Review: God and Evolution

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.”[1]

 The Editor

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 TimesThe 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.[2]

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.

 Evaluation and Recommendation

Although no one volume could cover every detail of the long-running, nuanced debate about the compatibility of theism and Darwinian evolution, the editor and authors of God and Evolution do a tremendous job of educating their readers on this historically, philosophically, and theologically complex subject. The essays are articulate, informative, and interesting, but are not intimidating in their language and scope. The reader gains a clear idea of each essay’s thesis and supporting points, and doesn’t become mired down in trivial accessory information. Important current and classical works are mentioned throughout the book, which is a nice benefit for the reader who wishes to explore the subject further using reliable source material. The organization of the text has a logical feel, and the essays can be read individually.

As a whole, the book’s thesis is wholly and competently supported; the incompatibility of Darwinian evolution and theism is thoroughly demonstrated. Proper distinctions and definitions frame the text’s argument, eliminating ambiguity and correcting misconceptions. Even readers skeptical of ID will profit in understanding what is truly at stake in the debate and how to view it with fairness.

God and Evolution is an outstanding book choice for persons of faith seeking clarity about whether or not Darwinism is truly compatible with their worldview. Leaders and students of Christianity and Judaism would particularly benefit from the text, as would science educators and writers who wish to accurately portray the issue.


[1] Jay Richards, God and Evolution (Seattle,WA: Discovery Institute Press, 2010): 27.

[2] Editor’s biographical information found at http://www.discovery.org/p/9

 

 

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