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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We do not have to choose
This book is primarily for Christians who are seeking a better understanding of the current creation-evolution debate. The author, who is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, begins by assuming that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.

Dr. Alexander then tackles his subject systematically,...
Published on August 4, 2008 by Paul R. Bruggink

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Faith In Search of A Reason
Denis Alexander rightly corrects the misconceptions some conservative Christians have about Darwinian Evolution. This book is written to Christians who need to find a way to reconcile their view of the Bible with the scientific evidence.

For most people this is not necessary. They do not expect the writers of the Bible to be correct on all matters of...
Published 7 months ago by Kevin Oneill


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62 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We do not have to choose, August 4, 2008
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Paul R. Bruggink (Clarington, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Paperback)
This book is primarily for Christians who are seeking a better understanding of the current creation-evolution debate. The author, who is the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St. Edmund's College, Cambridge, begins by assuming that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God.

Dr. Alexander then tackles his subject systematically, starting with biblical interpretation, then the biblical doctrine of creation, then three chapters on "What do we mean by evolution?" His discussion of the supporting evidence for evolution is the best and most up-to-date that I've yet seen in the popular press. He then spends a chapter defending evolution against common objections, such as:
* Evolution is a chance process and this is incompatible with the God of the Bible bringing about his purposeful plan of creation.
* The theory of evolution is not truly scientific because it does not involve repeatable experiments in the laboratory.
* Evolution runs counter to the second law of thermodynamics.
* Perhaps God makes things took old, although in reality they are much younger, in order to test our faith.
* What use is half an eye?
* Surely if evolution were true, God would have simply told us so in his Word so that we don't need to have all this discussion.
* Perhaps God made the original kinds by special acts of creation which then underwent rapid evolution to generate the species diversity that we see today.

In bringing together Adam & Eve and evolution, he presents the same five models (A-E) that he described in his paper at the joint meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation and Christians-in-Science in Edinburgh in 2007. He favors his Model C, in which "God in his grace chose a couple of Neolithic farmers in the near East . . . to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself - so that they might know him as a personal God." Model C is consistent with the historical and biblical records. So is a local flood saving those who "walked with God." The calling of Adam & Eve to be the recipients of God's specific commands set the pattern for all the other specific people subsequently called by God for God's specific purpose, including Abraham, Moses and Mary.

In his discussion of death before the Fall, he makes the point that "nowhere in the Old Testament is there the slightest suggestion that the physical death of either animals or humans, after a reasonable span of years, is anything other than the normal pattern ordained by God for this earth."

Chapter 14 (Intelligent Design) does as good a demolition of ID as science as I have seen anywhere, and better than most. He also describes Simon Conway Morris's concept of evolutionary convergence ("Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe").

There is a brief discussion of accommodation (God giving his Word in language that his people could understand), with virtually no mention of Ancient Near East cosmology, which is treated very well in Gordon Glover's "Beyond the Firmament," or the problems of scientific concordism (the Bible teaches the facts of science), which is treated very well in Denis Lamoureux's "Evolutionary Creation". It also has a relatively weak discussion of how we know that the earth is very old, but after all, he is a biochemist. Despite these minor shortcomings, this is an excellent book for Christians, especially Young Earth, Day-Age and Progressive Creationists, who have doubts about their current position but greater doubts about the compatibility of the Bible and biological evolution.

A friend of mine used to say that you have to tell someone something three times before they really get it. If you're like that (or if you're over 65 like me and can't remember what you read last week), I highly recommend reading this book plus Gordon Glover's "Beyond the Firmament" and Denis Lamoureux's "Evolutionary Creation" in order to "get it."
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A neat "both/and" solution, February 2, 2009
This review is from: Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Paperback)
I enjoyed this book. Its great merit is that it affirms both great science and great faith. The one can, and does, benefit the other. Alexander takes us back to the idea of the scientist as one who explores the workings of God's universe. This book gets us away from the sterile either/or thinking of the evangelical atheists and the militant creationists.

