Book Review – Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?

Cover of "Creation or Evolution: Do We Ha...

Cover via Amazon

More than a year ago I was lent this book by the pastor and I have eventually finished it (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creation-Evolution-Do-Have-Choose/dp/1854247468). The book is held up by some as a refreshing view on the relationship between Christianity and Evolution.

I found the book mixed and ultimately disappointing, but there are some good bits in it.

On first handling the book it is clear that the intent is going to be to show how acceptance of evolution does not have to be at the expense of religious belief, specifically Christianity. This aspect interested me, given my journey, so I started the book specifically looking for how it would answer that specific challenge.

Evolution

Most of the book is devoted to explanations of various bits of evolution. By necessity they have to contain a certain amount of technical language. However, I found on the whole that the passages on evolution are lay friendly and do a good job of explaining why evolution is not only a valid theory, but an accurate description of observed fact as best we know it.

The book explains well how evolution is a naturalised process and our knowledge of it has no pre-requisite of any god. The processes we understand are fully explained and there are no missing bits that require the invocation of the supernatural.

Creationism and ID

Creationism and ID are also dealt with effectively, albeit with far fewer pages. They are accurately shown to be scientifically deficient and their need to have a god directly be involved to ‘push the process along’ is shown to be a limiting factor for which there is nothing to show.

One good point that is made in the book is the argument for beauty. Many creationists will look at the world we see now and argue that the beauty there can only have been put there directly by god. I once made precisely those arguments. The book counters by saying that the processes that made us and all we see around us are no less beautiful and they too came from god. When a creationist views the world and sees beauty and says it must come from god, they are by implication saying that the long processes that made the beauty they see can not be beautiful because they don’t believe god did it that way.

This is a dangerous way of thinking because it creates a closed mind and stops that believer from fully appreciating the glory of their god’s creation.

The book explains well why creationism and ID are not valid.

Tying Evolution and Christianity

So the big question I wanted to book to answer was, given the above, how does the author, who professes his faith at several points throughout the book, demonstrate that belief in god is consistent with evolution and, more specifically, show that there is a logical reason to hold that view. Sadly, the answer just doesn’t come.

No matter how much I wanted to see an argument for god, it just didn’t happen.

Conclusion

The book successfully argues for the science of evolution and against the god of creationism. As a result it has confirmed my position as an atheist and done nothing at all to tempt me back to faith. I suspect the author would be disappointed, but he should not be surprised.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review – Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?

  1. Let me admit, at the beginning, that I have not read the book. However, I have read some of the online writings of Denis Alexander.

    I suspect the author would be disappointed, but he should not be surprised.

    I think that he would not be surprised. I suspect that his main target audience consisted of creationists and ID proponents. He wants them to embrace evolution.

    It’s my impression that Alexander sees creationism as a faith killer. Your own experience supports this. A more moderate theology that embraces science (including evolution) might not win over many atheists, but it would be less likely to cause a rejection of faith by those who later are confronted with the scientific evidence.

    • Hi Neil,

      That’s a very good point. If his target audience is the literal Christian who struggles with evolution, then the book makes more sense and the underlying assumption that the Christian god exists needs no further explanation.

      However, I do wonder if the thinking creationist would still make the logical steps I did above and end up as a non believer as a result.

      • In her book “Awesome God”, Sara Maitland encourages religious people to embrace what can be learnt from science:
        “Start with ‘God exists’ and everything we can learn will tell us more about God. ”

        I have found that as I have explored all aspects of science that logic has preserved my belief in God rather than undermining it, but has better shaped my understanding of who and what God is. i suspect that few people today stop to consider what we actually mean by ‘God’….

  2. The trouble with starting with ‘God exists’ is that it creates a starting point for which there is no testable or falsifiable scientific hypothesis. It doesn’t matter what the claim is, if you’re trying to do science and you base that science on such an assumption, you’re going to be in trouble.

    By that logic budda, rama, allah, thor or any deity you wish to invent could also be included. Its really not a good way to start science because it creates a scenario where the un-provable being can be invoked for anything that’s not completely understood.

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