Evolution for kids

By Phil Plait | February 3, 2010 7:21 am

Evolution_coverWe’re having a big problem in America these days, with the forces of antireality on the march to deceive our children. Evolution is a big target for them, of course, and I need not belabor the battle here.

But what can we do? We need to excite kids about the real world, and about evolution in particular. And we need to do it in a wonderful way, grabbing their attention, staying positive, and revealing all the beauty and majesty of the way life has self-propagated on this planet of ours.

Daniel Loxton has come to the rescue! He’s the brain behind Skeptic Magazine’s Junior Skeptic, a terrific feature designed to get young kids thinking. His experience putting that together is clear in his new book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be. This book has everything for younger readers: excellent writing, simple yet compelling layout, and a diversity of topics in evolution and its related studies which give the reader a solid background in evolutionary biology. That’s critical, as it gives them a basis on which they can build when they read more about the topic.

And Daniel covers a lot of topics, like transitional fossils, population growth, diversity of species, how we know that life changes over time, mutations, natural selection, and more. He even deals simply and efficiently with the topic of religion at the very end, telling the reader to talk to family, friends, and religious leaders about it. While I might disagree with him a bit (really, just a bit) over the boundaries of religion and science we’ve had a few discussion on Twitter about this — I think he deals with the topic elegantly in the book. After all, the book isn’t about religion, and instead of being arrogant or dismissive, he relies on the book itself being an effective treatment of the topic. I think that was a shrewd move.

And I simply cannot praise the illustrations enough, which were done by Daniel himself. WOW! The drawings are simply magnificent; the Archeopteryx on the cover will grab any kid’s attention, as will the gorgeous T-Rex on the first page. My favorite drawing was this one, which he also uses as a banner for the book:

evolutionbook_ad

It shows two women of different eras, and it beautifully demonstrates our similarities and differences. And the woman on the right is an actual human — Daniel’s wife! — something of a well-known skeptic herself. I bet if you come to TAM with a copy of the book, you can find her yourself and get both her and Daniel to sign it…

I think this book is absolutely terrific, and if you’re looking for a simple statement about it, then how about this? Simply put, I would’ve loved this book when I was a kid. It would have made me want to be a scientist.

You can get buy a copy of Evolution through the Skeptics.com website, or if you donate $100 they’ll send you a copy for free. I know, it’s not really free then, but you’ll be helping out a good group of skeptics, so it’s a good thing to do. If you prefer, it’s also available on Amazon and Amazon.ca.

My suggestion: buy several copies and give them away as gifts to kids. And maybe one for your local school as well. I know they could use it there.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (68)

  1. Lawrence

    When my son gets a little older, this will definitely be on his reading list!

  2. Pi-Needles

    Evolution for kids?

    Kids don’t really evolve you know – they just grow into billy goats & nanny goats! ;-)

    Seriously, looks like a great book. :-)

    And what kid isn’t into dinosaurs and the awesome creatures of our prehistoric past? Most children are too smart for creationism methinks. ;-)

    Not that that’s hard! ;-)

  3. Heard the interview with him on the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast. Looks like a beautiful book!

    Hey, Larian. Maybe a link to Skeptics.com or the Amazon page might be a good addition to factsnotfantasy?

  4. I’d just finished listening to the most recent episode of the SGU and wandered over here and bazinga. Coincidence? I think not. ;-)

    Oh, and then I dropped it into my shopping cart.

  5. I might need to read it, myself >_>

    I never had a decent enough biology education to understand anything about evolution, just that things change over time, and monkeys are people (in the lightest of terms.) I was, for the last 14 years or so, raised in a Christian household with the idea that evolution = evil.

    Any recommended reading for that person with a business major interested in evolution from a standpoint that he can begin to discuss it with confidence? How easy to understand are Dawkins’s books?

  6. BigBadSis

    Not to be negative on such an uplifing post, but why did they have to quote Michael Shermer using a cuss word on a children’s book?

  7. BigBadSis

    BTW, after I read it and have my kids read it, I’ll donate it to the local elementary school. (I’ll just scratch out the cuss word.) Good suggestion, Phil!

  8. angelo

    @Kevin

    you may want to start with “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry A. Coyne : well written, accessible and covers many relevant topics… (you can read a review on this very blog http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/04/15/why-evolution-is-true/ )

    I would also recommend:
    “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin and “Life: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth” by Richard Fortey

  9. Zucchi

    Any 8-13-year old child smart enough to get into this book will have already read and heard every common cuss word. At least, I had by that age. It won’t damage them.

    Sounds like a great book.

  10. Messier Tidy Upper

    The drawings are simply magnificent; the Archeopteryx on the cover will grab any kid’s attention, as will the gorgeous T-Rex on the first page. My favorite drawing was this one, which he also uses as a banner for the book

    Afraid I’ve got to disagree there & go with the cover Archaeopteryx but both are great. :-)

    @ 7. BigBadSis Says:

    BTW, after I read it and have my kids read it, I’ll donate it to the local elementary school. (I’ll just scratch out the cuss word.)

