Can Evolution be Tested and Observed?

I often hear that biological evolution isn’t science because it cannot be tested or observed. Granted those claims are almost always made by individuals who reject evolution for ideological and religious reasons, but, we still need to deal with the question, is this assertion true? Are we able to test and observe biological evolution? The complicated answer is yes and no. Evolution can be defined and understood in various ways, it’s a highly successful research program, a broad theory with many subtheories. At its simplest it refers to the change in allele frequency over time and at its broadest explains the diversity of life from a common ancestor. This broader view of evolution is also based on inferences and extrapolations from many lines of evidence.

Some aspects of these inferences and extrapolations cannot be directly tested but then again there are many scientific theories that aren’t directly tested and observed. For example, in contemporary astronomy the sun is at the center of the solar system and all of the planets including Earth revolve around it. How do we know? A heliocentric view is still based in part on inferences and extrapolations. We do not have a satellite at the outskirts of the inner planets with a wide angle camera recording all of the planets going around the sun. Instead we depend on many pieces of data and interpretations of that data, again, based in part on inferences and extrapolations. This is how science is often done. Now, with that said, there are ways we can test and observe evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life from a common ancestor without seeing it happening in real time. We can test the fossil record to see if certain types of ancestral organisms existed at certain levels, at a certain time. This is how Neal Shubin discovered Tiktaalik, an organism that has features of both fish and amphibians. We can also observe aspects of the evolutionary processes in, for example, Richard Lenski’s long-term evolution experiment with E. coli.

So, getting back to the original claim we can see that certain aspects of evolution can indeed be directly tested and observed while other aspects are done indirectly through testing and observing data and theories based on inferences and extrapolations. Indeed one can review hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific journals that are always doing various types of research and experiments related to biological evolution showing that after 150 years evolution still stands as humanity’s most enduring scientific theory.


Review of Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design

This is one of the latest volumes in the Counterpoints series of books published by Zondervan. Presented are the four main Christian views of origins, namely, young earth creationism, old earth creationism (sometimes called progressive creationism), evolutionary creationism (sometimes referred to as theistic evolution), and intelligent design. What is unique with this work is that the writers represent the four main organizations in the United States for each of the positions. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis arguing for young earth creationism, Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe for old earth creationism, Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos for evolutionary creationism, and finally, Stephen C. Meyer of the Discovery Institute for intelligent design.

The format is for each author to present their view, then each of the others to offer a response, and finally for the original author to offer a rejoinder. I think this method worked out fairly well in giving an overall picture of the various positions.

Since there is so much material covered it would be difficult to review each view adequately. I’ll just summarize some of my thoughts. First, Ken Ham actually did a fairly decent presentation for the young earth perspective, outlining his views and why he holds them and interacting with the others. Ham had the least disagreement with Meyer and the most with Haarsma. What is a bit frustrating is the fact that Ham’s essay was longer than the rest, something that the editor admitted in his conclusion to the book.

I found Hugh Ross’s position probably the most frustrating and unconvincing mostly because he advocates for a form of concordism between Genesis and science in a similar vein to the old historicist approach to the book of Revelation where they saw a concordism between the various visions of Revelation with the outline of church history. They saw details in Revelation as being reflected in various events and persons in church history, Ross does the same with specific statements in Genesis and how he thinks they reflect the history of the Earth. What I also found very frustrating is in Meyer’s response he didn’t have any real disagreement with Ross so he chose to spend his time responding to the subject of evolution. This was a bit unfair in that Haarsma had no opportunity to offer any rejoinder to his comments.

Meyer’s essay on intelligent design seems out of place mostly because all of the other positions tend to embrace some form of ID, Ham and Ross more strongly towards the Meyer view, why Haarsma is less convinced of the interventionist tendencies of the ID movement. Meyer also seemed more interested in contesting biological evolution than engaging with the other two positions.

As one who started out as a young earth creationist, then embracing the ID movement in its early history, and then eventually moving briefly to old earth creationism, and finally to evolution I find Haarsma’s essay and responses the most convincing. She offers the most comprehensive view regarding faith, the Bible, and science.

The editor mentions in his conclusion to the volume that we are all hard-wired to believe and accept what we already hold to and to dismiss evidence that challenges our views. Indeed we need to be able to deal with cognitive dissonance when we are faced with such challenges and be able to overcome our biases and be willing to consider other positions, especially those that are critical of our own. I highly recommend this volume for this very reason, it gives the reader a chance to look at four positions and as well as additional resources listed in endnotes for each section. Read broadly and be willing to listen and consider other positions than your own, this is how we can overcome our biases and be more informed in the process.

