The depressing news

August 10, 2013 • 11:55 am

Here are the nine Amazon best-sellers in organic evolution.  Three of them are creationist books:

Picture 3No doubt the Discovery Institute is delighted that their creationist “God caused the Cambrian Explosion” book is at the top, but that just speaks to the immensely larger number of evolution-deniers than evolution believers among the American public. Still, the book should not be classified under “evolution” but under religion. Perhaps some energetic reader could point that out to the Amazon folks.

And, of course, a book can be a fabric of lies and sell enormously, so long as it panders to what people want to hear.  Here’s an example:

Picture 5Proof of Heaven is #15 among all books at Amazon. It’s also #1 on the New York Times bestseller list—for nonfiction!:

Picture 3

 

 

Go have yourself a NDE in which you see Jesus.  If you write about it, you’re set for life!

68 thoughts on “The depressing news

  1. I’m working on it. Amazon Canada assures me it is working on classifying Darwin’s Doubt under Religion. My plan is to wait until that happens, then point it out to Amazon.com & see what happens. The risk is they will convince Amazon Canada to put it back but we’ll see since I’ve already gotten Chapters-Indigo to move it online & in store.

    My last communications with Amazon Canada:

    Hello,

    I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused.

    I’ve checked and found that one of my colleague already forwarded this to our appropriate department to correct this error.

    I can ensure that this error is corrected as soon as possible. This process will takes 5 to 7 business days, so we request you to wait until that time to get this issue corrected.

    I am going to follow up with them again next week.

      1. This is what I wrote to Amazon Canada. Feel free to reuse. My version I wrote to Chapters-Indigo was a bit different because they had 1) filed it differently 2) vexed me by sending me an email that recommended Dawkins’s Greatest Show on Earth & Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt as “two sides of the same coin. Amazon hadn’t vexed me so.

        I noticed you have placed Stephen Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt under your Evolution section along with books such as Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth, Douglas’s and James’s, The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity, Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True along with many other evolution books.

        It is important that you realize that Meyer’s book is not about evolution; while Dawkins’s, Douglas’s & Erwin’s and Coyne’s books elucidate scientific evolutionary facts, Meyer’s book promotes religious Creationism in the form of Intelligent Design (it says so in the sub title on the front cover).

        Since Intelligent Design is not science (as ruled in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III when he said that “intelligent design is not science and that it cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents”, this book should not appear in the Evolution section but should be moved to the Religion section.

        Keeping Meyer’s book in the Evolution section does a disservice to your readers who could be confused by the content.

        1. …and don’t forget to close the parenthesis where I didn’t. I had to fix up the email from the correspondences that mashed it in translating to/from HTML. My original was nicer 🙂

          1. Diana, what a well-written letter. I think that is a wonderful idea. I live in Oshawa and have seen the book in the science section in Chapters. I’ll check this week and if it’s still there, I will talk to the manager. If you have any other ideas where I canhelp, I’d love to.
            Tony

            1. Thanks Tony and yeah talk to the manager as Chapters told me that they will have it moved in stores and if they don’t, I should talk to the manager of the store. You could probably point out that it has been moved online. I haven’t been to a Chapters since I wrote the note but I’ll check them out when I do go.

        2. That’s an excellent letter. Clear, concise, and backed up with citations supporting the relevant facts. We cannot censor, and should not try to censor, creationist literature, but making sure it’s properly classified as religion rather than science should do a lot to undermine its credibility.

  2. The really sad part about all of this is that creationists will claim (and many people will believe them) that this rise in frequency of creationist volumes that try to address science reflects a trend of increased support for creationism among scientists, rather than simply greater evangelical effort by groups such as the Discovery Institute and similar intellectual cesspools.

    1. Yes evangelical effort is a good way to put it. I saw the members of the DI scurry over to Amazon’s reviews for Meyer’s book as quickly as possible to counter Don Prothero’s excellent review. I think we should work smarter & just get bots to do our countering. 🙂

        1. I was being facetious. I was lightly implying that I could replace their predictable efforts with a script.

          1. And we would not be lowering our actions to any slimy level if we commented in an informed way on those books that we have in fact read. Attacks on misinformation via reviews in this way are entirely legitimate.

  3. Philip E. Johnson, the lawyer is eminently UNqualified to write that book. Someone should sue him for fraud.

    1. They’d lose, and they should lose. Merely writing a book that contradicts accepted scientific facts or opinion is not fraud in any legal sense.

