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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read For Anyone Interested In This Debate
I have finally been able to pout this book down, now that I have finished it. Although the Evolution/Creationism debate is nothing like as hotly debated on the UK side of the Atlantic, Alexander (a British biochemist) sees the damage that it is doing both to Science and to Religion and here nails the fact that it ought not to be doing anything of the sort.
The very...
Published on 30 Dec. 2009 by Andrew Morton

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62 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander "de-bate"
In honesty, I marked this book down, not becasue it was poorly written or researched, but because I disagreed with so much of the 'naturalistic' emphasis that comes across in the overall story - even though this would be denied.

From the outset, the writer states that all Christians are by defintion 'creationists' - I agree. But I couldn't find much in the book...
Published on 13 Aug. 2008 by Jonathan Green


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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read For Anyone Interested In This Debate, 30 Dec. 2009
By 
Andrew Morton "Andrew At The Croft" (Lockerbie Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I have finally been able to pout this book down, now that I have finished it. Although the Evolution/Creationism debate is nothing like as hotly debated on the UK side of the Atlantic, Alexander (a British biochemist) sees the damage that it is doing both to Science and to Religion and here nails the fact that it ought not to be doing anything of the sort.
The very existence of people like Alexander, who have a deep and thorough grasp of evolution while also having deep religious faith ought to put the lie to the idea that these two are mutually inimical. What Alexander does, however, is to explain it. His explanation of evolution is lucid and thorough and avoids the misleading metaphors and simplifications of, say, Richard Dawkins. The discussion of genetics is not always easy to follow, but that's simply because it's a difficult subject. His demonstration that the Bible - especially Genesis - can be perfectly well understood in the light of evolution is also clear and lucid. Moreover his tone is never less than respectful for those who hold a different position from his own.
The central core of his argument - that those who cannot see that evolution and Christianity work perfectly well together springs from a misconception regarding the idea of "naturalism" - is clearly made and, from this Christian science-teacher's perspective, pretty watertight.
At this point I feel I ought to put in some negatives to make this a balanced review. It's hard to find any. It is a little hard-going at times, but the effort required in reading it carefully pays dividends. In short, I would recommend this book without hesitation to any pastor or scientist interested in evolution and/or religious faith.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A neat "both/and" solution, 6 Jan. 2009
By 
Dr. Peter Davies (Halifax, UK) - See all my reviews
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I enjoyed this book. Its great merit is that it affirms both great science and great faith. The one can, and does, benefit the other. Alexander takes us back to the idea of the scientist as one who explores the workings of God's universe. This book gets us away from the sterile either/or thinking of the evangelical atheists and the militant creationists.

The book echoes echoes thoughts from Michael Ruse (Can a Darwinian be a Christian?) who from a philosophical background shows that Christian faith and evolutionary biology are compatible, and Francis Collins (The Mind of God) who also has no problem reconciling his biological knowledge and his belief in God.

Alexander is particularly good at showing how DNA changes can generate genetic diversity which is the substrate for evolution. He also shows how natural selection is likely to be a conservative force on most occasions.

Alexander takes evolution back to its original role as a biological theory that explained the formation of new species from existing ones. As such evolution is a powerful theory, with great explanatory power. His account of species formation, and the examples provided are excellent.

Alexander is also good at showing how the idea of evolution has been exteneded to ends far beyond its biological use. The right with its belief in survival of the fittest businesses and individuals, the left with its idea of human perfectibility and inevitable historical progress, the Nazis with their idea of "lives not fit to be lived", the atheist materialist who must deny any idea of design or purpose all use evolution far beyond its intended, or valid, remit.

This book is both an excellent account of evolution, and a demonstration that science and religion can be successfully and effectively pursued together.

The two possible areas of weakness in the book are the section on the origin of life and its summary dismissal of the arguments of intelligent design.

Overall however this is a useful book, and one that allows scientists to get on with studying evolution together whatever their religious differences may be. It helps to build a very powerful bridge across the false divide presented by those who prefer to talk about, "science versus religion."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 14 May 2012
A beautifully written account of the latest genetic research and how this informs current evolutionary theory. Dr Denis Alexander illustrates in very clear language how Christians can be passionate about science, their faith in Christ and the inspired writings found in scripture. He explains how both scientific truth and spiritual truth should not be set at odds with each other but embraced whole-heartedly; they are complementary and each helps to build a deeper appreciation of the creator.
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62 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alexander "de-bate", 13 Aug. 2008
By 
Jonathan Green (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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In honesty, I marked this book down, not becasue it was poorly written or researched, but because I disagreed with so much of the 'naturalistic' emphasis that comes across in the overall story - even though this would be denied.