A review of Replacing Darwin: The New Origins of Species by Nathaniel T. Jeanson

Jeanson holds a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University. His undergraduate work was in molecular control of photosynthesis and his graduate work was around molecular and physiological control of adult stem cells. After obtaining his degree in 2009 he went to work for the Institute for Creation Research and now is employed by Answers in Genesis. Dr. Jeanson is among a growing number of evangelical Christians who have decided to pursue advanced degrees in the sciences for the express purpose of defending young earth creationism.

The book consists of ten chapters divided into four parts with an introduction and afterword. Included are 40 pages of color plates that are referenced throughout the text.

In chapter one Jeanson frames his work within the context of a jigsaw puzzle and the importance of having the edge pieces to be able to effectively understand the puzzle. He argues that Charles Darwin only had a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and none of the edge pieces. He then presents genetics in chapter two as the source of the origin of traits (hence, the basis for the origin of species). Jeanson’s thesis is that genetics is the edge pieces of the puzzle that Darwin didn’t have. I’m inclined to argue that Jeanson has it backwards that indeed evolution is the edge and corner pieces and that genetics is a part of the more detailed center pieces.

Jeanson does give a nice overview of the history of genetics from Mendel to Watson and Crick and shows how each contribution was made to our understanding of inheritance of genetic traits.

In chapter three Jeanson dives into the inner workings of the cell, pivots to a discussion about the process of development and how cells encode information and then concludes with a discussion of the ENCODE project and non-coding DNA. On this last point he nowhere indicates that there has been some controversy in the scientific community about many of the conclusions of the ENCODE project nor has he mentioned that ENCODE had to clarify some of its statements.

For Jeanson DNA differences “set the hard limits and constraints on a potential explanation for the origin of species,” so we can begin to see where he is going with his line of argument, and here he brings back in the analogy of the jigsaw puzzle, as these “differences” become the edge pieces of the puzzle.

The next section contains many pages of various color plates some containing explanations while others didn’t. These plates are discussed throughout the text of the book and are a nice contribution.

Chapter four begins with Jeanson discussing the fact that science is about inductive reasoning and how that was the basis for Darwin’s theory. He then proceeds to discusss the geographical distribution of animals concluding that migration and speciation explains how most of the animals got to their respective locations.

Up to this point the book hasn’t been all that bad, maybe a few occasional snarky remarks about evolution. Chapter five however took a major turn for the worse. The chapter begins with an interesting discussion about Linnaean classification and how it represents a nested hierarchy but then Jeanson invokes a typical creationist comparison with automobiles and other types of transportation as another form of nested hierarchy. He then discusses various vestigial structures and concludes that Darwin’s discussion in the Origin about breeds and species is better explained by modern creationism and that Darwin’s thesis didn’t eliminate modern creationist views.

In a number of paragraphs he talks about the Book of Genesis and how it should be interpreted and how those interpretations have impacted modern creationist views of science. The book would have been better served if the biblical material was in a separate chapter discussing some of the issues of interpretation and its impact (or lack of) on science, rather than bringing it into the conversation so far into the book.

Also, despite decades of denial from various anti-evolutionary creationists that there are no transitional fossils, Jeanson not only admits they exist, he says they are consistent with evolution and specifically common ancestry. Of course he thinks the nested hierarchy of modes of transportation is the answer to transitional forms, namely, that God designed them that way.

Jeanson begins chapter six with a discussion of timescales and mentions Charles Lyell, but rather than dealing with the issue head on he goes down a different path and introduces the concept of rapid speciation. He again brings up the breeds-species comparison and references the fact that breeding began by humans about 12,000 years ago and spends much of the chapter talking about speciation rates of different species and how so many have arisen over the past 12,000 years. It seems that Jeanson is taking the breeds and species comparisons much too far especially since the concept of breeds is not technically a term in classification but rather a subset of species based around specific characteristics that the breeder values.

At the beginning of Jeanson’s book Darwin is said to not have an adequate understanding of the origin of species because so many species were yet unknown, but in this chapter we are told that Darwin had a large sampling of species. It would seem that the large sampling was sufficient enough for Darwin (in conjunction with other lines of argument) to formulate his theory of evolution. So, it would appear that the earlier criticism is really unjustified.

