This is book is extremely informative about the history of evolutionary biology and the new developments in biology, and I highly recommend it. The book, however, is not informative when the author ventures into other areas of study. The inclusion in the title of the phrase “Evolution Is True,” for example, means that the author does not know what truth is and what science is. Another example is the author’s discussion of God’s intentions. Bennett says, “It is a question for philosophy,” not science.
Asking questions is something human beings do and animals do not do. Questions that arise from our sense observations are scientific questions. Questions that arise from our ability to make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge are metaphysical questions. Where do fossils come from is a scientific question, and what is the relationship between myself and my body is a metaphysical question. Metaphysics leads to existence of a transcendent reality that we call God in the West. Questions about God are metaphysical questions, not philosophical questions. The only intention God could have is self-love. Why the universe of finite beings exists is an unsolvable mystery. The mysteries of evolutionary biology are not unsolvable. The mysteries are questions no one has been able to answer yet. There may be theories, but these theories are not supported by the evidence and judged to be true by rational people. If you don’t know the difference between science, metaphysics, and philosophy, I think it is fair to say you don’t understand science.
The book explains that Charles Darwin made no contribution at all to an understanding of evolutionary biology because his main idea—natural selection—was invented 100 years earlier by Pierre Maupertius. Bennett also criticizes Darwin for being against the vaccination of poor people in order to improve the human race. The book gives a number of examples of outrages inspired by Darwinism: Nazi atrocities, Khmer Rouge atrocities in 1975, racist biology textbooks, the Tuskegee experiment, compulsory sterilizations, and the Columbine killings. The author argues that Darwinism is not a scientific theory but a political movement that opposes the dignity of human beings:
On the other side was the belief that human life has an intrinsic value, that ‘all men are created equal,’ and the path to social progress is through education and equal opportunity for all classes and races.(location 3446)
In case the reader does not get the point, the author makes it clearer:
The question was, would people live in a society like Sophie’s that forced them to choose between their children, or a society where children like Little L. were loved and nurtured.(location 3458)
Sophie is the character in the novel Sophie’s Choice who had to tell the Nazi officer which child to take. Little L. was a very sick little girl who was cheerful and happy because she had a loving mother.
My understanding of history is that Western governments before the Enlightenment were guided by the principle of justice and fear of God, justice being to government what morality is to family life. With the American and French revolutions, human rights became the guiding principle and people lost their fear of eternal damnation. This makes people prone to irrational beliefs such as socialism, nationalism, racism, eugenics, and imperialism. To this list should be added laissez-faire capitalism because of the likes of Herbert Spencer. Inspired by Darwin, Spencer coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” to explain why it is good to let poor people die of disease and hunger. My point is that it is the fantasy that human beings have rights because they are human beings that lead to the horrors of the 19th and 20th century.
The new paradigm for evolution involves natural genetic engineering and emergent properties. An example of natural genetic engineering is the development of a single fertilized egg into a fully grown human being, a process that takes about two decades. Concerning emergent properties:
They (emergent properties) explain why leading neuroscientists today say the human mind is both entirely natural and yet entirely unique, possessing abilities not found in animals. (location 4739)
The abilities of the human mind, not found in animals, is paying attention, asking questions and inventing theories, marshaling evidence to decide whether a theory is true or just probable, and deciding what to do with its body. We can comprehend what these abilities are, but we can’t define or explicate them. Another way of expressing this is to say that humans are embodied spirits or that the human soul is spiritual. The human mind is entirely natural because only God is above nature. Transcendence in humans refers to our ability to transcend ourselves, not nature.
One of the highlights of the book, and there are many, is the account of the prosecution of John Scopes for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act in 1925. The author’s account is entirely at odds with the account of the trial in Wikipedia and the famous play and movie, Inherit the Wind. According to Wikipedia, the Butler Act made it “unlawful to teach evolution.” In fact, the law only made it unlawful to teach that human beings evolved from animals. According to Wikipedia, the goal of the Butler Act was to promote the religious belief that “the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge.” According to Bennett, the goal of the Butler Act was to oppose eugenics and racism.