Authors are not known for being extensive readers, especially when they are busy writing. As for me, I don't get much chance to enjoy the fiction works of my contemporaries. Occassionally, however, I take time from my labors to indulge myself in the work of others. This time, I treated myself to a long, long evening (well into the early early morning — 5:32am to be exact) enjoying The Encyclopedia of Evolution. It has been years since I wrote a book report, or even a book review of something other than mystery or true crime. What the heck — I'll give it a try.
Facts on File Library:
Encyclopedia of Evolution
by Stanley A. Rice, Phd.
“What you don’t know about evolution can kill you,” states Stanley A. Rice, Phd in his introduction to his Encyclopedia of Evolution, a monumental accomplishment that is, in itself, a profound evolutionary step in popular literature devoted to this controversial topic.
The Encyclopedia is balanced, informative, and exceptionally comprehensive. It’s essential and undeniable charm rests in the easy manner by which Rice brings the general public into his comfortable confidence, sharing established facts and debated theories with equal ease.
For the interested reader seeking both a firm scientific foundation and a springboard for extrapalotory thinking, Rice peppers his massive tome with unique essays on simulating topics. These essays whet the readers appetite for more learning, further discussion, and future discoveries.
Even a small sampling of Rice’s insightful essay’s are sufficient to engage the mind and sharpen one’s sense of critical perspective. In “Why Humans Die,” for example, Rice takes on the fundamental error of the fundamentalist interpretation of “death” in Genesis by pointing out that Adam does not experience physical death when he eats of the forbidden tree, and then confronts the fantasy of achieving immortality through physical health.
”The longer an organism lives, the more likely it is to die from accident, disaster or cancer,” writes Rice, pointing out the factual fine line between immortality on a cullular level, and cancer. “Cancer cells are cells that have lost the ability to stop reproducing.” This is why they keep spreading, notes Rice. “Cancer cells may be immortal, but are within a mortal body, the death of which they hasten.”
Rice challenges more than finality. Hhe takes on exclusivity in “Are Human Being Alone in the Universe?” From his perspective, based on sound science and most probably theories, encompasses the view that humans may never know the anser to that question. “Even if there were thousands of other civilizations in the universe,” could they contact humans, or could humans contact them?”
Failure in communication, says Rice, means little. What is significant is the possibility that planets similar to Earth, with all the conditions for evolving life, may or may not exist. Whether or not similar life exists elsewhere depends on several factors. (1) how typical is the galaxy in which humans live? (2) How Typical is the Solar System? (3) How typical is the Earth. What he opines is that the answer to all three is, “not very typical.”
Taking stability and other factors into play yeilds the possibility that Earth is the only planet that has been stable enough for complex life to evolve – perhaps in the entire universe. This could mean, says Rice, “that the rest of the universe, even if chock-full of bacteria, is a very lonely place for creatures with higher intelligence.”
Intelligent Design, a euphamism for the anti-science doctrine of Creationism, comes under scrutiny in “Can an Evolutionary Scientist be Religious?” The answer, according to Rice, is :”yes.” Almost all scientiests agree, and do so for two reasons. First, many scientiests are religious individuals themselves and, second, the Scientific Method does not require the assumption that a Supreme Being does not exist.”
Scientists need not deny miricles or supernatural events – they simply don’t regard them as in the realm of science. Hence, they are not matters for consideration. On the issue of Natural Selection, some consider it God’s method of evolution, despite the apparent unfairness of the process. Divine inspiration, Rice notes, has its credibility undermined by religious leaders who claim that “God told them” which American political party God preferred.
“If science and religion…are to be compatible, a rethinking of both science and religion must occur. Science already undertakes a constant process of rethinking,” states Rice. :”It is religion that must take the unaccustomed step of questioning ancient assumptions.”
All things are subject to change, even long held opinions and traditional beliefs. “Nothing makes sense outside the light of evolution,” wrote Theodosis Dobzhanski, one of the founders of modern evolutionary theory. Stanley Rice’s Encyclopedia of Evolution shines light on all composite elements, composing an A-Z masterpiece of information, speculation and endless possibilities.
Rice's book is available on line from Amazon.com or your favorite book seller.