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    [A]s Charles Darwin first pointed out, our behaviour and the attitudes that underpin it are, to a
    large extent, evolved: they have been shaped by natural selection, helping us and our ancestors to
    survive and reproduce. After all, if our behaviour were not by and large adaptive and hence
    appropriate, then none of us would be here.
        -Colin Tudge, Manchester Guardian
 

    I want to believe-and so do you-in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions
    about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live
    righteously. I also want to believe-and so do you-in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly
    free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually
    and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be
    perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to
    create it.
        -Yale Law Professor Arthur Leff, Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law

There are really three books rolled into one here and they decline in quality sequentially.  The first, which is quite good, describes the achievement of Charles Darwin in observing the natural world and then formulating the compelling metaphor of Natural Selection to explain evolution.  But as Darwin himself recognized, he did not propose any mechanism by which such selection might occur.  This was left to Gregor Mendel, the hero of Tudge's book, whose experiments on peas, carried out in a monastery garden in Brno from 1856 to 1864, demonstrated that certain traits were inheritable by offspring and produced mathematical data on the likelihood that these traits would be inherited, establishing the initial laws of heredity.  All well and good.  The two 19th Century scientists are thoroughly engaging and modest men.  Tudge conveys his own adoration of them, particularly Mendel, and suggests that all of biology since is merely "Footnotes to Mendel", which was the title of the book in Britain.

I've often noted my own skepticism about Natural Selection here, so I'll not rehearse it again.  Instead, let me merely state that I accept that Mendel proved that breeding could alter peas.  What he did not do is demonstrate that any amount of breeding would ever make a pea change into a bean, or whatever.  Mendel deserves credit for being the first to generate numbers and mathematical formulas to accompany the type of breeding that humans had been engaged in for thousands of years, but he hardly proved that the evolution of species was a product of natural selection.

Tudge though seems to feel that at this point Natural Selection was amply proven as a scientific theory.  Not only is he unconcerned by the remaining objections to Darwinism, he actually says the following about natural selection :

    It is a circularity: nothing succeeds like success; only success succeeds.  It is meant to be a
    circularity.  If you perceive the circularity of natural selection, you begin to feel the weight of its
    relentless force, which certainly shapes living creatures and possibly shapes the whole Universe,
    down to what are thought of as fundamental particles, and even the apparently immutable laws of
    physics.

We'll give him credit for honesty here, but demerits for coherence.  He's actually extolling as a virtue of his theory what all philosophers and scientists understand to be a fatal flaw : circular reasoning is a logical fallacy because the conclusion of the argument is assumed as its premise.  The classic statement of circular reasoning goes something like this : P, therefore P.  In the case of natural selection, the fallacy goes something like this :

    Nature favors certain traits because they improve a species' chances of survival.  Those traits that
    have developed have done so because they have been selected by nature.

Sadly lacking from this are any of the logical proofs that are normally required before we usually accept the validity of a proposition.  Instead, as Tudge admits, the power of the theory lies in the fact that it need never be proven and can not be proven.  For those who believe in natural selection, anything that has survived has simply survived because it has been selected by nature--end of story.

Typical of the dispensation that Darwinians seek, and society grants, is his claim that we've never observed evolution among human beings or been able to proove it from remains because humankind is currently in the midst of a, thus far, 100,000 year long pause in evolution.  He maintains that we've stabilized as a species for the , rather extended, moment.  Set aside for a moment the inherent suggestions that mutation has somehow paused and that the process of evolution might point towards eventual destinations.  Instead, imagine that your 8th grade science teacher has just explained the laws of gravity and has set up a demonstration.  He holds up a brick, let's it go, and, lo and behold, it hovers.  But fear not, he counsels you, we just happen to be in the middle of a gravitational pause....  You would, properly, laugh him out of the classroom.

Typically, you'd expect someone who'd arrived at this precarious position to leave well enough alone, but Tudge is just getting warmed up. From here he moves on to the second book-within-the-book, a forceful defense of Evolutionary Psychology, which is a logical and necessary of natural selection but a theory of which even most Darwinians are skeptical. Tudge outlines four "notions" that :

    ...lie at the root of evolutionary psychology: that genes do indeed influence behavior; that natural
    selection operates primarily at the level of the gene; that our fundamental behavior patterns have
    evolved through natural selection and are likely to have conferred an adaptive advantage at some
    time in the past, even if they do not seem to do so in the present; and that various mathematical
    models can be used to predict likely behavioral strategies.