Chapter seven is the largest in the book and begins with a discussion of mutations and mutation rates. Jeanson explains that genetic comparisons of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) form branching patterns or nested hierarchies that fit exactly what evolution would expect. He then rejects that idea and explains that nested hierarchies are expressing functional roles in each family and that families (meaning the biological classification of family) was directly created. He references many of his articles that were published in Answers Research Journal for further justification.

Indeed, much of the chapter is Jeanson arguing that evolutionary predictions of the number of mtDNA mutations are too great when comparing the differences among various organisms such as humans, Chimpanzees, Neanderthals, roundworms, fruit flies, water fleas, baker’s yeast, etc. to actual mutation rates. He then argues that when comparing these various rates in timescales of 6,000 years that the young earth creationist predictions are confirmed. The problem is that Jeanson’s claims fall in the face of many studies related to molecular clocks, both nuclear and mtDNA, all show that the so-called “evolutionary timescales” are in fact justified. One review of Jeanson’s Answers Research Journal articles show that he has manipulated the results of various studies to come up with his greatly increased mutation rates than the ones that mainstream science has settled on. Further, modern studies of the human mtDNA tree has divided that tree into three haplogroups referred to as L, M, and N. Jeanson attempts to associate these groups with the three wives of Noah’s sons from the Ark.

One of the frustrating things Jeanson does in this chapter is make statements about contemporary science such as that the universe “evolved 13 to 14 billion years ago,” that the earth “formed around 4 to 5 billion years ago”, that “plate tectonics suggests that there was a supercontinent millions of years ago,” etc. for each of these he simply references Douglas Futuyma’s 2013 edition of his textbook Evolution without any page numbers leaving the interested reader having to do their own search to find the relevant information. Although these topics are covered in Futuyma’s text these are not the primary focus of his book. So why not refer to works that deal with that particular area of science? When talking about the age of the Earth he could just as easily reference the primary work by G. Brent Dalyrimple or any number of standard textbooks on geology or paleontology. This may be nitpicking but it kind of left me scratching my head.

Jeanson also claims that without the assumptions of the rates of salt flow in the oceans, radiometric dating, tectonic plate movement, the speed of light, etc. “the geologic and astronomical arguments for millions and billions of years collapse.” He then talks about the fact that young earth “geologists” think that the universe and the earth are actually in the range of 6,000 to 10,000 years old, that all species formed in that timeframe, and Noah’s flood was an historical and global event that dramatically altered “global rates of geologic change.” Although these ideas are all underlying assumptions to Jeanson’s attempt at “replacing Darwin,” none of them are taken seriously by the scientific community and for good reason.

Whereas chapter seven discussed mitochondria DNA, chapter eight reviews nuclear DNA. And just like mtDNA Jeanson admits that nuclear DNA also falls into nested hierarchical patterns. Jeanson makes the astounding claims that 1) both evolution and young earth creationism expect nested hierarchies, and 2) that the consideration of nested hierarchies does not eliminate either position from consideration. Both of these claims are contested by science.

Jeanson makes the claim, that “across diverse species, preexisting nuclear DNA differences looked like they might be required to produce more nuclear DNA differences via mutation.” He goes on to explain that when it comes to the number of actual nuclear DNA differences in human-chimp and human-human comparisons with predicted expectations from both an evolutionary timescale and a creationist one (6,000 years) that both underestimate those numbers substantially. He then says that evolutionists merely explain those differences as pre-existing at the time of the human-chimp split from their prior ancestry, while for the creationist the pre-existing differences were created that way in Adam and Eve.

Jeanson concludes chapter eight returning to the jigsaw puzzle analogy and states that like mtDNA, nuclear DNA differences represent another corner piece of the puzzle, giving additional contraint on the overall picture of the diversity of life.

The heart of chapters seven and eight regards mutation rates and divergence times specifically between evolutionary timescales and creationist timescales and Jeanson’s challenge that evolution be able to make testable predictions regarding mutation rates that match long timescales and actual DNA differences. His claim is that evolution is unable to do this while creationism is able to make such predictions and has a better explanation for those differences that don’t meet the prediction.

In chapter nine Jeanson makes the intriguing statement, “[i]f human breeders can do so much with so little genetic potential, and if much more genetic potential exists in the wild, then a natural ‘substitute’ for humans is almost unnecessary — natural processes need to accomplish so little.” This is astounding because for so long creationists have attempted to argue that natural processes were not enough to produce the diversity of life, and yet, here we have Jeanson making that very claim.

It is also in this chapter that Jeanson lays out his model of rapid speciation and repopulation of all species after Noah’s Flood. He ties in his discussions of DNA differences from chapters 7 and 8 with that of migration from chapter 4 to claim that populations could have grown from the numbers that were on the Ark to what we see today.

