Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: The Canon by Natalie Angier

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier

I was initially put off by the book's introduction because it seemed as if the author was basically trying to be funny and was going way overboard in this attempt. The formula was transparent - fill the text with clever alliterations and end any sequence of items with a punch line item. It was way too cutesy. Fortunately for the reader, Ms. Angier backs off from this Dave Barry mutation and proceeds to engage the reader in dramatic and poetic prose that makes what otherwise may be dry recitations of science facts into memorable images and analogies. Even her humor, when muted, succeeds in getting points across. I would recommmend this book as an adjunct to any official science text in use.

For the first time I understand why scientists believe so firmly in evolution. Ms Angier explains clearly how and where the evidence fits to support the theory. I do question however, why Ms. Angier does not explain why, if the evidence for evolution is so incontrovertible, why has the theory not been promoted to a law, to join the pantheon of laws alongside thermodynamics and gravity. Is the problem merely semantic? We don't know because Ms. Angier doesn't tell us, but it does make one wonder why evolution has not yet been granted this status. Secondly, I also think that Ms. Angier falsely concludes that if evolution is correct then God does not exist. I do not belief that these are mutually exclusive, and by treating them as such, she leaves some doubt as to the objectivity of her position. Since she is a journalist, or presumably so as a science news writer, one would expect a more objective position or, if not, at least an explicit statement of belief.