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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel, part 1

A student gave me a copy of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004) upon her graduation from University. I was, and am, most grateful. I promised that I would read it, and I have. I am attempting to write a series of posts on the book, and related matters. (I am also attempting to keep a promise made to my readers, if any, here.)

The book is important. It is about an important subject. Amazon ranked the hardback book about 6,000 in sales, as of October 8, 2005. The hardback ranked about 8,000. Although, as you will see if you read, I've got some problems with the book, and with Intelligent Design, the book is, in my opinion, well worth reading. It covers more than just biological origins, and presents a lot of ideas.

Strobel wrote the book, he says, because his own background told him that belief in evolution was not compatible with belief in God as creator:

I've lost count of the number of spiritual skeptics who have told me that their seeds of doubt were planted in high school or college when they studied Darwinism. When I read in 2002 about an Eagle Scout being booted from his troop for refusing to pledge reverence to God, I wasn't surprised to find out he "had been an atheist since studying evolution in the ninth grade." Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. p. 24.

Personally, however, I couldn't understand how the Darwinism I was taught left any meaningful role for God. I was told that the evolutionary process was by definition undirected -- and to me, that automatically ruled out a supernatural deity who was pulling the strings behind the scene. p. 25.

I have previously indicated, in a series of posts, that one reason for problems in this area is that both conservative Christians and advocates of naturalism do not define their terms carefully. I'm not supposing that my posts, or anybody else's, are going to change anything about this, which is too bad. Natural selection works, and there are similarities between living organisms. These facts about living things relate to evolution. Neither of them really have any bearing on whether or not there is a Creator. To read lots of stuff from "both sides," you'd think they did.

Much of Strobel's book is what you might expect from a journalist, which is his background. That is, he went out and interviewed several thinkers about origins, and reports on what he found.

Three introductory remarks on Strobel's book.
First, it is the Case for a Creator. He is arguing one side of an argument. Don't read this book expecting to get an independent, unbiased view. (Don't expect many books to do that. One that tries is Del Ratzsch's The Battle of beginnings : why neither side is winning the creation-evolution debate (Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 1996))
Second, Strobel, nor any of the experts he has spoken to, and written about, are young-earth creationists. I found no statement in the entire book suggesting that these persons believe the earth is younger than several million, or billion, years. Strobel, and his experts, also seem to agree that there was a Big Bang.
Third, these persons, including Strobel, all believe in Intelligent Design (ID). So do I, depending on what you mean. To quote from my post of September 26, 2005: "Lest there be any doubt, I believe that there is an omnipotent God, and that He was directly involved in the origin of the universe, of living things, and of humans, and that at least some attributes of the way things are were designed by God. If that makes me an IDer, then I am one." I expect to make some remarks about how I think I may differ from mainstream IDers, and some of the weaknesses of the ID movement, before finishing this series, however long it may be.

The book is well indexed, and has lots of notes. Supernaturalists are often criticized for not using primary sources, or for quoting out of context. There's some of that from Strobel--he often has not used primary scientific literature very much--but I think the sheer volume of sources is a plus.

Strobel's book has been criticized at considerable length, usually negatively, by Paul Jacobsen, in his "Another Case Not Made." One of his criticisms that rings true is that Strobel presents his book as if he were a skeptic on these matters, listening carefully to more than one position, then drawing a conclusion. Jacobsen is correct--that's not what happened. Strobel didn't interview any young-earth creationists, or naturalists. He interviewed only IDers. He had already drawn his conclusion when he started writing the book.

1 comment:

J. Potts said...

I am definitely looking forward to the rest of your comments about this book. I am in the process of reading it myself (although it's not that easy to find the time these days), and I am excited to see your viewpoint. You (and the other SWU science professors) are the scientists that I most respect, and I definitely value the wisdom (and knowledge) that you all have imparted to my undeserving mind.