on 25 April 2005
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. Swift argues that, if an evolutionary developmental path is proposed, it must be supported by an explanation of how the necessary molecular machinery could have evolved - not simply by pointing out gradual physical changes on the outside. Given what we now know about the operation and structure of proteins and other macromolecules in the cell, Swift argues in detail that it is impossible for macromolecules to have evolved in a series of small steps. He is not saying that because the cell is so complicated it must have been designed; he is instead explaining and illustrating why the very large and specific molecules (such as proteins) in cells could simply not have evolved.
This book brings new research and knowledge to bear on arguments which were put forward in the past when the facts were not known. Swift's presentation is refreshingly objective, courteous and detached. The first few chapters, on the history of the development of modern science, could be skipped without missing any of the key arguments. At the end, although Swift has presented a strong case for why macro-evolution appears untenable, he appears resigned to its continuance simply because there is no prospect of an alternative theory of origins - at least, no naturalistic alternative. His analysis is sensible and sound; but it does not flatter the scientific community.
I would recommend that this book be read not only by non-evolutionists who will agree with much of it, but by evolutionists who may not. I found the case so convincing that I longed to read a similarly objective, detailed and courteous response by an evolutionist to the arguments from molecular biology presented by Swift, rather than simply forceful statements of disagreement or dismissal. Whether such a response is possible remains to be seen.
on 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. Swift also looks at abiogenesis and the fossil record neither of which can explain evolution and indeed serve to discredit it. In the past we could only look at the morphology but now we can look at the mechanisms responsible for that phenotypic morphology and just because something looks like something else doesn't mean its related or evolved (think Cyborg and human). Swift only objectively looks at the evidence. He does NOT argue for design but simply rejects the current evolutionary explanation because it doesn't match with the majority of things we know about biology and biochemistry.
I reccomend this book to anyone interested in biology regardless of previous studies. It is however an academic book so those not familiar with this academia may struggle. There are however helpful analogies and diagrams. One must be open-minded and so if you have already made up your mind that Swift is wrong i suggest reading another book e.g. The Blind Watchmaker. If you are willing to open your mind up to the possibility that macroevolution is only a theory and a flawed one at that then this book is worth a shot. I throughly enjoyed it....
on 21 March 2013
Evolution under the Microscope, by David Swift
The premise of the book is that evolution has indeed occurred, such as the evolution of the horse, (and although the subject is not covered, I suspect that there has been evolution of whales as well) but that evolution is limited, and is the result of gene segregation, and macro-evolution (the generation of new information in the genes) has not occurred. Species are not fixed, sub species and even new species can arise from an original population, such as the American sparrow, and the lesser black backed gull, which is very closely related to the herring gull.
The stratification of the geologic column is not questioned, but it is shown that new genera arise suddenly and fully formed in the fossil record, and that there are no intermediate fossils. There are two opposing views; strict naturalism, which is the current paradigm, and religious doctrine, which most scientists don't want anything to do with, as it is thought to be associated with anti-scientific beliefs. The author makes the point that we all exist within a particular paradigm; we have been taught that Darwinian evolution is true, and we do not question that. Knowledge is passed on, and we don't have to rediscover everything from scratch, so what we are taught is thought to be true. The general public is taught from the earliest age, that evolution is true. The last major paradigm to be revised was the geocentric model, however, I am not totally convinced that the geocentric model is false, but heliocentrism is now the established paradigm.
The industrial melanism of the peppered moth is shown to be evolution by natural selection, due to gene segregation, evolution within limits. I skipped a few chapters, which I will go back to later, as much of the information is beyond my academic level, it is really geared towards the university student, studying biology, rather than for the layman. The author concludes by saying that biology shows design, although any religious opinions are not expressed.
For me, reading the book has been useful in trying to get to the truth of the matter; that life has not arisen according to the biblical scenario, but new species have arisen over geological ages, call it progressive creationism, although the process is not progressive, but I don't know of any other way to describe it at the moment. The most important concept to understand, is that we are now living within a particular paradigm, and that is unlikely to change, as people abhor a vacuum, and there is nothing else to replace Darwinism, and that is why Darwinism persists, despite the evidence to show the theories limitations.
Darwin got some of it right, but he did not have the knowledge of biology that is now known. Because evolution occurs, people assume that life is the result of naturalistic processes. Most people will not think to question what they have been taught; there would be no reason to do so. The alternative might appear to be religious fundamentalism, but for me, that resembles the days of the middle ages and the church, and the persecution of people who were unable to continue to perpetuate the existing beliefs, just because that was believed at that time, despite the evidence to the contrary.
on 12 August 2009
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.
on 12 August 2014
Very good summary about the history of science, but although it laid the foundation for the main part of the book, for me this was not what I am interested in. As an biologist and apologist, chapter 6 onwards is where it really takes off. This is the best real, up to date, biological critique of evolution I have come across. If you are a biologist and you want the latest, detailed information of the ongoing debate, GET THIS BOOK.