Paz-y-Miño-C marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection over hundreds and hundreds of millions of years, and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains
This is a delightful collection of essays about, as the author puts it, “evolution and its wars against superstition.” Professor Paz-y-Miño-C does not try to teach evolutionary thinking in this book, or explain Darwin’s ideas in any way. But he is a firm believer in evolutionary processes, and you can easily feel his frustration at the victory of inherent belief over evidence-based thinking in our society. He would like to see decisions made on the basis of facts, not unsupported opinion. Indeed, he abhors and fears irrational thinking, especially “the views of those who see evil in truth and menace in the realities discovered by science.” He marvels at the intricacy and diversity of life, and how it came about through natural selection over hundreds and hundreds of millions of years, and is clearly frustrated by the unwillingness of so many to see the beauty and majesty in this view of the world and all that it explains. He is clearly an educator at heart, and a proponent of “curiosity-driven research, critical thinking inside and outside the classroom, and the passion for exploring the truth just because we wanted to seek it.” It makes me want to take one of his courses. He dreams of a world in which science becomes the backbone of political candidates, and voters are literate enough to thoughtfully assess what they are saying, and is rightly concerned by the decline in U.S. educational standards and expectations, particularly with regard to the teaching of science and mathematics, and especially our failure to teach scientific thinking skills to our students.
The book is an easy read, at under 100 pages. From essay to essay, each of which is only a few pages long, the author breezes past an amazing variety of topics, from the decline in American educational standards and student performance, to what we know about human origins, to the decline in society’s respect for science and its role in guiding political decisions, to the wish that science would guide debates among political candidates on environmental and other issues of key importance, to pressing conservation issues in the Galapagos, to the reluctance of the American voter to elect an atheist to public office, to the relationship between prayer healing and the scientific basis for the benefits of our natural Relaxation Response, to the incompatibility between the idea of Noah’s ark and the well-documented consequences of inbreeding. His thoughts about our educational system particularly hit home with me. Children at all levels should be learning how to ask good questions, how to design rigorous experiments, and how to evaluate and present information, learning what science actually is and how it is done rather than only memorizing facts and learning lab and computer techniques. As Professor Paz-y-Miño-C clearly understands, there is a strong creative element in doing science that few students, unfortunately, get to see.
As he continues to make his plea for public recognition of the value of basic research, his writing is often lovely and poetic, as in his passage about the Mother Church of Christian Science in Boston, which “still breathes…through a majestic golden pipe organ, which gives the impression of resounding even in silence.” The author clearly reads widely; interspersed throughout the book we see quotes from, and allusions to, Darwin, de Tocqueville, various Nobel laureates, C.S. Lewis, George Santayana, Melville, Goldilocks, Mary Baker Eddy, Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Noah’s ark, Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, the Incas, the Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamin, Jared Diamond, Lucy the Australopithecus, Stalin, the 1925 Scopes Trial in Tennessee, and Democritus of Abdera, who coined the term “atom” more than 2,000 years ago. And he takes us to so many places, including Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the Boston Museum of Science, Noah’s Ark, The New Bedford Whaling Museum, and conferences in Lisbon, Switzerland, and Denver Colorado.
The final essay in the volume is about National Darwin Day (Feb 12), something I had not heard about before but that was apparently proposed in 2013 by representative Rush Holt from NJ to honor Darwin’s birth, and as a way of “celebrating the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.” Some of the responses to Mr. Holt’s bill —reported verbatim in Evolution Stands Faith Up— are remarkable, and not in an encouraging way. Many people do indeed celebrate Darwin Day around the world (http://darwinday.org/), but it unfortunately has yet to become a national holiday in the U.S. As the authors says, “It is impossible to honor knowledge when a nation’s admiration for it vanishes…” – Jan A. Pechenik, PhD, Professor of Biology, Tufts University, United States.
Another Strong Defender of Evolution Rises: with [Evolution Stands Faith Up], Dr. Paz-y-Miño-C establishes himself as a clear, lucid, and refreshingly candid fighter of creationism and defender of evolution
Many biologists and scientists in general would probably agree that the struggle against creationism as an alternative to science is a war that must be waged. However, we all know it is a difficult fight. Hence, most of us are content sitting on the sidelines, doing our own work, watching others engage this important and often thankless debate. After all, how does one produce a coherent, logical, and intelligent argument against an opponent whose very aim is to create confusion, to deny reality, and to promote ignorance? Few among us have the audacity. Dawkins might be the best-known opponent of creationism, but there are many strong and clear voices in the choir. With this book, Dr. Paz-y-Miño-C establishes himself as a clear, lucid, and refreshingly candid fighter of creationism and defender of evolution.
The book is a series of essays, previously published in various venues. In each essay, Paz-y-Miño-C adds his own personal experiences as they relate to an important topic. Sometimes, Paz-y-Miño-C deals with a current issue; often he starts with his own personal experiences, and occasionally highlights his own research about creationists’ misconceptions. In every case, he produces a short, and very readable essay that debunks creationist beliefs in a style that is not necessarily confrontational (the tome’s title notwithstanding), but rather directs us to consider problems in the creationists’ agenda using their own logic against themselves, and urges us to draw our own conclusions.
The essays are written clearly and are very readable. Many chapters begin with a quotation, but I was disappointed that in many cases the source of the quotation is not given [Note: the reviewer refers to excerpts from each essay, which are quoted at the beginning of each chapter and belong to the author, except when indicated otherwise]. Every essay ends with a clear message.
The book would definitely be an asset to anyone interested in the debate, and might easily be incorporated into a course in evolution, science and society, and/or philosophy of science. – G.A.L., PhD, Evolutionary Biologist, Canada.