    Nothing is guaranteed to grab more attention from the kiddies than a scratched out cuss word! ;-)

    “Mommy, what do you think that scratched out word there was?!” ;-)

    I’m sure they’ll think it was much more major candidate than the relatively mild expletive Shermer used. But I guess there’s nothing wrong with giving them the fun of guessing & then researching by seeking out other unvandalised copies – even if they do end up being disappointed. “Aww it was only *that* word!” ;-)

  11. Amber

    @ #5

    Dawkin’s book Greatest Show on Earth would probably be the fit you’re looking for. I’d also recommend The Ancestor’s Tale if you aren’t intimidated by its sheer mass. I found it mostly easy to understand but the depth of info in Ancestor’s Tale required a few rereads of various sections.

  12. TheBlackCat

    @ Kevin: I strongly recommend “Why Evolution is True”. It is a very well-written and easy-to-read explanation of what evolution is and what evidence there is backing it up.

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    ^@ TheBlackCat – Wasn’t there a BA blog post on that ‘un? ;-)

    Ah, yes, here it is :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/04/15/why-evolution-is-true/

    Over 700 comments on it too.

  14. Floyd

    There’s this problem…
    I have a grown up son with children, who doesn’t believe we descended from ancestors in common with the other great apes. This view is apparently based on something he heard at his church. I’m unsure how to get him a clue on reality. He’s aware of evolution, but considers it “only a theory,” and says he doesn’t believe “we descended from a monkey.” I don’t want the grandchildren growing up scientifically ignorant. The book is probably a good start, but he’ll probably reject having that around at home.

  15. Messier Tidy Upper

    ^ Floyd – Direct him here! Leave it to us. ;-)

  16. Gary Ansorge

    15. Floyd

    Just buy the book and leave it lying around your house, open to the T-Rex. When the kids come to visit I’m sure they’ll find it.

    Can’t keep inquiring minds down.

    Gary 7

  17. Lox is the God of Photoshop.

  18. 15. Floyd

    A simple example would be to talk about dogs – there’s tall dogs, short dogs, skinny ones, hairy ones, ugly one, sleek ones – all sorts of obviously different-looking animals but all descended from a great-great… grandparent that pretty much looked like a coyote. If he objects that humans bred them that way, then remind him that humans didn’t cause the differences in shape and size – they just noticed when it happened naturally and mated the similar ones together to keep the variation. If he can accept that one common ancestor can naturally lead to lots of different-looking descendants, then the idea of a common ancestor amongst different apes isn’t too far-fetched…

  19. coryy

    I have to scold Pi-Needles—As a dairy goat owner, and a former urbanite turned 4-H mom, adult goats are properly called does and bucks. Unless they’re neutered males, at which point they become wethers. Just, you know, insisting that we call things by their proper names on a science blog…. :)

    My child’s elementary school has a birthday gift club, where you can donate a book to the library in your child’s name on his/her birthday, and they are the first child allowed to take that book out and read it. I’ve never done it before but I think this is the year we’ll sign on. And buy one for the middle and high schools for good measure.

  20. Gary Ansorge

    20. coryy

    Ah yes, I recall living on Grandmas farm and having to learn the proper names of the barn yard animals:

    1) a donkey is properly called an ass.
    2) a rooster is properly called a cock.
    3) a hen is properly called a pullet.

    Now, while I’m sitting on my ass, will you hold my,,,

    Oh, never mind,,,

    Gary 7

  21. I’ll have to locate that book, thanks.

    I want to sound like I know what I’m talking about, but not that I’m parroting Wikipedia.

  22. T.E.L.

    Floyd,

    If your son is fully grown then maybe it’s time to just let him figure out his worldview on his own and raise his children as he sees fit. Would you want your son trying to teach you Creationism?

    And what does it mean to be scientifically literate? Worldviews are not science. Physics isn’t science. Chemistry isn’t science. Astronomy isn’t science. Biology isn’t science. Not a single one of these examples is *a* science. These are all subjects. Science is method. Science is something which is done. It is quality control for knowledge.

    It’s possible, and common, for people to read all sorts of things about biology, including evolution, and not have a clue about how to justify any of it scientifically.

  23. Phil, I have my copy on a shelf at home to go through with my kids (won’t get into the dodgy situation of my wife still being x-tian and uninterested in looking at the YEC beliefs we both grew up with)… I like the idea of donating to a local school, or library. I’m almost due to renew my subscriptions for Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, & Free Inquiry and I’m thinking I’ll contact my library and have the subscriptions sent there (less clutter at home when I finish reading them, AND they’ll be somewhere people who wouldn’t otherwise subscribe might see & read them). I don’t see Lox’s book in my local library catalog currently… maybe it’s time to donate a copy.

