Top 10 evolution books: three are about creationism

It must have been ten years or more since advocates of Intelligent Design promised us that peer-reviewed evidence for a “Designer” (aka the Christian God) was right around the corner, but they’ve come up with. . . .bupkes.  Because they have no evidence, the ID websites, like those of the Discovery Institute (DI)m involve sniping at evolutionists and proffering misguided critiques of work by real scientists. One example of how low these snakes can crawl was the tirade that the egnorant Michael Egnor  and David Klinghoffer of the DI came up with when I had my picture taken at John Scopes’s gravesite. That, they whined, showed that I admired racists, and was therefore a racist myself. (The argument was that the textbook Scopes taught from also had material on eugenics, but of course ignored the fact that a. Scopes taught from the textbook on only one day, as he was a substitute teacher, b. Scopes didn’t teach any eugenics, and c. the Scopes family had a long history of opposing racism.) But this is what IDers do when they don’t have the scientific goods.

Nevertheless, do remember that 42% of the American public are creationists, while only 19% accept evolution as it is taught by scientists: as a naturalistic process with no supernatural intervention. Most of the remainder (over 30%) are theistic evolutionists, believing that God had a hand in the evolutionary process.

And that is why the evolution-book section of Amazon is peppered not with books that promote or describe evolution, that but deny it. Reader David S., in fact, called my attention to the appearance of yet another creationist book, one that has risen to the #1 Amazon spot in “Organic Evolution.”  Apeing (pardon the pun) the title of Bill Nye’s book on evolution, DI flak Douglas Axe, director of the DI’s “Biologic Institute,” has produced a new book showing that evolution is impossible. The title: Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life Is Designed.

The Amazon blurb:

Throughout his distinguished and unconventional career, engineer-turned-molecular-biologist Douglas Axe has been asking the questions that much of the scientific community would rather silence. Now, he presents his conclusions in this brave and pioneering book. Axe argues that the key to understanding our origin is the “design intuition”—the innate belief held by all humans that tasks we would need knowledge to accomplish can only be accomplished by someone who has that knowledge. For the ingenious task of inventing life, this knower can only be God.

Starting with the hallowed halls of academic science, Axe dismantles the widespread belief that Darwin’s theory of evolution is indisputably true, showing instead that a gaping hole has been at its center from the beginning. He then explains in plain English the science that proves our design intuition scientifically valid. Lastly, he uses everyday experience to empower ordinary people to defend their design intuition, giving them the confidence and courage to explain why it has to be true and the vision to imagine what biology will become when people stand up for this truth.

Armed with that confidence, readers will affirm what once seemed obvious to all of us—that living creatures, from single-celled cyanobacteria to orca whales and human beings, are brilliantly conceived, utterly beyond the reach of accident.

Our intuition was right all along.

I doubt it, given the massive evidence for evolution described in the #3 and #5 books.  Did God create a series of fossils that misled us all into thinking that terrestrial artiodactyls evolved into whales, early reptiles into mammals and birds, and early apes into modern humans? And why did he put them in strata whose dates line up very well with the changes in appearance in these transitional forms? What a trickster is Our Lord! Never mind; IDers are motivated by religion, and can’t be bothered to deal with such annoying stuff as evidence.

As for Axe, well, you can read about his lucubrations from people like Larry Moran (also here) and Jeffrey Shallit. And as for the Biologic Institute, which was supposed to produce peer-reviewed research to convince scientists that ID was right, well, let’s just say it hasn’t been a smashing success. New Scientist has two pieces about that Institute (here and here), but, sadly, they’re behind a paywall (you can read a summary of New Scientist’s investigation aWikipedia, as well as the Institute’s shenanigans involving a faked photograph.)

Read and weep: here are the top sellers in Organic Evolution 0n Amazon. Of course the DI creationists are already trumpeting the ascendancy of Axe’s book as evidence of its correctness, but that is no more convincing than saying that the popularity of Donald Trump shows that Mexicans are a bunch of lazy criminals and rapists who should be walled in.

