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18 of 20 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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61 of 80 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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18 of 20 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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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A neat "both/and" solution, 6 Jan 2009
By 
Dr. Nicholas P. G. 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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18 of 23 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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61 of 80 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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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Science and religion in stark contrast, but not as the author intended, 19 Jan 2014
Whilst disagreeing with the author on many points (more later) I did respect both the scientific and biblical learning that he brought to this book. His love of science and his Christian faith clearly come out in the book. I daresay few Christians are prepared to go back to the original Hebrew to further their understanding and interpretation of Scripture. Paradoxically, I can imagine it was his scientific training that drove him to want to read the original Hebrew. The book gives a very readable and informative account of genetics and how this is extending of understanding of the process of evolution. I have to say that the sections of the book concentrating on religion seemed particularly focussed on dismissing the arguments of Deists, Creationists and the Intelligent Designers. This is a shame as it leads to a muddle; and, criticisms that could be equally levelled at the author's own `strong theist' views. To be fair to the author does say at the start that this is a book for Christians, but, clearly, one particular constituency of Christians.

Considering Alexander's arguments in more detail, the book presents the reader with a huge methodological conundrum. On the one hand, we have the scientific method as applied to the theory of evolution. Here, the arguments are backed up by evidence and testable hypotheses. References are to peer-reviewed scientific publications - this does not mean they are correct, but does demonstrate an intellectual process by which scientific inquiry expands our knowledge. On the other hand, we have the religious method, if it can be described such. Here, the arguments are untestable assertions based on an acceptance that the Bible is the Word of God. References are either to Scripture or to the opinions of other Christian authors. The author simply does not provide an intellectual framework upon which the question of choice in the title can even begin to be answered.

My abiding memory of this book is the stark contrast between the scientific and religious sections. The book is almost schizophrenic - for me, at least, I could find no common ground between the science and the religion. The author posits a model where Adam and Eve were not the first humans and were not the only humans alive at the time. However, by God's grace they mutated (there is no better word for it) into Homo Divinus. Unfortunately, the evidential approach that was so meticulously used in the earlier parts of the book is now dropped in favour of assertion and Scriptural inference. If you are not aware of Stephen Jay Gould's Non-Overlapping Magisteria look it up. Alexander's book is a perfect case study of NOMA, as it's abbreviated. I'm sure his intention was the exact opposite: to cast science and religion as complementary Overlapping Magisteria. The author's argument goes that God's creative power is immanent in the world/universe and every time science yields some new insight and understanding it is by God's grace. Unfortunately, the majesty of science requires evidence, deductive reasoning and testable hypotheses. Assertions based on faith have their place and many have led to the moral codes by which we live our lives. It is not the faith based assertions, per se, that are the flaw in this book. It is the attempt to appose religious assertions with scientific assertions that is flawed.

This juxtaposition is no more apparent than in the final section on intelligent design where the author gives a tour de force dismantling of the ID argument of irreducible complexity. This includes the example of a Ph.D student claiming `irreducible complexity and therefore design' being sent back to the lab to try harder. In regard to ID, the author states "Second, labelling a biological entity as `designed' leads to no experimental programme that could be utilised to test the hypothesis." Exactly, the same argument can be applied to Alexander's strong theism - that an immanent God is responsible for maintaining, say, the weak nuclear force is not a testable hypothesis.

Alexander is also no friend of the `Blind Watchmaker' view of evolution. In the penultimate chapter, we get to his view on how God has `directed' evolution rather than intervened. This is based on evolutionary convergence which is the observation that key features have evolved independently multiple times; and, that the emergence of intelligent life on earth was inevitable. He inverts the anthropic principle to say life was destined (my word), rather than designed, to happen as ordained by God. That intelligence confers an evolutionary advantage is a perfectly reasonable claim; but, a claim that this was somehow ordained is, again, an untestable hypothesis.

Alexander is attempting to reconcile a distant (deist) God that works through the laws of physics with an immanent (theist) God that shows his love for his creations by sustaining the material world. His attempts to support his thesis by showing the muddle in the Creation and Intelligent Design theses just highlight the muddle in his own attempts to reconcile theism with science. I am sure many will share Alexander's world view, but not me. If you're an atheist, I highly recommend this book. It demonstrates the superiority of the rational, scientific approach over the irrational faith based approach for explaining our world much better than anything Dawkins has written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dealing with a divisive question, 18 Nov 2013
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Mrs. M. L. Mather (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
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This helpful book is written by a well qualified author and forms an excellent basis for discussion amongst those interested.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We choose both!, 26 Mar 2013
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I. Jarvis "Ian Jarvis" (Swadlincote Derbyshire UK) - See all my reviews
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This is probably the best of the works which commend both creation and evolution together as the best explanation for the world we see around us. Alexander makes it plain that he believes God created the universe and maintains it and that God used evolution to develop it and is using it still to continue this development. He combines this with an emphatic faith in the Bible and the knowledge of a first-rate scientist. This book is written primarily for Christians, but can be read with profit by people of any faith or none. Quite simply this book is best in its class - I have found it indispensable.
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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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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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