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9780805083064

Why Darwin Matters The Case Against Intelligent Design
Why Darwin Matters The Case Against Intelligent Design
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  • ISBN-13: 9780805083064
  • ISBN: 0805083065
  • Publication Date:
  • Publisher: Holt & Company, Henry

AUTHOR

SUMMARY

Prologue Why Evolution Matters Hence both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great factthat mystery of mysteriesthe first appearance of new beings on this earth. Charles Darwin,Journal of Researches, 1845 In June 2004, the science historian Frank Sulloway and I began a month-long expedition to retrace Charles Darwin's footsteps in the Galapagos Islands. It turned out to be one of the most physically grueling experiences of my life, and as I have raced a bicycle across America five times, that is saying something special about what the young British naturalist was able to accomplish in 1835. Charles Darwin was not only one sagacious scientist; he was also one tenacious explorer.1 I fully appreciated Darwin's doggedness when we hit the stark and barren lava fields on the island of San Cristobal, the first place Darwin explored in the archipelago. With a sweltering equatorial sun and almost no fresh water, it is not long before water-loaded seventy-pound packs begin to buckle your knees and strain your back. Add hours of daily bushwhacking through dense, scratchy vegetation, and the romance of fieldwork quickly fades. At the end of one three-day excursion my water supply was so dangerously low that Frank and I collected the dew that had accumulated on the tents the night before. One day I sliced my left shin on a chunk of a'a lava. Another day I was stung by a wasp and one side of my face nearly doubled in size. At the end of one particularly grueling climb through a moonscapelike area Darwin called the "craterized district," we collapsed in utter exhaustion, muscles quivering and sweat pouring off our hands and faces, after which we read from Darwin's diary, in which the naturalist described a similar excursion as "a long walk." Death permeates these islands. Animal carcasses are scattered everywhere. The vegetation is coarse and scrappy. Dried and shriveled cactus trunks dot the bleak landscape. The lava terrain is so broken with razor-sharp edges that progress across it is glacially slow. Many people have died there, from stranded sailors of centuries past to wanderlust-driven tourists in recent years. Within days I had a deep sense of isolation and fragility. Without the protective blanket of civilization none of us are far from death. With precious little water and even less edible foliage, organisms eke out a precarious living, their adaptations to this harsh environment selected over millions of years. A lifelong observer of and participant in the evolution-creation controversy, I was struck by how clear it is in these islands: Creation by intelligent design is absurd. So how then did Darwin depart the Galapagos a creationist? This is the question that Frank Sulloway went there to answer. Sulloway has spent a lifetime reconstructing how Darwin pieced together the theory of evolution. The iconic myth is that Darwin became an evolutionist in the Galapagos, discovering natural selection as he itemized finch beaks and tortoise carapaces, as he observed how each species had uniquely adapted to the available food and the island ecology. The legend endures, Sulloway notes, because it fits elegantly into a Joseph Campbelllike tripartite myth of the hero who (1) leaves home on a great adventure, (2) endures immeasurable hardship in the quest for noble truths, and (3) returns to deliver a deep messagein Darwin's case, evolution. The myth is ubiquitous, appearing in everything from biology textbooks to travel brochures, the latter of which inveigle potential customers to see what Darwin saw. The Darwin Galapagos legend is emblematic of a broader myth that science proShermer, Michael is the author of 'Why Darwin Matters The Case Against Intelligent Design', published 2007 under ISBN 9780805083064 and ISBN 0805083065.

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