      1. Yeah, a significant percentage of all lawyers are frauds anyway, so it is redundant. It’s like being a journalist for Fox News; match the agenda and forget about truth or facts.

  4. Who cares, they are on the wrong side of history, truth, and knowledge, fighting a futile rear guard action the more they persist the nuttier they appear.

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Individuals who write clap-trap like “Proof of Heaven” do us an invaluable public service; they immediately identify themselves as being intellectually challenged thereby giving us all the evidence we need to listen as we roll our eyes in inner laughter. Eye rolling is an excellent exercise. Laughter is great for the soul. Combined, they’re magic.

  6. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. My agent’s currently hawking around the proposal for a kids’/YA book on science denialism and the power of critical thinking. It’s just been rejected by a children’s editor from a fairly major house in part on the grounds that “I’m a bit skeptical on some of these topics myself”.

    My guess is that it’s the climate change rather than the evolution that this gatekeeper is “skeptical” about, but the result’s the same: the book business is industriously miseducating the public.

  7. “so long as it panders to what people want to hear”

    That phrase could not have been conceived or expressed in any better fashion.

    1. And, what they wish to hear, above all, is reassurance that however unfair, unjust this life is, all will be corrected in a blissful afterlife.

      The religions of this world ultimately rely on this falsehood as their most valuable asset. I suggest saying “There is no afterlife. Once you die, you are gone, so make every minute count while you’re alive..” to anyone professing religious believe. If they say, “Prove it!” remind them that when a person dies, his nose, his tongue, toes, all remain and rot. Memories are made of BILLIONS of those same cells (and the ancients knew nothing about cells or the brain) so your memories (that make you..YOU) go nowhere, same as the toes. They remain in your head, and rot away too. Simply, no afterlife.

      1. I recall hearing of a young woman that had head injuries from a car crash.
        Her mother said that she had become a different person.
        She called her grandmother by a different name to what she had always called her, being one of the differences I recall.
        When your brain changes, YOU change; when your brain stops, YOU stop.

  8. There is a positive side, all the actual scientific books are getting very high ratings while the ID books struggle to be average.

    It’s better in here in the U.K. in the Biological evolution bestsellers list the top 4 are all Dawkins (1 and 2 being The Selfish Gene), 5 Is Darwin’s Origin of species (I think it’s been on this list for 150 years),
    9 is Big Bang by Simon Singh (I’m not sure why that is in this category) and Why Evolution is True is 12.

    Unfortunately Darwin’s doubt comes in 9th on Palaeontology.

    1. That Darwin is still near the top in the UK after 150 years put a smile on my face, and the fact that he and Dawkins occupy all the top 5 spots is spectacular.

      But, meanwhile here in the US …

  9. I’ve commented on the British Amazon website to help set the record straight: “WARNING: this book should be in the “Religion” section. It contains very little real science, and instead is an attempt to promote a particular religious viewpoint. For those with a genuine interest in the facts try “The Cambrian Explosion” by Douglas Erwin and James Valentine, a beautifully illustrated and cogently argued book.”

  10. Recent posts upon the polls on American believers, and of the apparent success of ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ seem to have brought a little unhappiness into some reader’s lives. Cheer-up.
    For a start there is no such thing as an unbiased poll. Dawkins recently challenged the Church of England for their cunning polling question. The exact wording of the question was: ‘Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?” And they duly reported that the eighty per cent of Brits who responded believe in the power of prayer!
    About five years ago Pew Forums similarly reported a great jump in scientists who are believers. But when I tracked down the original question it was cunningly framed to trap the unwary, asking, for example, (from memory) “Do you believe that our planet has been stabilised by some higher power or some principle such as the Gaia Hypothesis” Whoever answered in the affirmative was listed as a religious believer. I even had a letter in the LA Times to complain of the fraud. And so polls on belief are invariably faked. And there are other factors. Although Great Britain has about one per cent church attendance, most pretend when polled to be a believer simply because it is a quick claim to be a good person, even though many had never attended a church service. I would estimate that North America has half the believers claimed by the church. And my view was substantiated when I recently stumbled across an online Pastor’s Magazine that reported head-counting, and revealed a significant drop in church attendance.
    As to Darwin’s Doubt. No need to read past the prologue to recognise the foundations of bullshit. On page vi of the prologue comes the claim…
    “The Creation of Information is habitually associated with conscious activity”… Henry Quastler (1908-1963)
    Is it just me, or is that an extraordinary piece of miss-information upon which to base a whole book? Everything that moves or breathes goes through life accidently spewing-out important factual information. That is what a detective looks-for when she attends a crime-scene. When I get lost in Joshua Tree National Monument you may follow my trail of accidental footprints to where you will find me, under Elephant Rocks, eating French cheeses and drinking a bottle of Chassagne Montrachet. My footprints are information created without conscious activity. (Especially after the Chassagne Montrachet)

