Book Review: Not By Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution

Alternate title suggested by this review: One physicist thinks he’s more clever about evolution than 150 years of actual biologists.

Author: Dr. Lee Spetner
Publisher: The Judaica Press Inc., Brooklyn, NY
Date of Publication: 1998
Title: Not by chance! Shattering The Modern Theory of Evolution.

What do you get when someone takes an introductory level course on evolution, and instead of asking questions in class, decides that since they have questions they must be more clever than 150 years of biologists and must write a book about how clever they are? Well, you get this book.

I must admit, I did not finish the book. I made it through chapter 5 and had more than enough insight into Spetner’s level of competence in this field.

The whole book could be summarized much the same as any Intelligent Design (ID) argument. The ID thesis really has 2 parts: 1) Look at all this really complicated stuff! Then comes 2) Since all this stuff is so complicated, it must have been assembled by something other than evolution! [insert intelligent force here].

Spetner gets right to work explaining that cells, DNA, proteins, reproduction, and development are all really complicated things in chapter 2. (Look at all this complicated stuff!). This must be a problem because “there is no evidence that complexity has been built up by the process described by” evolution (Spetner 61). Or at least no evidence Spetner is competent or honest enough to mention. Go ask a biologist about examples of duplication and exaptation of genes and they likely won’t have any trouble giving you several off the top of their head.

But since Spetner is too clever to ask questions of real biologists, he decides to come to an ID answer to his imagined problem for evolution. Chapter seven: The Deck is Stacked! I did skim this chapter. Using several examples Spetner explains his Great Idea: the Non-Random Evolutionary Hypothesis. “The environment induces a change in either the phenotype or the genotype. . . the NREH does not suffer from the contradictions of the [Neo Darwinian Theory], and promises therefore to provide a more consistent picture of life.” (Spetner 208). Not long after, and absolutely unsurprisingly, Spetner finds space to jam God into the works: “The NREH, on the other hand, is agnostic and poses no contradictions to creation. The NREH, as an explanation of evolution, is in fact derivable from Talmudic sources.”

Besides the thesis being trash, not much else can be said about the book. The writing is painful. Many chapters open with campy made-up scenarios like Cowboy Chuck shooting Cowboy Bert for winning poker, because winning against a straight flush is too unlikely. This is certainly a subjective thing, but it really made me cringe.

Spetner’s rampant incompetence also is pretty cringe-worthy. He makes all sorts of frankly factually incorrect claims about population dynamics and genetics. “Population size is not controlled by starvation, disease, or predation” (Spetner 16), except for the painfully well-understood fact that starvation, predation, and disease do greatly control population sizes. Or, “one step of evolution cannot, on the average, bring to the genome more than one bit of information” (Spetner 72), in which case he has arbitrarily defined one bit to mean any genetic change whatsoever instead of any definition of information that scientists actually use. Ugh. A guy can only take so much of watching his field of study be incompetently represented before needing to put a book down.

This book is just a mess of incompetence. I think it’s the first book I’ve read by an ID supporter, and I suspect it will be the last. Based on what I’ve seen of ID writing elsewhere on blogs, this book was as about as intelligently designed as they come.






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