Jeanson concludes chapter nine with laying out the main differences between the evolutionary and creationist (or as Jeanson dubs it, the preexisting genetic diversity model) views of speciation. The first is the source of DNA differences or heterogyzosity, from the evolutonary perspective mutations are the ultimate source, but Jeanson wants to claim that mutations are not enough. From the creationist side he claims that the source of the differences are preexisting and are that way because God designed it to be so from the beginning of creation. The second regards the formation of species of which he frames the evolutionary view as one of individual mutants being able to survive in various scenarious, but for the creationist since diversity is already built-in and preexisting then natural selection, migration, genetic drift, etc is sufficient for the diversity.

In these later chapters Jeanson is concerned with the amount of nuclear DNA differences. From an evolutionary perspective those differences are explained because of mutations through extended generations over deep time. Jeanson cannot have deep time, he only has 6,000 years, so for him the differences are preexisting and had to be that way from creation itself. In essence, its a form of front loading. God creates the potential and ability of diversity upfront, so that diversity occurs naturally, but in the case of YECism, over a relatively short period of time.

Chapter 10 concludes the main body of the book with a discussion of speciation of various families of species looking at the number of known species with the number of species who have published mutation rates and outlining the number of mtDNA differences. The conclusion is that biological patterns in those studies match “linear patterns of speciation within families.” The essence of the argument is that species are becoming less diverse, are moving from heterozygous to homozygous. In essence Jeanson is arguing that genomes are deteriorating.

Jeanson conclusions with his jigsaw puzzle analogy and argues that the puzzle is incomplete because there are millions of species whose mutation rates have yet to be documented. He further claims that in reality there isn’t just one puzzle but many based around the family or perhaps the genus.

Lastly, Jeanson brings his book to a close with an Afterword attempting to place his book within a philosophical and religious framework. He begins by making a rather dubious claim that for the last 130 years there has been a polarized clash between the “two sides,” but seeing that young earth creationism is outside mainstream science and is fundamentally tied to religious faith, there is no “two sides” at all. Mainstream science encompasses people who hold to a wide spectrum of views on politics, economics, morality, religion, and a host of other topics and issues. So, from the perspective of the scientific community, there is no dispute over the reality of biological evolution. On the other hand, there is the current culture wars being waged by those who hold to fundamentally different beliefs about the world. That’s where young earth creationism dwells.

Jeanson goes on to make the false association of evolution with atheism. This is a logical fallacy of poisoning the well and ignores the fact that a great many religious believers hold to the scientific theory of evolution. He then proceeds to discuss theistic evolution with the claim that evolution and the Bible cannot be reconciled, missing the point that he is assuming a literalistic interpretation of the Bible and that one can reconcile faith and evolution by recognizing that the Bible need not be approached from an overly simplistic literalism. The rest of the chapter is a discussion about God and his attributes and becomes essentially a mini-sermon appealing to the reader for ultimate conversion.

Let me conclude with several observations.

One of the major flaws with Jeanson’s work is his attempt at a comparison between his “creationist model” with that of the “evolutionary model.” There are many problems with his approach including the fact that these are not the only two ideas out there and more importantly they are not on an equal footing. The creationist model as understood by Jeanson is based on 1) a particular approach and interpretation of the Bible as an historical narrative and literal history; 2) the idea that the age of the Earth is in the range on only 6,000 years; and 3) that most of the geological strata are the result of a singular global flood approximately 4,500 years ago. Each of these are problematic in and of themselves and yet Jeason’s entire edifice is built on all of these being true.

Another problem with Jeanson’s work, one that tends to plague all young earth literature, is that the data is made to fit the conclusion. Just an overview of the history of science especially since the late eighteen century shows us how natural philosophers came to specific conclusions based on mounds of evidence. We see this when Hutton realized that the nature of the rock strata showed that it took much longer than a few thousand years to produce what we see today and this idea of an old Earth was collaborated at the turn on the twentieth century with the discovery of radiometric dating. We see this again with Charles Darwin and his realization that the evidence pointed to biological evolution rather than fixity of species. Another example is plate tectonics that revolutionized the geological sciences. In each case conclusions were reached based on mounds of evidence. Jeanson is simply unable to overcome the fact that he is stretching things in order to reach a certain conclusion. All of the evidence for an ancient Earth and biological evolution are simply dismissed in the hope that he can make data fit the young earth paradigm.

