How to Read a Book (Now with NO MORE TEARS Formula!)
I used to be a book-review editor and I remember occasionally getting frustrated with some otherwise thoughtful writer who, instead of responding in a reasoned way to the whole book he was reviewing, opted to grab hold of one small point, typically a point where he figured he had an advantageous position, while ignoring everything else.
A whole book makes a whole argument and you have to read and respond to it as such, otherwise you haven't done your job as a reviewer. In that case, the reader wonders if you've actually read the book.
Science and Human Origins, new from Discovery Institute Press, has generated some intense interest and feelings among Darwinists but so far almost everyone on the evolutionary apologetics side has refused to read it. Instead they've leaned on one guy's review on his personal website -- a grad student in New Zealand, Paul McBride, whom no one in the Darwin debate had ever heard of before -- or other people's reading of McBride's reading of Science and Human Origins.
The latter is the case with PZ Myers's current post on the topic. Myers writes with a sigh about how he's "Forever Disappointed" by SHO co-author Douglas Axe, yet hasn't read the chapter that Dr. Axe contributed to the book.
Our own responses to McBride so far are here (Doug Axe, "Thou Shalt Not Put Evolutionary Theory to a Test"), and here and here (Ann Gauger, "On Phylogenies and Analogies," "On Enzymes and Teleology"). Please take a look.
Meanwhile, science writer Carl Zimmer has been hounding our Biologic Institute colleagues on their Facebook page about a particular pet subject that he thinks he knows something about -- chromosomal fusion at human chromosome two -- and whether or not Casey Luskin gave a satisfactory interpretation of a paper in Genome Research cited in endnote 47, page 103.
How about debating Casey, then? Oh no, not that! Zimmer turned down my offer to debate us here at ENV, on that or any subject, and, needless to say, hasn't read the book. When I offered him a free copy, in the thread at the Facebook page, he ignored the offer.
Luskin, Axe and Gauger make an argument, not reducible to a single endnote, that Darwinian accounts fail to explain the origin of human beings. That is a question that I, as a reader, would love to see debated.
At a certain point it gets to be surreal. Reading through the discussion such as it is on Facebook is like observing a crazy flea circus. Here, I've just received another turn down from a Darwinist critic who says he won't debate us until we've satisfied Carl Zimmer on the burning question of endnote 47. And here, I've just received an email from a Mr. Langford in England, self-described "Science teacher, rationalist and atheist," offering to stand up as champion for the Darwin side in a debate if we'll provide him an Amazon voucher so he can download the book onto his Kindle.
I was hoping for a substantive exchange with one of our familiar antagonists who have ample time to monitor a Facebook thread but no time or inclination to read the book under discussion and tell us what they think of it. Like PZ Myers, it seems I'm bound to be forever disappointed.
Image credit: Mark Hurst/Flickr.