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Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution Paperback – March 15, 2013
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About the Author
This book began as a collaboration between Robert M. Price, an atheist, and Edwin A. Suominen, then a believing but troubled Christian who was wrestling with what he perceived as a grave conflict between evolution and his inherited faith. Having both accepted the reality of evolution, they agreed to research its theological implications and the various ways that Christian writers have tried to smooth things over. Bob holds a PhD in systematic theology from Drew University (1981) and a PhD in New Testament from Drew (1993). He is the author of over a dozen books and his own New Testament translation. He occasionally attends Episcopalian services where he sings, enjoys the stained glass, and keeps his mouth shut. Ed holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington (1995), where his senior project wound up being the subject of fourteen U.S. patents, among several others he holds. He has retired from practice as a registered patent agent to write books rather than patents, for this one devoting himself to a year of personal study about evolutionary science and its intersection with theology.
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"Evolving out of Eden" is an outstanding book that demonstrates how the overwhelming strength of evolution has challenged the very core foundational doctrines of Christianity. This book is a comprehensive look at the theological attempts to deal with the impact of evolution for Christian belief and the authors' well-grounded direct retorts. Robert M. Price and Edwin A. Suominen, provide readers with an accessible, intellectual treat. This 352-page book is beautifully laid out around three main branches of theology impacted by evolution: 1. The Word, 2. The Creature, and 3. The Creator.
1. Engaging, well-researched and well-written book that is accessible to the masses. A touch of humor to boot.
2. Two of my favorite topics wrapped beautifully in one book: the grand theory of evolution and religion.
3. An excellent format. Each chapter begins with a great chapter-appropriate quote (epigraph) followed up immediately with a short narrative of what to expect in said chapter.
4. The authors rely and make excellent use of the minds of giants. Great quotes abound, "It's hard for any attempt at objectivity to compete with felt knowledge, whose power cannot be underestimated, even when it exists independently of reason or any confirming evidence." - Robert Burton.
5. An excellent introduction that captures the essence of the book and what is at stake here. They introduce the types of creationists
6. The grand and elegant theory of evolution once again takes center stage. No matter how many books I read about evolution it never ceases to amaze me its power of explanation. This book is a wonderful confirmation. Many great examples.
7. One of the pleasures of this book is the enjoyment of reading clever retorts, "If we came from apes, why are there still apes around? To which one might well ask why there are still Jews if Christianity came from Judaism." A bonus, "Saying that new species don't evolve because you haven't see it happen is like sitting on a lawn for an afternoon and concluding that the grass isn't growing."
8. The irrelevance of the Bible in our scientific age. A look at three aspects of the biblical universe: the heaven above, the earth below, and the structure propping it all up. Great stuff!
9. Original Sin, young-earth creationism get demolished! "But the reality of evolution erases all traces of a historical Adam, and therefore of any historical Fall."
10. The case for man's primate origins has been bolstered by a prodigious amount of scientific evidence. "With just a few exceptions, the chromosomes from humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are highly similar and can be aligned with one another." "We are what our genes evolved us to be..."
11. Good use of evolution to answer or contemplate the big philosophical questions. It also introduces new questions or implications, "So let's take a moment to shine a flashlight on the never-mentioned implications of the belief of many theistic evolutionists, that the human soul appeared somewhere in the evolution of Homo sapiens from these uncouth hairy ancestors."
12. An interesting look at Christian doctrines. Thought-provoking and challenges to theists. Price at his strongest.
13. A look at sin in general. "There is virtually no known human behavior that we call sin that is not also found among nonhuman animals."
14. The argument from design gets battered around. "What's amusing about Paley's watch argument is that it defeats itself. Let's imagine his original situation. He's walking in a field and discovers the watch. It looks out of place, different from the plants and rocks. But if it looks different from nature because it looks designed, then nature must not look designed. You can't argue on the one hand that the watch looks remarkable and stands out from the natural background, and on the other that the watch looks similar to nature, so both must be designed." Brilliant!