The book echoes echoes thoughts from Michael Ruse (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) who from a philosophical background shows that Christian faith and evolutionary biology are compatible, and Francis Collins (The Mind of God) who also has no problem reconciling his biological knowledge and his belief in God.

Alexander is particularly good at showing how DNA changes can generate genetic diversity which is the substrate for evolution. He also shows how natural selection is likely to be a conservative force on most occasions.

Alexander takes evolution back to its original role as a biological theory that explained the formation of new species from existing ones. As such evolution is a powerful theory, with great explanatory power. His account of species formation, and the examples provided are excellent.

Alexander is also good at showing how the idea of evolution has been exteneded to ends far beyond its biological use. The right with its belief in survival of the fittest businesses and individuals, the left with its idea of human perfectibility and inevitable historical progress, the Nazis with their idea of "lives not fit to be lived", the atheist materialist who must deny any idea of design or purpose all use evolution far beyond its intended, or valid, remit.

This book is both an excellent account of evolution, and a demonstration that science and religion can be successfully and effectively pursued together.

The two possible areas of weakness in the book are the section on the origin of life and its summary dismissal of the arguments of intelligent design.

Overall however this is a useful book, and one that allows scientists to get on with studying evolution together whatever their religious differences may be. It helps to build a very powerful bridge across the false divide presented by those who prefer to talk about, "science versus religion."
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable Treatment, April 16, 2010
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M. Edwards (Tainan, Taiwan) - See all my reviews
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Maybe I could give this fine book a five except I'm not smart enough to process a lot of the science that is related here! Anyway, I'll attempt a humble review. In his thought-provoking work "Proper Confidence", the late Lesslie Newbigin draws some conclusions which I think also relate to Denis Alexander's excellent book: (1) "To look outside of the gospel for a starting point for the demonstration of the reasonableness of the gospel is itself a contradiction of the gospel, for it implies that we look for the logos elsewhere than in Jesus" (p. 94); (2) "Our lives are shaped not by the confidence that we know enough of the laws of nature to chart our course with certainty, but by a faith (which can always be questioned) in the one whose story it is" (p. 73); (3) "As a Christian, my understanding of the truth must be constantly open to revision and correction, but--and this is the crucial point--only and always within the irreversible commitment to Jesus Christ. If that commitment is questioned, then I am once again a clueless wanderer in the darkness, bamboozled by the products of my own imagination." (p. 70)

In the spirit of Newbigin's conclusions above, Alexander approaches the scientific task with a firm faith in God as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. He speaks passionately throughout this book of "God's patience and his power in bringing the present created order into being through the evolutionary process." (p. 190) "There is nothing in the created order without exception that is not created and sustained by God." (p. 320) And "it is not particularly helpful to think of God as tweaking the occasional mutation here, or bringing about the extinction of a species there, because the unavoidable implication from such a suggestion is that then God is less involved in some other aspect of the process. If the immanence of God in the created order means anything, then it means God's working through all the processes of the evolutionary process without exception, in the billions of years when (to our minds not much was happening on the earth and things were very small, just as much as in the Cambrian explosion when life became more diverse and interesting (again to our minds) and as much again as in the relatively rapid process of evolution that led eventually to our own appearance on the planet. In other words, God is the author of the whole story of creation, not just of bits of it." (187)

In spite of his strong faith, or perhaps precisely because of it, Alexander comes out strongly against insecure "fundamentalists [who] do a disservice to the gospel when as sometimes happens they adopt a style of certainty more in the tradition of Descartes than in the truly evangelical spirit." (p. 70) Sometimes? His postscript is especially scathing of the attitudes of many well-intentioned Christians toward science, quoting Augustine as others such as Francis Collins have done in recent years.

