Science / Creation

Should Christians Read Science Books by Evolutionists? Yes, and Here’s Why

I realize that many Christians reading the title of this post are now cringing where they sit (or stand).  This, however, is part of my reason for writing.  Christians need not cringe at this notion.  And no, this is not a post about how we can fit the Bible’s creation account into the theory of evolution (a.k.a. theistic evolution).  For a thorough critique of theistic evolution, check out the 900+ page book, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique (actually written by a mix of young and old-earthers).  Instead, I want to present four reasons for reading science books written by evolutionists, without suggesting this necessitates an adoption of the evolutionary theory into the Scriptures.

But before I do that, how am I using the term evolutionist?  Well, I’m using it in the sense that it’s typically used – one who holds to the theory of evolution, implicitly referring to macroevolution.  Macroevolution is different from microevolution (small changes or adaptations within species or kinds, which is actually observable).  Macroevolution is the idea that we all descend from a common ancestor that branched off and evolved over long periods of time.  The evolutionist, Jerry Coyne, defines evolution as follows: “Life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule—that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species; and the mechanism for most (but not all) of evolutionary change is natural selection.”[1]  Further, when I speak of science books written by evolutionists, I do not have in mind books written specifically about evolution (like the book I just quoted from).  I have in mind books written on geology, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

The Reasons

1. Most science books are written by evolutionists, and therefore more of science and the natural world is opened to those who read them.  Some will likely jump to the false conclusion that this is due to Christians being inherently anti-science.  It’s Christianity against science, they say, and therefore there’s going to be more science books written by real scientists than there are by Christians.  This false dichotomy of science vs. Christianity is becoming old, but I think Christians frequently fail to recognize it.  Evolutionists have successfully equated science with naturalism, “the view that there is no supernatural aspect to reality.”[2]  The material world is all there is, and empirical science is the only way of obtaining knowledge (i.e. where belief overlaps truth and can be justified).  This methodological naturalism becomes the paradigm or grid from which all scientific evidence is viewed.  “For example, it is universal in biology today to assume the common ancestry of all life, so that all genetic, biochemical, and anatomical data are automatically fit into that model.  Data that don’t fit this model, however, are considered a ‘research problem’ or ‘noise’ and are rarely discussed, outside of some speculation about ‘convergent evolution.’”[3]  To part from this paradigm, then, is to part from science.  Interestingly, some atheists recognize the religious character of methodological naturalism in the sciences today:

… [A]theist philosophers like Thomas Nagel are concerned about the religious bias of assuming methodological naturalism, especially when teaching origins in public school science classes.  The atheist Michael Ruse has made similar observations on many occasions, noting that the real cultural battle is not between Christianity and science, but Christianity and naturalism, two very different religious views about the world.  This is especially evident regarding evolution, where Ruse notes that Darwinism can function at the popular level like a secular religion.[4]

Instead, the real reason that most science books are written by evolutionists is because evolution is the status quo, the politically correct paradigm.  It only makes sense, then, that the evolutionists are going to be the ones to get the book contracts with the big-name publishers.  Creationists will largely be left with forming their own publications.  These sorts of books exist, of course, and Christians should certainly read those as well.

2. Unless the book is specifically about evolution, and those are not the books I’m talking about in this post, the evolutionary element makes up a small fraction of the material – typically in the form of interjections here and there.  In other words, you can read a book on geology or biology and rarely come into contact with the theory of evolution (although some books may have an entire chapter on the subject).  This may vary from book to book.

3. Just because they are evolutionists does not mean we cannot learn from them.  If we want evolutionists to read science books written by creationists, we ought to be willing to do the opposite.  Further, while they are evolutionists, they are first and foremost scientists, made in the image of God, which means they have important scientific insights.  By the way, the reverse is also true.  Creation scientists are not just creationists; they, too, are scientists.  They too have important scientific insights.

I’ve actually come across beautiful descriptions of the world as discovered through the natural sciences in books written by evolutionists.  Following is just such an example.

Life is all around you, from invisible microbes and green plants to the other animals with whom you share the Earth.  What’s more, these other living things aren’t just around you – they’re intimately interconnected with your life.  Plants make your food and provide you with oxygen, microbes break down dead matter and recycle materials that all living things need, and insects pollinate the plants you rely on for food.  Ultimately, all living beings rely on other living beings for their survival.

What makes biology so great is that it allows you to explore the interconnectedness of the world’s organisms and really understand that living beings are works of art and machines rolled into one.  Organisms can be as delicate as a mountain wildflower, as curious as a grasshopper, or as awe-inspiring as a majestic elephant.  And regardless of whether they’re plants, animals, or microbes, all living things have numerous working parts that contribute to the function of the whole being.  They move, obtain energy, use raw materials, and make waste, whether they’re as simple as a single-celled organism or as complex as a human being.