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  1. GBJames
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink


  2. Bobbins
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I am equally concerned that Alcock’s “Animal Behaviour” is so high on the list, since it is clearly inferior to the superlative Krebs & Davies (now Davies, Krebs & West).

  3. Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not entirely sure that FvF belongs in the category. While it touches on Organic Evolution, that’s not the main thrust.

    But Axe’s, Meyers’, and Johnson’s book belong in a dumpster.

  4. Rupinder Sayal
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Wonder how would people react if “God is Not Great”, “The God Delusion” and “Faith versus Fact” were to feature in Religion bestsellers? That’d be fun!

  5. Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    A while back, browsing in Amazon’s brick and mortar store in Seattle, I found FvF in the religion section. I was tempted to move it to the science section but then thought better of it. I figured it could do the most good right where it was.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    It is sad to see several pseudoscience books in the list of science best sellers at Amazon, but it does sort of make sense given the high % of science doubters in the U.S.

  7. Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    It is incredibly baroque to decide how the natural world works by using ones’ ‘intuition’. This would have been ok 400 years ago, but today? I laugh in their general direction.
    So may we expect that in the future the DI would make the revolutionary discovery that organisms are based on an archetype body plan from the Great Chain of Being? Perhaps they will decide that there must be some sort of vital force that animates the bodies of living creatures. One wonders the DI will ‘D’ next!

  9. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Surely “Evolution” is a non-fiction category. Therefore books on ID and creationism don’t belong there.

    I suppose at least Axe will be paying taxes on the profits. It’s time churches did the same.

    • Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      I take it that author’s intent is actually what determines fiction/nonfiction. That’s why all pseudosciences are with their distant relatives in genuine science (e.g., psychoanalysis is with psychology or medicine) and Platonic dialogues (and Galilean!) are non-fiction, etc.

  10. Stonyground
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I can sort of see the attraction of the, obviously flawed, logic that there must be some kind of intelligence that designed the universe. What I don’t get is the idea that this designer has some connection with a fictional character from a book of bronze age folk tales. Surely we must agree that, if this designer does exist, we are dealing with a colossal intelligence that dwarfs our brightest stars such as Newton, Einstein and Hawking. The one thing that comes across very clearly in this book of folk tales is that the composite god depicted by them is more than a little bit stupid.

    • Posted July 1, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      If organisms have a designer behind them, he also often gives his intelligence a day off.

  11. Denis Westphalen
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I was pleased when I saw a few months ago Meyer’s book (Darwin’s Doubt) at the Religion section of Chapters (bookstore chain here in Canada).

    • Andrew
      Posted June 30, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I love Chapters ! (I’m a Canadian too)

  12. Sastra
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Unconventional! Brave! Pioneering! Progressive and new and a major breakthrough!!!

    The same goddam thing the majority of people have been promoting forever and then whinging about since the evolution of science: trust your intuitions. The first superficial impression is the wisest. Tradition knows best. Relax and don’t overthink. Go with the majority.

    Ooo, an iconoclast.

  13. Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just checked the bestsellers in “biological evolution” at the UK site,

    The highest-ranked creationist tract is at number 62 (“Icons …”, Wells). The top 20 are:

    1. Selfish Gene 40th aniv edn. (Dawkins)
    2. Selfish Gene 30th aniv edn. (Dawkins)
    3. Biocentrism (Berman & Lanza)
    4. Genome (Matt Ridely)
    5. OofS (Darwin)
    6. Blind Watchmaker (Dawkins)
    7. Power, Sex, Suicide, Mitochondria … (Nick Lane)
    8. Nature via Nurture (Matt Ridely)
    9. Sex at Dawn, How we mate … (Christopher Ryan)
    10. Descent of Woman (Morgan)
    11. … snowing butterflies (Darwin)
    12. Greatest Show … (Dawkins)
    13. Sex at Dawn .. , Kindle Edn (Ryan)
    14. .. Unlikeliness of Being (Alice Roberts)
    15. Biocentrism, Kindle Edn (Berman and Lanza)
    16. Story of life (kids book) (Catherine Barr)
    17. Story of Human Body (Daniel Lieberman)
    18. Origin of our species (Chris Stringer)
    19. Selfish Gene, Kindle Edn (Dawkins)
    20. Guns, Germs, Steel (Jared Diamond)