I also wonder who the intended audience is for this book. I’m guessing that Jeanson is attempting to reach a general audience, but also wants scholars to read it as well. I bring this up because the book does start off with some good historical and introductory material, but by the time you reach chapters 7 and 8 you are in the thick of genetics discussions related to mitochondrial and nuclear DNA mutation rates and this is simply over the head of most readers. Sure, it will give the lay audience the feeling that they are reading something amazing and scholarly, but in reality they have no real ability to know or evaluate the claims being made. It would seem that much of the more technical discussions could have been simplified and the technical details either placed in appendixes or in endnotes or just simply refer to the relevant articles as he did in many places.

Throughout the book Jeanson discusses how he obtained information from various databases, doing his own manipulation of the data, which is to be expected since that is his area of expertise. The problem is that most readers are not geneticists or other type of professional biologist who have the expertise to evaluate his conclusions, especially since Jeanson is making his case outside of mainstream science. To his credit Jeanson does outline his methodology so anyone who does have the knowledge set can review the work.

All in all, this is an intriguing work and shows that young earth creationists are seriously wanting to do research, unfortunately their disposition towards a particular ideology (evangelical fundamentalism) constrains their work and often leads to cognitive dissonance.

Also, for those who want additional information about Jeanson’s work, especially from chapters 7 through 9 can consultant his five main articles that are freely available from the Answers Research Journal that are published online at the Answers in Genesis website.

Review of Rehabilitating Inerrancy in a Culture of Fear by Carlos R. Bovell

This is a follow up to Bovell’s earlier work, Inerrancy and the Spiritual Formation of Younger Evangelicals, where the goal was to call for giving younger evangelical scholars doing work on bibliology breathing room to formulate their own views regarding the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. This work continues that call.

The book is composed of six chapters and a conclusion where Bovell outlines inerrancy in relation to psychology, philosophy, theology, and biblical studies.

In the first chapter Bovell argues two points, the first is that “reconciliation appears to be the primary religious value of those who devote their lives to the establishment and maintenance of peace and social justice” and second that the “habits of fundamentalist and evangelical inerrantism are fundamentally at odds with a spirit of reconciliation.” The rest of the chapter we find discussions about such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and others and how young evangelical scholars are being impacted by their social justice sympathies on the one hand, and the stridency and absolutist mindset of inerrancy on the other that are often centered in an “us” versus “them” mentality.

Bovell argues in the second chapter for reestablishing hermeneutical distance between believers and the Bible. What this entails are the incorporation of hermeneutical considerations in the light of critical scholarship in work of doing bibliology. This results in the student not being locked into a straight-jacket of certain principles by which they approach and interpret the Bible based solely on strict inerrancy.

In chapter 3 Bovell directly engages with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in relation to the question of the truthfulness of biblical narratives. Much of the discussion surrounds the philosophical and theological concepts of truth, including the notion of God as Truth. Bovell challenges the concept of propositional truth-claims and correctly criticizes inerrantists for not going far enough in incorporating critical postmodern insights in understanding how biblical narratives relate to reality.

Speech act theory in relation to biblical narratives is next examined. Bovell uses 1 Sam. 5 and 2 Sam. 12 to illustrate the difficulties with inerrantists’ notions of truth and narrative speech acts. Several language games are offered in the hopes of reconceptualizing biblical narratives.

Chapter 5 Bovell calls for giving students breathing room to formulate their own notions of inspiration and inerrancy without fearing being ostracized. Bovell argues that these new formulations need to be done separate from apologetic concerns. One of the major criticisms that Bovell focuses on here but is mentioned throughout the work is how inerrantists bring their notions of inerrancy to the biblical text before they have actually analyzed and examined the text and then how they conveniently read inerrancy out of the text.

In the last chapter Bovell takes a look at the notion of biblical phenomena and inerrancy in light of Old Princeton and specially the writings of Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, and Benjamin Warfield. Ultimately the question boils down to does one begin with the notion of inerrancy and then move to the phenomenon and teachings of the Bible, or does one begin with the phenomenon of the Bible, and look at the teachings which may or may not end with a doctrine of inerrancy? Reformed theologians and evangelicals in the main take the former view while Bovell, and other post-inerrantists argue the second.

To conclude his work Bovell discusses Avery Dulles’s criticism of propositional revelation within conservative Catholicism in his book, Models of Revelation, and shows how they parallel the criticism that he has towards Protestant evangelicalism’s view of biblical inerrancy. Bovell isn’t personally ready to give up on inerrancy quite yet, but is willing to allow the new generation of scholars to evaluate and come to their own conclusions and profit from their research.

