Sunday, June 19, 2005
Book Review: Origins: Linking Science and Scripture
I especially like books written by practicing scientists, as they generally do much better justice to the opposing side. Reading a book that has not respect at all for the evolutionary position is a waste of time, as the writer rarely sees the need to justify claims that seem evident to him/her, but perhaps not to the audience.
On recommendation from someone else, I purchased a copy of Origins: Linking Scienceand Scripture. This is a really good book for the fact that it treats origins as it should -- as a unified research proposition, rather than a lot of independent lines of research. Therefore, Roth follows a path of a holistic view of origins issues, and tries to weigh the matter as honestly as he can from the position of scripture or secular science. He is very honest with his preconceptions, as well as the fact that his preconceptions may cause him to draw different conclusions than his reader.
As I mentioned, Roth is a practicing scientist, including research into the effects of light and pigment on the rate of coral reef growth, as mentioned in the about the author section. He is published both secularly and in the journal Origins, whose character I was unable to ascertain.
Roth begins his book with an excellent list of paradigms that have shaped certain sciences which eventually were discarded entirely. He shows that because of this, we should not discard a theory simply because current science is founded on a different principle.
The first section is on biology, and, while it is well worth reading and has many additional insights you might not otherwise know, it is basically the same types of arguments as other creationists give. However, his attention to the complexity of the cells complexity in regards to error correction is very good, as well as his list of books by non-creationists who are questioning the validity of current origin-of-life research.
He has a chapter on fossils, but its way too short. On the other hand, it does give a good overview of the geologic column from an evolutionary view for those who don't have secular science books available.
He continues on in other chapters to talk of the geologic column, and this is where his book does a really good job. It is difficult to grasp the main creationist positions about the flood and its impact on the geologic column from most creation/evolution books. He does an excellent job of summarizing them. Some of the points from these chapter include:
- The fossil sequence is too orderly to not demand an explanation. Therefore, no creationist account of the fossils is sufficient unless it accounts for the fossil sequence.
- The fossil record is much more complete than many say, given that 98% of terrestrial vertebrates are present within that record (most are not as well-represented as terrestrial vertebrates, but still well-represented). Therefore, any evolutionary account must take this into consideration when discussing transitional forms.
For the flood he gives the three major models of why the fossil sequence is ordered: motility, ecologic zonation, and buyancy. He clearly favors ecologic zonation. For the evolutionists, he points to both the gradualistic and punctuated equilibrium models of evolutions as the mechanisms for producing the fossil succession.
He also points to evidences for a worldwide flood, including:
- abundant underwater activity on the continents
- widespread sedimentary deposits -- evidences of a vast sea covering vast expanses of land
- incomplete ecosystem fossilization -- animals are often found fossilized separate from any vegetation for them to live off of
- gaps in the sedimentary layers -- specifically he mentions that where there are hundreds of millions of years of "gaps", there is virtually no evidence for millions of years of erosion
He then mentions several other things about rocks, but I must have slept through that part, because looking back over the book I really don't remember reading it.
He then proposes several questions about geologic time, showing that any number of geologic processes can lead to any number of ideas for the age of the earth and specific rock formations, and that saying that we definitively know the age of the earth only means that we are selective in what evidences we are choosing to include.
He ends with a pretty good discussion of science and scripture and their interplay, and ultimately sums up what he believes the evidence points to (I'll let you guess where that is :] ).
Just for the record, as some people I've talked to have been confused, Ariel Roth's conception of a young-earth creationist does not rely on a specific age for the physical rock that is the earth, but for the geologic column, which is the record of life on earth. It is the age of the geologic column which he finds important.
I was a little disappointed that the book had nothing on astronomy, which could be linked to either (a) the author thinking that astronomy is a winning argument for evolutionists, (b) that the author, being a biologist, is not qualified to write on astronomy, or (c) the author does not believe that the age of the universe is a worthwhile question to ask. He points to (c) within the book, but I was still a little sad that he decided not to go down that road.
Anyway, all-in-all it was a great book. While it did not give as thorough of a treatment as I'd wished to several subjects (understandable due to the length and subjects covered), it was very good.