    1. Some people can’t recognize the BS and it is no fault of their own in most cases. Someone with no background in evolution could be wanting to learn more and stumble upon this book, see that it has a trilobite on the front cover (come on, everyone loves trilobites), see some endorsements from PhD’s on the back and conclude that it must contain truth.

      This is what drives me completely nuts about the book being in Science & Evolution categories in book stores! I hate it when people are fed misinformation!

  11. Meyer’s Hopeless Monster 2 is getting NO attention outside of the Amazon book review discussion threads, hardly a scientific forum.

    However, Meyer is getting thoroughly trashed by the science-minded folks there and the creationists and trolls are dropping off the threads pretty quickly.

    That said, the Disco Tute issued a long, boring and fluffy piece on “What is ID?” that is mostly a discussion of what ID is not.

    I have learned that ID is not a breadbox. It is not a barn. It is not a goat. It is not on a boat. ID is not here, it is not there. ID is not anywhere!

    1. Are you sure it’s not a goat? Wearing a coat. That drowned in a moat. Where you saw it float. Next to a boat.

      Next time write a note where you use a quote and not recite by rote.

  12. I bet Darwin’s Doubt is at the top because they’re currently hawking it. If he’s going on a speaking tour, the places where he’ll be would be ordering it by the boatload. After a few months it’ll drop off.

    re: Quiet — I highly recommend this book to introverts and extraverts alike. Actually, I especially recommend this to extraverts because they really don’t get us introverts!

    1. I concur about Quiet. I started into it but I then started reading other things and have made a rule of no reading more than one thing at once so I’ll finish it later.

      As a mild introvert, I found it refreshing to find I have some value (because you’re often told you don’t in a world that is all extrovert obsessed).

      1. Also, I never thought about how mysterious introverts must seem to extroverts. It explains why introverts are always the ones that get bullied – the extroverts think we are up to something or hate them because we haven’t spoken their language to them.

  13. Jerry,

    Despite the headline, this post made my day. My book, on the same page with The Greatest Show on Earth, The Beak of the Finch, and Why Evolution is True!

    If you’ll excuse a little shameless self-promotion, the 5th edition of Evolutionary Analysis will ship in about a week.

    Thanks,
    Jon

  14. My guess would be that if you believe in evolution, as much as I dislike using that verb for this situation, you don’t really need to go out of your way to establish your position. I don’t buy books about how aliens don’t visit the earth, or how the world is round. But if your position is on the fringe and people call you loony, you probably need to shore up your position more. Back when I did believe in the paranormal, I bought many more books about it. With so much information out there supporting evolution, you probably need to purposefully find a way to tip the balance in order to maintain your delusion.

  15. How can a creationist delight in the Cambrian Explosion if he believes that the world is only 6.000 years old? Am I missing something?

  16. Jerry,

    This is my time of pleading that you ask your publisher to pay for Australia to have access to the digital copy of your book.

  17. I don’t know if this is the case. But is it possible that the lack of creationist books (compared to the huge amounts of textbooks on evolution) gives them an advantage, more readers per book (which is what bestseller lists measure) as opposed to total number of readers. Maybe?

  18. Just goes to show the American dream of being able to mulct millions out of suckers is still alive and well!

  19. Along with Dawkins and Gould, I believe the best arguments for Evolution are not its successes (which are compatible with Creationism) but its failures, that is the numerous examples of bad design, which cannot be accounted by supernatural creation by a good God.

    When arguing against creationist books, this is what should stand in the foreground, as we would say in German.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    1. I used to know a GP who would delight in telling how badly made the human body was.
      Especially the hands as I recall after falling and spraining my wrist.
      Another big tell for me is our ancient DNA for vitamin C that no longer works.