From the outset, the writer states that all Christians are by defintion 'creationists' - I agree. But I couldn't find much in the book that would differ from "The Blind Watchmaker" and a host of other similar books - albeit that DA believes that God brought the universe into existence and sustains it. Everything else differs little from 'almost' deistic beliefs (even though this too would be denied). I'm itching to know "What exactly did God do then?" Not an unreasonable question (to which I searched in vain for a coherent theistic answer), bearing in mind that biblically He raised people from the dead - which can have no naturalistic/scientific explanation!

DA doesn't deny miracles (even though the scientific community generally does) and is cautious to point out that the Genesis account does not indicate that miracles actually occured. This is quite true, but it's almost illogical. If He is capable of miracles at all (and He is) I would expect God to have acted miraculously in the Created order at certain key stages, perhaps in his direct creation of information to produce man (without common ancestry), thereby demonstrating His power, so that we are without excuse in providing fully naturalistic Just-So stories that exclude any acknowledgement of His Being.

In the Postscript, DA implies that scientists "investigate and seek to understand the works of God." That may be true of some, but not the majority, that are either atheistic or agnostic. They do what they do because they love the science and get paid for it.

As pointed out by ID theorists, such scientists are also committed to the reigning philosophical paradigm of naturalism. Awkward 'design' evidence is simply malleable enough to fit the a priori naturalistic conclusions (i.e. there can be no Divine Foot in the Door) - even if the evidence is crying out to the contrary.

DA is very critical of ID in the book, even though the motive for it is not to 'close down' scientific discovery, but point towards actions of 'intelligent agency' - which is surely what a creationist would predict to be the case....

I'm not a 'head in the sand' Creationist who believes in the God-of-the-Gaps. Far from it. Scientists need to be free to investigate everything as if the full workings of any material or biological scenario etc.., can be established in a fully plausible way - but where there does appear to be evidence for very specific design (say, in the genetic code), this should also be freely debated openly, rather than hear yet more story-telling in popular science literature!

Part of the difficulty of being a Christian within our world, is admitting, without embarrasment or shame, that we believe things, such as miraculous stories in the New Testament, that have no scientific explanation - and we should be content to accept that this is so and give God the glory for it.

This is a book that I would still recommend to all Christians to read, for the simple reason that within it there is a challenge to get to grips with the science (and theology) that is covered - and applauded by highly respected people such as Dr Francis Collins and Professor J I Packer. It can then be discussed further, particularly within a Christian context.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very sensible, thorough and interesting, 22 Mar. 2013
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Really level-headed and interesting.
I learned a great deal about what genetics can tell us, which is amazing. Anyone who is suspicious of "scientific evidence" should read this. Also found the theology interesting and thoroughly understood. All in all,very helpful to any scientist who is a Christian struggling to explain to creationist friends.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant exposition, 2 Feb. 2009
By 
Mr. K. Charnock (Clacton) - See all my reviews
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This book is a rare bringing-together of sound biblical and outstanding biological scholarship. The result is a very readable exposition of the unassailable claim of Darwinian Evolution to be fact rather than some sort of fanciful theory, whilst maintaining that the biblical accounts of the Creation in no way contradict the science. Quite brilliant; a MUST READ for anyone interested in this question.
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24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very helpful contribution to the debate, 1 Sept. 2008
By 
D. Gee (UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is written from the perspective of a Christian geneticist. His writing is informed by his knowledge of this fast moving field.

Like the majority of Christians who are professional scientists, he is willing to be tentative in his conclusions. Believing that there is much we don't yet (and may never) understand about how God chose to create mankind.

He points out the danger of poor theology and poor science creating stumbling blocks. Such stumbling blocks can stop the good news of Christ Jesus being heard, so we should choose our words carefully when we discuss such a hot subject, otherwise we may create more heat than light.