When Paz-y-Miño-C cuts to the core of an argument, he does it with the flare of a true artist
I am delighted that some of Paz-y-Miño-C’s finest essays and editorials have been collected in a single volume. He is a prolific essayist and I have enjoyed reading his work over the last two decades. In the tradition of Richard Dawkins he does not pull any punches, but when he cuts to the core of an argument, he does it with the flare of a true artist. Too many of our colleagues work so hard to appear open minded that their brains seem to have fallen out. When they teach our students that they can pick and choose when to be logical, critical thinkers, they are modeling the type of reasoning that leads to the politics of convenience and its bridesmaids: racism, sexism, and the whole host of xenophobias. When the emperor has no clothes, I want to be standing in the back row with Guillermo, pointing a finger and having a good laugh. – Stan Braude, PhD, Professor of Practice in Biology, Washington University in St. Louis, United States.
For Scientists and Readers Seeking Analysis of the Evolution Wars and Science Illiteracy
“Science is just a refined device for resolving ordinary curiosity and a powerful liberator of superstition. It stands alone in its secular turf”.With this thought-provoking statement in the preface, Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C hints at what will fascinate the reader in his recent book Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution Wars. The author immerses us in a broad range of topics with a common theme: why science is critical for our well being and how “belief,” as a “disruptor,” delays and stops the correct comprehension and acceptance of evidence.
All chapters provide useful information and enjoyment. Several descriptions take us to stunning sites while bringing evolution to life (e.g. Unforgettable Galapagos, a Summit, and Why Evolution Matters; Conservation Behavior in the Galapagos; Denying Rome, the Exquisite Colosseum and Evolution; Mauna Kea Telescopes to Sink in the Pacific; All History is Black History); others, alert us about the dangers of pseudoscience or belief in the supernatural (e.g Faith Healing vs. Medical Science; Wrong at Forecasting Armageddon; Rejection of Science Threatens to Be Epidemic; Evolution Stands Faith Up: On Francis Collins’ & Karl Giberson’s “The Language of Science and Faith”).
As reader and researcher, I was captivated when being transported, by the author’s narratives, to natural history museums, animal collections and cities (e.g. Boston’s Charles Hayden Planetarium; A Stationary Ark on the Isle of Jersey; On Whales and a Whaling Museum; Lisbon’s Lesson: Honor the Value of Discovery). I found it concerning to learn that, although Americans Want Candidates to Debate Science, our science standards cause our high school students to be uncompetitive in the world (e.g. Massachusetts Gets an A- in Science Standards), and that high religiosity is common among the New England Faculty and Educators of Prospective Teachers (e.g. New England Professors Accept Evolution, but They are Religious).
I must confess my favorite chapter is On the Wrongly Called The God Particle. I admired how the author takes us in an easy-to-follow journey through the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012. Without overwhelming the reader with technical details, the message is clear “The Higgs is a sub atomic particle, a boson, and a crucial one to understand the properties of other elementary particles, for example, why some have mass and others, like the photons (components of light) don’t. Without mass, no atoms would exist, no galaxies or stars, no solar systems or planets with life, and no brains capable of thinking about it.”
I would use this book in a college course on science writing, or possibly in science journalism. And recommend it to scientists and readers seeking a great combination of content, style and sharpness in the analysis of the “evolution wars” and “science illiteracy.” – Avelina Espinosa, PhD, Professor of Biology, Roger Williams University, United States.
Paz-y-Miño-C has a marvelously eloquent style of writing, full of inspiring metaphors and lateral observations
This is an inspiring, readable collection of 21 essays of reflective value to everyone. You can dip into any of these well-crafted and thoughtful essays at leisure without concern for order. The layout of each essay is appealing, beginning with a quote extracted from the essay, which summarizes the key insight, and finishing with a list of suggested readings and resources. The essays, mainly written within the past 4 years, are taken largely from the author’s contributions to local newspapers and his online blog, Evolution Literacy.
The author is an evolutionary biologist and an atheist who originally immigrated to the U.S. as a graduate student from Ecuador. His preface to the book provides a rationale for these essays arising from his training as a scientist and the need to address the breadth of irrational thinking around us. Notably, he points to the vain attempt by many to try and accommodate scientific rationalism with supernatural beliefs. They are simply incompatible. To emphasize this point, his first essay, from which the title of this set of essays is taken, is based on his critical book review in Amazon.com of “The Language of Science and Faith” by Francis Collins (former head of the Human Genome Project) and Karl Giberson. Francis Collins, a widely respected genetic researcher but devout Christian, demonstrates a cognitive dissonance between one’s scientific skills and the emotional need for an ineffable, “spiritual” connection to something greater outside of oneself. This latter sense of connection with the natural world devolves into an inborn tendency to take mental shortcuts and default to “unseen” supernatural causes, a common impediment to critical thinking.
The essays address a broad range of topics, including faith healing, astronomy, physics, nature, archaeology, the curiosity-driven urge to discover, and the serious threat from the arrogant ignorant who equate opinion with knowledge, especially those in positions of power to further corrode education. As the author counsels, “Escort out of office those who see fiction and facts compatible, or worship ignorance-based opinions as rightful views of equitable value to the empirical truth.”
The author has a marvelously eloquent style of writing, full of inspiring metaphors and lateral observations that reinforce connections to the foundations of scientific inquiry and to biological evolution in particular. These thoughtful essays are accessible to the general public and an inspiration to all of us who should write an occasional essay for our local newspaper or an online blog to help clear the fog in our own communities and arm our neighbors against theistic anti-science, medical quackery and other irrational nonsense. – Greg M. Stott, PhD, Geoscientist with the Ontario Geological Survey, Canada.
For information go to Evolution Stands Faith Up: Reflections on Evolution’s Wars by NOVA Publishers, New York Soft Cover
Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Amazon UK