    • Dominic
      Posted July 1, 2016 at 3:24 am | Permalink

      WEIT is at 13 this morning! 🙂

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Since this was posted, RD’s “Greatest Show on Earth” and both Jerry Coyne books have gone down the list, with “Greatest Show” and “Darwin’s Doubt” swapping places 3 & 4. Michael Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” has ascended into the top ten, and “Faith vs. Fact” has dropped out of same (now at 13).

    While it’s a bit unfair that Kindle and print editions of same book count separately giving Douglas Axe(-to-grind) 2 spots on the list, more encouragingly, both Coyne books and RD’s “Greatest Show” are the only other books in the top 20 listed twice (and for all three the print edition is higher on the list).

    As readers here can observe, although Axe’s book is the #1 & #2 bestseller, he and Phillip Johnson have a lower customer ranking (3 stars), although weirdly Darwin’s Doubt is up at 4.5 stars.

    Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” gets 4.5 stars but the Great Chuckmeister’s “Origin of “Species” has only 4 with far far more online reviews. (Obviously more creationists are reading Mr. Darwin than are reading Jerry Coyne.)


    The cavil about Scope’s alleged racism is obviously a vulgar cheap shot on the part of the Discovery Institute.

    I’m happy to announce that while Scope’s defender, Clarence Darrow, is an unqualified hero of mine, I distantly admire some things about the prosecutor, William Jennings Bryan, one of the last anti-Darwinians to be a political progressive. He was a champion of women’s suffrage, although he had misguided views on the Spanish War and prohibition (he was for it). He had absurdly paranoid views on Darwinism, regarding it as a threat to Western civilization, and he associated it with the philosophy of Nietzsche. (He called evolution “the most paralyzing influence with which civilization has had to deal in the last century”). However, for his opposition to the gold standard, as unfairly privileging the rich, I admire him. His “Cross of Gold” speech is a great piece of rhetoric.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 30, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      I expect that the elevated ranking of Axe’s book is b/c it is just out. Just it a year and it will sink to some lower place.

    • Posted July 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      “Obviously more creationists are reading Mr. Darwin than are reading Jerry Coyne.”

      This is logical. When your thinking is centered on ancient texts, you regard more recent ones as secondary and superfluous. Those same creationists presumably read the Bible more often then works of modern theologians. And, while regarding the whole evolution school as Dark Arts, they presumably regard its original works as more important than recent ones.

      • Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Or simply that Darwin is known to more, even if distortedly. Maybe someday Jerry will be as well known, but …

  15. Posted June 30, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes crank organizations buy multiple copies of a book in singles or small lots only to repackage and resell them to distributors. Obviously, this loses a lot of money per book, but it does gain the status and seeming legitimacy that comes with high sales rankings.

    Scientologists were able to keep Dianetics on the mass market paperback stands off and on for decades this way.

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    By any remote chance is there a good book, or even review somewhere, of our state of understanding of abiogenic origins, written for the intelligent layman? Assume the answer is no, and that if there was, Jack Szostak would have written it, but presume he hasn’t since he’s devoting all his energy to making as much progress there while he can.

    Still, something like this would be most welcome.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      It’s an extremely dynamic field.

  17. Roger
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Hey at least it isn’t 10/10 creationism! Score: Evolution 7, Creationism 3! Yay!

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    “… engineer-turned-molecular-biologist Douglas Axe …”

    Whenever you come across a sketchy claim in the popular press by a soi-disant “scientist,” more often than not he or she turns out to be an engineer-cum-something.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted June 30, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Whenever you see the word “engineer” in a creationist’s CV, you can bet that someone is going to trot out this hoary and unsubstantiated slur against engineers.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted June 30, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        Lucky for me, I guess, nobody ever stereotypes lawyers. 🙂

        • Dominic
          Posted July 1, 2016 at 3:26 am | Permalink

          🙂 I love you for that!

