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defense of Darwin, while Larson’s is a reprint of a few talks he gave for a lecture series and, as such, is responsible for more than the occasional yawn. The books stand out for many excellent qualities, but in the end they impress most for their hesitation to hold Darwin’s feet to the fire of Dawkins’ and de Waal’s \(not Nietzsche famously called Darwin’s work “the calm annihilation of the fairy-tale fable of the Creation of the World.” These authors seem to have forgotten that charge, or at leastto return to the metaphordropped their luggage at the metaphysical threshold. Ayala’s Darwin’s Gift provides an admirably clear explanation of Darwinian evolution. It’s explicitly designed for laypeople rather than scientists and effectively serves the noble purpose of allowing the reality-based to enjoin its advocacy of evolution with a modicum of scientific literacy. Not sure about the mechanics of natural selection? Left a-stutter when some bozo says evolution is “only a theory”? Unable to counter the argument that the fossil record is full of gaps? Forgot how biological heredity actually works? Stumped when the ubiquitous Bible guy at the YMCA declares to the entire men’s locker room that humans were not the result of “a random process”? Ayala, an evolutionary geneticist at UC-Irvine, offers answers in a tone reminiscent of a wonderfully avuncular college professor who enjoys teaching things to clueless undergraduates. Ayala’s gift is one of seemingly effortless explication, and much of his work is a pleasure to read. But Darwin’s precise gift comes off as a bit more ambiguous. While explaining the science of Darwinism, Ayala repeatedly uses it as a bludgeon to whack around the tenets of intelligent design. “I couldn’t find many saving graces in ID,” he assures us by way of understatement, and then goes on to dissect the “duplicity of ID proponents” such as Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson and the sociologist William Dembski. As an intellectual exercise, the deployment of Darwinism to do away with creationism is akin to showing off a steamroller’s power by rolling over a doodle bug. But Darwinism is not a steamroller. It’s a humanistic view of life rooted in scientifically verifiable principles. And what’s really the point of squashing a doodle bug when there are larger beasts with which to do battlelike God? But Ayala won’t go there. Instead of confronting the God question, Ayala bows respectfully to it. In The God Delusion Dawkins roundly denounces “a widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts,” and that’s the idea that “religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally JUNE 1, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25