Review: Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution

Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to EvolutionEvolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have long maintained that we cannot hope for a broad acceptance of evolution among evangelicals until the heavy theological questions are acknowledged and a plausible approach to the theological quandaries evolution creates are sketched out — followed by rather than in reaction to an explanation of the science behind it. This is what Denis Lamoureux aspires to do in Evolutionary Creation.

This book bears the name of Lamoureux’s recommended term for exclusively non-interventionist “theistic evolution”. In discussing scientific strengths of evolutionary theory, I especially appreciated how Lamoureux supplements a respectable treatment of genetic evidence for common descent by lending his unique perspective as a dentist to present the considerable paleontological evidence from analysis of teeth and jawbones. His critique of special creationism and intelligent design was clinical and admirably civil, but fervent nonetheless.

Lamoureux spends considerable space presenting a view of the Bible’s authority that doesn’t take its scientific or even all of its historical claims as accurate. In his memorable terminology, he rejects scientific and historical concordism, the beliefs that an authoritative Bible demands full agreement between the authors’ understanding and scientific/historical reality on those matters. This is a good and necessary start, and I found his candor about theological problems and uncertainties commendable. Yet ultimately I found rather weak his basic assumption that a “message of faith”, a divinely guaranteed spiritual message, lay embedded within every passage; I found that he offered no compelling rationale for discarding scientific or historical concordism while retaining what appears to be merely nuanced theological concordism.

One more significant component of the book is its detailed account of Lamoureux’s “evolution” of thought on these matters, beginning with creationism, followed by evolution acceptance and atheism, then back to creationism, and finally to acceptance of evolution. One should not underestimate the potential of testimony for creating empathy and so attracting outsiders.

Due to this book’s impressive attempt at being a comprehensive volume giving at least an overview of all areas touched by “evolutionary creation”, it is not for the casual reader. For someone who wants to delve deep into the theological and scientific issues swirling around the debate, it seems a great introduction, almost textbook-like (indeed, I can see it being used in Christian college environments). Evolutionary Creation will serve as a useful introduction for those wanting a thorough discussion of all these matters.

(Please note: this book review first appeared at Goodreads. I’m just getting into that site and noticed that I could post my review as a blog post; hence this.)

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  • Drew Smith

    Hey Stephen, I think you wrote a pretty fair review of Lamoureux’s book overall. I was intrigued by this comment though:

    “Yet ultimately I found rather weak his basic assumption that a “message of faith”, a divinely guaranteed spiritual message, lay embedded within every passage; I found that he offered no compelling rationale for discarding scientific or historical concordism while retaining what appears to be merely nuanced theological concordism.”

    What criteria COULD one use (other than trust) to argue for theological concordism.? How would one go about doing that? Are you hinting that theological concordism is a kind of “God of the Gaps” type argument? Just curious. Thanks

    • Drew,

      What criteria COULD one use (other than trust) to argue for
      theological concordism?

      Other than being able to evince a measurable standard by which to determine
      and evaluate all those messages of faith (and yes, that would be difficult
      indeed), affirming that God revealed an accurate theological message couched
      within each patently false scientifically or historically claim the Bible
      makes seems an unrealistic expectation apart from an appeal to personal
      revelation. Lamoureux is a Pentecostal, so this may actually be a factor for
      him, but either way, my criticism is that the book itself doesn’t really
      acknowledge, much less offer a remedy for, this weakness.

  • Drew Smith

    fair enough brother, fair enough. Thanks

  • By “non-interventionist ‘theistic evolution'” do you mean in contrast to “Intelligent Design?” Is there any view that admits the possibility of God actively creating through evolution, without casting Him in the role of “god-of-the-gaps?”

    • To your first question, yes; although there are versions of ID that admit
      common descent (e.g. Dembski), Lamoureux is critical of ID. To your second
      question, I am not aware of any such system, and that’s the reason I
      personally hold out no hope for ID.

      • Paul D.

        Didn’t they make Dembski recant and embrace full-monty YEC on the threat of losing his job?

        • You’re right, Paul — I meant Behe. Sorry, and thanks for the correction.

