Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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From Beatrice the Biologist. HT IO9.
I totally have, my whole family either is or was evolution denialists. I don’t do it anymore.
Now I basically just tell people if they are interested in understanding the evidence for evolution so they can understand and argue their position better, they should go read Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True“.
If they care to learn, they will pick up the book and read it in a non-threatening context. If not, nothing I could possibly say would make a difference anyway.
I usually tell them their local library almost certainly has a copy, or if they’re close to me and I think they are likely to read it I’ll just give them one. It’s both more effective and less stressful for everyone involved.
I wonder whether a book by Ken Miller or Francis Collins might be more helpful for some people, being written by a person who shares their faith and addresses some of the very specific claims that Christian evolution-denialists frequently make?
I must say I wasn’t highly impressed by those books back when I was not convinced about evolution, and still am not really. Unless you’re talking about the Gibberson/Collins book from last year, then I haven’t read that one yet.
I’ve given/recommended people “Beyond the Firmament” if I think they need some biblical/mild theological look at the topic first before they can even consider the actual evidence. I’ve found that first then later Coyne’s book to be the most effective combo in the past for deep fundyism. Although I did have one person who found Coyne’s blog first who wouldn’t consider reading his book after that. ;-) His book is much more focused then his blog writings though, and nobody complains about tone. I’d consider giving them Peter Enns new book, but I think they’d find his view of the bible just as heretical if not more so than evolution, so don’t think it would help.
I suppose the key is to give the most helpful book for a particular individual to that individual – which can be hard to do!
I do think Coyne’s book is excellent, and it was more his reputation from his blog that made me think that some might be too suspicious of him to be receptive to his presentation of mainstream science, however well done.
Coyne’s committment to atheism trumps his concern for science, although the likes to pretend that his is just concerned with promoting science.
I think it’s probably more accurate to say that Coyne’s commitment to verificationist epistemology drives his concern for both atheism and science.
Or that his scientism leads him to reject deities due to lack of evidence.
There’s enough argument over these positions that there’s many critiques you can make without having to say his atheism “trumps” his science, which seems to quite miss the point.
The careful reader can probably discern the religious nature of Darwinism in it’s original and it’s modern manifestations using almost any book on the subject, though I’m sure it would help if one comes to the text with some knowledge of the history of evolutionary doctrine and the religious zeal with which it has been and continues to be defended (e.g. “Darwin’s Bulldog”). Readers of Kenneth Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God, will have the added benefit of seeing some of the problems of trying to marry two faith commitments.
One thing I find odd is the tendency to try and lend weight to neo-Darwinism over against, say, the notion of Intelligent Design, by declaring that one supports neo-Darwinism as a “Christian”. James, you do this regularly, but you should know that claiming to be a Christian doesn’t really have any bearing on whether neo-Darwinism is true or Intelligent Design is false.
I agree. The only thing that has a bearing on whether the current mainstream scientific understanding of biology is correct is the enormous weight of genetic, paleontological, experimental, comparative anatomical and other relevant data in its favor.
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