2010-06-24

The Genesis Enigma

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by Neil Godfrey

I picked up The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate by Andrew Parker curious to see what arguments could possibly earn back cover blurbs like ‘Parker’s arguments seem very plausible to me’ by none other than Francis Crick of DNA fame,  through to the Daily Mail’s “Jaw dropping – an astounding work . . .” Okay, I wasn’t really persuaded by the Daily Mail cites, but I was curious when I noticed the author really IS a reputable scientist.

Amidst what I see as the chaff in the book there is something I really did see as A Good Thing. After pages of warming up to less than inspiring arguments supposedly proving the divine inspiration of the Bible by claiming that its Genesis account is a “metaphoric” template of the facts of evolution, he pulls no punches in declaring to his readers that evolution really is a fact. Evolution is not a theory, he insists. Evolution is true. He deplores Creationism and its modern deceitful garb of Intelligent Design.

Parker says point blank that to call evolution “a theory” is “dangerous”.

It is a word no longer apt in this context, for the weight of evidence  for evolution has become crushing. The “theory of evolution” has become “evolution, the fact. This is important to religion.

If evolution is considered merely a theory, then it is plunged unfairly into debate. By definition, all “theories” allegedly solving the same problem must begin with equal standing — in which case, anyone could invent a theory to account for the diversity of life (that all species came from outer space, for instance) and be given equal standing on a stage with Darwin and Wallace. Then a cunning creationist would argue that Darwin and Wallace’s theory is just one of many that account for life on earth, fraudulently detracting from the achievements of these great scientists and at the same time misleading the public. As I said, evolution is a fact. (p. 192)

And then when attacking Creationism head on he writes:

Fact: Humans and chimpanzees share 99 percent of their genes. This statement would shake the earth beneath those already troubled by the very words “Darwin” and “evolution.” But this really is a fact, no bone about it. Unlike Darwin and Wallace, we are able to sample the DNA . . .

Similarly, examples of the same “Burgess Shale” animals discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott have emerged as fossils in rocks of very similar age but from very different parts of the world. The rocks in this case were independently tested and the results gave us ages in the range of 508 to 519 million years old. It’s that precise and accurate. . . .

This is what makes evolution powerful: It is testable. Religion is not. . . .

Crank philosophy results. These “creationists,” or fundamentalists, become harmful to science. . . .

How dangerous to ignore, let alone deny, evolution.

And so forth. With plenty of examples in support.

I have since read a few reviews and comments on the book on the web, and will not repeat the sorts of things some of those say. In a few instances, some comments seem to rely on other reviews, and not on a reading of the book itself, and I see some of those making false accusations about it as a result.

I might address a few of the points another time, but nothing comprehensive. In one sense it is, of course, a shame that such a brilliant mind can publish such a tract a “proof” of the Bible’s divine inspiration. But I’m looking at the glass being half full here. Such a title and theme are sure to attract many a devout Christian reader. And to think of those readers being confronted with such strong claims for the facts of evolution is certainly encouraging. One can only expect a few seeds being planted for more minds to open up at the appropriate time.

Coincidentally I’m also reading God’s Philosophers by James Hannam. Parker’s effort reminds me of medieval minds groping to uphold a candle of reason in a world befogged by miasmic mists of ignorance. It’s easy to curse the fog that still thickens. But it’s also welcoming to see certain lights appearing in unexpected places.

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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “The Genesis Enigma”

  1. Dawkins also makes it clear that “evolution by means of natural selection” is both a fact and a theory (the bare “evolution” is far too underspecified to be called a theory – the theoretical part explains how species evolve for which one can imagine many alternative theories). The problem is that most people don’t understand how “theory” is used in science. I always have to laugh when I hear “just a theory”.

  2. Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish” and Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” are my two most recent reads on evolution (apart from Dawkins “Greatest Show”, of course, but a Dawkins book goes without saying 🙂 — I had not realized the massive extent of the fossil evidence for evolution. It enables testable predictions to be made about each new find. Anyone who claims that the fossil evidence is full of gaps simply does not know the full extent of the evidence. Anyone who says evolution is just a theory does not know that the theory is testable and falsifiable.

    In my old days of religion I would mostly read church literature about evolution. If I touched on the scientific literature it was always with a mind conditioned to avoid reading it seriously in its own right, but only as a foil against which to test the cleverness of my church’s arguments. The good thing about books like those by Shubin and Coyne and Dawkins — and even this one by Parker (despite the looney side of what he writes about divine inspiration etc) — is that they do push home the reality of the massive evidence, and the ignorance and errors of the creationists.

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