The Neck of the Giraffe
by Francis Hitching
Reviewed by Darryl Jones, B.Nat.Res.(Hons.)
With the sub-title ‘Where Darwin Went Wrong’, it is likely that this book will attract the attention of a wide audience in the present atmosphere of debate over creation/evolution. The probable success of the book would be due to its apparent ‘neutral’ stance, providing a balanced summary of both sides of the debate.
It is not an anti-evolution book: Hitching states quite clearly his belief that ‘evolution of life over a very long period of time is a fact’ (page 12). He hits out at classical Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, and the importance of natural selection. At the same time he states his abhorrence for what he regards as the simple ‘for and against’ type of argument of the creationists.
The book is largely a guided tour through the various alternatives to creation as an explanation for the diversity of life we see about us. Its main interest to creation scientists is its broad critique of the accepted processes of evolution from one who has found the foundation of his belief in evolution to be crumbling in parts, and at times even non-existent.
Perhaps many will have difficulty with Hitching’s credentials. He is a populariser of ‘unexplained phenomena’—yet his writing is mostly clear, and very readable. Although his journalistic style can be frustratingly general or occasionally misleading, he is largely an excellent educator and expounds his points well. The inclusion of separate panels throughout the book to explain in detail important points is useful, providing easy access to major problems in current evolutionary theory.
An entire chapter is devoted to creationism and he even uses the criticisms of creationists to support his own arguments. Although his treatment is unexpectedly mild, his conclusions about creation science are really less than kind.
He accuses creationists of the same ‘abracadabra’ style of explaining away difficulties as he found the neo-Darwinists doing. It should be said in this that he is not wholly wrong.
Hitching’s major obstacle is the creationists’ use of scripture, which he claims adds an unassailable aspect to their arguments. According to him, creationists may be asking the right questions, but they have not provided answers acceptable to him. It is unfortunate that creation scientists (especially those he quotes) are denied the opportunity to reply to his criticisms, an opportunity denied also to many other authorities represented in the book.
There is much at issue in this pseudo-objective treatment of creation science which heightens the need for a clearer enunciation of attitudes and views from creation scientists. Nevertheless, I thoroughly recommend the book, if for no other reason than its excellent collection of valuable and illuminating quotations collected by the writer from a very broad field of published works and private communications. These in themselves make The Neck of the Giraffe an invaluable guide through past errors of confident evolutionism, via the first murmurs of discontent up to the present state of fervent controversy.