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The Envelope, Please? Doug Axe and Undeniable Are World Magazine 2016 Science Book of the Year!

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Update: I see that Doug Axe’s book is in its rightful place at the top of Amazon’s bestseller list under Organic Evolution. In fact, of the top ten books on that list, four are by authors affiliated with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture — Axe, Meyer, Behe, and Johnson. Nice!

Unlike the Oscars, World Magazine and its editor Marvin Olasky don’t employ the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers to tell them who won Book of the Year. So we trust there’s been no mix-up with the envelopes. In the category of “Science, math, and worldview,” the Book of the Year for 2016 is Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed by Douglas Axe!

Congratulations to Dr. Axe of Biologic Institute — and to our biologist colleague Michael Denton too, who not only figures prominently in Axe’s book, but also tops World‘s shortlist in the same category with his book from Discovery Institute Press, Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis. Dr. Denton is followed on the Short List by Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech, which tweaks Darwin on the mystery of human language and its evolution.

Mr. Olasky is one journalist who has carefully studied the debate about biological origins. His write-up accompanying the announcement is characteristically well informed. It all starts with Denton:

In 1985 biologist Michael Denton noted — in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis — that Darwinism was cruising for a bruising. Now he’s back with Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, which shows — with three decades of new research — that Darwin’s theory needs hip replacements, for “there is now a growing chorus of dissent within mainstream evolutionary biology.”

He’s right. Darwin himself wrote, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” It has broken down, as advances in paleontology, genomics, and developmental biology show.

For example, mainstream researchers Douglas Erwin and Eric Davidson have noted that “classic evolutionary theory, based on selection of small incremental changes,” is clearly inadequate. Günter Wagner in Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation writes, “Adaptive modifications often involve only the modification of existing cis-regulatory elements,” but truly new developments “require large-scale reorganizations of the gene regulatory network.”

Moving on to Doug Axe and his achievement:

Axe’s subtitle offers a shocking suggestion: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. Axe has an elite science education and record of journal publication, but he commits treason to the scientism guild when he writes that “people who will never earn PhDs [can] become full participants in the scientific debates that matter to them.” Undeniable is our science book of the year because it’s a largely nontechnical argument showing the incredible improbability that life has evolved as Darwin theorized. Axe offers example after example to show that “functional coherence makes accidental invention fantastically improbable and therefore physically impossible. Invention can’t happen by accident.” He shows how “the claim that evolution did invent proteins, cell types, organs, and life forms is scientifically legitimate only if we know evolution can invent these things.” He then shows how we have learned that evolution can’t.

On Denton:

When Denton in 1985 wrote Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, he was a lonely PhD holder in biochemistry crying out in the wilderness. Now, just about everyone who doesn’t have a monetary or professional stake in defending Darwinism is seeing the theory’s ability to explain small changes but its incompetence in explaining macroevolution — and the adaptive transitional forms Darwin predicted we’d find are still absent without leave. Denton shows how advances in our knowledge of genetics, paleontology, and developmental biology have threatened the faith that macromutations by chance put together complex structures like a diaphragm, a bat’s wing, a branched bipinnate feather, etc.

The point about “monetary or professional stakes” is spot on. Social prestige, self-esteem, vanity — these figure into it as well, as Tom Wolfe repeatedly underlines in his excellent book.

Undeniably, Darwin’s theory is guarded at the highest level by scientists whose careers and the income and esteem that go with them are inextricably tied up with the defense of orthodox evolutionary theory. Scientists like Doug Axe and Michael Denton are a threat to all that, which is why they earn such venom from the establishment — and admiration from open-minded thinkers like Olasky and his colleagues at World.

Photo credit: Davidlohr Bueso, via Flickr.