Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: The Dark Side of Charles Darwin

Jerry Bergman's The Dark Side of Charles Darwin: A Critical Analysis of an Icon of Science was a very painful book to read because it has been so poorly edited. It reads like a series of articles that have been thrown together resulting in considerable repetition. The author is clearly a creationist and this agenda, at times, detracts from the objectivity of the book. Rather than being an “impartial” analysis of Darwin's beliefs, attitudes and errors the underlying agenda of the author to discredit Darwin and his ideas in order to promote creationism overtakes the analysis and diminishes the credibility of the author.

Another weakness of the style is the reliance of the author on secondary sources. A large amount of the text consists of direct quoting of others opinions and conclusions about Darwin rather than the author reporting on his own research of Darwin's primary sources (although there may be some of that). The strong impression is that the author is “preaching to the choir” rather than presenting a scholarly piece of work.

The quality of the material is very uneven and often is not directly related to what I expected of the book. Part 1 (’Darwin and Christianity’) has overstated chapter titles such as ’How Darwin Overthrew Creationism Amongst the Intellectual Establishment’. The chapter entitled ’Why Darwinism Demands Atheism’ completely ignores scholars who remain theists AND accept evolutionary theory.

Parts 2-4 of the book gradually become better as information is provided on Darwin’s alleged mental health issues, his passion for killing animals, and his views on race, gender, and eugenics.

The section on claims that Darwin plagiarised his ideas is interesting.

There is no doubt that Darwin was a deeply flawed character if the evidence in this book is to be believed. But that doesn't necessitate that his ideas are wrong, of course. The author does go on to argue that the central ideas of Darwinian evolution are incorrect and lacking in evidence but generally accepted because of the suppression of critical analysis of evolutionary theory. In my view, the author needed to support this claim with a more substantial argument than he has provided including a discussion of the ways in which contemporary evolutionary theory may differ from Darwin's original publications.

In summary, an uneven, poorly executed book that gains more value in the latter sections. Despite that it is worth a read to obtain some sense of the somewhat neglected darker side of a famous man.

Book Details: Jerry Bergman (2011). The Dark Side of Darwin: A Critical Analysis of an Icon of Science. Master Books.