Thursday, June 6, 2013

Evolution and Christian Faith

Joan Roughgarden, Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist. Island Press, 2006. 155 pages. ISBN: 1597260983.

Joan Roughgarden, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University since 1972. She is also an active Christian in the Episcopal Church. The author lists her reasons for writing the book: "First, I want to provide a short and succinct statement of what evolutionary biology is, what it says and what it doesn't say. . . Second, I want to discuss what the Bible actually says, for the Bible too is often misrepresented. Third, I want to investigate the relationship between evolutionary biology and the Bible. . . " (5). The author hopes to show in this book how evolution and the Christian faith are compatible.

Topics discussed in this book are science and religion, the evidence for evolution, biblical interpretation, "Intellectual Design," "gender and sexuality," and future directions of evolution. In chapter one Roughgarden argues for a "single tree of life." In chapter two she argues that "the second fact of evolution is that species change" (24). In chapter three Roughgarden discusses interpreting Genesis literally and evolution. She notes, "For me the position that God created the world, and continues to crate it, through natural processes is not a compromise" (35). She is responding to critics who say if you do not interpret Genesis literally, you are compromising the Christian faith. She describes how changes occur in the next chapter. The author uses natural breeding to help explain how changes happen. "Random mutation" is analysed in chapter six. The next chapter wonders if evolution has a direction. She states, "evolutionary biologists are not of one mind that evolution is directionless, and some, including me, think it does usually have a direction of progressive adaptation to environmental conditions" (52). In chapter nine she describes some of the limits of evolutionary biology. The author disagrees with certain individuals in the Intellectual Design movement. She thinks "neo-Darwinism can account for complex structures" (89).

Roughgarden does not think there needs to be any conflict between science and religion. She seems to be a little hard on participants in the intelligent design movement. She is stronger when she is dealing with evidence of science than when she is discussing Biblical and theological issues. The author's motives are right. She wants to educate the public on the compatibility of religion and science.

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