      1. Viral junk DNA shared by apes and humans are extremely embarrassing for creationists, I think this definitely should be emphasized by Jerry Coyne.

        All I’ve seen from ID proponents is hand-waving: “oh, but maybe this has a function and God infected them with a virus at exactly the same position.”

        This is shows that in and of itself, the concept of God is non-falsifiable, but the Christian God couldn’t have done such a things since he doesn’t lie.

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        1. The concept of gods is incoherent; no god ever even gets to the point of falsifiability. They’re married bachelors living death north of the North Pole.

          And the gods of the Christian pantheon are notorious liars. YHWH tells Adam that he shall surely die the day that he eats from the Tree of Knowledge, and yet Adam lives to a ripe old Biblical age; the Serpent was the one who told the truth in that story. And Jesus assures his followers that some of them will live to see his triumphant return. Never mind that Jesus and his followers are all characters in a really bad horror story; that story was written about characters who died millennia ago, and Jesus has only ever returned in the same form as his original appearance: in really bad fiction, typically in the monster horror genre.

          Cheers,

          b&

          1. Hey Ben thanks for your funny comment :=)

            As a progressive Christian, I fully agree there are passages in the Bible which describe God as a monster.

            But there are also passages describing him as a loving being which cannot be reconciled with the former.

            So if it was aimed to be a horror movie, it’s a really bad one 😉

            I view the Bible as human thoughts about God, and I base my faith on the idea that God is the most perfect being who exist.

            Of course, you and I are going to strongly disagree about whether or not it is even possible (non-irrational) to believe in God.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

            1. I view the Bible as human thoughts about God, and I base my faith on the idea that God is the most perfect being who exist.

              That doesn’t even begin to pass the sniff test.

              Even a young child with a cellphone knows to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. A perfect being would do at least as much.

              When was the last time a 9-1-1 dispatcher got a call from Jesus?

              Does Jesus not know when somebody’s gotten lost in the woods or is being brutally attacked in a back alley? Is he too cheap to get a no-plan cellphone just to have in case of an emergency? Or does he get his kicks by watching bad things happen to good people and laugh hilariously at the thought that, no matter that all he has to do is make a simple three-digit phone call, that poor sucker is gonna get it real good?

              Considering that gods aren’t even as capable — or even as observant and present — as toddlers, the notion that they’re somehow “perfect” strains credulity so far past the breaking point that I can’t seriously believe that you’re making such a comment with any form of seriousness.

              b&

            2. Progressive Christian, really? Your gods can’t even provide you with enough “feeling” of what is the “Truth” that you can all get the same message. If your gods did exist they would need to be classified as pathetic.

            3. I base my faith on the idea that God is the most perfect being who exist

              That’s as good, but no better, than basing it on the idea that there is a six ton invisible gold ingot floating over my house.

            4. “you and I are going to strongly disagree about whether or not it is even possible (non-irrational) to believe in God”

              I doubt it, since it is demonstrably possible. People believe in the weirdest things…

              /@

  20. Darwin’s Doubt is classified as a science book by the Library of Congress (QH325 M472013). Thus, it’s very doubtful that Amazon will change.

    1. I wonder how the Library of Congress decides to categorize things. One of the book sellers I wrote to said that they get their category information from the publisher. I wonder how difficult it is to persuade the publisher that they are incorrect (probably a lot difficult).

      1. You’re probably right, but it strikes me as odd nonetheless. I’d expect religion/woo books would generally sell better than those labeled “science!”

  21. The design of Amazon’s listings are for optimal sales, not accuracy. The nonfiction listings for Kindle even include the occasional novel. In the current Kindle listing for all nonfiction, Proof of Heaven is number 6, preceded by 1) Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 2) This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral?…, 3) President Barack Obama: The Kindle Singles Interview, 4) Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, and 5) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Selecting the the nonfiction “science” subcategory vaults Proof of Heaven to number 1, followed by The Immoral Life of Henrietta Lacks and Steve Jobs. Nonfiction also has a religion and spirituality subcategory, with Proof of Heaven standing in second place, preceded by Zealot:, and followed by Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel. At least the novel trumps Holy Bible (NIV), which sits at number 3 in this subcategory. In all, there are 19 subcategories for Kindle nonfiction but, of course, none for secularism or atheism.

    1. Do we ever need an edit feature! That HeLa book title, of course, should read “Immortal,” not “Immoral.”

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