human origins

This tag is associated with 2 posts

Book Review: “Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins” by Bishop, Funck, Lewis, Moshier, and Walton

Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective is a massive introduction to various sciences alongside Christian thought from the perspective of evolutionary creationists (also known as theistic evolution). It can fairly be said to be the most comprehensive book of which this reader is aware of for giving a broad look at the many related fields in the origins debate within Christianity.

The book is broken into 7 parts: Getting Started on the Journey, which offers 4 chapters on biblical interpretation, doctrine of creation, pursuing origins questions, and seeing science and theology together; Cosmic Origins, which has 6 chapters starting with a look at Genesis and then going through the details of Big Bang theory, Fine-Tuning, and biblical/theological perspectives; Origin and Geologic History of the Earth, which has 8 chapters on the origin and formation of the Earth and Solar system, the history of geology, discussions of the biblical Flood, how we know about geologic timescales, plate tectonics, finding history in rocks and fossils, and biblical/theological perspectives; Origin of Life on Earth, which has 5 chapters discussing spontaneous generation to abiogenesis, the chemistry of prebiotics, biological information, alternate scenarios, and biblical/theological perspectives; Origin of Species and Diversity of Life, which has 5 chapters on the history of the theory of evolution, the modern synthesis, evidence for evolution, developments in evolutionary theory, and biblical/theological perspectives; Human Origins, which has 4 chapters on the biblical story, physical anthropology, genomic evidence, and biblical/theological perspectives on the image of God; and a Concluding Postscript, which is 1 chapter tying things together. The book is about 630 pages of text, with a glossary, general index, and scripture index. Throughout the whole book, there are color illustrations and charts, and it is richly detailed.

To be sure, there are many books with a lot of this information that you can find elsewhere. The things that set this book apart are 1) its comprehensive scope, with experts from various fields contributing huge sections of data and reflections from a Christian standpoint; 2) its one-stop shop type of reference; 3) its extensive look at the scientific evidence for evolution alongside some counters to arguments against it; 4) its accessible format; 5) the wealth of its illustrations (in color!). Many books in the creation-evolution debate have tended to focus almost entirely on theological questions or scientific ones (though I acknowledge there are exceptions). Rarely is the evidence presented in such a balanced fashion, and with such detail when it comes to the scientific arguments. It’s a massive text that is a bit daunting to read cover-to-cover, but the tone is so accessible and the explanations so well-written that it remains interesting and readable throughout.

The book can be read either in individual chapters or front-to-back. Thus, it would be useful as a textbook in many classes, or as a study book, or as a reference tool for interested readers. This is the kind of book that people like this reader have been longing for: a truly broad introduction to the many, many topics that converge upon theories of origins that is presented from a perspective that remains thoroughly orthodox in its theology. Those who oppose evolution will find here not some conspiracy or lies, but rather evidence and data backed with a warm, winsome tone that encourages readers to explore these tough questions.

Some of the most contentious questions, of course, receive the most space. Human Origins, as noted above, has its own entire section with more than 50 pages dedicated to the topic. Some things that struck me in that section were, first, the theological introduction that shows some of the questions that come up even from a “simple” reading of the text. Second, the extensive look at the physical and genomic evidence for human evolution is presented in a straightforward way. From my own background, I tended to think that any such evidence was falsified or simply presented in a misleading way. It would be impossible to accuse the authors here of doing so, as they note (especially earlier in the discussion of evolution) some of the problems with classification. But these problems are not demonstrations of the theory being false; rather, they show that we will probably never have a complete picture. For example, one common charge I have seen is that because scientists cannot put together a sequence of fossils that show human evolution in a chain: A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H but rather that we have an idea that it may be A-D-G-J or something of the sort, this means there is no sequence. But that is demonstrably false. A ladder that is missing a step could still be identified as a ladder, just an incomplete one. Similarly, an incomplete fossil record does not demonstrate there is no such record or series. What’s particularly surprising, though, is how comprehensive the fossil record we do have is, particularly related to human origins. Though the exact sequence will likely be debate in perpetuity, the fact remains that there are many, many, many fossils of clear ancestors of humanity throughout the fossil record, and that a comparison of skulls, MRI measured brain sizes, etc. seems to demonstrate a sequence that does exist, even if incomplete. Of course, there is much more offered in regards to human evolution, such as population genetics, and the like, but the evidence is presented here and is fascinating.

Readers who are wondering about the scientific credibility of evolution will find this an excellent work to pick up. Those already convinced will have a superb introduction to the topic on hand that does not eschew faith for science or vice versa. The authors do a truly commendable job of showing that Christianity does not counter science, and neither does science show Christianity is false.

The chapters on geology are another excellent section, which teach the basics of geology alongside real-world examples that show the principles are sound. Coming from a young earth background, it was the geologic evidence that convinced me some years ago the Earth had to be much older. The authors present real, measurable evidence to show the earth is much more ancient than a few thousand years. But set alongside that is the valuable history of thought surrounding the age of the earth and how these discoveries were made, often by Christian geologists! To see how yes, science has changed as we’ve come to a fuller understanding helps readers understand that as well. The origins of life is another hotly contested area, and the authors do a good job of showing that it remains contentious while there is much work being done that suggests even biological information may have a natural origin. The many theories of origins will continue to be tested and improved, but we should be careful to attempt to plug God into the gap in understanding between what we don’t know yet and what may be discovered. Indeed, some of the scenarios presented for the origin of life continue to gain credibility as tests confirm aspects of their theorizing.

