altschuler_review_20080615_74

altschuler_review_20080615_74 - 1 Review of Only A Theory:...

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1 Review of Only A Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul . By Kenneth R. Miller. Viking. 244 pp. $25.95; The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives . By Leonard Mlodinow. Pantheon. 252 pp. $24.95; Spiritual Evolution: A Scientific Defense of Faith . By George E. Vaillant. Broadway Books. 238 pp. $24.95 In 1794, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, became a casualty of the French Revolution. Arrested and sentenced to death, he pleaded for time to complete his research. "The republic has no need of scientists," the judge replied. Lavoisier was beheaded, his body thrown into a mass grave. Although scientists fared much better in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, millions of people remain uneasy with or hostile to them. With its emphasis on chance and change (through mutation and natural selection), they believe, modern science undermines faith in an orderly world in which everything has been foreseen and foreordained. By God. With support from the Bush administration, anti-evolutionists have gained the initiative in the struggle for America's "scientific soul." But the issue has now been joined. The books under review are three among many in which scientists defend the persuasive power and practical utility of scientific reason in terms that are accessible to lay audiences. Without the consent of informed citizens, the authors remind us, American preeminence in science cannot endure. A Drunkard's Walk is an informative, irreverent, and iconoclastic investigation of the role of randomness in daily life. Drawing on studies in psychology, probability, and statistics, Leonard Mlodinow, a professor of physics at Caltech, demonstrates that by failing to give pride of place to unforeseeable or fluctuating forces, most of us make faulty assumptions about causes and effects.
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altschuler_review_20080615_74 - 1 Review of Only A Theory:...

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