Living with God and with Darwin
Nashville: Thomas Nelson
Pbk, 283pp, $14.99
This book review is brought to you courtesy of Thomas Nelson’s Book sneeze.
The Selfish Gene is something of a curate’s egg: good in parts. Reading it I was frustrated, angry, puzzled but it made me think – and that can’t be a bad thing.
Foster in the beginning sets up a conflict between creationsits and naturalistic evolutionsists. He writes polemically: “If few in the business agree with Dawkins, almost nobody thinks there is anything at all in any of the creationist contentions” (p xiii) And yet only a few pages later he writes: ‘An August 2006 survey of British university students found more than a third believed in either creationism or intelligent design’!
“There are no proper evidences for any of the creationist assertions” (p viv) – this left me wondering where is the evidence for this assertion? He then goes on to knock intelligent design as ‘ the fashionable fig leaf’ that paints a strange picture of God. Unfortunately, he doesn’t deal with the more sophisticated views of ID or old earth creationists. He seems content to deal with a straw man and a caricature of creationism.
“Creationism has done untold harm to Christianity, and untold good to Richard Dawkin’s bank balance’ (p 19). But neither does Dawkins escape scathing criticism: “His essential creed – scientism- has a quaintly dated feel about it.” (p. 19)
His main thesis is that creationism and Dawkinsism (Foster’s term) are very dull and cannot explain such a colourful world. So he goes in search of a middle way.
He goes on to look at the evidence for evolution – chapter 3 consists of a display of exhibits. From chapter 4 onwards the book gets a little more interesting. Until now it has been rather predictable. Here he looks at the evolution of altruism and community. How can a theory that’s based on the survival of the fittest produce altruism and community? He tentatively suggests that may be there is another force operating alongside natural selection. He then looks at the evolution of religion – how can, given an evolutionary framework, religion exist? He is asking good questions and that is a good step towards finding an answer.
He spends many pages examining the creation and fall accounts in Genesis 1-3. The fall has been a stumbling block for a theistic evolutionary perspective. Foster doesn’t seem to know what to do with the fall. He seems to want to minimise or reinterpret it; he doesn’t see it as a solution to pain and suffering. But then I would maintain it wasn’t meant to be that anyway.
He asserts that ‘nothing remotely like the traditional Christian doctrine of the Fall was recognized either by Jewish scholars or by the early Church’ (p. 171) but gives no evidence in support. He asserts that in the fall ‘the image of God was enhanced. That was precisely the problem” (p. 224). ‘If this was a fall it was a fall up”! “The direct and immediate consequence of the ‘Fall’ is civilization as we know it “(p. 227 – emphasis in original). This is an interesting twist on things.
Foster asks some important questions both of evolutionary theory and of the Genesis text. I’m not convinced by his answers though.