    @Kevin As somebody who was raised YEC x-tian and made it to 30 without getting useful information on Evolution (and ergo still YEC at the time I started to question my faith), one of the books that was most useful (and easy to read) for me was Evolution For Everyone by DS Wilson. Shubin’s Inner Fish was also fantastic. For that matter, The Language of God by Francis Collins went a long way towards convincing me of the truth of evolution and explaining it to me… though it didn’t keep me an X-tian (probably not what Francis was hoping for). Dawkins’ Greatest Show was pretty good, though I didn’t read it until I was already convinced/had a pretty good understanding so I’m not sure how it would be coming to it as a first evolutionary text. I think the one thing it did better than some of the other ones I recall was explaining genetics. I have in my head when I read it in GSOE though, that I’d had a good explanation in a Modern Scholar lecture on genetics that I had checked out from my library. As I’m looking forward to finally getting around to reading Why Evolution is True by Coyne, I can’t comment on it yet.

  24. coryy

    @ gary 7—

    a hen is not a hen until it is OVER one year of age–pullet before, hen after it lays eggs
    cock is a cockerel until it’s a year old,

    and there are plenty of asses around here already, thanks.

    As to wethers, you might be interested to know that I own a burdizzo, and have used it successfully. They are effective on any animal up to 150 lbs. How much do you weigh?

  25. Lorena

    “The best damn evolution book for kids, period”

    Best review of a book EVER!!! XD XD XD

  26. Alan Leipzig

    I’m getting it in the mail this week, along with DK’s Prehistoric Life. One of those will be the textbook my 8th grade paleontology class uses next year. I wonder if the principal would pop for both?

  27. Ken

    Is the Shermer quote actually on or in the book, or is it just used as an ad?

    I have no inherent problem with it, but I can easily see school libraries pointing to it as an excuse to not put the book on the shelves (especially in elementary school)…

  28. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    [discussion on] the boundaries of religion and science […] the book isn’t about religion […] instead of being arrogant or dismissive

    That is a given, seeing that Loxton uses religious back-lighting for his illustrations. And:

    the book isn’t about religion […] instead of being arrogant or dismissive

    And it gets Shermer’s approval too. So at an informed a priori guess it’s another of those accommodationist religious (aka “agnostic”) epos, ain’t it? One step science, one step “religion doesn’t hurt science”. Iterate ad infinitum, don’t mind the evidence.

    [Well, count me as a skeptic. :-D]

    What gets my goat about agnostics is how arrogant and dismissive they are (about science certainly, but also about religion in principle). Now tell me it ain’t so!

  29. Devika

    Well, I know what my boyfriend’s daughter is getting for her 9th birthday!

  30. Floyd> start explaining to him how the term ‘scientific theory’ (as in “a body of knowledge and understanding about an observed and documented fact”) is completely unrelated to the colloquial meaning of ‘theory’ (as in “I think he may be breeding dormice in his pants, that’s my theory on why he walks so funny”).

  31. Gary Ansorge

    29. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I’m agnostic but I DO understand why people need the certainty of that old time religion. One should note that even Mohammed was agnostic until he found his “true religion”.

    The Scientific Method IS the only quality control method we have for verifying that the knowledge we acquire is an accurate representation of reality.

    Agnostics, atheists, religionists have the same very human failings,,,and the same strengths. Some of us are just a bit more stubborn than others.

    25. coryy

    240 lbs. Some of it is still muscle.

    GAry 7

  32. Steve in Dublin

    Ken @ #28, et. al.

    Is the Shermer quote actually on or in the book, or is it just used as an ad?

    Nobody would be so naive as to put the word ‘damn’ on the jacket of a book that is aimed at children. I think you can safely assume that the ‘d’ word is only used in the ad, which is targeted at adults to buy for their kids.

    Still, I agree that it’s a bit bold of them to take that tack…

  33. Caleb Jones

    There’s a very non-threatening way to get someone who views evolution/geology as threatening to their religion. It seeks to bring them to a middle ground:

    From a religious point of view
    1) God exists
    2) God is a god of truth
    3) God cannot lie or deceive
    4) God created earth/universe/etc. (here ‘created’ can be defined loosely for the sake of finding a common ground)

    From the scientific point of view:
    1) Science seeks truth independent of human institutions/races/creeds/etc. (ie: science is not out to disprove God, it just seeks the truth)
    2) The evidences/data on life’s history on this planet overwhelmingly point towards the process of evolution

    Here’s the middle ground:
    * If the points above are true, and God did not use (or allow) any form of evolution then He sure went through an awful lot of trouble to make it seem as though He did (ie: He is deceiving us). So it is possible that evolution is a tool which God uses (or a process that he allows in the universe) to bring forth life.

    I’m not saying this is a logically air tight proof. But it is an illustration of the kind of empathy and common-ground seeking that must be used in order for there to be effective communication from sides that differ on these kinds of things.

  34. mike burkhart

    This should be required reading in schools as for the religon part well maybe it was a good idea if it says that not all Christans reject evolution when I tell people the I am a Christan who accepts evolution most people get an amazed look on there face ( and I’m geting tired of saying over and over again on this blog that only fudamentlist Chirstans reject evolution and THEY ARE A MINORITY THERE JUST MORE VOICAL )

  35. Ron

    2 #6 because using the word “damn” is not a big deal thats why. It is good to validate the use of cuss words anyway because we can all use those words at will and with impunity.