  • Nathan Jonfield

    Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image.”  Genesis 2:21-22, “And the LORD GOD caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept:… the ribe, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

  • zuma

    The reliability of percentage remaining (50% of the remaining rule) that has been used by scientists for the relative half-lives elapsed in responding to radiometric dating method is in question.
    Refer to the right hand side of the table in the website address, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-life. A list of percentage remaining that corresponds to the number of the relative half-lives elapsed are presented as follows:
    No. of half –lives; Fraction remaining; Percentage remaining
    0—————————–1/1————-100%
    1—————————–1/2————-50% (=100% above x 50%)
    2—————————–1/4————-25% (=50% as above x 50%)
    3—————————–1/8————-12.5% (=25% as above x 50%)
    ———————–so on and so forth—————————–
    n—————————–1/2^n———- (100%)/(2^n)
    Using the above principle, we could arrive with weird and illogical conclusion below that would place the reliability of radiometric dating method into question:
    If anyone of atoms, let’s say, atom A, has been selected from a parent isotope, let’s say, lutetium, to test the radioactive decay, this atom would surely have 50% of its atomic nucleus to be activated in radioactive decay in accordance to the 50% remaining rule as mentioned above. The rule has turned up to find favour in selecting an atom if one would examine the possible decay from parent isotope since it might not be possible if there would be more than one atom is selected as mentioned below:
    If any two atoms, let’s say, atoms A and B, would be selected to test the decay, atom A might not respond to radioactive decay due to the existence of atom B in accordance to the 50% remaining rule. Or in other words, there would only be one atom responds to decay if there are two.
    If any three atoms, let’s say, atoms A, B and C, would be selected to test the decay, atom A might not respond to radioactive decay due to the existence of atoms B and C in accordance to 50% remaining rule.
    If any four atoms, let say, atoms A, B, C and D, would be selected to test the decay, atom A would have much lesser chance to respond to decay due to the existence of atoms B, C and D. There would turn up to have 2 atoms to respond if there are four as a result of 50% remaining rule is applied.
    If there is a piece of 10,000 kg big rock[, let’s say, 10^(a billion) atoms], 50% of the big rock (turns up to be 0.5×10^(a billion) atoms would not activate in radioactive decay and these would cause the above four selected atoms, i.e. atoms A, B, C and D, to have even much lesser chance to respond to decay due to the possible present of many half lives in the future as a result of the existence of numerous atoms. As a result of the wide spread of the 50% inactive atoms within this piece of big rock, it is easily to destroy a piece a rock so as to locate a small portion that does not respond to decay due to it might need to wait for many half lives later in order to respond to decay as a result of the present of numerous atoms in accordance to 50% remaining rule. This is not true since scientists could anyhow pick up any rock, let’s say, lutetium, and yet still could locate decay emitted from it and this has placed 50% remaining rule into query.
    If there is a gigantic mountain with 5,000 km height, 50% of this mountain would not respond to radioactive decay. This mountain certainly consists of a huge sum of atoms when huge volume is covered. As 50% of inactive atoms would have spread throughout the whole mountain as a result of 50% remaining rule applied, it would turn up that it would be easily to locate a small portion of rock from the mountain that would not respond to radioactive decay. However, that is not true when scientists would pick up any substance, let’s say, Carbon-14, from environments for examination since they could easily locate a small portion that would respond to decay. This has placed the reliability of 50% remaining rule into question as a result of the ease in locating a small portion of substance that would respond to decay despite its immense size.
    The main problem here lies on scientists have placed 50% remaining rule on each half life and that half life is meant to be a very long years. For example, for Carbon-14, it would take 5730 years for the 50% of the initial remaining to turn up to lose its capability in radioactive decay in order to have 50% of what has remained after the initial remaining to activate radioactive dating. What if actual result of decay would not follow the sequence of 50% remaining rule in which it would take a shorter period to become inactive in decay instead of that 5730 years, using 5730 years as a base to presume that the decay would last in every half year would simply falsify the age that would be computed through radioactive dating method. What if the so-called, radioactive decay, would not cause any decay but it would restart its initial operation after numerous years later, the reliability of radiometric dating method is in question.
    The following is the extract from the last paragraph that is located in the website address, http://www.askamathematician.com/2011/03/q-are-all-atoms-radioactive/:
    […But in general, the heavier something is, the shorter its half-life (it’s easier for stuff to tunnel out).]
    The percentage remaining (50% of the remaining) to the responding to the number of half-lives elapsed contradicts the phrase, the heavier something is the shorter its half-life, as stated above. This is by virtue of the biggest the rock the heaviest it is and the biggest the rock the wide spread will be the 50% of the non-activation of nucleus to be in decay and it would lead to the longer the half-life due to the application of 50% remaining rule as spelt out above and this leads to the contradiction of the statement as stated in this website in which the heavier would lead to shorter half-life.
    What if this 50% remaining rule as mentioned above would have applied to Carbon-14 (the Parent Isotope), the following condition would appear:
    Years —————Half lives—Percentage Remaining
    0———————-0———-100%
    5730—————–1———-50% (100%*50%)
    11460 (=5730*2)–2———-25% [50% (the above)*50%]
    17190 (=5730*3)–3———-12.5% [25% (the above)*50%]
    22920 (=5730*4)–4———-6.25% [25% (the above)*50%]
    ——————and so on and so forth—————————
    4,500,000,000——837988—8^(-1)x10^(-251397)
    Note that the above years have been computed up to 4.5 billion years due to the scientists suggest the age of the earth to be that.
    From the 50% remaining rule that has been computed for Carbon-14 above, it could come to the conclusion that 50 atoms out of 100 would remain active in radioactive decay in 5730 years and the rest would turn up to have lost their value in radioactive decay. 25 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay by 11460 years and the rest would turn up to have lost their decay. 12.5 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay and the balance would turn up to have lost their decay by 17190 years. 6.25 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay and leaving the balance to have lost their decay by 22920 years. 1 atom out of 8×10^(251397) would remain active in decay and the balance would have lost their capability in radioactive decay by 4.5 billion years. As 1 atom for Carbon-14 out of 8×10^(251397) would remain in active by 4.5 billion years in accordance to 50% remaining rule, it implies that it would need to get large amount of atoms from Carbon-14 so as to detect the existence of radioactive decay. This is not true in science since it is easily to locate Carbon-14 that would emit radioactive decay and this has put the reliability of 50% remaining rule into query.
    Some might support that the 50% remaining rule is subjected to exponential progress. Let’s assume that what they say is correct and presume that the half lives for Carbon-14 in 4.5 billion years would be shortened by 80% as the result of exponential progress. The percentage remaining would turn up to be (100-80)%x8x10^(251397) and that is equal to 16×10^(251396). Or in other words, only 1 atom would respond to decay out of 16×10^(251396) and the rest of them should have turned up to have lost their value in decay. The ease to locate Carbon-14 that would respond to decay currently has put the reliability of radiometric dating method into question.

