Although Darwin could find sublimity even in ants or worms, the word "Darwinian" has largely been taken to signify a disenchanted world driven by chance and heartless competition. Countering the pervasive view that the facts of Darwin's world must lead to a disenchanting vision of it, Levine shows that Darwin's ideas and the language of his books offer an alternative form of enchantment, a world rich with meaning and value, and more wonderful and beautiful than ever before. Without minimizing or sentimentalizing the harsh qualities of life governed by natural selection, and without deifying Darwin, Levine makes a moving case for an enchanted secularism--a commitment to the value of the natural world and the human striving to understand it.
Ridley recounts the hundred years' war between the partisans of nature and nurture to explain how this paradoxical creature, the human being, can be simultaneously free-willed and motivated by instinct and culture. With the decoding of the human genome, we now know that genes not only predetermine the broad structure of the brain, they also absorb formative experiences, react to social cues, and even run memory. They are consequences as well as causes of the will.
The latest incarnation of creationism, dubbed intelligent design (or ID), has taken advantage of this situation. It portrays an evolutionary process that is constantly guided—especially in its upward direction—by the hand of an unseen Creator, who is able to ensure that it ends up producing humans. Creatures of Accident attacks the antiscience ID worldview, mainly by building a persuasive picture of how "unaided" evolution produces advanced creatures from simple ones by an essentially accidental process. Having built this picture, in the final chapter the book reflects on its religious implications.