  36. From Facts, not Fantasy (and I recommend you read the sub tabs as well):
    Some simple statements to make right before getting into a discussion about evolution. Feel free to just copy and paste this list to any forum or web page you choose to discuss evolution on. Stand by for more updates as we continue to build this page.

    * It’s just a theory.
    Yes, just like gravity is “just a theory”. Anti-evolution types tend to not understand what “theory” means in a scientific context. It means that the idea started out as an hypothesis, based on observation; that researchers made predictions based on the observations and the hypothesis; that they collected more data, tested those predictions and re-examined the original ideas, and that this process has been done over and over and over until the idea is supported by so much evidence that it is as close to fact as science can come. Further, like any theory in science, it can be falsified if some new data comes along showing it to be wrong. Contrast this with the “theory” (and I use the quotes on purpose, there) of Intelligent Design or Creationism. ID consists pretty much only of questioning evolution. It makes no predictions. It has no research testing any ideas. It cannot be falsified. The “evidence” provided of supposed irreducible complexity does not rule out evolution of the structures examined, nor does it show how such a structure may have been designed and created as is. In short, though evolution deniers claim that ID is a theory, it is not.

    * There are no transitional fossils.
    Every fossil, and indeed every living creature, is transitional between an older form and a newer (or yet to come) form. We have a pretty good collection of fossils that show a transition from older forms to newer forms, such as the transition of large land mammals to whales. Scientists using the Theory of Evolution have even predicted a transitional form and where to find it. This transitional fossil, tiktaalik, was found based on these predictions. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14952

    * Evolution denies god(s).
    Nothing in the Theory of Evolution denies the existence of god (or any other deity). At best, it merely contradicts a literal interpretation of either of the two biblical creation stories (and any of the countless other creation stories from other religions/cultures). All that the theory of evolution does is show how everything came to be the way it is without the need for god(s).

    * Evolution says that life just sprung out of nowhere.
    Not true. The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the origins of life. Rather, the theory examines how life changes over time and across environments after it already exists. There is a branch of science, however, that is examining the origins of life: abiogenesis. But, that is currently separate from the ToE and is still in its infancy, scientifically speaking.

    * Why not teach the controversy?
    That’s just the thing, there is no real controversy! The only controversy is that which has been manufactured by creationists and intelligent design proponents. Sure, there may be specific elements where one scientist may disagree with another scientist, but those are specific mechanisms and particulars of the theory, not the entire theory itself. By this same logic, one should teach the “stork” theory of human reproduction.

    * Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    This statement not only highlights a poor understanding of evolution, but also of all physics. First of all, the earth itself is not a closed system. The sun provides a great deal of energy for order to be built from. Not only that, but given how the volume of the universe is increasing by an order of three dimensions, and entropy is generally a linear equation, the “room” for order is actually constantly increasing in the universe (which is really beyond the scope of this discussion). Suffice it to say that all in all, deniers of evolution consistently show a poor understanding of nearly all aspects of science.

    * What about the list of scientists that disagree with Evolution?
    This list is probably one of the most dishonest pieces of propaganda out there. It was put together by the “Discovery Institute” (an organization with no credentials and fewer scruples). The list of “scientists” generally are not scientists, and if they are, most are not in any way qualified to talk about biological evolution. Also, the initial statement as presented to some scientists was twisted as to project a meaning different from what the actual reputable scientists contend. Just because a certain aspect may be in question, the entire theory is in no danger of suddenly falling out of favour. This video may give you some insight into the nature of that list.

    * Do you honestly think that all this came about by chance?
    Again, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding and denial of basic chemistry, physics, and even biology. While there are certain “random” elements involved in evolution and pretty much every natural process, keep in mind that the “room” for order in the universe is increasing. Not only that, the majority of processes are not at all left to chance, but rather follow very natural and orderly constraints of the universe.

    * What about the “Irreducible Complexity” of the eye, blood, flagellum, etc.?
    Well, first of all, “irreducible complexity” is a non-sense term invented by creationists and intelligent design proponents. All it really says is that they can’t possibly understand a particularly complex mechanism, so therefore something else did it. The basic premise behind irreducible complexity is to take a well designed item, remove a part to break it, and proclaim that it’s broken… The problem is that it’s entirely backwards thinking, and doesn’t take into account how something was actually built up. Every single item of irreducible complexity has an answer, however creationists and intelligent design proponents will keep throwing out examples of complex systems until they hit upon one that their debate opponent may not have all the facts on. As soon as they find that one thing that someone may not know the answer to, they proclaim victory for their entire side, totally ignoring all the other instances where their argument was trounced.

    * What about the woodpecker’s tongue, the panda’s thumb, the whatever’s thingy, etc.?
    Again, this is all part and parcel of the “throw enough poo at your opponent, and eventually you’ll hit on something they don’t know” strategy. Most of the things that creationists and intelligent design proponents will throw out are horrid misunderstandings of the basic biological mechanisms at work, so not only are you debating evolution with them, but you need to correct them on how whatever strawman they have thrown out is wrong from the sense of basic biology, not only from an evolutionary standpoint.