  • zuma

    Let’s examine all the common isotopes that are used by scientists so as to determine their acceptability in radiometric dating method.
    The following is the list of isotopes extracted from the website address, http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/radiometric.html, and, http://anthro.palomar.edu/time/table_of_isotopes.htm:
    Parent Isotope; Stable Daughter Product; Half-Life Values
    Lutetium (Lu)-176; Hafnium (Hf)-176; 37.8 billion years
    Uranium-238 (U); Lead (Pb)-206; 4.5 billion years
    Uranium-235; Lead-207; 704 million years
    Thorium-232 (Th); Lead-208; 14.0 billion years
    Rubidium-87 (Rb); Strontium-87 (Sr); 48.8 billion years
    Potassium-40 (K); Argon-40 (Ar); 1.25 billion years
    Samarium-147 (Sm); Neodymium-143 (Nd); 106 billion years
    Carbon (C)-14; Nitrogen (N)-14; 5730 +/-40
    The analyses of the above-mentioned isotopes are as follows:
    a)Lutetium-176 (Parent Isotope) to Hafnium-176:
    The following is the extract of the article, Neutron-Deficient Nuclides of Hafnium and Lutetium, from the website address, http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v122/i5/p1558_1:
    (New neutron-deficient nuclides of lutetium and hafnium were produced by bombarding lutetium oxide with 300- to 400-Mev protons. The genetic relationships and mass assignments were established by means of high-purity chemical separations and a series of chemical isolation experiments in which the daughter activity was determined as a function of time.)
    The above was the only piece of evidence that scientists have used it to prove that lutetium-176 could turn up to be Hafnium-176 in a half life.
    The phrase, New neutron-deficient nuclides of lutetium and hafnium were produced by bombarding lutetium oxide, as mentioned above implies the immediate transformation from lutetium oxide to hafnium. If lutetium-176 would take 37.8 billion years for it to be transformed into Hafnium-176, why is it that the transformation as mentioned in the above example could take immediate effect instead of a half life? Or in other words, it did not take a half life (37.8 billion years) for lutetium-176 to be transformed into Hafnium-176 and this has put radioactive dating method into question. As the formation of hafnium was by means of lutetium oxide as mentioned above instead of through a pure lutetium, it gives no ironic evidence whether the formation of hafnium could be by means of a pure lutetium. What if the formation of hafnium could only be done through the compound of lutetium, i.e. lutetium oxide, the result of the experiment would not serve as evidence that lutetium could turn up to be hafnium in a half life. Besides, a question has to be raised what other substance has been used by this scientist to assist in the explosion. What if this scientist would have added other substance to cause the explosion and that the substance, that would have added, would assist in the transformation of lutetium oxide to hafnium, relating lutetium to be the parent isotope of hafnium might not be appropriate unless with the help of other substance for its explosion. If that could be so, radioactive dating method by means of lutetium is in question since radioactive decay might not cause lutetium to be transformed into Hafnium unless certain substance has been added for explosion.
    Refer to he sequence of pictures in website address, http://www.elementsales.com/re_exp/re20071121.jpg, pertaining to lutetium. Lutetium would turn up to vanish in the 3rd year. As lutetium could not remain alone and would vanish in the air, it is irrational to assume that lutetium would exist throughout a half life (37.8 billion years) to be transformed into Hafnium since it would vanish in the air within 3 years. This has put radiometric dating method by means of lutetium-176 into question due to the possible vanish within 3 years and yet radiometric dating method gives assurance that it would last until 37.8 billion years for the transformation. How could lutetium be the parent isotope of Hafnium as it might vanish in the air within 3 months when it has been left alone in contacting with air and could not be transformed into Hafnium?
    b)Uranium (Parent Isotope) to Lead (Daughter Isotope):
    The following is the extract from the website address, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf14.html:
    (The Earth’s uranium (chemical symbol U) was apparently formed in supernovae up to about 6.6 billion years…)