Essentially, evolutionary psychology tries to reduce all of human behavior to a kind of survival instinct on the part of the genes.  It's hardly necessary to point out the logical problems with this extension of Darwinism, since Darwinists like Stephen Jay Gould have done it for us, suffice it to pint out a couple of examples of the types of behavior it can not explain :

    (1)    altruism : remember the football player Joe Delaney who, despite not knowing how to swim,
            jumped into a lake to try and help two kids who were drowning, but was drowned himself ?
            What were his genes doing all this time ?

    (2)    celibacy and homosexuality : are these genes committing suicide when they choose not to
            propagate themselves ?

    (3)    abortion and infanticide : why would the genes reduce their own chances of surviving into
            the next generation ?

    (4)    suicide :why would the genes eliminate their own chances of surviving into
            the next generation ?

It is such questions that lead Tudge to a fairly bizarre series of pages where he anticipates, but does not answer, several of the criticisms of evolutionary psychology--specifically that it offers oversimplified answers to complex behavioral questions and that it is premised on the "naturalistic fallacy", about which more later--then begs for credit from the skeptics because he's the one raising the objections first (see page 201).  Admitting that your own theory has unanswerable hurdles that it can't clear is a novel approach, but it isn't science.

Of course, by now he's marched himself so far down the garden path that there's really no turning back, so in the third major portion of the book he has to face the moral dilemmas that his theories raise.  Chief among them is how we can seek to impose human moral judgments upon behavior that scientists inform us is being driven by natural mechanisms.  For example, if we assume that there is some genetic differentiation between the human races and each race's genes are selfishly trying to guarantee their own survival, then what is the basis for condemning genocide ?  Aren't actions which improve the chances that my genes will survive, even actions which result in the death of others, completely understandable from an evolutionary standpoint ?  And if my behavior is being dictated by nature, then how much responsibility can I realistically be expected to take for that behavior ?  The answer, absent falling prey to the "naturalistic fallacy", is : nature absolves moral blame.

As defined by the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy :

    The naturalistic fallacy is a metaethical theory proposed by G.E. Moore (1873-1958) in
    Principia Ethica (1903) that the notion of moral goodness cannot be defined or identified with
    any property. Moore argues that "goodness" is a foundational and unanalyzable property,
    similar to the foundational notion of "yellowness," and is not capable of being explained in
    terms of anything more basic.

Basically, morality is always a human construct, it has no basis in nature.  And if morality amounts to nothing more than what humans say it is, then who are you to say that my actions are immoral ?  Why is your opinion any better than mine ?  Meanwhile, if evolutionary psychology is valid, there are inexorable natural forces shaping our behavior in ways which are often diametrically opposed to traditional human ideas of moral goodness.  If both my genes and my own personal whims suggest that I take food from the mouths of the starving to feed myself, then why shouldn't I do so ?

The importance of establishing a firm footing for some kind of morality is shown in his discussion of the types of technology that the science of genetics is bringing about.  If there are no moral barriers, there is every reason to believe that genetic testing, genetic engineering, and abortion will soon allow people to design their own babies.  we hear the continual outcry of environmentalists over the loss of biodiversity; what of the pending loss of human diversity ?  Likewise, imagine the money to be made in cloning humans so that they will have a ready supply of guaranteed compatible replacement organs.  That is, assuming we needn't worry about the moral issue of whether clones have rights.

Tudge seeks to assure us, or more probably himself, that our increasing technological power has always required us to take increasing responsibility for that power and that such should continue to be the case.  Well, he's right, when we had responsibility for the atomic bomb we dropped it on people.  Now we have taken responsibility for abortion and for the first time in human history, most advanced industrial nations have more male births than female.  Who can seriously doubt that the technologies that Tudge envisions will also be utilized to their fullest, most abhorrent, extent ?

Alas, Tudge's efforts to escape the moral consequences of his theories of evolution are even less convincing than the initial theories themselves.  By the end of the book you wonder why he just doesn't chuck the whole endeavor and acknowledge that, even if there's something to the idea of evolution, it simply isn't worth the costs in illogic and amorality it imposes.  In the last analysis, Tudge does prove the greatness of Mendel and Darwin, but he does so by demonstrating how little progress, either scientific or moral, he and his fellow believers in evolution have made in the years since the great men died.

