Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul

Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul

by Kenneth R. Miller


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An inspiring book about the power and the passion of science

Few have weighed in on the nation's contentious debate over evolution as effectively as Kenneth R. Miller. In Only a Theory, Miller-the highly regarded scientist who offered expert testimony at the 2005 trial over the teaching of evolution in Dover, Pennsylvania-eloquently shows how "Intelligent Design" collapses at the very moment one begins to take it seriously. Miller shows that the attack on evolution is a broader assault on the skepticism and reason that have fueled America's remarkable scientific advances, and offers an encouraging prescription for how we can save the nation's "scientific soul" to which we owe so much.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143115663
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 538,183
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Kenneth R. Miller is Professor of Biology at Brown University. His research work on cell membrane structure and function has produced more than 50 scientific papers and reviews in leading journals, including CELL, Nature, and Scientific American. Miller is coauthor, with Joseph S. Levine, of four different high school and college biology textbooks which are used by millions of students nationwide. He has received 5 major teaching awards. In 2007 he was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the Exploratorium's Outstanding Educator Award. He lectures widely and has appeared on NPR’s Science Friday and The Colbert Report.

Table of Contents

Only A TheoryPreface

One: Only a Theory
Two: Eden's Draftsmen
Three: Embracing Design
Four: Darwin's Genome
Five: Life's Grand Design
Six: The World That Knew We Were Coming
Seven: Closing the American Scientific Mind
Eight: Devil in the Details


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" Demolishes the assertions of advocates of Intelligent Design."
-The Baltimore Sun

" A grass-roots defense of good science education . . . a useful overview of a perilous political attack on the nature of science."
-P. Z. Myers, Nature

" Powerfully argued . . . Miller's perspective as a devout believer will allow his case to resonate with believers and non-believers alike."
-Francis Collins, Director, the Human Genome Project

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Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
DinaFelice More than 1 year ago
In this wonderful book, Ken Miller ably defends evolution from the attacks of Intelligent Design (ID). Neatly demonstrating how each of their examples of supposedly unevolvable systems are actually fully explainable by the forces of evolution and natural selection, he provides information of such clarity that even a complete layman could understand. But, for those already following the (public, not scientific) evolution controversy, this is old news. What makes this book stand out from the other sources that pointing out the fundamental flaws of ID arguments is his thesis that science itself is under attack. It is a point I have seen him make in his public talks (many of which are available on YouTube...I strongly urge anyone interested in the subject to check them out), but in this book, he takes the time to really delve into this subject. Miller argues that a primary reason for the USA's dominance in science has been the similarity between the American and scientific values: neither cares who you are or where you come from, but only what you can do. But if we change the ground rules of science so that it is no longer a strict meritocracy, Miller fears that the entire enterprise will collapse. If you are interested in the the science of evolution, this book is for you. If you are fascinated by the public conflict between ID and evolution, this book is for you. If you care about the future of science and science education, this book is for you. And even if you just want to know what all the fuss is about, this book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am humbled by the capability of the author to unravel the latest intellectual disaster being foisted on us by our medieval fifth-columnists and expose its bankruptcy as a scientific endeavor without ever sneering or strutting. ID is creationism, nothing more, and evolution by means of natural selection remains in ever increasing importance as the central unifying theory of the life sciences. We should be embarrassed by how badly we need this book, and grateful to the author for it.
Roshan More than 1 year ago
This book tries to see what works about intelligent design. It gives you a background about the beginnings of the group behind intelligent design, and lets you see a glimpse behind why this notion is appealing to people and why people accept it without really knowing what's going on. It is well written, and easy to read. You don't need to be a scientist to understand it. I put it on my important books to read list.
juglicerr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This defense of science and repudiation of Intelligent Design, and more significantly, its goal to restructure science is written by a man who is both a Microbiologist and a practicing Christian. Miller argues that science, with its focus on the natural, is an important part of the intellectual heritage of the West in general, and of the United States in particular. He quotes noted Conservatives such as George Will in its defense. He also argues that science and religion are not necessarily in conflict He examines the national qualities of Americans that have both led them to be leaders in science, and to risk destroying it in the name of evenhandedness.Miller admires Bloom's book, The Closing of the American Mind. He interprets its message as being the danger of trying to be so fair and so open to all ideas as to be incapable of making judgments. He is afraid that this is happening with science. Instead of competing on a scientific basis, which I'm sure that Miller would allow, Intelligent Design is attempting to change the rules of science, and far too many people fail to see the danger. The book is a call to defend the boundries of science before the United States loses its edge.Especially at the beginning, Miller also present scientific evidence against the claims of Intelligent Design, especially as they relate to Behe, Dembski, and arguments about complexity. These are quite interesting, more interesting to me personally than the rest, but not really the main purpose of the book.Particularly recommended for those who are undecided or don't understand what the fuss is about.
tyroeternal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Miller's arguments are that intelligent design can exist on a macro level, but not on a micro level. He proposes that not only is intelligent design off on a scientific level, but has dire political consequences as well. It was a good book and worth the read even though I did not find his arguments winning me over.
dwellNC More than 1 year ago
Details some of the legal issues and cases against creationism. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book that every citizen should read, especially those who claim that evolution is wrong. The book makes it clear where they are wrong!
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Blood_Doc More than 1 year ago
Science writing for the non-scientific. Miller is able to distill complex scientific ideas into prose that anyone can understand. His insight into the impact of the "theory" of evolution on modern education and scientific thought in America is compelling. I would LOVE to take his introductory Biology clas....
ReggieJohnson More than 1 year ago
This is a marvelously- engaging effort by Mr. Miller. Reading Only a Theory is akin to watching a captivating movie filled with intriguing special effects, robust characters, and a suspenseful plot. For years I have been grappling with the question: Which came first, the chicken or the proverbial egg?

