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Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution Hardcover – June 10, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on his fundamentalist upbringing and experience teaching physics at an evangelical college, Giberson has a native understanding of how conservative Christians feel and think about evolution. As a Christian evolutionist, he finds himself occupying a frequently misunderstood middle ground in the midst of a culture war, fought with culture-war weapons by culture warriors. Behind the culture war, Giberson sketches an engaging historical narrative including Darwin's background in intelligent design, what really happened at the Scopes monkey trial and how catastrophist geology derived from Seventh Day Adventism found an audience among the evangelical mainstream in the post-Sputnik era. By tackling the debate in cultural as well as scientific terms, Giberson does greater justice to the motivations of Christians who reject evolution. Yet he does not conceal his frustration—on theological as well as scientific grounds—with the rubbish of scientific creationism, which has climbed onto the radar screens of American intellectual culture only as a bad joke. Giberson's sarcasm, however honestly come by, may cause the book to alienate an evangelical audience it might otherwise engage. (June)
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“Sensitively written and convincingly argued. . . . [A] truly courageous work.” (Library Journal)
“Karl Giberson skillfully unravels the tangled skein of argument about creation and evolution, showing that there need be no incompatibility between Christianity and Darwinism. His writing is lively, in a style that is both informal and informed. This is a book that many will find helpful.” (John Polkinghorne, author of Belief in God in an Age of Science)
“Karl Giberson skillfully unravels the tangled skein of argument about creation and evolution, showing that there need be no incompatibility between Christianity and Darwinism. His writing is lively, in a style that is both informal and informed. This is a book that many will find helpful.” (Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin)
“A much-needed book . . . a powerful contribution.” (Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.)
“Giberson has a native understanding of how conservative Christians feel and think about evolution . . . he sketches an engaging historical narrative. (Publishers Weekly)
Giberson posesses a boundless inquisitiveness typical of many scientiests, but also displays the wry wit of a seasoned polemicist. He seems to know how to counteract your best arguments before you have even made them. (Salon.com)
“An intensely personal account of [Giberson’s] intellectual journey from creationism to the acceptance of evolution . . . By situating his own story in the context of larger social and scientific developments, Giberson’s book can serve as a guide for other Christians on a similar trek.” (Edward J. Larson, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and the American Controversy over Creation and Evolution.)
“A poignant account of [Giberson’s] Christian pilgrimage from Creationist to Evolutionist. He offers a sympathetic historical analysis laced with trenchant criticism of both misguided intelligent design advocates and hard core atheists.” (Kenneth R. Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown University, and author of Finding Darwin's God)
“Giberson makes the case, persuasively and with considerable wit, that there’s no irreconcilable conflict between robust Christian faith and evolutionary biology, rightly understood. This is a wonderfully readable book: humane, modest, and wise.” (John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture)
“Karl Giberson here presents a poignant account of his Christian pilgrimage from Creationist to Evolutionist. He offers a sympathetic historical analysis laced with trenchant criticism of both misguided intelligent design advocates and hard core atheists.” (Owen Gingerich, author of God's Universe, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy & History of Science, Harvard University)
Giberson attacks the conundrum [of evolution] with eloquence and clarity. (Washington Post)
“One of the best books of 2008” (The Washington Post Book World, 2008 Holiday Guide)
“Giberson . . . provides an edifying summary of the tenets and the flaws of modern creationism . . . and raises a valuable alarm about the dangers facing American science and culture.” (New Republic)
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The author also approvingly quotes (e.g. p.10) philosopher Dennett's phrase "Darwin's dangerous idea", meant jokingly to imply no danger to the idea. But as the preceding indicates, the idea is not merely dangerous, but disastrous. Danger concerns the potential, whereas disaster concerns the actual. Contrary to the author and that philosopher, many see Darwinism as responsible for, foreseen or not, the unequalled mass-killings of the 20th century. The author complains (p.83): "Tragically...the most preposterous charges are leveled against [Darwin]", quoting an "anti-evolutionary": "If evolution is true, then we are simply a product of time and chance, and there is no morality and no intrinsic worth to human life". Preposterous?
