evolutionary thought and the corresponding responses to these developments. Ruse's overview of pre-Darwinian evolutionary thought is well done and commendable. Darwin like many other great thinkers did not work in a vacuum, but instead benefited from the work and effort of his predecessors and contemporaries. It is useful to recognise the contiguous nature of intellectual progress in an era where the contributions of an individual (no matter how insightful) can often be overstated.

Though he is clearly within the pro-evolutionary camp, Ruse does not hesitate to highlight similarities between Darwinists and creationists. Similar to Religion, a "Darwinian" worldview involves faith and offers an ontological framework for adherents. In examining the current uproar about Darwinism Ruse rightfully acknowledges that many theists are not hostile to evolution (e.g. it could just be the means that God choose to create). Rather, it appears that it is the grandiose ontological and ethical extrapolations that some commentators draw from Darwinism that raises the ire of sceptics. Ruse's nuanced voice continues to be a positive force in a discussion that is sometimes characterised by excessive emotion and inflated epistemological claims. I appreciate the author's intellectual humility - his lack of doctrinal orthodoxy, however, may make his views anathema to some hard-core Darwinists.

Ruse's use of a pre milleniumist/post milleniumist construct to analyze the reactions to evolutionary theory is an interesting but awkward approach. Granted one could argue that many atheists fall within his post -milleniumist category - focused on progress and improving the here and now. I find it difficult, however, to shoehorn more than a small minority of theists into the other category. Although when asked they may indicate that conversion is of paramount importance - their philanthropic actions speak volumes with regard to their concern for, and commitment to, improving the present world.

Ruse only touches on Intelligent Design briefly, however, his comments are useful. I share some of his musings regarding ID. Is it a science? Can it be falsified? What predictive power does it have? Whether or ID proves to be "scientific" in the narrow sense of the word, it does serve to highlight many of the challenges facing Darwinism (whether we like it or not). For instance, regardless of the reducibility of Behe's sub-cellular organisms they do highlight a nagging challenge to contemporary evolutionary theory - time. Darwin recognized this hurdle in his day when the earth was believed to be only several hundred million years old (we now think that number is closer to 4 billion). This increased time would sound good if our view of complexity had remained constant. Unfortunately, complexity has increased by orders of magnitude. In Darwin's time Aristotle's spontaneous generation theory of life was still popular and cells were seen as relatively simple structures - clearly not the case. The development of all these complex entities in the allotted time through an undirected mechanism- despite the rhetoric remains significant.

I found Ruse's writing style a bit awkward at times. For instance, I found his use of poems and quotations overdone - they often added little. A cynic could argue that the author was padding material that would otherwise have made for a couple of short papers/articles.

Overall, worthwhile, but not Ruse's best work. His tone is appreciated, as always, however, the book does not bring anything new to the discussion for readers familiar with the issue.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent addition to the literature 4 Jan 2006
By Dennis Mitton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I hope I won't be penalized here for just writing a couple of sentences. I found Ruse's book to be very interesting. His analysis of the philosophical history of evolutionary thought is worth the price of the book. I also like that he senses that the debate between proponents of evolution and creationism is really about a much bigger question. I see it as the same question raging in the Middle East right now: will we have a secular or religious based society.

I don't think Ruse's book will change any minds - just look at the length and depth of the other reviews and it's easy to see how passionate people feel about these questions. The real value of the book is its dispassionate look at everyone's assumptions and arguments. Should give both sides some firepower.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does Evolution Have a Direction? Does Ruse? 12 Mar 2006
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"My area of expertise is the clash between evolutionists and creationists, and my analysis is that we have no simple clash between science and religion but rather between two religions... Those of us who love science must do more than simply restate our positions or criticize our opposition. We must understand our own assumptions and, equally, find out why others have (often) legitimate concerns. This is not a plea for weak-kneed compromise but a more informed and self-aware approach to the issues. First understanding, and then some strategic moves. You now know why I wrote this book."

There it was; out of the blue. "You know now why I wrote this book." It is a good thing Ruse made that clear on the final page of his new book, for if he did not, I might have never known.

Michael Ruse has of late made a habit out of writing the same book over and over again. This is another "how we got there from here," book filled with much of the same history that he has given in past books (most notably, "Darwin and Design") with many of the same conclusions. I often caught myself wondering why he went through the trouble of writing this book when all he had to do was release an anthologized collection of excerpts from past ones.

This book, disjointed as it is, aims at showing us how the evolution/creation struggle developed from the pre-Darwin days to today. Ruse asserts that these two 'movements' stemmed from a 'crisis of faith' starting from the reformation. He tracks both how creationism became more and more fervent as a response to the growing evolutionary philosophy/science and how evolution became more fervent in response to that response.

