Book Review: God and Evolution
by Melissa Travis
God and Evolution, edited by Jay W. Richards, is an essay anthology designed to explain and clarify the essential definitions, scientific claims, theological issues and philosophical problems that pervade the debate about the compatibility of neo-Darwinism and religious faith. The central question of the text, specifically, is whether or not theistic evolution is a tenable position for theists of Christian or Jewish persuasion. Each essay expands upon a different aspect of the subject, but together they have a common goal: to shed light on what Richards refers to as the God and evolution enigma. He argues that this is a gray area that sorely needs illuminating; he says, “In a sense, it touches all of the biggest questions we can ask about ourselves and the world we live in.”
Jay W. Richards earned his Ph.D. in philosophy and theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He also holds a B.A. degree with a dual major in political science and religion, Master of Divinity, and Master of Theology degrees. He has authored numerous academic books and articles on a wide array of topics, including The Privileged Planet, a book co-authored with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez. His work has also appeared in popular publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He has been featured in documentaries as well as national radio and TV programs, and has served as executive producer of several documentaries. Currently, Dr. Richards is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a contributing editor for The American at the American Enterprise Institute.
Scope and Sequence
The essays in God and Evolution are classified into four major sections: “I: Some Problems with ‘Theistic Evolution,’” “II: Protestants and Evolution,” “III: Catholics and Evolution,” and “IV: Jews and Evolution.” Richards sets the stage with an extensive introduction in which he clears up misconceptions about the history of the debate and distinguishes between the various definitions for the terms “evolution” and “theism.” He also describes several different views that fall under the umbrella of theistic evolution and discusses one of the major reasons for the adoption of this viewpoint–the problem of evil and suffering.
Section I begins with John G. West’s essay, “Nothing New Under the Sun.” In this essay, West asserts that a sound doctrine of creation is essential for a correct doctrine of redemption. He compares the Gnostics’ blind, ignorant Demiurge creator to the theistic evolutionary idea of natural selection acting on random mutations to bring about the complexity and diversity of life. The main issue that needs addressing, he says, is whether God was involved with the creative process–was he the true creator dictating the details, or was it undirected Darwinian evolution? Either mankind is exactly what God intended him to be, or he is the happenstance product of a blind process. In Part 2 of his essay, “Having a Real Debate,” West describes the NCSE’s efforts to promote Darwinism as faith-friendly, and how Francis Collins, a high-profile Christian scientist, instituted the BioLogos Foundation to promote theistic evolution…
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