A review of Darwin’s Island by Steve Jones

Little Brown, London, 2008

Reviewed by John Woodmorappe

Charles Darwin’s best known research was based on his travels to the Galápagos Islands. However, most of his observations of nature were conducted in his native England. The title of this book refers to the latter. However, the title of this book is a little misleading, as relatively little of the book’s content is about Darwin, what he saw, and how he interpreted it.

The main focus of the book is the way that different plants and animals operate in nature. It is quite non-technical (almost comparable to a newspaper article), which allows those unfamiliar with biological jargon to comprehend freely what is being said. A profuse index allows the reader to look up many specific plants and animals. One shortcoming of the book, however, is a lack of references that would enable the reader to do further study on a given topic.

A few direct evolutionary issues

Throughout this work, evolution itself is treated in a superficial manner, and is occasionally dubbed-in as after-the-fact storytelling. This is essentially an “It exists, it is a solution to a survival challenge facing the organism; therefore it must have evolved” mentality.

A few inferred evolutionary events are mentioned, and treated in a rather superficial manner. This is the case with the origin of the vertebrate eye. Intelligent design is brushed off, but no scenario, let alone proof, is offered as to how an eye that was capable of any form of vision is supposed to have evolved from nothing. Mention also is made of the supposed evolution of the bones in the mammalian ear out of the post-dentary bones in the reptilian jaw. Ignored, however, is the fact that one of the bones conveniently evolves out of existence while the other three supposedly become ‘recruited’ and modified by evolutionary processes for improved hearing….

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