The author also (p.155) regards Dennett as one of "seekers after truth", although the latter's virulent atheism seems to qualify him at best as an adherent, not a truth-seeker. He is, however, excused and praised by the author, who while professing belief in God shares with him a worship of Darwin, which is as extensive with the author as with anyone I know about. He calls Darwin "the nineteenth century's greatest scientist" (p.33) or "one of the greatest scientists who ever lived" (p.40), accepting Darwinism lock, stock, and barrel. He accordingly holds in contempt even restricted criticism of it, e.g. by Intelligent Design, as "offering simplistic alternatives" (p.82). Intelligent Design is known to contend that the structure of organisms in order to function is so complex that it presupposes an intelligent designer. Darwinism of course contrariwise contends "that something so feeble and obviously purposeless as blind natural selection [accomplishes] that remarkable task" (p.54).
To defend against intelligent design, Darwinians have recently been accumulating hordes of denials of intelligence in designs of organisms. For instance, the author writes (p.199) about "the way our hands and feet are so similar to the forelimbs of other mammals"; "we might expect to discover entirely unrelated configurations of bones. After all, what we do with our appendages bears little resemblance to what bats do with theirs. What we find, however, is the same configuration modified for different purposes". Since this is not what "we might expect", he has the "simplistic" answer: it is bad design. How presumptuous. Inventors like Leonardo have for centuries failed to design human wings duplicating the flight of birds, or bats. Another complaint (p.163): "our eye has a blind spot". But this is in no way apparent in our vision; what then is the detriment?
Speaking of a blind spot, an incomparably more significant one looms, which fully discredits Darwin's "purposeless", "blind natural selection". This blind spot handicaps both Darwinians and their design opponents, and is one I have, so far unsuccessfully, tried to bring to attention in these reviews and elsewhere. It is that the inquirers needlessly argue for or against purpose in organisms regarding their structure. If attention is, rather, shifted to their behavior, the behavior's purposefulness is immediately obvious, as one directed toward their preservation. From this is easily inferred equal purpose in their formation, adaptation, etc., contra Darwin.
My marking a second star for the author is motivated by his relative fairness in criticizing (p.172) both sides of a dispute over a U.S. Senate bill concerning the teaching of evolution: "the goal of the protagonists is to win, not to discover the truth..."
The relevance of this to the book at hand is that it gives me some idea about why there is virtually nothing in what Giberson writes that, for me, relates to being a _Christian_, as distinct from a believer in "God": that is, Nazarenes are not as focused on the centrality of Christ as Lutherans are. (I do not mean to disparage Giberson's faith in Christ.) But as I read the book and, now having finished it, reflect upon it, I wish that the subtitle had eschewed "Christian" and just said "How to Believe in Evolution and Also in God" or something like that, which would have given a more accurate idea of the book's achievement.
I became aware of the book from seeing something in Books and Culture, which is associated with the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. Persons considering Saving Darwin who are hoping for a book that will help them with the topic of evolution, as written by an evangelical, should be aware that Giberson basically writes simply as a theist -- hardly as an evangelical Christian, or, I would say, as a _Christian_ at all.
Moreover, much of the book is a readable historical review of conflicts between creation science-type folks and scientists who affirm evolution. It's interesting, if familiar, stuff, but it doesn't help all that much with the topic suggested by the subtitle. Even the title is kind of misleading. "Saving Darwin," in the context of what the book actually does, seems to mean "Trying to Get Darwin Some Respect from Christians." That's not a bad idea, and in that effort the author succeeds. But that's not what evangelicals probably will think they are buying if they order this book.
A Christian prepared to accept evolution has need, from a book with the subtitle of this one, for some indications, at least, of how he can still believe
--that man was created in the image of God (ignored by Giberson unless, despite a careful reading, I missed it)
--that as sin and death came by one man, so salvation comes by one Man, Christ, the Second Adam
--that if the Old Testament contains myths (I believe Giberson uses the term "fairy tales"), there is a way to avoid relativizing these biblical myths as the same sort of thing as in other religions, with the inevitable inference that other religions or even any religion may be equivalent to Christianity
And also Giberson ought to come forward with them, if there are any biblical passages (including sayings of Jesus) supportive of evolution. If not, what was God's intention in giving us the Bible? Is the Bible still Holy Scripture?
Finally, although the tone improves as the book continues, I object to the author's description of God's "divine tantrums" in the Old Testament (p. 49), and his remark that the biblical God, when He had finished creating, "[took] a day off to do God knows what" (p. 53). Even if Genesis is a myth in some sense, the wise guy tone is inappropriate.
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