Denis Alexander believes God is the creator, and created in a way consistent with him being the God of truth (as do I). He presents a little of the enormous range of evidence pointing to the age of our planet (as being circa 4.5 Billion years old) and comes at the subject of evolution from "an old earth creationist" position. He goes into considerable depth explaining in lay terms some of the recent discoveries at the genetic level that point to the very close linkage between mankind and the animals. From these he comes to a position of saying that Adam and Eve were Neolithic farmers in the near east who he chose to reveal himself in a special way ("Homo divinus"). In the region of 6,000 - 8,000 years ago.
To quote page 243 of the book he says, "I do not know if model C is correct. But for myself I am happy to use it as a working model, and if a better model comes along I will readily discard C and adopt the new one."

In later chapters he also draws out some of the flaws that he sees in both "ID" (Intelligent Design) and the young earth viewpoints.

I, for one, found it a very helpful book. Denis put into words many of the ideas that I had personally held, but not known how to voice. (And not wanted to unsettle fellow believers by voicing). I therefore give it 4 stars.

I give it 4 stars and not 5, only because at one or two points I feel he is overly harsh in his comments about named Christians who hold different viewpoints to him. Particularly the tone of his comments about John Lennox (page 334) stick in my mind.
The science covered, although written for a layman, could be a hard read for those who disliked science at GCSE. An A level or two, or even a science / engineering degree is needed to get the most from some of his more complex asides.

But overall a very good book, and a good grounding in this important subject.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, 4 April 2014
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Well reasoned and probably correct although the author believes in a more absolute 'word of God '
bible than I do. ( I go for inspired by God , Written by error strewn man)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very clear and helpful, 18 July 2012
By 
Mr. T Holton "Tim" (Warwickshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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I only read this book because I started to read the counter-argument (Should Christians Embrace Evolution?) which was on a Creationist bookstall, and I realised I needed to read this one too. I'm glad I did.

This is a good book whether you agree with the views or not, as DA expounds some commonly-held perspectives of Christians working in science. He has been a top-rate scientist for decades, and is also a committed Christian and a well-recognized leader in the community of Christian scientists. For these reasons alone the book should be worth reading, but more than this, he has written a well-constructed and readable account of the relevant science and biblical passages, in particular addressing the issues of Adam and Eve and The Fall.

Chapter 2 is a joy: The Biblical Doctrine of Creation in which DA discusses what the bible reveals of God's immanence in creation, referencing Galileo's comment that so-called `nature' is the `executrix of God's will' - the outworking of God's will (p32). Here is such an expansive vision of God and His creation that has direct application to the daily lives of all Christians here and now, as we seek the coming of God's kingdom in the corner of creation where God has placed us. A Creationist would surely applaud this, but it sits especially well with the idea that God is `big enough' to generate the natural world without interventionist `tricks', since God is taken to be just as present in the everyday as in the miraculous.

After this, Chapters 3 to 5 get into the scientific detail of evolution whilst continuing to view things from a Christian perspective. So, for example (p62), he relates the story of a Cambridge science undergraduate who converted from a completely atheistic background after she sat in a standard (`secular') university biochemistry lecture and was stunned by the beauty of DNA which has evolved over billions of years. I suspect that some Creationists and New Atheists alike would simply not `get' this - that just to appreciate the outcome of `natural processes' should point someone to God (though remember that DA has already expounded the biblical view that `natural processes' are themselves the outworking of God's will - the world is made of HIS materials).

He specifically addresses several `Objections to Evolution' and includes some detailed answers to anti-evolution arguments and questions. Some have criticized DA for not referring to the plethora of Creationist material which argues against evolution. However, DA is careful to point out that good science requires it to be openly `peer reviewed' and this certainly does not apply to the kinds of material generated by these organisations. The key point is one of openness where `dissent and discussion are encouraged' (p130). Personally I'm sure he's right in principle, but in practice we all know people can take sides unfairly, and this does happen in the scientific community as elsewhere.

In discussing Genesis he points out that everybody interprets the early chapters figuratively in some sense. So for example, snakes don't eat dust do they? (p167). And most people would surely think that the river out of Eden wouldn't actually branch into four other rivers - rivers don't do that. If we were to take the creation of Eve as being simply a literal 'operation' then we will have missed the key figurative point that every preacher makes (and that Jesus himself made) about the relationship between man and woman in traditional heterosexual marriage. In this he is laying the groundwork for a review of how we see Adam and Eve and The Fall, and challenging assumptions that many people make.

