The most important aspect of evolution, from a philosophical viewpoint, is the rise of complex, advanced creatures from simple, primitive ones. This "vertical" dimension of evolution has been downplayed in both the specialist and popular literature on evolution, in large part because it was in the past associated with unsavory political views. The ...
The most important aspect of evolution, from a philosophical viewpoint, is the rise of complex, advanced creatures from simple, primitive ones. This "vertical" dimension of evolution has been downplayed in both the specialist and popular literature on evolution, in large part because it was in the past associated with unsavory political views. The avoidance of evolution's vertical dimension has, however, left evolutionary biology open to the perception, from outside, that it deals merely with the diversification of rather similar creatures, all at the same level of "advancedness" from a common ancestor--for example, the classic case studies of finches with different beaks or moths of different colors. The latest incarnation of creationism, dubbed intelligent design (or ID), has taken advantage of this situation. It portrays an evolutionary process that is constantly guided--especially in its upward direction--by the hand of an unseen Creator, who is able to ensure that it ends up producing humans. "Creatures of Accident" attacks the antiscience ID worldview, mainly by building a persuasive picture of how "unaided" evolution produces advanced creatures from simple ones by an essentially accidental process. Having built this picture, in the final chapter the book reflects on its religious implications.
Though I feel that this book makes important points, it could have been half as long. Most of the author's arguments were already familiar to me, but may not be to others, so I would recommend it to those who seek a more detailed understanding of how evolution can produce complex creatures.
Publishers Weekly, 2006-06-05 A core tenet of the intelligent design movement is that some organisms are simply too elaborate and complicated to have evolved by chance. Arthur, a professor of zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, aims to render this strain of creationism unnecessary by "explaining, in a way that is accessible to a general readership, how the rise of complex creatures can be explained in terms of natural processes." Creatures of Accident makes this case through a series of easily intelligible, chatty chapters, offering a way of understanding the emergence of animals (the most complex life form) without resorting to either the relativist idea that all life is essentially the same (with animals being, as Stephen Jay Gould once put it, "a mere epiphenomenon") or the teleological view that if animals are uniquely complex, then some intelligent designer must have made them so. Drawing ideas and examples from the large (zoology) to the small (cellular biology), Arthur popularizes recent breakthroughs in the field of evolutionary development-the trendily dubbed "evo-devo"-to make the paradoxical case that complexity can, in fact, happen quite simply. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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