    As mentioned in the website address, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Earth_creationism, that scientists have accepted the age of the earth to be 4.5 billion years and yet have computed the age of uranium through radioactive dating method to be about 6.6 billion years. As the age of uranium is higher than the earth, this has put the reliability of radioactive dating method into question.
    Could uranium be able to transform into lead?
    The following is the extract from the website address, http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/sci-ev/sci_vs_ev_6.htm:
    (Uranium-thorium-lead dating, based on the disintegration of uranium and THORIUM into radium, helium, etc., and finally into LEAD.)
    The process above shows that uranium has to pass through Thorium in order to be transformed into lead.
    Could Thorium be able to transform into Lead?
    The following is the extract from the 1st paragraph under the sub-title, Abstract, from the website address, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1914Natur..93..479L:
    (THE work of Boltwood and Holmes some years ago on the occurrence of lead and uranium in minerals rendered it very improbable that the end product of thorium could be lead. From recent generalisations, however, in respect to radio-elements and the periodic law, it is to be expected that the end products of the radio-active elements should all be isotopic with lead.)
    The phrase, uranium in minerals rendered it very improbable that the end product of thorium could be lead, as extracted above implies that scientists have no physical witness that thorium could turn up to lead. Besides, it is by no means for them to transform thorium into lead ultimately. As thorium could be by no means to turn up to lead currently, how could scientists assure the transformation would come true in a half life and would be in 14.0 billion years later? This has indeed placed the reliability of radiometric dating method into question. The reason why they put these two together is simply due to they meet radio-elements and the periodic law instead of seeing the physical transformation from Thorium-232 to Lead-208.
    c)Thorium-232 (Parent isotope) to Lead-208 (Daughter Isotope):
    As explained in clause b) above the impossibility of the transformation of Thorium to Lead. It has placed reliability of radiometric dating method into question.
    d)Rubidium-87 (Parent Isotope) to Strontium-87 (Daughter Isotope):
    The following is the extract from the 3rd paragraph under the sub-title, Isotopes, from the website address, http://www.chemistryexplained.com/elements/P-T/Rubidium.html:
    (Rubidium-87 is used to estimate the age of very old rocks. Many kinds of rocks contain two rubidium isotopes, rubidium-85 and rubidium-87. When rubidium-87 breaks down in the rock, it changes into a new isotope, strontium -87. Any rock that contains rubidium-87 also contains some strontium-87. )
    As the phrase, When rubidium-87 breaks down in the rock it changes into a new isotope strontium-87, is mentioned above, it implies the immediate transformation from rubidium-87 to strontium-87. Or in other words, it does not take a half life (or 48.8 billion years) for rubidium-87 to be transformed into strontium-87. The transformation is simply immediate and this has put the reliability of radioactive dating into question. For instance, if radiometric dating method is a truth, it should follow the rule of half life in which rubidium-87 should take 48.8 billion years for it to be transformed into strontium-87. As it would take an immediate transformation from rubidium-87 to strontium-87, the reliability of the computation of age by means of radiometric dating would be in question.
    e)Potassium-40 (Parent Isotope) to Argon-40 (Daughter Isotope):
    The following is the http://www.ehow.com/way_5229579_fossil-dating-techniques.html
    (Unfortunately, only 11 of 100 decayed K-40 atoms become argon-40, and only one of every 10,000 potassium atoms is the K-40 isotope; fortunately, potassium is one of the most abundant minerals on the Earth’s surface.)
    The phrase, 11 of 1000 decayed K-40 atoms become argon-40, as mentioned above implies the immediate transformation from K-40 to argon-40. As there is an immediate transformation from K-40 to argon-40 despite the amount is small as 11 out of 1000 decayed K-40, the reliability of radiometric dating method is in question. This is by virtue of it is mentioned that it would take a half life (or 1.25 billion years) for K-40 to turn up to be argon-40 and yet in reality it would take an immediate effect for the transformation. Even if one would suggest that 11 out of 1000 would turn up to be argon-40 and would take 1.25 billion years to process the balance of 989 (1000-11) atoms, how could the scientists account for 11 to be immediate and the balance of 989 atoms to 1.25 billion years not proportionally?