You can not imagine my delight when I read Only a Theory, a book about Intelligent Design (ID) Theory versus Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and the ultimate question for scientific and religious scholars: How did my Persian cat and the rest of mankind get here?

My original game-plan in writing reviews was to adhere to a philosophy that stayed far, far away from politics, and religion. In spite of my past convictions, I find myself writing a review on a book that manages to make sport of politics, and religion! However, everyone from students to scholars, will enjoy this informative read from Kenneth Miller.

If you like imaginative courtroom drama, Perry Mason can't hold a candle to the final closing arguments in a trial which is a focal point in the book. It takes place in the quaint town of Dover, Pennsylvania. Biology Professor, Kenneth Miller, (Brown University) was one of the expert witnesses at the trial. He had the jury, judge, and me, intrigued by his take-no-prisoners testimony.

My favorite section is when testimonies from both sides explore the bio chemical systems produced by the body. These machine-like marvels control thousands of functions in perfect harmony, and precision (they are called bacterial flagellum). If you liked the movies featuring The Terminators and The Transformers, you will be enthralled by these beauties.

In the end both sides won some points. However, there are still gaps in both theories in which proponents say: Trust me. Only a Theory should be a valuable addition to any library. You will love it. Trust me!
Reggie Johnson, Success-Tapes.Com
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It¿s a question that I have pondered before, 'How can America be one of the most scientifically advanced nations when such a scientific idea as evolution is so widely doubted compared to other countries?' But for the more economically thoughtful among us the answer is probably more obvious than not. The incredible -- and ironically rather Darwinistic -- powers and capabilities of competitive capitalism lie at the heart of America¿s soul. Consequentially, business is not the only place where such factors are present in the United States, for science is home to them as well. The result, then, is that just as good and bad products come and go before really great ones succeed in the niche of popular demand, scientific ideas 'even so called ones' are in a manner of speaking subject to the same experience. But there's a little bit of problem here, as Kenneth Miller elaborates on in his new book 'Only a Theory'. While the more competitive nature of science in the States has given fertile ground to great ideas, the arbiters of what constitutes good scientific ideas worth being taught in the curriculum have too often not been scientists! Rather political ideologues have attempted to interject what is somewhere between poor science and not-science to be either taught along with genuine science (at best...) if not to its detriment (at worst). With these concerns as the foundation of his book, Miller describes the problems that could confront America's scientific eminence if such aforementioned political forces were to gain further power. To fulfill his duty to ensure that more people become educated, and therefore hopefully able to make better decisions when it comes to the scientific education of our children, Miller, for three chapters, engages in a powerful but honest assault on the 'so-called' alternative scientific ideas that were argued over in the 2005 Dover trial. This is probably the best part of the book and undoubtedly the reason why many, if not most, will read it. Much of this portion of the book reads like a version 2.0 of his previous book 'Finding Darwin's God'. Miller takes on once again the claims surrounding the sacred icon of the recent 'Intelligent Design' movement: the bacterial flagellum. He also again addresses the argument of irreducible complexity as it relates to the blood-clotting cascade. Beyond this, Miller references a couple of examples of observed evolution-in-action with regards to synthetic compounds, and looks at our genetic relationship with the chimps. Suffice it to say Miller does, as we've come to expect, an excellent job dealing with the science and making his case. Michael Behe's newer work 'The Edge of Evolution' even gets a little addressing. It is perhaps a bit misguided to think that this book is all but a screed of scientific arguments. In fact, although it contains the scientific arguments, it¿s also more than that. Miller explores how the educational system is, in fact, facilitating the 'closing of the American mind', referencing Allan Bloom¿s criticisms of America's academic approach, and citing relativism as a culprit in the successes the ID movement has had on the PR front. Miller also says some words regarding God and faith, which I found enjoyable. Ultimately, while this book is not quite the powerhouse of scientific arguments that 'Finding Darwin's God' was 'after all, we¿ve been there done that', it is another admirable and timely book 'I¿ve been anticipating Miller's next book' that excellently addresses the current issues of the debate.
RedLightOn More than 1 year ago
Miller presents himself as neutral, but is actually quite sarcastic about I.D. He reduces the concept of I.D. to mere creationism and intentionally misunderstands everything. He even argues that intelligent designers believe gradual changes occur with a "Poof!" and a cloud of smoke. Miller and other scientists simply cannot grasp the fact that even the mere rules upon which their undesigned evolutionary process relies proves intelligence. Darwinists like Miller describe evolution as: "elegant." But in doing so they admit the universal principles that guide evolution are flawless. Miller's entire argument rests on the fact that "elegant pefection" exists as a result of the chaotic Big Bang and not intelligence. Strangely, however, he proves the theory behind an unguided "natural" evolution which arising out of pure chaos is more unlikely than the theory of an intelligently concocted "natural" evolution. THAT IS I.D.!!