Sunday, June 19, 2005
Book Review: Icons of Evolution
It is not a book about whether or not evolution is true or not, but whether the presentation of evolution as normally done is more propoganda than reality. If you read the book with this in mind, it does an excellent job of proving its point. If you read it as an anti-evolution book (which it isn't, really), then it fails.
What I appreciated in the book was how it showed how many of the controversies within science over certain experiments are largely smoothed over in textbooks and presentations to make the appearance that everything is thought of and agreed upon, when in fact it isn't.
The chapters on the tree of life and vertebrate homology were my favorite, though I don't think he went as far with the homology argument as he could have (perhaps because he is writing for a non-science audience).
The NCSE has criticized his work and Wells has responded. However, I do think the NCSE is correct in criticizing Well's giving of a D for using photographs instead of Haeckel's embryo drawings. Since the main problem with the evidence was that it was a faked drawing, using real photographs should rate you much higher than a D (this probably comes from Wells being an embryologist, and knowing the problems of embryonic recapitulation better than others).
The book looks like it was put together fairly rushed. It needed a better editor, and occasionally Wells needed to put some more time into rounding out his arguments a little more thoroughly. They were mostly correct, but you can usually find them stated in a much better fashion on the web.
Anyway, it's worth the read, but only if you do so in the context it is offered in, and not as a creation-vs-evolution book.