Saving Darwin – A Book Review

Posted on October 29, 2008. Filed under: Reviews |

cover of book

cover of book

 Saving Darwin – A Book Review 


It’s no big secret.  Quite some time ago, I did what many Christians would believe was the “unthinkable”.  I admitted that I believed the Theory of Evolution.  To put it more mildly, I don’t have a problem with its claims and I definitely believe the science behind it.  I’d always had issues with what I believe to be the unnecessary divide between faith and science and the evolution/creation debate, quite frankly, wasn’t helping.  I finalized my decision when I realized that I was limiting God by saying, “He couldn’t/wouldn’t have created life by doing it this way.” 

It was then that I discovered that I wasn’t the only one to think this way.  When I became a Roman Catholic, I’d discovered that those in the Church didn’t have a problem with it either.  As I expanded my horizons I’d found more and more of my professors, colleagues and theologians found evolution to be the most intellectually honest way of describing how life got to where it is today.

While there are many creationist books out there written by many dedicated fundamentalist and evangelical leaders, there are very few books written by Christians actually supporting evolution.  It could be possible that with the polemics of the evolution/creation debate in the U.S., many Christian authors and thinkers have decided to stand on the side lines and not have shots taken at them.  After all, some Christian leaders have said that Satan himself developed the Theory of Evolution.  Who would want to have that thrown at them, being marked as one consorting with the Devil.  Or perhaps they believe that the argument is best saved for the scientists or that the debate itself has already been settled and no more needs to be said.  Either way, the Christian voice for evolution stands eerily mute.

Stepping to the plate in support of evolution is Karl W. Giberson and his book Saving Darwin:  How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.  Giberson is professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College and the director of the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College.  In the book, Giberson gives a brief history of his own wrestling with the claims of evolutionary science as he develops from a young idealistic man filled with aspirations of becoming a scientist doing his bit to defend creationism from the “godless” legions promoting evolution. 

Along the way he wrestles with the understanding of the biblical story of creation that he grew up with and the increasingly overwhelming evidence of the science he has come to know and trust.  Over the years, he began to reconcile belief in a Creator God and evolution. 

In Saving Darwin he describes, in detail, the context and process in which Charles Darwin developed his theory.  Giberson goes to great lengths to show how Darwin was a man who had struggled with his own faith and how it relates to the natural world.  With honesty and integrity Giberson dissects the demonized Darwin and presents him as a man who had much respect for God and for those who had faith in Him but eventually had to set aside the biblical story of creation that he had learned and came face to face with what his own studies had led him to.

In the following chapters, Giberson lays out the turbulent history of the evolution/creation debate in the school systems and the courts.  He shows how the current American thought on creation had been molded by people from Ellen G. White’s vision and her vision of creation, to the book The Genesis Flood by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb to the current juggernauts of Creationism and Intelligent Design Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson and Ken Hamm.  

Giberson intricately deconstructs the commonly held misunderstanding many people have of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” and the media frenzy that surrounded the event.  He goes to great lengths to show the reader that both sides of the trial have been misrepresented through the years and most of what we believe to be true about the trial have been influenced by such things as the play “Inherit the Wind”.

He expertly introduces and describes the context and people involved with the other major trials that involved teaching creation in public schools, culminating in the 2005 “Scopes 2” Arkansas Trial.  He talks about the arguments made in defense of creation and the how and why the courts made the decisions that they made.  He accomplishes all of this without any bias or demonization of either side.

This is a great book for those interested in the nuts and bolts of the creation/evolution controversy in the U.S. (evolution doesn’t seem to have as many detractors in Europe or Asia, in the opinion of Giberson, this is due to the fact that the creation we are familiar with started with Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventists and was promulgated by one of her disciples George Price). 

Having said all of this, the subtitle of this book should have been, “The Tumultuous History of Evolution in the United States” rather than “How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution”.  He does a great job at detailing the history of the sciences behind evolution and creation.  Interspersed between this court case and that creationist, Giberson leaves you with one tidbit or another of evidence supporting the claims of evolution.  Not until the last twenty to twenty-five percent of the book do we get any claim at length as to why we should feel comfortable with choosing evolution.  All previous writing seemed to be done simply to show why creation is not taught in schools.  That’s great for a history book, but not for a book claiming “How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.” 

When we arrive at the last forty or fifty pages and are given reasons or arguments reconciling Christianity and Evolution it seems a bit too rushed, as if Professor Giberson had realized he needed to wrap up his book and to do it fast.  That was a bit of a let down. 

I don’t want to come off sounding like the book was a disaster, it wasn’t.  Giberson gives you plenty of stuff to mull over as you’re reading, enough to keep your attention and keep you reading.  Although I don’t think it necessarily lived up to its title I do think that it was a good read, especially for someone who is curious to find out about how we got in this mess in the first place.  For anyone on either side of the debate, this would be a great primer for at least understanding the other side. 

All told, I liked the book.  It shed a lot of light on both sides of a controversial and heated topic.  In the end Saving Darwin is Giberson’s clarion call for Christians to carry on a respectful, irenic discussion with science as we try to remain both intellectually and spiritually honest.



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One Response to “Saving Darwin – A Book Review”

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I agree with Professor Agazzi, who says: If you read Darwin’s books, Darwin directly, You can see that he was never opposed to the idea of Creation. Never. He was always opposed to the idea of individual species being created by God or by Someone, Separately rather than being the result of a transformation. What happens nowadays? Unfortunately once again in the United States there is a minority of fundamentalist Evangelicals, Seeking to take the Bible word for word, as a discourse that tells us how the world was created. They call themselves creationists. Once again the term has been seized for another use. The term “creationists” does not mean in the slightest. That the book of Genesis should be taken as a true story about the Cosmos. But for them it does. They say yes, here is something that at the very least. Should be taught alongside the theory of evolution.. Once again a mistake has been made. And people say, Creationists are enemies of science and enemies of Evolution.
Santiago Chiva
Granada, Spain

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