I’m going to be taking a class on evolution this fall and wanted to see what book(s) you recommend I read so I can help myself as well as my classmates. Also, if you could just give me some general advice about how to go about debating/talking about evolution that would be appreciated. Thanks!
Thanks for asking. Actually, I took a class on evolution about 4 years ago myself as I wanted to know better what I am talking about when I discuss evolution. I also did a debate/forum on the topic two years ago. If you can get a copy of that debate, it might be the best introduction for you. It is titled “Four Christian Views of Evolution.” It is available at www.ipibooks.com. Two other books I strongly suggest. One is titled “Coming to Peace With Science,” and is by a friend of mine, Darrel Falk. The other is better known. It is “The Language of God” by Francis Collins, who is the present head of the NIH. Both are “Christians” and well-known scientists. Falk highly influenced Collins’ book. For your information, I do not fully agreee with Collins’ view of evolution. He takes a fairly strong ramdon designer perspective. Also, if you do some digging at my web site, you will find an essay titled Four Christian Views of Evolution. This might be helpful.
My advice to you is to not debate over evolution. Although I participated in a “debate” it was really a forum in which we discussed different views from a respectful and supportive standpoint. Only the Young Earth guy seemed to want to prove the others wrong, but that is a typical approach from young earthers. You might want to disassociate yourself from the radical young-earthers, at least as far as the evolution debate goes. They tend to do a very poor job with the science. One suggestion is that, in your conversations with your classmates or your professor you can explain that science tells us the “what” of evolution, and maybe even the “when”, but that the Bible tells us the “why” of evolution. It is not random. We are not the result of a “process of singularly beneficial accidents” (to quote Thomas Huxley). Science can never answer the question “why,” yet when we look at human beings we can clearly see a purpose and path to life.
The way I see it, God invented evolution, so we might as well give him credit for doing such an amazing job. There are theological and scientific questions about evolution. Was the process fully random? Might God have intervened in the process–pushing it in a particular direction of his own design? Were there different creations at different times, followed by evolution, or was there just one creation of life? To me, these are more practical than theological questions, although I do see some theological implications (as discussed in the essay I mention above). As you take this class, you should remember that evolution is a theory about how life changed. It is not a theory of the origin of life. I am fully convinced that the origin of life was supernatural. Life cannot come from non-life. Evolution is not a topic in the Bible. Bottom line, in Genesis 1 God takes claim for creating all the different forms of life. It does not say how or when he did it. That was not the point of the writer of Genesis.
So, my suggestion is to be a respectful student in this class and to avoid starting debates–especially to avoid being defensive about the evidence for evolution. What you will learn is that the fossil evidence is generally supportive of the theory of evolution, but that the holes are sufficiently great that much of the supernatural can fit in the holes. However, if one looks at the genetic evidence, one will discover that the idea of common descent is extremely well supported by the data. I believe that at the end of this course, you will probably be convinced that all life is related. Bear in mind, however, that many scientists make a hidden philosophical commitment to fully random processes, with no intervention of any supernatural sort even allowed as a consideration. Do not be intimidated by this philosophical presupposition, but recognize it for what it is–a philosophical presupposition with no basis in fact or proof. Personally, I see the hand of God all over the process by which life has evolved on the earth.
I think you will enjoy this class, and do not hesitate to throw more technical questions my way if they come up.