So having described his science, answered some common objections and reviewed some key bible passages, he then goes on to postulate how we can reconcile evolution with the bible - particularly with regard to the major issues of who Adam and Eve actually were, and what does The Fall really mean (given that the expression doesn't occur in the bible). He discusses 5 alternative syntheses (`models') of science and theology which he then tests against the facts. He says that the models `go well beyond the text itself' (p234), one of which (Homo Divinus) he uses as a working model until `a better model comes along' (p243) and about which he says `It may be wrong' (p274). How's that for being tentative?! He doesn't mention it, but his favoured option is similar to ideas suggested by John Stott (Understanding the Bible) and CS Lewis (The Problem of Pain).

He claims that he never uses science as a `tool for interpreting the passage' but he will allow his science to `shed light on a biblical passage' (p151). He does this remarkably well in my view. One of the worst things to happen in a bible study is when somebody simply gives a `standard answer' without allowing personal experience to engage with the text. I'd love to share a bible study with DA because he is so Berean about understanding what the bible actually says in the light of his experience. But I have to say that when he later changes what I would see as being a fairly traditional interpretation of Romans 8:22-23 (p269) it does feel more like he's using science as a `tool for interpreting'. Those verses have always been taught to me as being about Adam's (and our) sin causing physical death and destruction.

For me, this is the toughest pill to swallow: DA's Homo Divinus decouples the origin of physical death from sin. Yet when I consult the commentaries on this, I find that Matthew Henry comments that these verses in Romans 8 have `some difficulty...which puzzles interpreters a little; and the more because it is a remark not made in any other scripture, with which it might be compared.' Personally, I wouldn't want to divide a church over this, or force my children to make a choice over incompatible interpretations as seems to be the intention of some preachers. And DA is certainly right that when you read the simple text of Ge 1:29-30 at face value there was physical death before the Fall. I applaud him for the way he tackles these issues.

There are other excellent chapters on Theodicy, Intelligent Design and the Origins of Life. Here are some quotes for those who worry about randomness of evolution or its inherent atheism: `evolution is far from being a chance process. It is tightly organised and highly constrained' (p322). `This implies that the protein tape of life may be largely reproducible and even predictable' (p324). `In none of this account have we been talking about `blind, natural forces' doing things, because for the Christian such language is inappropriate. We are living in God's world. These are God's chemicals and God's molecules that we are talking about.' (p349).

And one that shows he believes in God's intentional and intelligent design: `The more we look at Darwinian evolution taken as a whole, the more it seems to display precisely the signs of intelligence that ID proponents believe are located in those hidden non-Darwinian gaps.' (p 311).

In a very brief postscript he bemoans the divisive nature of much Creationist and ID activity, the barriers it raises in outreach and the waste of money in `publishing glossy magazines attacking evolution'.

This is an excellent work - comprehensive enough for both well-read laypeople and church ministers. If you are seriously contemplating the truth-claims of Creationists then please do your church a favour by reading this book carefully.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a balanced account, 30 July 2010
By 
Lloyd To (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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The author claims his book "is written as a discussion and a dialogue", yet he makes no serious attempt to understand the thinking of the other parties. The End Notes include just *one* creationist book (Morris, 1984). The main text mentions another book by Morris (1976), which is a commentary on Genesis. There is no mention of *any* of the major creationist journals, such as Creation Research Society Quarterly, Journal of Creation, Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism, etc. These are the major repositories of serious creationist thinking. Alexander does not interact with any of this technical literature, yet he claims to be "a great believer in reading carefully the writings of any movement to understand what claims are being made by its chief proponents". Fine words - a pity the reality fails to live up to the rhetoric.

Alexander is by no means alone in this. Criticisms about creationist ignorance are typically based on ignorance about creationism!

About ten ID publications are mentioned (this includes two volumes of debates between IDers & evolutionists). Four ID authors are mentioned in the index. John Lennox, author of "God's Undertaker", also gets a fleeting mention. Alexander does not engage with the many cogent arguments in Lennox's excellent book, choosing to disparage him by insinuating ignorance on his part (pp295, 334).