On the other hand, Alexander comes out just as strong against Richard Dawkins and his ilk with their unscientific, illogical propagandistic style: "if the `evolution' word is linked with the `atheism' idea long enough, then eventually people will think that one implies the other." (p. 180)

An early conclusion drawn midway through this book states "the geographical distribution of species, the existence of ongoing speciation events, the fossil record, comparative anatomy and, above all, genomics, all provide an immense array of persuasive data in support of common descent with variation." (p. 137) Alexander moves on from there to examine different biblical creation perspectives and related theological questions, concluding with a vague but helpful discussion of the present understanding of science on the "Origin of Life" issue. In summary, definitely read this book, but you'll need to read it multiple times and/or several others as well to even begin to get a grasp of the issues.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-Rate Book by a Christian and a Scholar, July 13, 2012
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This review is from: Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? (Paperback)
This book is written by a man well qualified to discuss both sides of the creation-evolution debate. A strong evangelical Christian who is committed to the authority of Scripture as God's Word, he is also a biochemist within the Cambridge University community and brings to the discussion a strong background in genetics. Denis Alexander shows that one can be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and still accept the discoveries and understandings of modern science, as the two really do not conflict.

Rather than provide a chapter-by-chapter review, I'll instead mention the points that I found most powerful. Dr. Alexander discusses radioactive dating methods and refutes the young-earth creationist contention that they are based on circular reasoning, explaining that radioactive dating is accurate to within about 2%. So, if the age of the earth is estimated at about 4.6 billion years, it may actually be anywhere between about 4.5 billion and 4.7 billion. But it's not 6,000! He points out that more than one type of chemical element can be tested, so when two or more radioactive dating methods yield approximately the same age for a rock, we can be very confident that we have an accurate estimate.

Bringing his scientific training to bear on human evolution, Dr. Alexander discusses at length just what DNA is and how it works. Later on in the book, he draws on this information to show that, far from being a process blindly driven by random chance as creationists claim, evolution is actually very much a constrained and directed process that unfolds along a small number of pathways.

A good part of the book is devoted to dealing with young-earth creationism and "intelligent design." Doubtless many creationists will accuse Dr. Alexander of creating straw men in these sections, but I think he tries to deal fairly with both young-earth creationism and intelligent design. One of his more devastating criticisms regarding the former is that, having argued that evolution could not occur over even billions of years, young-earth creationists are forced to maintain that it occurred in just a few thousand years after the Genesis flood as the various "kinds" branched out across the earth. He points out the inherent moral and theological problem in believing in a God of truth who created the universe only 6,000 years ago, yet made it in such a way as to make us think that it's actually 13.7 billion years old. As regards intelligent design, Dr. Alexander points out that the linchpin of "irreducible complexity" is really not an obstacle because organisms often evolve redundant genes, proteins, organs or whatever. Once enough of the various parts have become available, it's a simple thing to put them together to make an eye, or a bacterial flagellum, or whatever. He points out that intelligent design becomes, in effect, another "God of the gaps" theory in which everything that science can't yet explain somehow becomes irrefutable evidence for creation, intelligent design or whatever. This is dangerous ground for Christians, for all that is needed is for science to discover an answer to any mystery and their position then becomes discredited.

One other point that strongly impressed me was the wide diversity of viewpoints within Church history before Darwin concerning Genesis. Not until Darwin came upon the scene did Christians begin insisting upon the fundamentalist interpretation of Genesis. Augustine argued against dogmatism in this area on the grounds that if new knowledge came to light, it would be foolish for the Church to insist upon converts adhering to an understanding of origins that they knew to be wrong. Origen dismissed the literal "day" theory of Genesis, arguing instead for a spiritual or figurative understanding. Both these men lived long before the time of Darwin, so could not possibly have been influenced by him.

Dr. Alexander lists five different ways of understanding Adam and Eve. Whether one agrees with any of them or not, at least Dr. Alexander makes an attempt to deal with what is obviously a major issue for Christian theology. Perhaps the framework he presents will lead to a great deal of fruitful discussion on this question.

