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Book Review

Refuting Evolution

A Response to the National Academy of Sciences’
Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science

by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 1999
Review © T. Wallace.  All Rights Reserved.


the book
Available at Amazon.com
I

n 1998 the American organization bearing the name National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a book entitled Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, as an aid to teachers. The book seems destined to be a landmark in the on-going origins debate, both because of its ostensible aim to put a “best foot forward” from the evolutionists’ perspective, and because that “foot” appears much weaker than one might have expected—particularly coming from a “society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research” who profess to have a “mandate” to “advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters”.1

Where it lacks scientific and logical integrity, Teaching About Evolution compensates by weaving a tale that could only be persuasive and compelling for those already inclined to accept its contents without question. This places the book a particularly indicting position, since the “distinguished scholars” behind it shall remain ultimately responsible for the many aspects in which it fails to demonstrate objectivity, consistently employ the scientific method, or adhere to sound logic.

    TABLE OF CONTENTS:
     Evolution & Creation, Science & Religion, Facts & Bias  
     Variation and Natural Selection Versus Evolution
     The Links Are Missing
     Bird Evolution?
     Whale Evolution?
     Humans: Images of God or Advanced Apes?
     Astronomy
     How Old Is the Earth?
     Is the Design Explanation Legitimate?
     Conclusion

As soon as Teaching About Evolution appeared, it was obvious that a thorough and proper rebuttal was in order. Just such a response came in less than a year, from the pen of Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D. (physical chemistry), appropriately entitled Refuting Evolution. Sarfati’s book addresses not only the same teachers targeted by the NAS’s book, but also their prospective students and the lay science enthusiast alike.

In a rather unassuming package (a mere 143 pages), Dr. Sarfati ably cuts through the rhetoric and illogic of Teaching About Evolution to deliver a sound, compelling, and well documented analysis of the NAS’s understanding of “the nature of science”.

Philosophical Groundwork

The first chapter of Refuting Evolution roughly defines for the reader a framework through which the influences of religion/philosophy and bias in science may be more easily recognized. Whereas Teaching About Evolution largely ignores these influencing factors in order to advance the philosophical bias of the NAS, Sarfati levels the field with a brief account of science history and philosophy, including the undeniable—albeit often ignored—role of biblical Christian philosophy in the founding of the modern sciences.

Though brief, Sarfati’s treatment adequately equips the reader to recognize that interpretations of empirical science are by no means free from philosophical bias. Whereas the NAS seems to assume the typical evolutionist posture—pretending to represent pure, unbiased, philosophy-free science (in the face of a predominantly religious threat)—Refuting Evolution exposes this pretense for what it is, undoing the highly popularized myths that practitioners of science are devoid of any philosophical/religious predispositions and that the creationary framework is, by definition, somehow less scientific than its evolutionary counterpart.

Science vs. the NAS

Having established a basis for understanding the roles played by bias and philosophy in scientific interpretations, Refuting Evolution methodically moves through eight additional chapters, each of which directly addresses a major argument found in the NAS publication. Whereas the “distinguished scholars” seem to have been intent on presenting only that philosophically limited interpretation of the empirical data supporting a predisposition towards naturalism, Sarfati exposes both their bias and its blinding effect, demonstrating that the empirical data fall short of lending the popularly touted exclusive or “overwhelming” support claimed for evolution.

Treating such vital topics as variation and natural selection, the fossil record, the alleged evolution of birds, whales, and humans, astronomy, the age of the earth, and the legitimacy of the design explanation, Dr. Sarfati concisely demonstrates the flaws in the arguments advanced by the NAS’s book. Though his treatments are necessarily brief, he provides plenty of documentation to which the reader may go for more in-depth and technical coverage.

Among the most amusing (and blatant) of Teaching About Evolution’s logical fallacies is exposed in Sarfati’s 9th chapter (“Is the Design Explanation Legitimate?’). After explaining how the NAS resorts to arbitrary, self-serving “rules” to determine what qualifies as “science” and what doesn’t, Sarfati points out:

“...Teaching About Evolution claims that the ideas of creation science have been examined and found unsupportable, then they claim that the ‘basic proposals of creation science are not subject to test and verification.’ So how could its proposals have been examined (tested!) if they are not subject to test?”2

It’s really a shame that Refuting Evolution ever had to be written in the first place. Critical thinking skills are sorely lacking in the popular mind, and sadly, this seems to be due in large part to a failure to consistently and rigorously apply and teach such skills in the modern academic world. For many students, teachers, and laymen alike, Sarfati’s book may be an introduction to the importance of such analysis. Wide distribution of the NAS book within the academic community all but necessitates the presence and application of Sarfati’s response as a tool for applying vital logic and critical thinking skills to one of today’s most prominent topics in science education and public debate.

Conclusion

Refuting Evolution presents a valid challenge to the so-called “mainstream” thinking in modern academia in general, and a sharp, inescapable rebuttal to the “scholarship” of the National Academy of Sciences in particular. The book deserves a hearing in any classroom that purports to examine the origins issue with minimal bias. Students may struggle in a few places where the technicalities of empirical science are brought to bear on the NAS’s narrow interpretations, but that shouldn’t be allowed to discourage those whose aim is a truly objective assessment of the evolutionary paradigm—particularly vis-a-vis the creationary alternative, which offers far more credibility when subjected to similar analysis.

Timothy Wallace           

References

  1. N.A.S., Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy Press, Introduction, 1998.  [Return to Text]
  2. Sarfati, J. D., Refuting Evolution: A response to the National Academy of Sciences’ Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, p. 132, 1999.  [Return to text]
    Available from:  Creation Ministries International and Christianbook.com and Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

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