Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting a number of wonderful folk at the BioLogos conference at Gordon College. There were plenary sessions, small group discussions, and conversations over meals in Chester’s Place. In addition, I went to a meeting on writing in science and religion that was attended by authors Rachel Held Evans, Karl Giberson, and others. During this time, Karl was also handing out his latest book, Saving Darwin. I was happy to receive it, but at the time was unsure that I needed to read it because I had read many other books on evolution and creation. Would this book would have anything substantive to add?
Boy was I wrong.
I might add that a simple look at the comments shared by others on the back of the book would have been informative. In my defense, you never really know with those blurbs. But in this case, they were legit. And again, I was wrong.
A couple of weeks ago I started planning my upcoming introductory course in science and religion and asked permission from Karl to borrow/steal some of the ideas/materials he has used in the past in his courses. I liked a lot of what I saw and then thought… perhaps his book might also have something to add to the course? Translation… duh. Even if it didn’t, I figured it would be a good thing for me to be familiar with what he had written in case our conversation regarding my upcoming class intensified.
And besides, we’re colleagues in the war against the war model of science and religion.
So why was I wrong about the book?
First off, the book is titled Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution. The former portion of the title is spot on while the latter is a bit misleading, and is why I had put off reading it in the first place. Giberson’s goal is not to convince someone of the validity of evolution, although he highlights all of the reasons and evidence for evolution in a latter chapter. By contrast, his goal is to reveal the history of Darwinian evolution, its use and abuse within other disciplines, and the responses to all of this by the religious in the U.S.
And this makes his book not only a welcome but a necessary addition to the conversation.
Does he succeed at saving Darwin? I’m not sure (as Numbers says on the book jacket) but he does an outstanding job of presenting the relevant history (public and personal) in a readable manner.
In the introduction, Giberson provides his story of growing up as a literal Creationist and then gradually becoming a believer in evolution. This story is important because, at least in my opinion, bridging the gap between evolution and creation for Christians requires someone who has gone through it him or herself. For me, I can relate much better than others to students who are on a similar journey because it mimics my story, just as with Karl. Anyone can provide the facts and evidence to support evolution, but not everyone can do it in a way that respects the journey for the Creationist. The journey can be a painful one and it is much better if it is accompanied by someone in the know who appreciates it ans exhibits grace, patience, and a caring heart.
On Thursday we’ll take a look at the body of the book…