One may ask, what is the difference between this work and the earlier one by Bovell? Bovell writes in a footnote to chapter 2 that he had come to the realization that change could not be achieved top-down but would have to come from students themselves, he writes, “[t]hey are going to have to create their own public theological space where they can dialogue and decide whether a workable bibliology for the twenty-first century should include inerrancy or not.” In this second work Bovell attempts to lay out some of that space for the dialogue to take place.

This work is highly recommended especially as it challenges individuals to think independently and to come to their own conclusions on whether the Bible is inerrant or not. I personally went through this struggle and came out the other side wholly rejecting it.

A Review of The Grand Canyon: Monument to an Ancient Earth

This is a very attractive work with full color photographs of the Grand Canyon on nearly every page and is written at a general level so anyone can read it.

The book deals with how the Grand Canyon came to be and looks at two basic positions: standard geology versus flood geology. Flood geology (which is a part of young earth creationism) is the view that most of the earth’s surface is the result of a global, cataclysmic flood that occurred about 4,000 years ago as recorded within the pages of the Bible, specifically Genesis 6-9, and is also known as Noah’s flood. Standard or modern geology sees the Grand Canyon rock layers as having been deposited at various intervals spanning over hundred of millions of years.

The book is divided into 5 parts and 20 chapters. Although this sounds daunting but it comes in at a little over 200 pages.

Part 1 consists of the first 4 chapters and outlines the two views, modern geology versus flood geology and delves into the time frames for each.

The chapters in Part 2 dive into the science of how geology works and covers sedimentary rocks, dating methods, the geologic column, plate tectonics, and how rocks can fracture, fault, and fold.

Part 3 tells the story of the fossil record of both plants and animals, and just as importantly, trace fossils. Part 4 is about how the Canyon was actually carved out. These chapters also show that each rock layer contains its own ecosystem, something that makes sense in light of modern geology, but cannot be explained in terms of flood geology.

The last part consists of the last two chapters which tie everything together. Chapter 19 takes us on a 7 mile hike in narrative form with lots of photographs and hits on the various details from previous chapters showing why and how flood geology simply cannot explain the many and various features of the Canyon.

Chapter 20 concludes with answering the question, is science and flood geology simply different worldviews or presuppositions when it comes to explaining how the Canyon came to be. The answer? Science is willing to follow where ever the data leads. And flood geology? It starts with the conclusion and seeks justification for its views. The data backs modern geology at every point.

This book, to the honest reader, is devastating to young earth creationism and flood geology and is highly recommended.

Recommended Books on Creationism, Evolution, and Related Topics

The following works deal with the topics of creationism, evolution, and the Hebrew Bible and its background. I consider these some of the better works in each area, some are written at a popular level, while others are more academic and scholarly. The reason why I put this list together is to challenge anyone who wants to take a deep dive into the issues of creationism, evolution and a critical approach to the Hebrew Bible. The reason why I included books on the Hebrew Bible and its background is because of how it impacts the creationist view. I have not included works on intelligent design and old earth creationism.

The books on creationism are fairly representative of modern young earth creationism. I tried to hit on the major issues and subject matters creationists would consider important. The same with evolution, I tried to hit on the major topics from the question of what is science to books critiquing creationism, to books by Christians defending evolution.

The resources on the Hebrew Bible and its background represent a fairly broad consensus of the scholarly community from progressive/conservative to liberal to unbelieving. Obviously fundamentalist believers will disagree, but I think that is part of the problem.

Books from a young earth creationist perspective


  • Creation’s Tiny Mystery by Robert V. Gentry
  • Creation Basics & Beyond: An In-Depth Look at Science, Origins, and Evolution by ICR staff
  • Creation Scientists Answer Their Critics by Duane T. Gish
  • Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe by Kurt Wise
  • In the Beginning Was Information by Werner Gitt
  • Scientific Creationism by Henry M. Morris
  • The Natural Limits to Biological Change by Lane P. Lester and Raymond G. Bohlin
  • The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton
  • Thermodynamics and the Development of Order edited by Emmett L. Williams
  • Understanding Genesis: How to Analyze, Interpret, and Defend Scripture by Jason Lisle