I would like to speak to Christians who may be having trouble with this whole issue. All truth is God's truth; there is nothing that you should be afraid to examine or to grapple with. The Nicene Creed speaks of "God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things, visible and invisible." There is no reason why God could not have chosen to employ evolution in his creation and designing of the universe. The ancient Hebrews lived in a simple, pre-modern agricultural society in which nuclear physics would have been completely unfathomable (a lot of us don't really understand it, either). For God to have described creation using modern science would have meant going completely over their heads. (Ditto for the Church Fathers, the Protestant Reformers and many others). There are great spiritual truths in Genesis that we completely miss because we're so concerned with whether everything is literally true.

I happen to accept evolution as an accurate explanation of the origin of life, but I also have no problem believing also in the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. If I'm going to argue with an unbeliever about something, I'll gladly cede the point of evolution and focus instead on the Resurrection. Acknowledging the obvious can actually strengthen our credibility with unbelievers and allow us a hearing on the subject of the Gospel.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary Creation is a viable option for followers of Jesus., May 29, 2013
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Originally I thought that maybe this book was saying that how God created the many species on Earth was not an important thing for many followers of Jesus to decide. Although this is true, Alexander's point is that the evidence is very strong for God being the creator of the universe and being the creator of the evolutionary process.

Much of the book is a discussion of Genesis, Adam and Eve, death, other views of creation which followers of Jesus have, etc.

The book is well written, the ideas are very logical and well presented. There is some science, but not a large percentage of the book. This book can help one who disagrees be more empathetic to the position of evolutionary creationists.

One of the ideas I had not thought of before is on page 330, "...so it is possible that here we have an 'atheism-of-the-gaps' type of argument in which atheists seek to support their disbelief in God based on interpretations of scientific data which appears initially plausible due to lack of knowledge about the data, but appear less believable as our understanding of the process - in this case the evolutionary process - become more complete." (Although some vocal atheists use the argument referred to, it may be that many do no.)
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, sensible and deeply helpful, July 21, 2012
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I only read this book because I started to read the counter-argument (Should Christians Embrace Evolution: Biblical & Scientific Responses) which was on a Creationist bookstall, and I realised I needed to read this one too. I'm glad I did.

This is a good book whether you agree with the views or not, as DA expounds some commonly-held perspectives of Christians working in science. He has been a top-rate scientist for decades, and is also a committed Christian and a well-recognized leader in the community of Christian scientists. For these reasons alone the book should be worth reading, but more than this, he has written a well-constructed and readable account of the relevant science and biblical passages, in particular addressing the issues of Adam and Eve and The Fall.

Chapter 2 is a joy: The Biblical Doctrine of Creation in which DA discusses what the bible reveals of God's immanence in creation, referencing Galileo's comment that so-called `nature' is the `executrix of God's will' - the outworking of God's will (p32). Here is such an expansive vision of God and His creation that has direct application to the daily lives of all Christians here and now, as we seek the coming of God's kingdom in the corner of creation where God has placed us. A Creationist would surely applaud this, but it sits especially well with the idea that God is `big enough' to generate the natural world without interventionist `tricks', since God is taken to be just as present in the everyday as in the miraculous.

After this, Chapters 3 to 5 get into the scientific detail of evolution whilst continuing to view things through Christian spectacles. So, for example (p62), he relates the story of a Cambridge science undergraduate who converted from a completely atheistic background after she sat in a standard (`secular') university biochemistry lecture and was stunned by the beauty of DNA which has evolved over billions of years. I suspect that some Creationists and New Atheists alike would simply not `get' this - that just to appreciate the outcome of `natural processes' should point someone to God (though remember that DA has already expounded the biblical view that `natural processes' are themselves the outworking of God's will - the world is made of HIS materials). So good.

In discussing Genesis he points out that everybody interprets the early chapters figuratively in some sense. So for example, snakes don't eat dust do they? (p167). And most people would surely think that the river out of Eden wouldn't actually branch into four other rivers - rivers don't do that. If we were to take the creation of Eve as being simply a literal divine operation then we will have missed the key figurative point that every preacher makes (and that Jesus himself made) about marriage. In this he is laying the groundwork for a review of how we see Adam and Eve and The Fall, and challenging assumptions. His bible study is very 'Berean'.