15. Vestigial evolutionary traits...always a personal favorite topic.
16. Quantum apologetics. Say what? Oh it's covered too. It's role in evolution.
17. Natural selection and animal cruelty. Parasites!
18. An entire chapter on how Christian evolutionists handle damage control. "Those who fear the facts will forever try to discredit the fact-finders." Great stuff.
19. Excellent chapter on conclusions. Cultural evolution, memes.
20. Links and a comprehensive bibliography.
1. A cast of characters or a table illustrating the main beliefs of said characters mentioned frequently in the book would have given readers a helpful reference. Once you get into the rhythm of the book, it becomes less of an issue. The introduction does a great job of presenting the main characters of the book but a cheat-sheet of sorts never hurts.
2. It had to end and having to buy extra copies for friends!
In summary, this was a personal treat. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover and wished I had read it the day it came out. The authors did a wonderful job of responding eloquently and directly to evolution-savvy theologians. The concept of Original Sin gets demolished along with the design argument. But it's the desperate attempt to reconcile faith with science that takes the most direct blow. A lot of fun to read while simultaneously obtaining knowledge, the wise thing to do is to get this book. I highly recommend it!
Further recommendations: "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" by Eugenie C. Scott, "The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood" by David R. Montgomery, "Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?" by George C. Cunningham, "The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism" by A.C. Grayling, "Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story" by Jim Holt, "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts" by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, "Religion Explained" by Pascal Boyer, "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us" by Victor J. Stenger, "Monkey Girl" by Edward Humes, "Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA" by Daniel J. Fairbanks, "Only a Theory" by Kenneth R. Miller, "Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)" by Matt Young, and "The Making of the Fittest" by Sean B. Carroll.
The book details the theological issues raised by evolution, and critically examines attempts to harmonize evolutionary theory and Christianity. The book is scholarly in its thoroughness, is extensively footnoted and referenced, but at the same time is fascinating and readable. I even learned a few things about the biology that I did not know. Price and Suominen have written a wonderful book.
While this book's intended audience seems to be curious Christians, I think that atheists who are curious to know more about our intellectual opponents' positions would benefit from reading the book.
Price's coauthor is one Edwin Suominen whom I had never heard of before. His contributions to the book seem to have been twofold. Firstly, he seems to have done the technical and scientific heavy lifting. Price, by his own admission, is not the most scientifically or mathematically gifted of men, so he seems to have leaned heavily on Suominen for the discussions of evolutionary and quantum theory. Secondly, he is a former evangelical who came to reluctantly accept the truth of evolution and the fatal effect it had on his faith. Thus, his personal insights inform the discussion about the effects of evolution on Christians as a group.
Despite being a coauthor one gets the impression that the bulk of the book took form on Price's computer. The book reads like a typical Price book. It has all the humor, biting sarcasm (sometimes a little too biting), and various pop culture references like Star Trek and Superman. In other words, quite accessible to the intelligent layman.
The book deals primarily with the threat that evolution poses for the Christian faith and why Christians have reacted in the ways they have. Interestingly, the book deals almost exclusively with *informed* Christian reaction, that is by Christians that actually understand the concepts of evolutionary theory. Thus, we are treated to the attempts of sophisticated theologians and believing scientists to square the overwhelming evidence for evolution with their Christian faith. Outright deniers of evolution are dismissed, well, outright.
The authors put their cards squarely on the table. They do not believe that Christianity and evolution are compatible and have abandoned the former as a result. Despite this the reader gets the impression that they are giving the other side a fair hearing.
The book is highly recommended whichever side the reader comes down on. The Christian will come away with a much better understanding of the challenge evolution poses for his faith while the non-believer will be exposed to, perhaps for the first time, much more sophisticated efforts to make Christianity and evolution compatible.
The Kindle edition is first rate with a few flaws, one minor, one major. Firstly, the progress bar is a little sparse; it should have had the sub-chapters as well as the chapters marked on it. Secondly, although the explanatory footnotes are linked, the references are not. This will be a big annoyance for someone who wants to follow the references.