David 's Reviews > The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions

The Language of Science and Faith by Karl W. Giberson
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's review
Jan 06, 2012

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bookshelves: apologetics, science, theology
Read in January, 2012

This book presents the position of what is commonly called theistic evolution. The authors attempt to both argue that Darwinian evolution correctly explains how modern species came to be and that this in no way negates the existence of God. They cover a lot of ground, with each section beginning with a question (thus it almost reads like a 200 page FAQ).

I enjoyed the book. They succeeded in strongly presenting the truth that Christians can believe in evolution. Further, they succeed in answering a lot of questions more traditional questions will face in coming to terms with evolution. While on one hand accepting evolution does not negate God, a world in which God creates through evolution does lead to different philosophical and theological conclusions about who that God is, then one in which God creates in a literal seven days.

There are a few minor problems with the book. In the introduction they discuss Social Darwinism, the movement in the early 1900s to take the science of evolution and turning it into a social mandate. Basically, if the fittest survive in nature, efforts should be made to only allow the fittest to survive, which led to the discrimination of weak members of society. Social Darwinism is often trumped up by Christians as a reason to reject the science of evolution. Giberson and Collins correctly differentiate the two, concluding bad sociology does not nullify good science. But then they make a statement: "Evolution does not provide an argument for atheism, and it cannot be used to justify mistreatment of the weak." I noted, "unless you are a social Darwinist". My issue is that "cannot" appears to be a strong word. They just spent a few pages showing historically, some have made just that argument.

They attack statements made about how many in the academic community question Darwinian evolution. Their argument is that most who sign these statements are not biologists, and most of the biologists who do sign them are retired and thus did most of their study before the strongest evidence in support of Darwinism came to light. What they are saying is to beware of experts in one area acting like experts in another. Yet they kind of do the same thing in their analysis of Social Darwinism. They dismiss a book called From Darwin to Hitler by Richard Weikert. Weikert shows how social Darwinists picked up on the science and used it to influence Germany, helping set the path for the Holocasut. I actually read that book a few years ago and recall him arguing that he was NOT saying anything about the science of evolution. He was saying that, as a historian, there is a line of people who were Social Darwinists who influenced Hitler. If I recall correctly, he made a point to say he was not blaming Darwin for the Holocaust as there were clearly other factors in play also.

Their dismissal of a historian's argument, besides contradicting their point to not trust experts in fields outside the expert's own field, seems shallow.

This same...sloppiness...makes an appearance elsewhere in the book. They write, "Virtually all leading evangelical biblical scholars reject the claim that the age of the earth can be determined from the Bible" (54). But if you follow the footnote they give ONE example. How does one = virtually all? Even if they are right, and I think they are, imagine a young earth creationist comes to this book thinking the Bible does give the age of the earth. The authors claim otherwise but only give one example. I doubt the creationist would find that compelling. They do this quite often, vaguely saying "many" Christian theologians believe something, but offering no footnote. Or saying that the early church leaders, including "Origen, Augustine and Aquinas" did not hold to a literalist reading. Again, put yourself in the foot of the young earth creationist (YEC). YECs tend to be on the more fundamentalist side and Origen has a questionable place in church history for some of his ideas, so his name may not carry weight. Aquinas was a Catholic monk who lived in the 1200s, not exactly early church. So if the authors can only come up with those three they probably will not convince many. More citations and sources for the curious reader would help.

They make similar moves on a philosophical level. "Free will" is thrown around a lot without much of a definition. What about scientific arguments questioning free will? What about more nuance, saying we have free will but it may be constrained. I am not a philosopher, but I recognize there are more options than either free will or determinism. They say, "Theological traditions that do not place the same emphasis on God's sovereignty find these explorations less threatening." I thought all Christians believe in God's sovereignty, the question is how you define it. Again, this seems sloppy.

Overall this is a helpful book. Perhaps my issues are unfair in not taking into consideration that this book is a sort of introduction. Other books, which they have in the bibliography, may offer more nuance. That said, I still think a few more extensive footnotes and sharper definitions would have made this book a must-read, rather than just a helpful read.

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