The function of a gene is influenced by the presence of other genes, so a gene in a segment that undergoes recombination will find itself in a new environment which may modify its function. According to the author, this generates new biological information. Actually, it merely reshuffles information that is already in the pack. Moreover, this reshuffling is constrained, since recombination in meiosis is not random, but occur at "hotspots" (whose locations incidentally are totally different between humans & chimps). It therefore makes better sense to view the system as having been intelligently designed to operate with flexibility but also within carefully prescribed boundaries.

DNA is recognised as a language. Language is specified information, as distinct from Shannon information. Although it is contextual (the meaning of a word or sentence is context dependent) this flexibility is highly constrained. Arbitrarily lifting a section of text from one book & inserting it into another will not add meaningful information.

"Genetic mutations that cause changes in the sequence of the amino acids in a protein can clearly be said to be the cause of new information." If the author is referring to *random* mutations, this would be like saying that accumulation of typos in a scientific paper that has undergone repeated copying can produce a revised edition. Many mutations are not random, but occur at hotspots. This suggests the process is controlled, and can be attributed to design that allows for flexibility within constraints.

On the whole question of whether mutations & natural selection are capable of producing evolution, geneticist John Sanford argues convincingly that they cannot ("Genetic Entropy", 2008).

Chromosome fusion & pseudogenes are used to argue (conclusively, in Alexander's opinion) for the common ancestry of apes and humans. These arguments are critically evaluated by Geoff Barnard in "Should Christians Embrace Evolution?" (2009). Anyone who compares Alexander's handling of the data with that of Barnard, will readily see that it is not the creationist who cherry-picks the data.

Chapter 6 is particularly disappointing. The sort of objections the author brushes aside so readily are either not at all the objections made by well-informed creationists, or are misrepresentations of the actual objections.

Alexander dismisses the bacterial flagellum argument used by IDers, arbitrarily giving the last word to critics like Kenneth Miller. This gives the impression that IDers have no answer to these critics. This is far from the truth (see e.g. Scott Minnich & Stephen Meyer "Genetic analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacteria", Dembski "Irreducible Complexity Revisited", Eric Anderson "Irreducible Complexity Reduced" - just Google the titles). Those who seek an accurate introduction to ID should consult Dembski & Wells "the Design of Life"(2008), as a starting point.

Alexander invites readers to view an animation of the "self-assembly" of the flagellum. The fact that a highly intelligent scientist has figured out a way to assemble this molecular machine does not mean the system could have assembled itself spontaneously by a blind stepwise process, & in the *correct* *sequence*.

Similarly, the description of vertebrate eye evolution & the diagram on p145 convey the *illusion* of simplicity. There is nothing simple about the very first stage, the light-sensitive spot, or any of the other stages. As Behe noted, such "explanations" start with an already complex system, and continue by adding "complex systems to complex systems", explaining nothing along the way. The evolutionary accounts of the flagellum & the eye are "simply" just-so stories.

Imaginative origin of life scenarios may sound plausible on the surface, but again the devil is in the detail. The author claims that new discoveries are progressively elucidating the details. On the contrary, these new discoveries have a habit of uncovering hitherto unknown deeper levels of complexity that actually exacerbate the problems. Read Stephen Meyer's "Signature in the Cell" (2009) for a comprehensive, lucid, & non-patronising account of these problems.

Along with leading evolutionists like Jerry Coyne ("Why Evolution Is True?" 2009) & Richard Dawkins ("Greatest Show on Earth" 2009), Alexander's promotion of the fish-tetrapod transition scenario, & the role of Tiktaalik, now sounds pretty hollow in the light of recent discoveries of tetrapod footprints that predate Tiktaalik & the other putative ancestors.

Creationists, IDers, & critics of evolution generally, are used to being misrepresented, and accept it as a fact of life. A more serious concern, however, is the author's cavalier dismissal of the issue of intolerance of the evolutionary establishment towards those who express doubts about evolution. His claim that "exactly the opposite is the case" is astonishingly naive. Let him *read* the *carefully* *documented* accounts in Caroline Crocker's "Free To Think" (2010) and Jerry Bergman's "Slaughter of the Dissidents" (2008) to find out what is going on in the *real* *world*!
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