    f)Samarium-147 (Parent Isotope) to Neodymium-143 (Daughter Isotope):
    The following is the extract from the 6th paragraph from the website address, http://www.chemicool.com/elements/samarium.html:
    (It wasn’t until 1885 that Carl Auer von Welsbach established that ‘didymium’ was actually composed of two distinct, new elements: neodymium and praseodymium.)
    The above extract mentions that didymium consists of neodymium and praseodymium and yet didymium was found in Samarium. With the discovery, they conclude that Samarium could turn up to be Neodymium in 106 billion years. Their conclusion that Samarium could turn up to be Neodymium is not based on seeing the physical transformation from one to another, but the substance, Neodymium, was found in Samarium. That has caused us in doubt about the reliability of radiometric dating method.
    Could Samarium be able to isolate itself in the air without influence? No, it could not since the website address, http://www.elementsales.com/re_exp/index.htm, shows the immediate chemical reaction upon Samarium when it has contacted with air. The following is the extract from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samarium:
    [Samarium ( /səˈmɛəriəm/ sə-MAIR-ee-əm) is a chemical element with symbol Sm and atomic number 62. It is a moderately hard silvery metal which readily oxidizes in air. Being a typical member of the lanthanide series, samarium usually assumes the oxidation state +3. Compounds of samarium(II) are also known, most notably monoxide SmO, monochalcogenides SmS, SmSe and SmTe, as well as samarium (II) iodide. The last compound is a common reducing agent in chemical synthesis. Samarium has no significant biological role and is only slightly toxic.]
    The phrase, Samarium…hard silvery metal which ready oxidizes in air, as mentioned above implies the ease to respond to air in chemical reaction. The ease in chemical reaction with the contact of air would certainly affect the quality of Samarium and even the radioactive decay since it would not be solely Samarium but other elements that would form a new compound with it to increase or reduce its decay. This certainly would put radioactive dating method into question.
    Could scientists be able to separate Neodymium from Samarium? The following is the extract under the sub-title, Abstract, from the website address, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003267094002746:
    (A separation scheme for strontium and light rare earth elements and its application to the isotopic analysis of strontium and neodymium in silicate rocks are presented. This method benefits from the selectivity and high capacity of two newly introduced extraction Chromatographic materials, referred to as Sr.Spec and TRU.Spec, respectively. These afford a straightforward separation of Sr and Sm + Nd with high yield, good purity and satisfactory blank levels, on very small (0.25 ml) columns using small volumes of solutions of a single mineral acid, HNO3.)
    The phrase, These afford a straightforward of Sr and Sm + Nd…using small volumes of… HNO3, gives the information that scientists could separate Samarium and Neodymium through mineral acid, HNO3.
    Could Neodymium be able to stand alone from scientific point of view? Let’s observe the sequence of pictures of Neodymium in direct contact in air as shown in the website address, http://www.elementsales.com/re_exp/index.htm. For instance, if Samarium would turn up to be Neodymium-143 in a half life and that is 106 billion years, there would not be another half life for it since it would corrode in the air and ultimately vanish since it could not be isolated itself in the air. The computation of Samarium-Neodymium isotopes by means of radiometric dating method presumes Neodymium still retains for another half life and yet in reality, it could not. This has put the accuracy of radiometric dating method by means of Samarium-147 due to the possible corrosion of Neodymium-143 to its ultimate vanishing in the beginning of another half life. The computation of age through isotope by means of samarium has presumed that neodymium would continue for another half life once samarium has turned up to be neodymium after the initial half life. Yet in reality, neodymium would vanish instead of continuing its existence. As the reality is different from the assumption that is set up in radioactive dating method, the accuracy of the age that would have computed through this method is in question.