Creation or evolution: Do we have to choose?
Andrew Sibley reviews the recent book by Denis Alexander
The title of this book asks an important question. And, according to the author, the answer for Christians is no, we don’t have to choose. Both creation and evolution are compatible with the Bible as the Word of God. But is he right?Denis Alexander recognises that all Christians accept that microevolution has occurred, even those who follow the Creationist Henry Morris, but the real question – which Alexander downplays – is concerned with the scale, speed and direction of evolution.
Alexander argues that evolution is a universal scientific theory and seeks to adapt Scripture to fit the evolutionary science. For him, Scripture cannot be permitted to shape science, but science is allowed to shape the interpretation of Scripture. I find this approach unsatisfactory, to say the least.
Micro and macro
In radically separating science and faith, Alexander accepts the dualism implicit in Galileo’s position (derived from the Platonism of the Islamic scholar Averroes) and manifested in modern times by the idea that science and faith exist as entirely different, non-overlapping realms of thought. Yet this makes theology subordinate to science.However, Christian theologians such as Thomas Torrance have argued there should be no division between creation and the supernatural, while philosopher Alvin Plantinga maintains that Christians are entitled to conduct theistic science, starting from what is known from faith. But Alexander doesn’t address these important arguments from notable theologians. In his opening chapters Alexander does provide some useful insights on the Genesis creation record, and also provides a helpful account of the microevolution and limited speciation that is observed in nature. There really is some interesting material here.However, having raised interest in observable science, he moves swiftly on to discuss macroevolution – something that is unobserved. Sadly, many readers will not spot the subtle shift in reasoning here but will be blinded by the false authority claimed for science.
At times Alexander speaks of evolution being ‘incontrovertible’, but also admits that scientific explanations of unobserved events can only be ‘consistent with’ the evidence, not proven by it.
Those trained in the physical sciences are well aware of the dangers of extrapolating experimental data into areas where no such data exist. Yet macroevolution is founded on just such an extrapolation – and a huge one at that. The author’s strong commitment to Darwinism, then, is ultimately based on faith in evolution, but he contrives to leave the unfortunate impression that macroevolution is scientifically proven. It is not.
The roots of evolutionary theory
Alexander further argues that evolution was developed as a purely scientific explanation and must therefore be compatible with Christianity. But is this so? Readers of this book may wish to note that Alexander is involved with ‘Theos’ and the Faraday Institute in a project to ‘Rescue Darwin’ from ideology and undermine both atheists and creationists by pronouncing a ‘plague on both their houses’.
Serious researchers will find this approach both ironic and naïve, for it fails to address the fact that ideological concepts profoundly influenced Darwin’s work – ideology that stemmed from economic, social and anti-religious sources such as Thomas Malthus, Auguste Comte, Adam Smith, Erasmus Darwin and David Hume. Much of the book is written in a reasonable manner, but the author adds a deeply regrettable postscript in which he implies that Christians who reject evolution are ‘dangerous’, ‘disgraceful’ and therefore ’embarrassing’ to the gospel. He further asserts that attacking evolution is ‘divisive and splits the Christian community’. The large number of Christians, including professional scientists, who have serious and well-grounded doubts about Darwinism will find this an arrogant statement. Some may feel that his attempt to bully Christian opponents into submission resembles the hubris of a Richard Dawkins rather than the graciousness of the gospel of Christ. Many young people struggle with their faith because they perceive that evolution implies that Christianity, in its reliance on the Bible as God’s Word, is a blind leap in the dark – not being compatible with the ‘scientific’ evidence. For this reason alone, these issues need to be addressed in a respectful and reasoned manner. It is not creationism but Alexander’s own comments that are divisive and unhelpful. I think in hindsight he will regret inserting this postscript. Creation or evolution: Do we have to choose? by Denis Alexander is published by Monarch Books at £10.99 (382 pages; ISBN: 978-1854247469).