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Writing the Future

Judyth Willis reviews Writing the Future: Progress and Evolution, edited by David Rothenberg and Wandee J. Pryor

image, Writing the Future: Progress and Evolution, edited by David Rothenberg and Wandee J. PryorWriting the Future: Progress and Evoluation—the latest in the Terra Nova series of "Writing..."—is the sort of book that makes you want to run into the science department of a high school or a community college and talk them into using it as a textbook. While every selection speaks to the issue of progress and evolution, it is the diversity of the writings and art that would clearly serve to create a spark in each student of the most diverse classroom. The readings bring forth ideas for discussion, unanswered questions, and passionate refutations. There is no doubt that David Rothenberg, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Wandee J. Pryor, Managing Editor of the Terra Nova book series, understand the combination needed to bring the reader to wonder.

What is the answer to the question, “Where is evolution going?” as Theodore Roszak asks in the first piece, "Wallace’s Dilemma: Evolution and Transcendence." In addressing Wallace’s argument against Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest, he makes it seem reasonable that we have gone past the ability of machines (read computers) to help us. When he writes, “The machines are behind us, not ahead,” Roszak shows such a thorough acquaintance with all the evolution theorists from Darwin to Carl Sagan, that those of us who come from the humanities side of the house feel secure due to his even, clear style of writing.

The selections of poetry interspersed throughout greet the reader as a surprise. Simmons B. Buntin’s sensitive and knowledgeable poem “Letters from Charles Darwin to His Sister, Catherine” is the perfect foil to Roszak’s essay. The poem makes Darwin seem alive and very human. And Andrew Schelling’s poem, “Lascaux. Pech Merle. Chauvet.” gives added vision to Ellen Dissanayake’s essay on the same caves. From first to the last, the works inspire the reader to read further, and while this isn’t a book you would recommend to a scientist or someone who works with primary sources on evolution, it does a fine job of introducing readers to an historical time line of sorts. In naming those who have made it their work to uncover the issues surrounding progress and evolution, this book should be considered a valuable primer on the subject and a viable option in the teaching of the science of evolution.


Judith Willis teaches English at Vail High School in Tucson, Arizona. Her essay, "A Panegyric," appeared in Terrain.org's Issue No. 13.
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Writing the Future: Progress and Evolution

edited by David Rothenberg and
Wandee J. Pryor

   The MIT Press
   June 2004
   ISBN 0262182351



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