      • bric
        Posted July 1, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        When I worked in the electricity industry I had a good Glaswegian friend who said he was an engineer. Electrical or Mechanical? I asked ‘Ahm a SCOTTISH engineer, doesnae matter’ was the reply

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted July 1, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          +1 😀

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know the coursework in other countries, but the trainee engineers of my university acquaintance had to do both mechanical and electrical engineering. It was probably too early for significant digital electronics to get into the curriculum, but they certainly had to do a chunk of geology (to give context to any civil engineering work they had to do). I can’t remember if they had to do distinct chemistry and metallurgy – it wasn’t my course – but they certainly were expected to cover the full span of the curriculum up to Ordinary degree level, though they may have specialised in some subjects for Honours.

      • Posted July 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        My husbands is an engineer and has a difficulty to understand evolution because, in his world, nothing ever evolves by itself, everything is designed.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted July 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          This perhaps tells us something about your husband, not so much about engineers as a group. I do not find my engineering degree an obstacle to understanding.

          • Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:17 am | Permalink

            Apparently, you have a good view on processes with a strong random component (in this case, mutations).

          • Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

            Nevertheless the famous “Salem Hypothesis” seems to have merit – as a statistical generalization, of course. I would love for someone to investigate this more, needless to say.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted July 4, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

              I suggest that in the absence of actual data, any appearance of merit is due to confirmation bias.

        • Wayne Tyson
          Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Time to read up on chaos theory?

          • Posted July 4, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

            It would be nice! Unfortunately, art is long and life is short :-(.

  19. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 30, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    The cover of Axe’s books look really pretty too.

    I think the reason these DI guys get their books in the science section is through their inaccurate classification in the Library of Congress. I guess no one’s really checking or doesn’t care to.

    • Wayne Tyson
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Could it be fear of the political correctness police?

  20. Dower_House
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    I’ve read most the ‘proper’ books above.
    Two points.

    1. The book that most influenced me was the selfish gene read about ’82. It was hard going in places but it put into place the crossword of information that I had learnt at Med Sch.
    (Remember genetics was very basic back then)

    2. The book I recommend for starting with for people with no scientific training is
    “Evolution for Dummies”
    Its brilliantly logical and simple.

    I tell them to Read Dawkin’s ‘Greatest show on earth’ next.

    [ No offensive to Jerry, whose book is also excellent, but I am UK based! ]

    I know that several people have moved from Christianity to Deism in this way.

  21. NManning
    Posted July 1, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Axe has a “distinguished career”? Who knew?

  22. Wayne Tyson
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Evolutionary biologists might want to reassess their effectiveness in light of the 19% figure (against 42%).

    Too much ranting and raving and embarrassing the ignorant and not enough explaining how science works in the light of reality.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 4, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      How many evolutionary biologists do you know that spend more time “ranting and raving” than teaching?

      • Wayne Tyson
        Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I figgers figgers don’ lie. Denial, however, is a popular refuge, but not scientific in the glare of reality.

  23. Wayne Tyson
    Posted July 4, 2016 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    “Mark Sturtevant
    “Posted June 30, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “It is incredibly baroque to decide how the natural world works by using ones’ ‘intuition’.”

    “Intuition” or hunches can be vital sparks in the process of scientific enquiry, a place to start. But they can’t be conclusive. One can subject them to analysis based upon what one thinks one knows and perhaps, if they survive that, develop an hypothesis—which then must survive honest attempts to disprove (not prove). Then they can be subjected to testing to see if they have predictive value, and if they actually “work.” Then they must survive honest challenges by others and repeated testing by others.

    However, the mere fact that another disagrees “ain’t necessarily so” just because it’s a challenge. The challenger must go through the same process and let the alternative hypothesis survive and the proof stand the test of time. Even then, however, there is always the possibility that, somewhere along the line, fallacies have contaminated the process (e.g. “reasoning” from authority).

    “The suspension of judgment is the highest exercise in intellectual discipline.” –Raymond M. Gilmore

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