  37. coryy

    @32 gary

    :) you’re safe, then!

  38. Michael Swanson

    @ #35, Mike Burkhart

    We know that it’s mostly fundies that reject evolution. It’s the widespread Christian belief in phrenology and a flat earth that bother me! And don’t get me started on phlogiston!

    ;)

    And I’m getting this book! Never underestimate quality “children’s” science books. They sometimes make the handiest references around.

  39. Nerdista

    And don’t forget, your local library probably has it too! I put a copy on hold for myself to keep the circ. stats up!

  40. DB

    The children who need to see this the most are the ones least likely to see it. If they happen to find it , they be pressured to not read it. I remember when I was 8 years old I found a book by Issac Asimov on evolution. Of course I was totally confused because I had been taught that humanity started with Adam and Eve. My parents were horrified by the questions I was asking. I was intimidated, to the point of tears,(impressionable 8 year old) into returning the book to the bookstore where I had gotten it.
    Once I reached adolescence, I started thinking for myself and horrified my parents again when I declared that I believed in evolution and thought all the stuff I was taught when I was younger was the equivalent of believing in Santa Claus. I did not let myself be intimidated into recanting the second time around.

  41. Jim

    Kinda off-topic, but this New Scientist article got my woo/wacko sensor going: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527466.100.

    Essentially, the authors seem to be arguing that since evolution is unquestioningly accepted, and since the terms used in evolution’s theory spill over into other disciplines, finding any holes in evolution (however small) would be good because then the spill-over effect would be stopped. The entire argument seemed driven by the spill-over and almost not at all reflective on Natural Selection.

    Thoughts?

  42. jamie

    @Kevin

    I would add Dawkins Greatest Show on the Earth to the recommendations of Coyne and Shubin. Coynes video presentation at the AAI this year is really well done and entertaining. Lots of great stuff on youtube from thunderfoot, nonstampcollector, donexodus and others. I found Flock of Dodos(film) informative also. Dawkins other books fill in more technical holes and understanding the probability/large numbers aspects.(but are all worth reading)
    Probably too much info but good luck.
    On topic I cant wait for solstice and gift time. This looks like something I have been looking for.

  43. T.E.L.

    Jim Said:

    “Essentially, the authors seem to be arguing that since evolution is unquestioningly accepted, and since the terms used in evolution’s theory spill over into other disciplines, finding any holes in evolution (however small) would be good because then the spill-over effect would be stopped. The entire argument seemed driven by the spill-over and almost not at all reflective on Natural Selection.”

    I’m not sure that Natural Selection was as absent as that from the article. It did mention that “fitness” doesn’t always obviously increase with generations. That’s really an important thing to understand about selection. All that fitness amounts to is that an individual organism lives long enough to reproduce. All that a successful genome needs is to not get the host killed before making babies.

    I don’t know about the author’s ultimate gist. Maybe he was too focused on spill-over; I don’t know. But one thing we can say is that it is good to find the holes in the theory, if they exist.

  44. TheBlackCat

    @ mike burkhart

    ( and I’m geting tired of saying over and over again on this blog that only fudamentlist Chirstans reject evolution and THEY ARE A MINORITY THERE JUST MORE VOICAL )

    In most countries, perhaps, but here in the U.S. most polls indicate that at least as many people reject evolution as accept it.

  45. Charlie Young

    Saw a bumper sticker on the way home today:

    Evolution=Monkeys Uncle
    Creation=God

    That’s the kind of attitude that must be reasoned with…or be unable to be reasoned with.

    P.S. The grammatical error of monkey being plural, not possessive, was not mine.

  46. Carl Braun

    It’s nice to read an enlightened article with comments that I find refreshing. That said, I’ve pretty much given up trying to argue with ignorant people that would rather not hear any facts. These people are so mean (ironic, considering they purport to be advancing the word of God) and so unreasonable that debates I once would have found stimulating have essentially led me to give up the fight. Among other things, they criticize my looks, my income and my family…anything but the point at hand. They literally hoot when I attempt to make a point! Most incredible, the word “science” is undergoing a transformation to where now just the mention of science is inferred to as inherently bad by millions of people. Mind you, many of these same people and their loved ones might have died if not for the tireless work of many scientists over the years. Oh well, I degress…

  47. Cairnos

    @ Mike Burkhat

    I know what you mean. I was raised catholic, had entirely read my copy of the bible at the age of ten and was later completely stunned in disbelief when I first encountered the concept of young earth creationism and the fact that some people actually believed it. Of course most fundamentalists seem to think that catholic = satanic baby eating heathen so they probably wouldn’t be surprised.

  48. I ordered my copy of this book the other day. I don’t have kids, but want to read it.

    I’d like to hand it off to my neighbor’s kids, who are home-schooled, but I think it’ll end up the same place the dinosaur DVD I gave them did. You can’t argue with people who believe that religion has all the answers.

