Creation or Evolution: Do we have to choose? New edition
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"Very timely, thoughtful, thorough and full of integrity. It speaks the languages of both science and faith in a remarkably clear and accessible way." (John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford 2014-11-27)
"A masterful and enlightening journey through both the relevant biblical text and the science underlying evolution." (Andrew P. Halestrap, Professor of Biochemistry, University of Bristol 2014-11-27)
"A fresh and massive contribution to an important debate … no Christian interested in the questions of origins can ignore this book." (Julian Hardyman, Senior Pastor, Eden Baptist Church 2014-11-27)
"Immensely valuable … a thoughtful and thought-provoking work." (The Tablet 2014-11-27)
About the Author
- Publisher : Monarch Books; New edition (September 19, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0857215787
- ISBN-13 : 978-0857215789
- Item Weight : 1.36 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.43 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #705,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Note that this book is a heavily expanded 2nd edition; it has much more information on the genetics of human evolution that reflects the explosion of information ion this areas since the 1st edition.
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.
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.
Top reviews from other countries
The job of scientists is to think God's thoughts after Him. Science must be allowed the fullest scope in enquiry consistent with ethics. We as scientists are in awe of the wonders of our universe and its fruitful potentiality. Amen.
I learned a great deal about what genetics can tell us, which is amazing. Anyone who is suspicious of "scientific evidence" should read this. Also found the theology interesting and thoroughly understood. All in all,very helpful to any scientist who is a Christian struggling to explain to creationist friends.