Catastrophism and Flood Geology

  • An Ice Age Caused by the Genesis Flood by Michael Oard
  • Ancient Ice Ages or Gigantic Submarine Landslides? by Michael Oard
  • Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe edited by Steven Austin
  • Earth’s Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation & the Flood, 2 Vol. by Andrew A. Snelling
  • Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study by John Woodmorappe
  • Rock Solid Answers: The Biblical Truth Behind 14 Geologic Questions edited by Michael J. Oard and John K. Reed
  • Studies in Flood Geology: A Compilation of Research Studies Supporting Creation and the Flood by John Woodmorappe
  • The Genesis Flood by Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb
  • The Geologic Column: Perspectives within Diluvial Geology by John K. Reed and Michael J. Oard
  • The Global Flood: Unlocking Earth’s Geologic History by John D. Morris

Age of the Earth/Universe

  • Ice Cores and the Age of the Earth by Larry Vardiman
  • Rocks Aren’t Clocks: A Critique of the Geologic Timescale by John K. Reed
  • Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, 2 Vol. edited by Larry Vardiman, Eugene Chaffin and Andrew Snelling
  • Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe by Russell Humphreys
  • Starlight, Time and the New Physics by John Hartnett
  • The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods by John Woodmorappe
  • The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth: Past, Present, and Future by John Morris

Anti-evolutionary works

  • Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow
  • Darwin’s Enigma: Ebbing the Tide of Naturalism by Luther D. Sunderland
  • Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels edited by Robert Carter
  • Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record by Duane T. Gish
  • Evolution: The Grand Experiment, 2 Vol. by Carl Werner
  • Genetic Entropy by John S. Sanford
  • Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance, 2 Vol. by Wendell R. Bird
  • The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory by Walter J. ReMine
  • The Greatest Hoax on Earth: Refuting Dawkins on Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati
  • The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution by A.E. Wilder-Smith
  • The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory by A.E. Wilder-Smith
  • Vestigial Organs are Fully Functional by Jerry Bergman

Resources on understanding the Hebrew Bible and its historical context

How to approach the Bible

  • Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering by Ronald E. Osborn
  • Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns
  • God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship by Kenton L. Sparks
  • Is the Bible Fact or Fiction? An Introduction to Biblical Historiography by Barbara E. Organ
  • The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins by Peter Enns
  • The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It) by Thom Stark

How to interpret the Bible

  • How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel
  • The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously by Marc Zvi Brettler, Peter Enns, Daniel J. Harrington
  • The Nature of Biblical Criticism by John Barton
  • The Meaning of the Bible: What the Jewish Scriptures and Christian Old Testament Can Teach Us by Douglas A. Knight and Amy-Jill Levine

Historical context

  • Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible by John H. Walton
  • Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East by Christopher B. Hays
  • Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science by Kyle Greenwood
  • The Biblical Cosmos: A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Weird and Wonderful World of the Bible by Robin A. Parry
  • The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms by Othmar Keel

Introductory texts

  • Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John J. Collins
  • The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction by Norman K. Gottwald
  • The Old Testament: A Historical and Literary Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures by Michael D. Coogan

Books from an evolutionary perspective

What is Science

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Scientific Method by Stephen S. Carey
  • Just a Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science by Moti Ben-Ari
  • The Sciences: An Integrated Approach by James Trefil & Robert Hazen
  • Thinking About Science: Essays on the Nature of Science by Massimo Pigliucci
  • What Science is and How it Works by Gregory Derry

The Theory of Evolution

  • Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo by Sean B. Carroll
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero
  • Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved by Ivan R Schwab
  • Evolutionary Analysis by Jon C. Herron and Scott Freeman
  • The Evidence for Evolution by Alan R. Rogers
  • The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll
  • The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen Jay Gould
  • Understanding Evolution by Kostas Kampourakis
  • What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr

Age of the Earth/Universe

  • Ancient Earth, Ancient Skies: The Age of Earth and its Cosmic Surroundings by G. Brent Dalrymple
  • How Old Is the Universe? by David A. Weintraub
  • Nature’s Clocks: How Scientists Measure the Age of Almost Everything by Douglas Macdougall
  • The Age of Everything: How Science Explores the Past by Matthew Hedman

Human Evolution

  • Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins by Ian Tattersall
  • The Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA by Daniel J. Fairbanks
  • The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel E. Lieberman
  • Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

Miscellaneous Topics

  • Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life by Hubert Yockey
  • Information Theory and Evolution by John Avery
  • The Cambrian Exposion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity by Erwin Douglas and James Valentine
  • The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma by Marc Kirschner and John C. Gerhart
  • The Walking Whales: From Land to Water in Eight Million Years by J. G. M. “Hans” Thewissen

