Revolution #92, June 17, 2007

The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism Honored with Franklin Book Award Nomination

Some Recent Comments from Ardea Skybreak on responses to The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters

I wrote this book because I feel strongly that everyone needs to understand the basic facts of evolution and the scientific method. I believe that when people are deprived of a scientific approach to reality as a whole, they are robbed of both a full appreciation of the beauty and richness of the natural world and the means to understand the dynamics of change not only in nature but in human society as well. In delving into complicated scientific concepts, I strove to combine scientific rigor with an accessible style in order to connect with a broad and diverse audience, from scientists and intellectuals to those with little scientific background or formal education. The responses to the book, including from renowned scientists and educators, has been very encouraging. I have been deeply moved by the heartfelt letters from prisoners about the impact my book has had on giving them for the first time an understanding of how all life including human beings has evolved through entirely natural processes without the involvement of any supernatural force or being. Many other people have commented on the book's atypical treatment of the relationship between science and religion, notably its lack of defensiveness towards religion. Recognition of my book as a finalist for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award in the category of Science and the Environment, and in numerous reviews by scientists and educators, comes at a time when evolution--and the very definition of science--is under concerted attack by religious fundamentalists, with backing from the highest levels of government. This gives added significance to this recognition, which I hope will contribute to spreading this book to an even wider audience and further promoting knowledge of evolution and the scientific method.

Since its publication last fall, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak has received increasing recognition from renowned scientists and educators… as well as from many people who are ordinarily denied access to science. Word of the book is spreading, particularly through numerous reviews on the Internet. It has received especially warm welcome on a number of science blogs and web sites, and from among prisoners. The book has gotten exposure at conferences, at Darwin Day celebrations, and book fairs. It is available in many bookstores and in some museum stores. (And it should be in many more.)

This book is truly unique in the way it popularizes the science of evolution and the scientific method. It combines uncompromising scientific rigor with an accessible style which gives it the ability to connect with a broad and diverse audience. And it’s already begun to show the potential to reach into every corner of society—from college professors and librarians to prisoners and residents of housing projects—and profoundly influence the way that people see the world and how they think.

Recently, the book was named as one of three finalists for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin award in the category of Science/Environment. Sponsored by the independent publishers association PMA (Publishers Marketing Association), this award recognizes excellence in independent publishing. According to PMA, “All books are judged on editorial and design merit by top practitioners in each field.” This year’s winners were announced on May 31, at an awards ceremony held just before the opening of Book Expo America in New York City. This year’s Ben Franklin Award for Science / Environment went to another finalist, Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert edited by George T. Jefferson and Lowell Lindsay, a collection of essays examining the history of the Anza-Borrego desert in California, which explores themes of adaptation, evolution, extinction, and the influence of changing environments on animals and landscapes. The other nominated book, Field Guide to Snowflakes, is about the beauty and science of snowflakes. While The Science of Evolution... did not take the top prize, recognition as a finalist for this award is an important honor and opens greater potential for the book to reach many more people.

Over the past several months, in addition to praise from renowned scientists Richard Leakey, Kevin Padian, and David Seaborg that is included in the book itself, The Science of Evolution... has been welcomed and promoted especially on a number of science blogs and web sites that are engaged in defense of evolution, and of science itself, in face of attempts to bring religion, often in the form of “intelligent design creationism,” into science education the public schools.

A Developing Buzz Online

PZ Myers is an associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He has been called one of the fiercest, most public critics of the intelligent design movement. According to the Minneapolis newspaper City Pages, his popular science blog, Pharyngula ( receives between 13,000 and 25,000 visitors a day.

In a review last December, Myers writes, “Most books that teach the basics of evolutionary biology are fairly genteel in their treatment of creationism—they don’t endorse it, of course, but they either ignore it, or more frequently now, they segregate off a chapter to deal with the major claims. There are also whole books dedicated to combating creationist myths, of course, but they’re not usually the kind of book you pick up to get a tutorial in basic biology. In my hands I have an example of a book that does both, using errors of creationism heavily to help explain and contrast the principles of evolutionary biology—it’s fascinating."

PZ Myers goes on to add that, “If your interest in evolution isn’t simply academic, this is an excellent book to simultaneously inform and instruct, and supply the reasoning to deal with creationist foolishness. It’s also refreshing to see a book that isn’t timid about pointing out that fundamentalist religion is the source of the problem, and that isn’t afraid of offending creationists. It makes for an invigorating read, and I recommend it highly… It’s perfect for that person who wants to learn some solid biology, but also wants to be an activist for good science.”

On June 5, 2007, the book was named “Book of the Week” at the “agnosticism and atheism” section of the popular web site Austin Cline wrote, “Is there a role for creationism or Intelligent Design in modern science classrooms? Absolutely not, because there is no room for them in modern science—they are remnants of ancient religious traditions whose time has long passed. It’s not simply a matter of contrasting skeptical science with simplistic superstition, through. Critics may be tempted to regard creationism as little more than superstition, but it is much more than that—and the threat it poses is far more serious.”

 “Locked Out” but Engaging with Evolution

Many people who are ordinarily “locked out” of getting into scientific ideas have also taken up this book—including more than a few prisoners. Those promoting the book at the recent publishing conference, Book Expo America, report that the unusual mix of people who have been reading and talking about The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters is exciting and heartening, and has, itself, piqued further interest among a number of academics, scientists, and others in the book world.

One prisoner writes, “Most captives grew up in this society poor and oppressed and steeped and indoctrinated in religious fundamentalism, so evolution is pretty uncomfortable to lend credence to, especially in the beginning when it’s hard for us to really 'trade' our relatively comfortable dependence on a Creator for ideas and theories and such a lot of us haven’t been given the opportunity to develop intellects for and use knowledge gained through education to support and sustain. The whole 'scientific method' and process is foreign to so many people who have been figuratively and literally 'locked out' of using it and working within it. So it was real refreshing to read how Ardea Skybreak not only articulated the science of evolution but also explained why evolution and the scientific method generally is so important for all human beings to know and be benefitted by and why so many around the world do not have very much—if any—familiarity with the theory of evolution and how we’ve all been more or less kept from liberating ourselves from enslavement to religious dogma and superstition and mysticism and spirituality and enforced ignorance!”

Another prisoner described the debate going on over evolution inside the walls, and remarked that, “A lot of these bible bangers who have been misled think this debate is about ‘winning or losing.’ I tell them this debate is about struggling for the truth.”

Insight Press is encouraging readers of Revolution, and others, who are able to purchase the special limited-edition hard cover edition of The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, direct from the publisher ( Doing so allows the publisher to provide books to prisoners—free when possible to those who cannot afford them—and to sell the papercover edition at a price that can be afforded by many people, including those who normally cannot afford books.

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