What I’ve Been Reading(1) – The Evolution Controversy: A Survey of Competing Theories

If you type the word “evolution” in the Amazon.com search line, it offers over 61,000 books.  A similar search for books on “creation” yields over 31,000 results.  The creation/evolution controversy is an overwhelmingly large subject, and the debate shows no signs of diminishing.  A couple of years ago, Mark Rooker and I were silly enough to agree to write a book about the subject and we have been struggling ever since to produce something that is at the same time both comprehensive and readable.  I intend for the next few weeks and months to highlight books that I have found helpful in my studies, and to call this series “What I’ve Been Reading.”  Some of the books promote a particular creationist or evolutionary perspective, while others, like the one highlighted today, provide an overview of a variety of positions.  One of the best books for acquainting oneself with the debate is Thomas Fowler and Daniel Kuebler’s The Evolution Controversy: A Survey of Competing Theories. 

Fowler, an engineer, and Kuebler, a biologist, break down the positions into four major schools of thought: neo-Darwinian, creationist, intelligent design, and what they call meta-Darwinism.  They provide an overview of each school.  Neo-Darwinism (the view that evolution is true, and can be explained entirely in terms of natural section) is still the majority position among those involved with the natural sciences.  Creationism (more specifically, young earth creationism) enjoys strong support at a popular level but has little or no backing in the academy.  Intelligent design, which accepts the notion of an ancient earth, has substantially more support among scientists but has recently encountered stiff opposition.  Meta-Darwinism represents a growing number of scientists who still accept evolution but realize that the standard neo-Darwinian model simply doesn’t explain the evidence.

The Evolution Controversy is written with remarkable clarity.  Rather than argue a particular position, their intent is to provide information. Fowler and Kuebler explain the nuances and differences in terms and concepts that often confuse even those in the field. They give a brief survey of the history of evolutionary thought, provide review of the evidence (i.e., issues such as the fossil record and genetics), and discuss the flashpoints of dispute.

Rarely do authors attempt to be as even-handed as do Fowler and Kuebler; and for the most part they succeed.  They explain the arguments for each position along with a corresponding set of objections.  The strengths and weaknesses of each model are presented fairly.  Both men are scientists, so not surprisingly the book deals only with empirical evidence.  They provide no discussion of the creation account in Genesis.  However, if you are looking for an accessible presentation of the technical issues regarding the creation/evolution debate, then The Evolution Controversy is an excellent place to begin.

Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?

Francis Collins, a devout evangelical who headed the Human Genome Project, founded the BioLogos Foundation in 2007 for the purpose of advocating evolutionary theory as a viable option for evangelicals. When Collins stepped down from BioLogos to become the director of the Health and Human Services agency, Darrel Falk became president of the foundation. At Falk’s request, a number of professors at Southern Baptist seminaries have submitted articles to the BioLogos forum to express our concerns about the foundation’s promotion of theistic evolution. These articles are part of a series entitled “Southern Baptist Voices” in which consists of each article paired with a response from a BioLogos fellow.

The first article (which I wrote) is entitled “Expressing our Concerns” (found here), to which Kathryn Applegate, Darrel Falk, and Deborah Haarsma responded (found here).

Today (May 2) BioLogos posted the second article written by Bill Dembski of Southwestern Seminary entitled “Is Darwinism Theologically Neutral?” (which can be found here). The BioLogos response will be posted before the end of the week.

Other articles to follow have been written by Steve Lemke (NOBTS), John Laing (SWBTS), John Hammett (SEBTS), Bruce Little (SEBTS), and James Dew (SEBTS).  I hope you will take a look at the discussion.  It is a model of how Christian brethren, who have serious disagreements, can debate an important issue with candor and mutual respect.

This post has been cross-posted at theologyforthechurch.com