He then goes on to postulate how we can reconcile evolution with the bible - particularly with regard to the major areas of who Adam and Eve actually were, and what does The Fall really mean (given that the expression doesn't occur in the bible). He discusses 5 alternative syntheses (`models') of his science and his theology which he then tests against the facts. He says that the models `go well beyond the text itself' (p234), one of which (Homo Divinus) he uses as a working model until `a better model comes along' (p243) and about which he says `It may be wrong' (p274). How's that for being tentative?!

There are more excellent chapters on Theodicy, Intelligent Design and the Origins of Life. In a very brief postscript he bemoans the divisive nature of much Creationist and ID activity, the barriers it raises in outreach and the waste of money in `publishing glossy magazines attacking evolution'.

The vast majority of us are not experts, so it is really helpful to have material like this presented in such a logical and thoughtful way.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexander Addresses the Great Divide, June 28, 2010
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Like Drs. Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins, Alexander is a scientist and an avid theistic evolutionist. All three have written about their religious experiences from their respective personal views. Alexander however, also brings an uncommon depth of scholarly religious knowledge to bear on the subject of theistic evolution. As a result, I find his argument the most compelling that I've seen so far.

He has created a well ordered, information-rich exposition that is worthy of reading straight through from the beginning: his comfortable writing style makes it easy to do so. That said, his Chapter 7, "What about Genesis?", really gets to the heart of the matter; namely, should the Genesis creation account be taken literally or figuratively?

As Alexander points out, Bible literalism is a rather recent cultural phenomenon. Regardless, its proponents argue their position passionately, albeit without the support of history - or simple logic. In fact, if only logic were necessary to win over the Bible literalists, Alexander's argument for a figurative reading would be a slam-dunk. But the tenacity with which they cling to their belief strongly suggests a deep emotional basis rather than an intellectual one.

I am a theistic evolutionist, but I would have rejected a literal reading, even if I weren't, based on just this one verse: "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (Gen 2:20, KJV) Read literally, this verse says my omniscient Lord was clueless, thinking some animal might be a suitable help meet for Adam. Simple logic tells me this is not what the writer intended to convey.

Alexander is also - and primarily - arguing the case for theistic evolution, which is doubly hard in this context. First, because evolution theory refutes a literal reading of Genesis, it is anathema to all Bible literalists - whatever their chosen appellation -- creationist, intelligent design proponent, and the like. Second, the understanding of evolution theory that would necessarily precede acceptance is woefully lacking, especially in the US populace.

In short, Alexander has chosen, colloquially, a "tough row to hoe". I laud him for his effort to combat Bible literalism, but I'm afraid that those who could most benefit from his book are the least likely to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the best available book on this subject which covers both the theology and the science., July 13, 2014
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Dr. Alexander, an evangelical Christian, is the Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. He is also a molecular biologist. In this book, Dr. Alexander covers the Biblical doctrine of creation, Adam and Eve, and the Fall with great care, drawing from numerous sections of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He examines the history of Christian thought on creation, salvation, and how God acts within the world. Turning to science, he examines the evidence for evolution of life over time, and of the common ancestry of life, including the fossil record and DNA evidence, and makes an excellent case for God having used evolution. He also makes a compelling argument why the Intelligent Design movement is making a serious error of category. Throughout this entire book, Dr. Alexander gives heartfelt glory to God for what He reveals in the Bible and within the universe He created.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Thoughtful, January 22, 2013
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I am really enjoying reading this book. It has given me a lot to think about. The author is very thorough in his discussion of topics and he has answered most of my questions. What I like about the book is that in the sections on DNA he explains things in great detail, but in such a way that a lay person with a good grasp of high school biology can understand. He has really helped me solidify my beliefs. This is a written as a treatise to Christians explaining the evolutionary creationism viewpoint.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for anyone interested in the debate, May 2, 2012
This book is an excellent read. I wish every churchgoer would read it. It addresses the many misinterpretations that have hurt the church.
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Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?
Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? by Denis Alexander (Paperback - July 18, 2008)
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