This initially helpful but finally quite silly book, which merely pushes evolution to its ultimate and inevitable conclusions, is perhaps best suited to those of you who still think that the skeptics of evolution are the great danger to society.  Unless you are willing to follow where Tudge very uncertainly leads, you are a skeptic too, sagely waiting for that brick to drop before you buy the theory.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (D+)

  

Websites:

Colin Tudge Links:
-ESSAY: The Fight To Save Our Food: Foot-and-mouth ran wild, GM is used ineptly and we canÕt trust meat. In an exclusive essay adapted from his new book, Colin Tudge reveals why farming is killing us É and our only hope (Sunday Herald, 9/21/03)

Book-related and General Links:
    -BIO : Colin Tudge - Science writer (British Council NZ)
    -BIO : Colin Tudge (Edge : The Third Culture)
    -An ECO BOOKS Featured Author :  Colin Tudge
    -BOOK SITE : Impact of the Gene (FSB Associates)
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Impact of the Gene
    -BOOK SITE : The Second Creation Dolly and the Age of Biological Control By Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell, and Colin Tudge (FSB Associates)
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of The Variety of Life
    -ESSAY : Genetics: it's all in the mind : The science of evolutionary psychology is often derided, and has even been called fascistic - but, insists Colin Tudge, it's an important theory (07 September 2001, Independent uk)
    -ESSAY : Saving the leftovers : The Europeans will launch a global biodiversity databank next week. The British have just declared a national biodiversity network. Colin Tudge explains why taxonomy is critical to life on Earth (Colin Tudge, March 1, 2001, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY :   Immortality? Not in our lifetime (Colin Tudge, September 25, 1999, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : Let us into the tower of knowledge (Colin Tudge, March 13, 1999, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : The idle shall inherit the earth  : The work ethic maintains a strong grip on our psyche, but it is dangerous and unnecessary. (Colin Tudge, January 23, 1999, The Guardian)
    -ESSAY : THE FREAKS OF THE FARMYARD (Colin Tudge, LONDON TIMES: September 3, 1997)
    -ESSAY : The great green book : Republished this month, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring jump-started the environmental movement. Colin Tudge assesses how much - or how little - has changed since 1962
    -ESSAY : A plague on both their houses : Do our genes dictate what we are or does our environment? It isn't that simple. Colin Tudge calls time on the "nature versus nurture" debate (New Statesman, September 27 1999 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : "The Great Idea That's Disappeared" (Colin Tudge, The Edge)
    -ESSAY : Animal passions. : Rationalist Stephen Hawking and the Animal Liberation Front have  justified their opposing views on animal experimentation and animal rights.   (New Statesman, September 18 1998 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Why we don't need GM foods : Genetically modified (GM) foods are not needed to solve the world's food supply problems.  (New Statesman (1996), February 19 1999 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Risk (Colin Tudge, United Nations Environment & Development-UK Committee)
    -ESSAY : Should the world renounce meat? :  In the wake of BSE and foot and mouth, vegetarians seem to hold the moral high ground (New Statesman, April 30 2001 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Getting the needle.(Colin Tudge, New Statesman , April 09 2001)
    -ESSAY : Bring back common sense :   If we continue to heed experts, we shall have more disasters like BSE. (New Statesman, January 29 2001 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Fields of dreams : The British countryside is in crisis, but we're not debating the real issues. Colin Tudge puts the case for a very different kind of agriculture to maintain our green and pleasant land (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -ESSAY : The uses and abuses of science (Colin Tudge, Index on Censorship Online)
    -ESSAY : Can humanity stay on top? : We thought we'd rule the world, with robots as servants. More likely, they will take charge while we make the tea. (New Statesman, March 27 2000 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : When it's right to be a Luddite : Forget risk. The big question is: will GM foods give more freedom to ordinary people or more power to those in charge? (New Statesman, April 24 2000 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Chimps don't talk, but they do cry. :  Ignore the reports about chattering bonobos; language remains unique to humans. But animals can think and feel (New Statesman, August 02 1999 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Common as muck.(Colin Tudge, Nov 22, 1999, New Statesman)
    -ESSAY : Why it matters what we eat : Farmers should not cower before experts or authorities (New Statesman, August 28 2000 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : What we must learn from Concorde. (New Statesman, August 07 2000 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : A drug-free state just isn't normal. : The war against drugs is never won because it is grounded on false beliefs and puritanism. (New Statesman, January 09 1998 by Colin Tudge)
    -ESSAY : Across the great divide : Science may be different from other methods of inquiry but the distinctions are not as they are frequently perceived. (New Statesman , October 16 1998 by Colin Tudge
    -REVIEW : of A.I. : The love of a robot : Is it really possible, as a new film suggests, that artificial intelligence like David (from AI: Artificial Intelligence) will experience emotions of  loneliness, jealousy and fear? (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW ESSAY : Bring on the vandals : After a long winter of pestilence and floods (but not famine), three new books analyse the future of British agriculture and the climate of hysteria (New Statesman, May 21 2001 by Colin Tudge)
    -REVIEW ESSAY : Huxley: The Devil's Disciple (New Statesman, April 11 1997 by Colin Tudge)
    -REVIEW : of A Different Nature: The Paradoxical World of Zoos and Their Uncertain Future by David Hancocks (Colin Tudge, London Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : of Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology  Charles Crawford and Dennis L Krebs (editors) (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in An Age of Extinctions by David Quammen   (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Consilience by Edward O. Wilson (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World by Lee M Silver (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead by  Gina Kolata (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of AS WE KNOW IT: COMING TO TERMS WITH AN EVOLVED MIND by Marek Kohn (Colin Tudge, New Statesman)
    -DISCUSSION : Steven Pinker, Philip Anderson, Marc Hauser, and Colin Tudge on "The Three Dimensions Of Human History" by Colin Renfrew  (The Edge, October 6, 1997)
    -ARCHIVES : "Colin Tudge" (Find Articles)
    -ARCHIVES : Colin Tudge (New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of Impact of the Gene (Anne Magurran, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Impact of the Gene (Fred Bortz, Dallas Morning News)
    -REVIEW : of  In Mendel's Footnotes: An Introduction to the Science and Technologies of Genes and Genetics from the 19th Century to the 22nd by Colin Tudge (BRIAN CHARLESWORTH, Nature)
    -REVIEW : of In Mendel's Footnotes by Colin Tudge (Dr Chris Evans, Management Today)
    -REVIEW : of Neanderthals, Bandits and Farmers by Colin Tudge (complete review)
    -REVIEW : of Neanderthals, Bandits & Farmers of Colin Tudge (Discover)
    -REVIEW : of NEANDERTHALS, BANDITS AND FARMERS: HOW AGRICULTURE REALLY BEGAN by Colin Tudge (Scientific American)
    -REVIEW : of The Second Creation : : The Age of Biological Control by the Scientists Who Cloned Dolly  by Ian Wilmut, Keith Campbell & Colin Tudge (Tony Perry & Teru Wakayama, Nature)
    -REVIEW : of The Second Creation (Frank Browning, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Second Creation (Maggie Gee, , booksonline)
    -REVIEW ESSAY : Decoding the genome : Six new books tackle human biology's Holy Grail, but each fights its own crusade. (Ralph Brave, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Second Creation (Mike Lepore for crimsonbird.com)
    -REVIEW : of The Second Creation (British Medical Journal,  Andrew P Read)
    -REVIEW : of Second Creation (Tabitha M. Powledge, Celera)
    -REVIEW : of The Time Before History - Colin Tudge (Peter B. Denison, Zero Population Growth of Greater Boston NEWSLETTER)
    -REVIEW : of THE VARIETY OF LIFE A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures That Have Ever Lived. By Colin Tudge (W. Ford Doolittle, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Variety of Life (Steve Brusatte, Dino Land)
 