  49. Steve Pinkham

    For anyone who wants to reconcile their Christian belief with the facts of evolution, or to help their sons or fathers to understand why , I highly recommend “Beyond the Firmament” by Gorden J Glover.
    http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Firmament-Understanding-Theology-Creation/dp/0978718615
    It’s a book that takes the scientific evidence for evolution seriously, provides information on why and to whom the book of Genesis was written, and the reasons that the Hebrews worldview and culture cause the biblical creation account not to feature precise 21st century (much more accurate) science.

    It properly stresses the distinction of ways of knowing, and what science, religion, and philosophy are good for. Overall it’s an excellent book, and the one resource I would recommend for thinking Christians and the people who love them.

    If you’d like to see some of the ideas in video form, check out http://www.blog.beyondthefirmament.com/video-presentations/
    He includes a comparison video of the intelligent design movement and the alien intervention truthers which is quite hilarious.

    For a deeper view of the proper cultural context surrounding the book of Genesis, see The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. http://www.amazon.com/Lost-World-Genesis-One-Cosmology/dp/0830837043/

    So far I’ve found it quite possible to be scientifically literate, skeptical, and a Christian.. Of course some of my fellow Christians don’t see it that way, but the cultural cost to the Christian community for that stand is quite large.

  50. Max

    Hi, has anyone checked out the truth project,
    http://www.thetruthproject.org/

    The series of teaching DVD offers some serious challenges to the validity of evolution science.

  51. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    RE: Max (#52)

    Hi, has anyone checked out the Truth™ about The Great Monkey Conspiracy?…

    The Monkeys have been spreading a pseudo-scientific myth, called “Evolution”, that the Human race descended from monkeys. They also participate in programs, such as those held at the London Zoo, that further their cause in people’s minds.

    ;-)

  52. Jeffersonian

    @5 Kevin
    “How easy to understand are Dawkins’s books?”
    I just finished the latest edition of Origin edited by Quammen. Darwin’s stuff is hard to read; long-winded, apologetic, and written for its time and place. But the illustrations and historical sidebars are outright fascinating, making this edition fantastic. Worth at least thumbing through, even if you read a more modern title instead.

    @15
    Ask him to define what “theory” means in science. Remind him that words have more than on definition and that “I had a ball last night” doesn’t mean you ate a sphere. Ask him why the majority of xtians are fine with evolution. Ask him where in the gospels (if he’s a follower of the teachings of Jesus) Jesus discusses change in species over time. Just don’t do it all at once.

    Since xtian creationism comes from misinterpreting the Torah, I like to point out a few choice lines from the Torah such as giving false testimony (about evolution) or that the final list of 10 commandments includes a commandment not to boil a goat in its mother’s milk. I’ve discovered that visiting a Jewish community opens fundies eyes. Most fundies come from extremely WASPy areas, are not very exposed to the world, and have no clue at to the 4 branches of Abrahamic theology and how they all stem from/abuse the Torah. Pointing out conflicts in the Judaic creation myth at the beginning of Genesis is a hoot, too.

  53. Sticks

    Will this be published in the UK, or like Phil’s newish book only available if you are prepared to go through the time and expense of importing from the US

    As for the origin of life not being part of evolution, that is the biggest cop out of them all.

    How can you have organic evolution if you can not get life started in the first place?

    Does this book also deal with the issues concerning evolution and the difficulties that still exist?

    Does it deal with the use of genetic mutations, by definition errors in copying the DNA, as the driving mechanism for the variations that natural selection requires.

    Does it document any good mutations in nature without bringing up the worn out example of bacterial resistance to anti-biotics which is all to do with plasmids, not genetic mutation?

    Does this book deal with the assumptions of radiometric rock dating and the fundamental flaws each of these assumptions make?

    i.e setting the clock to zero; migration in or out of decay products, possible variation in the half-lifes; the fact a fossile may have migrated; rocks formed in recent volcanic eruptions showing dates older than they really are by these radiometric methods.

    Getting on to physics, is there any discussion of the implications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principal – ok perhaps not as this book is a biology book, I’m willing to grant that ID was a really bad idea, especially as it was also theologically flawed, but then the athiests came up with their own version in the ACP.

    I remember when the BBC ran Walking With Dinosaurs where they portrayed the best guesses of paleantologists as a “This is how it was” including how dinosaurs MAY have behaved as proven fact.

    Even if there is no arrogance in this book, I have seen those in the evolutionary community just as arrogant as the creationists they set out to refute.

  54. Pi-needles

    @ 20. coryy Says:

    I have to scold Pi-Needles—As a dairy goat owner, and a former urbanite turned 4-H mom, adult goats are properly called does and bucks. Unless they’re neutered males, at which point they become wethers. Just, you know, insisting that we call things by their proper names on a science blog….

    Really? Bucks & does not billygoats and nannygoats? I’ve never heard that before & always thought it was the latter not the former which I’ve always associated with deer. Okay I guess I’ll put that down as the “something new I learnt today.” ;-)

  55. TheBlackCat

    As for the origin of life not being part of evolution, that is the biggest cop out of them all.