Critique of Creationism and Intelligent Design

  • Denying Science: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Doubting Darwin? Creationist Designs on Evolution by Sahotra Sarkar
  • Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism edited by Andrew J. Petto and Laurie R. Godfrey
  • The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis Young
  • The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood by David R. Montgomery
  • The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth: Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? edited by Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Wayne Ranney, Tim Helble
  • Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode
  • Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism

Christian defenses of evolution

  • Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology by Darrell Falk
  • Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation by Stephen Godfrey and Christopher Smith
  • Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution by Kenneth Miller
  • Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul by Kenneth Miller
  • Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

Biblical Criticism and Inerrancy

What is biblical criticism

Biblical criticism is the academic or scholarly study of the Bible using various tools and methods. One website defined it this way, “biblical criticism simply refers to the scholarly approach of studying, evaluating and critically assessing the Bible as literature in order to understand it better.” Biblical criticism is often used interchangeably with the historical-critical method.

Biblical criticism does not start with whether or not the Bible is considered inspired or inerrant. It approaches the biblical text like any other text and begins asking questions such as who is the author? Who is the audience? What type of literature is this? What are the historical circumstances of the writing? How do modern audiences understand the text? What are our assumptions when approaching the text? Some of the tools and methods used include textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, narrative criticism, social-science criticism, feminist criticism, reader-response criticism, postcolonial criticism, etc.

What is inerrancy

Inerrancy is the view that the Bible (in the original autographs) contains no errors of fact, not just in areas of faith and morality, but extends to matters of history and science.

Although biblical criticism does not preclude inerrancy it can help us to see whether or not the Bible contains errors of historical or scientific fact. I will argue that scholars have found by using these various methods and tools that indeed there are countless examples of such errors. For brevity’s sake I’ll briefly list two.

The historicity of the exodus

One of the crucial episodes recorded in the Penteteuch is the exodus. After 10 devastating plagues Moses, who was a prince in the royal Egptian family, leads Israel out of slavery to the promised land. When biblical scholars began using the tools of historical research they found that there was no evidence whatsoever of the events surrounding the exodus. Nothing in the records of ancient Egypt of a Moses, 10 plagues, or a mass exodus of Hebrew slaves, nothing in the archaeological record. How do inerrantists respond? Most take it as a matter of faith that something had to have happened, some argue that at best some of the events could have happened or at least are historically plausible when considering the contemporary culture. Another tact is to claim that Egypt would not have memorialized such a event, but even so, we would expect something in the record, even if veiled, perhaps Egypt changing the defeat into a victory or claiming such a defeat to be punishment from their gods (see Sparks, God’s Word, pgs. 155-157). It actually makes better sense when you see this account as a “founding myth” of Israel where Yahweh delivers his people, placing them in his covenant.

The spherical earth

It is alleged by inerrantists that the Bible describes the earth as round or a circle (Isa. 40:21-22; Prov. 8:27; Job 26:10), and hence a sphere and that it is suspended in space (Job 26:7) just as science says. There are multiple problems with this thinking. First, we must be careful that we are not reading modern concepts of cosmology into the ancient texts. Second, the translation of “circle” is not the same as “sphere” and in fact it’s often translated as “horizon” and the word for “earth” often means “the land.” The real problem is one of history. In the 6th century BCE the Greeks first proposed that the earth was a sphere, but it was a matter of philosophical speculation and remained so until the third century BCE when Eratosthenes was able to estimate its circumference. It was gradually adopted from then on. The cosmology of the Ancient Near East (ANE) however sees the earth as a flat disc resting on pillars covered by a solid dome. The various biblical texts from the Hebrew scripture make better sense in the light of their surrounding culture of the ANE. Inerrantists will not be convinced by the evidence seen by the fact that they still claim falsely that the Bible prefigures modern science, when in fact the Bible reflects the surrounding culture during the time it was written.


The findings of biblical criticism have demonstrated that the idea of inerrancy cannot be supported by evidence. This does not tell us if the biblical texts are still in some sense inspired, that’s a matter of faith, but it does tell us that the Bible is a very human book and that we can get to a better understanding of it using the various tools that are at our disposal.

Sources for further reading

Barton, John. The Nature of Biblical Criticism. Westminster John Knox, 2007.

Davies, Eryl. Biblical Criticism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury, 2013.

Enns, Peter. Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2005.

Law, David. The Historical-Critical Method: A Guide for the Perplexed. Bloomsbury, 2012.

Sparks, Kenton. God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. Baker Academic, 2008.

Stark, Thom. The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals when it Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries To Hide It). Wipf and Stock, 2011.