The authors have, with Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective , written a book that is sure to be a reference point for years to come. Though science constantly updates and changes with new discoveries and insights, the book is destined to be fruitful for some time. It provides a serious, fairly comprehensive introduction to many of the most hotly contested issues within Christianity today. It comes highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Book Review: “Who Was Adam?” – 10-Year Update by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross

who-was-adam-ranaross

Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross is a major work on human origins from the group Reasons to Believe, an Old-Earth Creationist think-tank. This edition, the 10-Year Update, features over 100 pages of additional material analyzing recent discoveries.

The book is organized in such a way that the first two parts are the original book, while the third part is all new material and analysis. Rana and Ross do an admirable job surveying an immense amount of scientific material related to human origins. They present what they argue is a scientific, creationist model (called the Reasons to Believe model [hereafter referred to as the RTB model]) on human origins. This model includes predictions and testable hypotheses. For example, one of the main predictions is that humans–homo sapiens sapiens–are utterly unique and that their cultural capacity will turn out to be unmatched. Thus, any alleged ancestors of humans will not demonstrate continuity of culture and the like.

They take as confirmation of this prediction the notion that biologists have not managed to put together a solid order in which to place the fossils that are alleged to be human ancestors. Without any such family tree that can be confirmed, the notion that humans evolved, Rana and Ross argue, remains a theory and the question of human evolution is not a fact. They conclude this after having looked at a number of major fossil finds while identifying difficulties with dating them, difficulties with taxonomy and identification, and more.

The updated portion of the book is significant. Those wondering if it is worth getting for this update should know the answer is in the affirmative. There are over 100 additional pages filled with analysis of more recent discoveries and how they impact the RTB model of human origins. To their credit, the authors frankly admit areas in which their predictions were mistaken or their model is challenged. Perhaps the most interesting section is that in which Rana and Ross analyze various behaviors thought to be evidence of early culture among hominids and the like (chapter 23). They show that these behaviors might be anthropomorphism of animal behavior. The chapter on junk DNA shows how scientific discovery has confirmed one of the predictions of the RTB model, and the concluding pair of chapters analyze arguments for and against the RTB model and its viability.

One critique I have is particularly evident in the original work (not in the expanded materials, though), is the occasional use of pure rhetoric to try to make a point. For example, in discussing hominid and homo fossils, Rana and Ross argue that the connections between these fossils has not been established. They therefore conclude that “Without these connections, human evolution cannot be declared a fact but remains a theory” (42). I find this type of wording unfortunate.

Some of the other reasoning behind the RTB model seems possible to go either way (i.e. towards evolutionary theory or the RTB model). For example, Chapter 6 outlines a number of conditions which are to demonstrate humans arrived at the just-right timing for human civilization to flourish–something the RTB model would predict. On the other hand, the authors state the evolutionary model would not necessarily predict this. However, it seems that–from my admittedly limited understanding of biology–the evolutionary model would also predict something similar because life adapts so well that if there was a “just right” circumstance for a type of life, that life would be selected for. Whether this is accurate or not is a different question (and whether I have it right), but it doesn’t seem like this is necessarily evidence for RTB over and against evolution.

The difficulty of evidence that could go either way is one of the biggest difficulties throughout the book. Arguments are often made that because the RTB model allows for a specific piece of evidence, that means that the RTB model is still viable. But there is a difference between confirmation of a model and lack of disconfirmation. It would be more reassuring to have more specific scientific evidence in favor of the model rather than simply being able to be subsumed into it.

At times I also wondered whether certain aspects of the RTB model were necessary for them to defend. For example, the insistence on reading the ages of early humans in the Bible as literal periods in which humans lived for 900+ years. They acknowledge in the expanded section that there has yet to be confirmation of this and that findings so far challenge this idea, yet they continue to hold it as part of the model. I can’t help but think it is a superfluous part that doesn’t actually contribute much to the overall workings of their model.

Who Was Adam? is a significant work worthy of a careful reading by any interested in Christian perspectives on human origins. It provides Christians insight into an Old Earth Creationist perspective on human origins, while also providing enough raw information for readers to draw their own conclusions and formulate their own ideas. It will challenge Christians on their thinking and perhaps force people to re-evaluate their own theories. It is a valuable resource despite having what I see as some difficulties throughout. It is recommended.

The Good

+Frank evaluation of own model after 10 years
+Offers much insight into research of hominids
+Plenty of data means readers can form their own conclusions
+Genuinely valuable update with much new material

The Bad

-Some unfortunate reliance on rhetoric
-Methodological concerns

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book for review from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross, Who Was Adam? (Covina, CA: Reasons to Believe Press, 2015).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,717 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason