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Debating Darwin. Two Debates: Is Darwinism True & Does it Matter? (Paternoster 2009)

Graeme Finlay, Stephen Lloyd, Stephen Pattemore and David SwiftCover shot

£8.99, 144 pages

Buy from: http://www.authenticmedia.co.uk


Author details:

Graeme Finlay - http://www.cis.org.uk/resources/interviews/graeme-finlay

Stephen Lloyd - http://www.biblicalcreationministries.org.uk/b/index.php/about-our-speakers 


This mutually respectful discussion presents different Christian viewpoints on modern versions of Darwin’s ideas and their relationship to Christian scripture and doctrine. It debates two questions, one theological and one scientific: is the concept of evolution compatible with Christian doctrine and is evolutionary theory sufficient to explain the variety of life forms present on the earth? Those familiar with these issues should find the theological material accessible. Some of the biology under discussion is sophisticated but diagrams are included to illustrate the points being made. Both sides in each question present their own arguments, then respond to the other’s, producing eight chapters.

Lloyd claims that Neo-Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity because the story it tells is incompatible with ‘the big storyline’ of the Bible, in particular with what he sees as ‘three foundational doctrines’ (p.3); the historicity of Adam as an ‘individual from whom the whole human race is descended’, a global flood, and what he terms ‘no-agony-before-Adam’. The latter is defined as an absence of extreme pain or death among such higher animals as can experience suffering; microbes, plants and individual body cells are specifically excluded. Lloyd understands physical death as a consequence of sin; consequently fossil-bearing rocks must postdate Adam’s fall. He does not rule out the possibility of common descent, or that even ‘macro’ evolution may have occurred, but sees the conflict being between timescales and sequences.

Presenting the argument for compatibility, Finlay & Pattemore point out that many supposed clashes between science and scripture are the result of particular interpretations of scripture. They then rehearse well-known arguments for a literary reading of the biblical creation stories, particularly the seven day schema, and stress that, while the Bible is not a science text book its worldview is consistent with the practice of science. They argue that, whatever the Biblical writers or characters might have believed about the physical world (for instance, the sun going round the earth), the truth of their teachings about God and the work of Christ is in no way dependent upon their ‘science’ being correct or on their understanding of the literality of Adam’s story. Finlay & Pattemore’s arguments, here and in their response to Lloyd, are often presented in the form of comparative tables. Considering this first question, an appreciation of different possible interpretations of scripture may enable readers to understand why believers differ in their conclusions regarding its compatibility with evolution.

In the second half of the book Swift and Finlay respectively present cases against and for the theory of evolution on scientific grounds. The argument against is that presented by many proponents of intelligent design (Swift claims his reasons for thinking evolution wrong are entirely scientific); the complexity of life at the molecular level renders impossible its development through the incremental improvements brought about by natural selection. Micro-evolution occurs through new combinations of existing genes but macro-evolution requires the generation of new complexes of genes. On the other side of the argument, Finlay reviews the vast amount of evidence supporting evolution from common ancestors and presents viable mechanisms by which the necessary molecular changes could have occurred. This survey is very up to date and includes recent work on jumping genes. Both write well, stating their cases clearly, but as a former biologist I still find the case for evolution compelling and no reasons within scripture to doubt its veracity.

Cherryl Hunt, Exeter



Difficulty: In Depth