Ruse has caught particular flack from the view, as seen in the above quote, that evolution has been and can be often taken as a religion. He trecks through the tired history of Spencer, Sumner, and the Social Darwinists, the believers in a directional evolution of the 1950s, up to todays 'true believers' in Dawkins, Dennett, and Wilson.

Ruse seems to be making the point that evolution is too easily seen as directional - teleological and when thus seen, it too easily becomes religion-like. This is a good point but I've seen it made better elsewhere by the likes of Mary Midgley, Steven Jay Gould, and even Ruse himself (in "Darwin and Design,' focusing exclusively on teleology and evolution).

Ruse is on significantly weaker ground in suggesting that religion and evolution can easily and peacefully co-exist. I used to be convinced of this but like Ruse, I now see Steven Gould's attempts at diplomacy as condescending to both sides. Point blankly: evolution simlpy contradicts one of the most sacred roles delegated to God in the Bible. Yes, Ruse points to Christians who have successfully balanced Christianity and evoluition, but only because they chose evolution over genesis (i.e., adapted the view that genesis and the bible are metaphorical and, hence, not to be taken at their word.) Ruse tries and tries but doesn't make any convincing case that one does not have to choose between genesis and evolution.

My big complaint, though, with this book is in its layout. If Ruse's above quote is right, and his point in the book was to suggest strategies for how the 'evolution problem' can be best fought, then most of the book was simply irrelevant. In his 'Conclusion' for instnace, he suggests that evolutionists need to band together in fighting ID instead of getting hung up on disagreements over detail. Agreed. But where, I ask myself, did he make that point in the book. The only answer I came to was, "Just now."

I fear that in trying to appeal to both sides of the evolution/Creation struggle, he will end up appealing to neither side. His arguments are often hasty, and most of the book (as another reviewer notes) just does not support, or even speak much to, his conclusions.

If you want a book that does make a persuasive case that evolution often passes into the 'zeaolot' category (I think this is true) read Mary Midgley's "Evolution as Religion." Or read Ruse's own "Darwin and Design."
78 of 102 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, But Ultimately Less Than Persuasive 23 May 2005
By Richard Einhorn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ruse's basic point is that there is evolution - a genuine science of the origin of species that begins, for intents and purposes, with Darwin. There is also a kind of a secular religion -his term - based upon evolution that he terms "evolutionism." Evolutionism is used to advance a particular progressive worldview.

Ruse says that that while it would be nice if scientists were not evolutionists, that isn't the case. Contrary to the protestations of some -eg, Stephen Jay Gould - evolution like all science itself does imply certain cultural values. Furthermore, many important evolution scientists, including Edward O. Wilson, used evolution to advance evolutionist positions, eg to comment on biodiversity and the like.

While the cruder forms of evolutionism -such as eugenics- can be intellectually discredited easily, Ruse believes that it is probably neither possible nor desirable to pretend that evolution doesn't have implications that challenge the verities of a religious tradition, or that in some sense, the troubling notion of biological "progress" can be avoided. He urges his readers to learn more about the theological and cultural issues that surround the topic of evolution.

Good points. And Ruse writes as clear and as beautifully as a summer day on an Icelandic glacier. The problem is that, given the examples he chooses, he's less than compelling in establishing evolutionism as a full-blown "secular" religion. That scientists would "metaphorize" a subject like evolution and believe it has implications that go beyond their science comes as no surprise. But nowhere, in the Wilson that he quotes, for example, do I see evidence of the reliance on faith or the desire for supernatural, ecstatic transcendence that characterizes many religious traditions.

Furthermore, the concept of evolutionism is so broad that it encompasses everyone from the eugenicists to Dawkins. That ideologues of all stripes would glom onto the latest trendy science for metaphors has been true since Descartes. This tells us very little about the current controversy.

Finally, Ruse all but sidesteps the fact that the present controversy over evolution is tied to the resurgence of the extreme right wing and that many of those advancing anti-science agendas in the US today are political activists exploiting religious traditions rather than true believers. Their interest is not science, but political power.

The book is at its most compelling when Ruse argues that all those who oppose the teaching of lies in science classes are going to have to learn to form a coalition despite their differences. Otherwise, creationists (and the so-called "intelligent design" gang) will continue to succeed in injecting religious doctrine into science. After all, there are huge doctrinal differences between Catholics, Protestant evangelicals, and IDiocy advocates like Behe and Dembski; if they can get unite for a common cause, so can those who care about teaching real science to American students.

On this last point, he is 100% right.
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