Creatures of Accident

You know that I think that Wallace Arthur is one of the sharpest writers on evolution today and that his Biased Embryos and Evolution is one of the best books I’ve read recently on the topic. I just saw that he has a new book out, Creatures of Accident. Has anyone read it yet? Is it good? Just in case, I placed it on my amazon wish list, so, if you think it is worth my while, I can get it once I get hold of some cash.

17 responses to “Creatures of Accident

  1. Yeah, I’ve read it, and I’ve been meaning to put up a review…I’ve been slow because, in all honesty, it sucked. Sucked big time. I was greatly disappointed.

  2. Wow! Sorry to hear that. That is a dissappointment from such a smart guy.

  3. I’ve got the book on hold at the local library, and I’m next in line. In what way is it a disappointment?

  4. Don’t know but the three available customer reviews on Amazon have some hints. I’ll wait for PZ’s review and hold off on buying it (there are many better books on my waiting list).

  5. Oh boy, PZ, you have piqued my interest. I hope you get around to writing that review soon. 🙂

  6. I bought it and read it, and like PZ, was disappointed. I won’t review it here, but for openers, while there are a dozen or so “suggested readings” at the end of the book, there are no references. Arthur would make an intriguing remark and then zip right along to something else and without references one couldn’t easily follow up the remark.

  7. It’s also painfully repetitive and condescending. About the third time he told me to surrender my presuppositions and just accept what he was claiming, I was ready to stuff his presuppositions up somewhere dark and damp and uncomfortable, I tell you what.

  8. I’ll see what I can do about the review…it’s hard to write a negative review when the book has completely squelched your interest.

  9. Oh, and I winced every time I read “evolve upward”. And it’s heavily used phrase in the book.

  10. I bought it and was planning a review but after reading it, I understand what PZ’s saying.
    In two words: Don’t bother.

  11. [Oh, and I winced every time I read “evolve upward”.]
    Uh….is there such a thing as to “evolve downward”?

  12. Wallace Arthur

    Having recently published Creatures of Accident, I have had a lot of positive feedback, and a great review in Nature. But this blogsite seems to be a magnet for detractors. Well, all books are disliked by some readers, and authors have to accept that. But the reasons cited by your correspondents are weird, and their language puerile (‘sucked’, for example). Clearly, the person who says ‘is there such a thing as to evolve downward?’ hasn’t understood the book at all. (Of course there is such a thing, and I discuss it in the book.)

  13. Thank you for coming here. I don’t understand why this blog is a magnet since I only asked a question and, as you can see from the first link, I think that Biased Embryos and Evolution is one of the bext books on evolution ever. The new book is still on my amazon wish list and if someone buys me a copy, I will read it and evaluate it myself.

  14. I agree, PZ’s language is puerile. If he had a blog of his own, he’d soon see that those sort of rants aren’t appreciated by serious readers.

  15. We are so used to such language that we do not see how it may seem puerile to someone unfamiliar with the 21st century online discourse.

  16. Mairtin Howard

    Being unfamiliar with 21st century online discourse is an excellent stylistic qualification for an author! Blogs dont translate into books and books like the (to my mind excellent) Creatures of Accident dont translate into blogs. Too easy to dismiss an elegant and simply put position – particularly if you dont understand it with some kind of insult. Of course the book doesnt have references hes trying to communicate with people like me (humanities postgrad) who would be put off by them. This is popular science its good to come across someone who can write it. Most scientists Ive read who try to cross the bridge from their specialism to talk to laypeople like me just cant do it. Arthur succeeds, and I dont think hes condescending at all. Just clear.
    Has anyone looked at the interview with him on the American scientist website?
    http://www.americanscientist.org/template/ScientistNightstandTypeDetail/assetid/54316
    Gives some interesting angles on this interesting writer.

  17. The link to Arthur interview has been scheduled to appear on this blog at noon today.
    Unfamiliarity with online discourse, in which honesty is primary and courteousness on the back burner, is not a point against Arthur – it just explains why he responded to language we consider normal as if it was not. We can all write in two or more different modes/voices/styles: one for blogs, another for stories, another for scientific papers, etc.