Biology is the key you need to unlock the mysteries of life.  Through it, you discover that even single-celled organisms have their complexities, from their unique structures to their diverse metabolisms.  Biology also helps you realize what a truly miraculous machine your body is, with its many different systems that work together to move materials, support your structure, send signals, defend you from invaders, and obtain the matter and energy you need for growth.[5]

This author can’t help but use language that speaks of creation, design, and telos.  In fact, if this was all you read from this author, you might be tempted to think she’s a creationist.  I know from reading further into the book, however, that she is not.

4. It makes for better apologetics.  Knowing what evolutionists believe and why they believe it enables us to dismantle the real thing, rather than attack strawmen.  Whether or not they return the favor is beside the point.  My faith has actually been strengthened from reading books detailing the evolutionary theory.  In my view, it is far from compelling, reaching levels of absurdity.  Yet, many believe it.  Why?  Well, the element of the rebellious nature of man is certainly a part of it; but I think it has more to do with the fact that it’s taught with such authority – believe us, we’re scientists – and few people know how to respond to such teaching.  After all, intelligent people believe in evolution and teach it with such confidence.  Take, for instance, this description of how the world came into existence from the Big Bang:

Initially, however, there was nothing really very big about it [i.e. the Big Bang], because when the universe first popped into existence it did so within a volume that was much, much smaller than an atom.  Almost immediately, however, the universe began to expand incredibly rapidly, in a process known as inflation, which then stopped almost as soon as it had begun.  Despite lasting for just a miniscule fraction of a second, during this inflationary period the universe more than doubled in size 100 times, growing to around 30 cm.

The ending of this rapid period of expansion released a huge amount of energy, which had the handy consequence of creating all the matter that fills the universe today.  But because this matter was squeezed into just 30 cm, the universe at this point was very different to the one we now inhabit.

….  By the time the universe was one ten-thousandth of a second old, this expansion had caused the temperature to drop to one trillion degrees.  While still unimaginably hot, this temperature was low enough for a number of important changes to start taking place in the now slightly less dense soup of tiny particles.[6]

In short, first almost nothing (something smaller than an atom), then a cycle of expansions with heating and cooling at this time and that time, and here we are billions of years later.  If it didn’t have scientific authority stamped on it, who would believe this? This detailed description of the Big Bang is, at best, a hypothesis; yet, it is presented in a matter-of-fact manner. This kind of matter-of-fact presentation is present in much of evolutionary literature when it comes to the gray areas of science. I call this “evolutionary noveling,” where the evolutionists create an interesting story by appealing to the imagination of the non-scientists, much as an author would in writing a novel. If you can help the reader visualize it in their minds, it becomes all the more believable.

In conclusion, let me clarify that I am not saying Christians should abandon all discernment when it comes to reading science books (or any book for that matter). I’m especially not saying that children should be exposed to the evolutionary theory, at least not uncritically. What I am saying is that we shouldn’t necessarily shy away from such books. It would be exciting to see a horde of Christians enter the scientific fields, especially the natural sciences, redeeming the sciences for the glory of God. Christians need to recognize that some of the greatest scientists of the past did not hold to the naturalism of our day. Naturalists of our day like to make you think that real science necessitates their philosophical perspective. The truth is, however, real science was being done long before naturalism became the status quo.  Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), for example, a German astronomer and mathematician, once said: “God wanted to have us recognize these laws when He created us in His image, so that we should share in His own thoughts.”[7]  Kepler saw the scientific endeavor as thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  Kepler, and others like him, were not mere products of their time.  They were scientists who rightly perceived the beauty, complexity, symmetry, logic, and telos inherent within nature, and rightly understood that such a thing could not arise from nothing, but must be the product of an intelligent mind – i.e. God.  After all, intelligence begets intelligence (i.e. information), and this is what we actually observe in the world.

[1] Jerry A. Coyne, Why Evolution Is True (NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 3.

[2] James K. Dew Jr. and Paul M. Gould, Philosophy: A Christian Introduction (MI: Baker Academic, 2019), 93.

[3] John A. Bloom, The Natural Sciences: A Student’s Guide, Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition (IL: Crossway, 2015), 97.

[4] Ibid., 66-67.

[5] Rene Fester Kratz, Biology for Dummies, 3rd ed. (NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017), 1.

[6] Jon Evans, The Big Ideas in Science: A Complete Introduction (UK: Teach Yourself, 2020), 4.

[7] Quoted in ibid., 73.

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