    How can you have organic evolution if you can not get life started in the first place?

    How can you have organic evolution without first having rules of chemistry that determines how biological molecules behave? Does that mean separating chemistry and biology is a cop-out? How about separating physics and chemistry? After all, the rules of chemistry are all based on physics.

    Does this book also deal with the issues concerning evolution and the difficulties that still exist?

    I don’t know, most of the difficulties in evolution are very technical and fairly hard to understand for kids, so probably only briefly. If you mean, however, the imaginary difficulties like you mentioned, no, because they are not real difficulties.

    Does it deal with the use of genetic mutations, by definition errors in copying the DNA, as the driving mechanism for the variations that natural selection requires.

    What is the problem with this? In this context mistakes are simply changes, and changes can either be good, bad, or neutral. The vast majority of mutations are neutral.

    Does it document any good mutations in nature without bringing up the worn out example of bacterial resistance to anti-biotics which is all to do with plasmids, not genetic mutation?

    Probably, there are plenty of other examples of beneficial mutations.

    Does this book deal with the assumptions of radiometric rock dating and the fundamental flaws each of these assumptions make?

    No, because there are no such “fundamental flaws”, at least no fundamental flaws that would cause all dating methods to give the same answer (when used appropriately, don’t give me any examples of using radiocarbon dating on samples 10 or 100 million years old).

    i.e setting the clock to zero; migration in or out of decay products, possible variation in the half-lifes; the fact a fossile may have migrated; rocks formed in recent volcanic eruptions showing dates older than they really are by these radiometric methods.

    I am not sure what you mean by “setting the clock to zero”. If anything, resetting a radioisotope clock would make things look younger than they really are, not older. So I must be not be understanding what you are saying.

    Migration of decay products is dealt with by comparing decay products to other components with similar properties, using self-checking isotopes, using decay products that do not migrate, and so on. This is not a difficult problem to deal with with the isotopes used, in fact they were chosen specifically because they lack these sorts of problems.

    Isotopes that have half-lives that can vary are not used. We can tell that the half-lives of the elements we use have not varied in various ways. Further, if the half-lives varied the ages would not agree.

    How can fossils migrate independently of the rocks they are embedded in? Especially if they are imprint fossils, which are simply shapes pressed into the rock.

    The samples used in those volcanic studies were explosive volcanic eruptions, they simply moved old rocks from one place to another. If just moving rocks around was enough to reset the radioisotope clocks then they would not be useful for dating (as you pointed out earlier).

    I remember when the BBC ran Walking With Dinosaurs where they portrayed the best guesses of paleantologists as a “This is how it was” including how dinosaurs MAY have behaved as proven fact.

    They did nothing of the sort. They created a coherent picture, which sometimes involved making guesses on things they didn’t know or what sure of. You can’t make a video of something you didn’t see without making certain assumptions, it simply cannot be done. I don’t recall them ever claiming otherwise. I have the DVDs, can you tell me exactly where they claimed anything in the disk was “proven fact”?

    Even if there is no arrogance in this book, I have seen those in the evolutionary community just as arrogant as the creationists they set out to refute.

    You confuse “arrogance” with “having a massive amount of evidence backing them up”.

  56. Meepy

    Damn is a bAd word? Really?

  57. Darth Robo

    Max

    >>>The series of teaching DVD offers some serious challenges to the validity of evolution science.”

    Really? From James ‘Focus On The Family’ Dobson?!? What um, “serious” challenges would those be?

  58. Darth Robo

    >>>”Getting on to physics, is there any discussion of the implications of the Anthropic Cosmological Principal – ok perhaps not as this book is a biology book, I’m willing to grant that ID was a really bad idea”

    If that’s the case, Sticks, why are you regurgitating all of their sound-bites? (shrug)

  59. Sticks

    @TheBlackCat

    On WWD when the dealt with behaviour of the dinosaurs, the style of the programme was like a normal nature documentary and it was presented as “this is how it was” It was very slick and well crafted, but when it came to it, it was just speculation, presented as fact, with Kenneth Brannagh narrating it. They later did the same in “Walking with Beasts”

    Re fossils, some are imprints, but I have in my possession a fossil ammonite and it is not an impression it is like a stone model of the creature.

    As for arrogance, sometime people like Richard Dawkins do come across that way, and I have one evolution book, Becoming Human by Ian Tattersall who criticises Richard Dawkins for how he comes across.

    Re setting the clock to zero, the way we were taught that radiometric dating worked was that you assumed no daughter product was there to start off with and then you measure ratios of parent to daughter and by reference to half life you get a reading. The question is how do we know that there wasn’t already some daughter element present when the fossil was formed. How do we know that some daughter elements weren’t leached in or out which takes us to the already discussed issue of migration of elements.