GREGOR MENDEL :
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : Mendel, Gregor (Johann)
    -MendelWeb
    -EXCERPT :  from Robin Marantz Henig's The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics
    -REVIEW : of   MENDEL'S DEMON  : Gene justice and the complexity of life by Mark Ridley (Pamela Wells, Times Literary Supplement)

NATURALLISTIC FALLACY :
    -DEFINITIONAL ESSAY : naturalistic fallacy (Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy)
    -ESSAY : THE NATURALISTIC FALLACY: THE LOGIC OF ITS REFUTATION (Arthur N. Prior, Utilitarian.org)
    -ESSAY : Nihilism and the End of Law (Phillip E. Johnson, March 1993, First Things)
    -LECTURE : Restoration of Man: A Lecture to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man (J. R. LUCAS, given in Durham on Thursday October 22nd, 1992)
    -ESSAY : IRIS MURDOCH ON THE GOOD, GOD AND RELIGION (Joseph Malikail)
    -REVIEW : of Singer in the Rain : A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation. By Peter Singer (Nancy Pearcey, First Things)

GENERAL :
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : genetics
    -Human Genome Project
    -Genome News Network (Celera Genomics)
    -SPECIAL REPORT : Cloning (Washington Post)
    -SPECIAL REPORT : Gene Therapy (Washington Post)
    -American Society for Reproductive Medicine
    -Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine
    -Geneteically Engineered Foods (Natural Law Party of Canada)
    -Human Nature Daily Review
    -Roslin Institute Online : Information on Cloning and Nuclear transfer
    -Advanced Cell Technology
    -ESSAY : The Ethicist's New Clothes (William Saletan, Aug. 16, 2001, Slate)
    -ESSAY : A Pair of Genes Goes a Long Way : John Kinerk on the troubling implications of genetic theory (Spintech)

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