Posted in book reviews

‘The Language of Science and Faith’ – a review

We love either/or thinking. Problems are solved either in one way, or in another. When someone comes along and offers a third possibility, it’s like a breath of fresh air in a stuffy room. Karl W. Giberson’s and Francis S. Collins’ The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions (InterVarsity, 2011) is one such book.

Giberson (a physicist) and Collins (a geneticist) organize their discussion around responses to frequently asked questions. These include:

Can we really know the earth is billions of years old?

– How does God fine-tune the universe?

– Why is Darwin’s theory so controversial?

Concluding that the term “theistic evolution” now carries too much baggage, the authors substitute BioLogos, but the meaning is the same: God created all that is, and when it comes to life on earth, the means by which God did so was evolution.

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Posted in book reviews

‘Summer for the Gods’

Like a stubborn weed refusing to be uprooted, the debate between creationism and evolution sprouts up periodically and demands attention. Edward Larson’s Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion(Harvard University Press, 1997) revisits the 1925 “trial of the century,” carefully reconstructing the players and issues at-stake in an iconic clash between the forces of fundamentalism and agnosticism.

Williams Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) and Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) squared off in the town of Dayton, Tennessee. The former had been Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, and came to defend a statute outlawing the teaching of evolution in Tennessee public schools. The latter was a brilliant trial lawyer, determined to embarrass those who favored a literal interpretation of the Bible’s view of the cosmos. What Edward Larson does masterfully is to tease out nuances in the Scopes trial that the 1960 film, Inherit the Wind, either ignored or purposely misrepresented. For example, the film makes Bryan out to be a young earth, six day creationist. In reality, he accepted that the “days” mentioned in Genesis likely were long, indefinite periods of time corresponding to geological ages. Further, the townspeople of Dayton, Tennessee are presented as raving lunatics, whereas in real life they were welcoming to both sides in the Scopes trial. Finally, the defense team in Dayton included those who accepted a theistic view of evolution, namely, that evolution could have been the means that God used to create humans. Unfortunately, by focusing on the agnostic Darrow, Hollywood’s version set up an either/or understanding, a battle of science vs. religion, an antagonistic view of the question that lingers to this day.

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