Nye - Book Reviews

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Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation
Bill Nye
St. Martin's Press
Nonfiction, Science
****+

DESCRIPTION: Long before Charles Darwin published his famous, controversial findings in 1859, people have speculated on the origins of life. As more and more evidence mounts in favor of evolutionary theory, some cling all the harder to models of creationism and "intelligent design," turning what should be a true debate of evidence and facts into a theological minefield of half-truths and unshakable dogma. But denying what evolution shows us is to deny one of the great wonders of the universe, not to mention the immense potential for new medicines and other direct benefits to the very people who wish to deny it most. Scientist Bill Nye explains what evolution is (and what it isn't), and why it's more important now than ever that we, as a species, embrace it.

REVIEW: I've been watching with growing concern as what used to be a fringe minority has grown in power and influence, squashing education and belittling science while using their fundamentalist beliefs like a club to bludgeon our nation into line with their way of thinking (or non-thinking, as clinging to dogma despite provable facts is not my definition of thought.) Many still want to deny what they're doing, and the real harm they're causing now and to future generations, but some few - like Bill Nye - have been brave enough to venture into the proverbial lions' den and confront the creationists on their own turf. In this book, he explains evolution and how overwhelming the evidence is in favor of it... not to mention other facts, like the age of the universe and Earth, that they wish to deny. He also explains why it matters. This isn't just a philosophical debate or theological discussion. This is about the ability to ask questions and search for answers - not in a holy book, but in the laboratory and in the world itself. Evolutionary theory explains observations, invites questions, and enables one to make predictions, while creationism begins and ends at an unbreachable divine wall, beyond which humans are not to cross. Denying facts, twisting half-truths and evasions and elevating them to an unassailable, unquestionable Way Things Are, cuts off avenues of thought and research such as those that have led to life-saving vaccines, new crops, and other direct benefits to humanity. Faced with a changing world and a sixth mass extinction, it's more important than ever to understand our place in the natural world if we're to have a future on this planet (and possibly beyond.) This book is interesting and important read, but one I fear it's just preaching to the choir; those who truly need to understand it are those who refuse to believe there's anything to understand.

You might also enjoy:
The Salmon of Doubt (Douglas Adams, Nonfiction - Essays and other unfinished writings from the late author Douglas Adams)
Predictably Irrational (Dan Ariely, Nonfiction - The well-known but overlooked tendency of human behavior towards irrationality)
The Ghosts of Evolution (Connie Barlow, Nonfiction - An examination of anachronistic plants, whose fruits and defenses point to extinct animal partners)
The Last of the Giants (Jeff Campbell, YA? Nonfiction - A portait of thirteen megafauna species, many extinct and others endangered)
Unbound (Richard L Currier, Nonfiction - Explore eight pivotal technologies, from "digging sticks" to the digital revolution, that have transformed our species and our planet)
On the Origin of Species, 6th Edition (Charles Darwin, Nonfiction - The definitive edition of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection)
How to Build a Dinosaur (Jack Horner and James Gorman, Nonfiction - New innovations in paleontology and related fields suggest the possibility of reverse-engineering prehistoric characteristics)
Welcome to Jesusland! (Formerly the United States of America) ("Landover Baptist Church", Fiction - Articles from God's favorite church and tax shelter)
Before Adam (Jack London, Fiction - In his dreams, a man relives a protohuman ancestor's life in the Mid-Pliocene era)
You Are Not So Smart (David McRaney, Nonfiction - 48 ways the human brain deceives itself)
Dinosaurs (Carl Mehling, editor, Nonfiction - Dinosaurs and other prehistoric life forms, from trilobites to mammoths)
Animal Wise (Virginia Morell, Nonfiction - Scientists study how animals think and feel, with surprising results)
The Darwin Awards (Wendy Northcut, Nonfiction - Stories of humans who selflessly remove themselves from the gene pool to prevent their stupidity from spreading to future generations)
Your Inner Fish (Neil Shubin, Nonfiction - The story of evolution as revealed by the fossil record and our own bodies)
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Jon Stewart et al., editors, Nonfiction - A handy guide for aliens visiting post-human Earth)
Last Ape Standing (Chip Walter, Nonfiction - A look at the evolution of homonins, and the physical and mental innovations that led to modern humans)
Let Them Eat Shrimp (Kennedy Warne, Nonfiction - The plight of the vanishing mangroves, and why it matters to everyone)

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