  60. TheBlackCat

    On WWD when the dealt with behaviour of the dinosaurs, the style of the programme was like a normal nature documentary and it was presented as “this is how it was” It was very slick and well crafted, but when it came to it, it was just speculation, presented as fact, with Kenneth Brannagh narrating it. They later did the same in “Walking with Beasts”

    I disagree, I don’t think they made any secret of the fact that there was a lot of speculation, nor did they ever claim that there was not a lot of speculation. Of course it used the same style as a nature documentary, that was the whole point. But they never claimed it was on the same level of certainty as a nature documentary. There was also the “swimming with sea monsters” done by the same group. It was presented as an crocodile hunter-like hands-on show involving time travel. Are you going to criticize them for making people think time travel exists?

    Re fossils, some are imprints, but I have in my possession a fossil ammonite and it is not an impression it is like a stone model of the creature.

    I have several fossil ammonites, some dinosaur bone, and several other fossils, you don’t need to tell me that. My point is simply that “fossil migration” is not a valid criticism.

    As for arrogance, sometime people like Richard Dawkins do come across that way, and I have one evolution book, Becoming Human by Ian Tattersall who criticises Richard Dawkins for how he comes across.

    Great, you found one person who one other person claimed comes across as arrogant sometimes. Hardly a very damning indictment of evolutionary scientists.

    Frankly it is irrelevant anyway. What matters is evidence. Whether someone comes across as arrogant to someone else doesn’t matter in the slightest, what matters is who does and does not have evidence. The scientific community does. Creationists do not.

    Re setting the clock to zero, the way we were taught that radiometric dating worked was that you assumed no daughter product was there to start off with and then you measure ratios of parent to daughter and by reference to half life you get a reading.

    I don’t know who taught you that, but they didn’t know much about radiocarbon dating. It is not an assumption. In some cases we know there were none of a given daughter element because of the different properties of the parent and/our daughter during mineral formation. In other cases, it is by comparing two different isotopes, one that decays and one that doesn’t. In still others, it is by looking for two ratios that are different in different samples, but fall along a straight line. But it is never simply assumed that there are no daughter products in the original sample.

    How do we know that some daughter elements weren’t leached in or out which takes us to the already discussed issue of migration of elements.

    As I said, in cases where this can happen the isotope isn’t used for dating. The isotopes used are not picked randomly, they have been chosen specifically because they have the properties necessary to make them reliable clocks.

    And even if you are right and it is reliable, the fact is they all agree with each other. If radioisotope dating was unreliable it would be giving inconsistent answers. If decay rates were changing they would be changing differently for the different isotopes, giving widely different answers. But it doesn’t, the answers it gives are all highly consistent across a wide variety of isotopes. That is, of course, assuming they are used properly, lots of creationists love to intentionally misuse radioisotope dating in an attempt to disprove it (the volcanic eruption case being a great example, but there are many others).

    What is more, we actually have direct evidence that radioactive decay was basically the same as it is now as much as 2 billion years ago. Around that time a natural uranium fission reactor, almost identical to our modern reactors, formed in what is now Africa. If radioactive decay rates were different back then for uranium (an important element for radioisotope dating), then the behavior of the reactor would have been radically different (since uranium fission reactions depend on spontaneous uranium decay, and are highly dependent on decay rates). What is more, the properties of the reactor are highly dependent on exactly when the reaction took place, so if the uranium dating method was wrong then the way the reactor actually worked would have been radically different then the way it did work. So radioactive decay rates could not have been different within the last 2 billion years, and the methods used to date the reactor must be accurate up to at least 2 billion years.

    And even if we throw out radioisotope dating, there are probably thousands, if not millions, of other things that proves the world is far, far older than 10,000 years. Pretty much every field of science directly contradicts that age, including physics, chemistry, biology, meteorology, epidemiology, geology, astronomy, cosmology, climatology, hydrology, ecology, even history, you name it I bet it has evidence contradicting the idea that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

  61. Teach your Sons

    I recently tweeted that I’d bought this book from the Skeptics website ( https://www.skeptic.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?&Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SS&Product_Code=b136HB ) for my two sons to read.

    I believe it’s critical to teach our sons in particular.

    Please buy this book for your sons or their school, as I have now in Feb 2010.

  62. TheBlackCat

    I believe it’s critical to teach our sons in particular.

    In particular, compared to what? Teaching our daughters? I am confused as to what you are saying here. Shouldn’t we be teaching all of our children?

  63. T.E.L.

    TheBlackCat,

    I’m not sure Teach your Sons’ post passes the Turing Test.

  64. Sticks

    @TheBlackCat

    I did not intend to say that all those working in the evolution field are arrogant or come across that way, sorry if I seemed to say that, some are or were very circumspect. Even Charles Darwin listened to critics and made revisions and later included some of them in his Ascent of Man. Richard Dawkins style does come across sometimes as arrogant, which is a shame because on quite a few things he rails against, I am in agreement with him on, such as dowsers, alternative medicine et al.

    As for the rock dating, I vaguely remember watching a video or DVD I was loaned where some guy said that some mineral with I think it was polonium was causing difficulties for the conventional dating methods, I wish I could give you more to pin down who it was. All I remember is that it seemed convincing at the time.

    Is there a book you could recommend on dating methods?

    The one question though that has not been answered is, will this book be available in the UK, or will it like Phil’s new book, for the US market only?

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