About Undeniable - Evolution and the Science of Creation
Sparked by a controversial debate in February 2014, Bill Nye has set off on an energetic campaign to spread awareness of evolution and the powerful way it shapes our lives. In Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, he explains why race does not really exist; evaluates the true promise and peril of genetically modified food; reveals how new species are born, in a dog kennel and in a London subway; takes a stroll through 4.5 billion years of time; and explores the new search for alien life, including aliens right here on Earth.With infectious enthusiasm, Bill Nye shows that evolution is much more than a rebuttal to creationism; it is an essential way to understand how nature works—and to change the world. It might also help you get a date on a Saturday night.
About the Author
Bill Nye is a scientist, engineer, comedian, and inventor. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University where he studied under Carl Sagan, and worked on the 747 as an engineer at Boeing before creating and hosting his much-loved Emmy award-winning PBS/Discovery Channel show Bill Nye the Science Guy. He holds three Honorary Doctorate degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Goucher College, and Johns Hopkins, and teaches at Cornell regularly as a visiting professor.
Corey S. Powell is the former editor in chief of American Scientist and Discover, where he is currently editor at large and continues to write the "Out There" column and blog. He is also a visiting scholar at NYU's SHERP science journalism program, as well as a freelance writer for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Nautilus, and Aeon; his article "The Madness of the Planets" appears in The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, two daughters, and a small collection of Permian-era fossils. Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation is his first collaboration with Bill Nye, but he hopes it will not be his last.
(This review is based on an advanced reader's copy obtained from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Bill Nye's latest effort in bringing science to the masses probably could not have released at a more important time. Recently, Pope Francis made (non)news for affirming his belief in reality (with a few caveats, of course) by stating that evolution is real (something the modern world has known and recognized since Darwin's theory was published in 1859), even while at least a third of the United States rejects evolution and GOP ignoramuses work to force creationism into public school science classes. In February 2014, Nye squared off against Ken Ham in a debate that put fact vs. fiction on the front-lines. That this debate was even held in the first place, nearly halfway through our second decade in the 21st Century, and with the alarming segment of the American public that rejects scientific fact in favor of magical fantasy, proves that there is quite a long way to go in educating the populace and that proper scientific communication is perhaps more necessary now than ever before.
Nye wastes no time in tackling and discrediting the misinformation campaign of creationism, sometimes known as Intelligent Design, and laying out crystal clear details to illustrate the scientific reasoning in support of evolution while also punching many holes in the claims made by Ham and his disciples.
The writing is crisp and concise, with Nye's brand of humor on full display and his "voice" ringing through each word. He's able to present a layman's view of the scientific evidence without bogging reader's down in the minutiae. You won't find paragraph after paragraph of Latin names and dense atomic nomenclature. Instead, Nye spends his time using fully relateable concepts to ground the sometimes heady topic of evolution, while canvasing the importance of transitional fossils like tiktaalik and ambulocetus, and how dinosaurs turned into birds, and why birds, and bats for that matter, are not so terribly different from you and I (organizationally speaking, at least). He also touches upon a few other topics that are tied directly into evolution, such as GMOs and the search for extraterrestrial life.
Throughout the book, Nye showcases several perfect examples of evolution in action, in both historical and present-day models, such as the evolution of a new breed of mosquitoes in the London Underground that is quite distinct from its above-ground brethren, and how bacteria and viruses evolve over time. Whether or not they admit it, or are conscious of it, people who get a flu shot are obviously believers in evolution. I've often joked, particularly during those weeks of seasonal change, that people who believe in Intelligent Design have obviously never had sinus infections or allergies.
Nye does a terrific job showing the natural process of evolution, and the deficiencies inherit in creationist arguments. Really, all one needs to do is critically examine the human body and all its flaws, or even just compare features of our anatomy, say the eyeball, to that of other creature's, like an octopus or hawk, to see the imperfections and utter lack of planned, elegant design. There is no "creator," and with the process of evolution, there is no need for one, either. It works just fine on its own, through adaptation and selective gene flow. Evolution gives lie to the creationist claims, and Nye expertly explains that evolution is not so much a method of perfect design so much as it is a system of simply being good enough.
Undeniable, however, is much more than merely good enough - it is, in fact, truly excellent. This is a necessary book, one that should be on the bookshelves and e-readers of anyone looking to expand their horizons with thoughtful scientific insight and an explanation of the natural world around us. Highly recommended.
[Note: this review has been slightly edited to correct a mistake in my accounting of elapsed years following Darwin's work, where I incorrectly stated it has been more than 200 years since the Origin of Species. Many thanks to the readers who caught this!]