Melissa Travis, Assistant Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, posted on Reasons to Believe (RTB)

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"Anyone seeking clarity and an improved understanding of how the various origins models approach the evidence would benefit from this book. Specialists who need an objective, succinct resource to recommend to non-specialist friends and family need look no further. Although Rau intends the book for both high school and college students, I think the text is best suited for college students and other adults. It is also a fantastic choice for Christian leaders and parents who need a better understanding of the origins debate (a large majority, in my experience)."

 

Travis, author of the children's book, How Do We Know God Is Really There? wrote a two-part review on the Reasons to Believe (RTB) website. Among other positive comments, she states:

When I pick up a book (written by a single author) that claims to offer a balanced view of contentious topics within Christianity, my default attitude is skepticism. Many times, the author has an ax to grind. He or she attempts to disguise any bias by presenting all sides of the issue, but often leaves out important information or makes straw men of all but his or her preferred view.

Overall, I can't imagine a better or more accessible treatment of this subject in the space of only 200 pages (plus charts and a glossary).

True to its title, the book functions as a precisely drawn map, flowing logically and using well-defined subheadings that keep the reader on track from beginning to end. At first, I was incredulous about Rau's suggestion that there are just six viewpoints on the origins of the universe and life. Personally, I believe that there are about as many views on origins as there are Christians who hold a view. But my incredulity was unfounded; the main categories Rau covers actually do encompass most every nuance I've heard of.

The tables at the back of the book are excellent; I am a visual learner and found these features appealing. The glossary is tremendously helpful for anyone unfamiliar with the subject of origins.
Rau states in the preface that one goal of his book is helping Christians "find their way through hotly disputed territory, to guide their journey from the one-sided and greatly oversimplified arguments they have heard in science textbooks or church sermons to the depth of scientific, theological and philosophical literature that exists" In my opinion, he accomplishes this goal beautifully.

She did have some valid criticisms, which I need to respond to:

1. Rau credits Intelligent Design (ID) with this philosophical axiom: "Design in nature is empirically detectable, and provides evidence for the existence of the supernatural" (p. 53). Now, this is accurate as far as the theist ID advocate is concerned, and that is the group to which Rau refers. Nevertheless, I think it should be pointed out that ID doesn't require the postulation of the supernatural (God). Rather, it only infers an intelligent designer from the available evidence.

Comment: Absolutely true. I was not as careful with my words as I should have been. As she asserts, I was thinking of Christian positions. Please see the Corrections page.

2. Related to the above problem is the assertion that implicating God as the agent behind origins represents a "god of the gaps" argument (p. 97). Rau is fair in pointing out that the naturalist's denial of a designing intelligence while waiting hopefully for a material explanation is "naturalism of the gaps." However, I disagree that ID is itself a gaps argument.

Comment: I also do not think that ID is a gaps argument, and never claim it to be so. If you read carefully I merely say it is viewed as such by proponents of models built on naturalism or methodological naturalism.

3. On page 136, Rau speaks of evidence for symbolic thought, such as "art objects and signs of ritual burial," being associated with both Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. However, the connection between Neanderthals and symbolic thought is highly contentious. I personally don't find the supposed association very compelling due to difficulties with artifact provenance, a low volume of evidence, and questions of later human occupation of Neanderthal sites. Even the evolutionary community doesn't agree unanimously on the proper interpretation of this evidence.

Comment: True, there is no consensus in any area of research on Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. Are they one species or two, was there gene flow between them, did Neanderthals have symbolic artifacts, could they speak? Unfortunately, it was not possible to present more than a quick and (very) dirty summary given the page limit. I will be exploring this further in later work.

4. On page 147, Rau says, "Generally OEC considers all Homo fossils to be human, whereas YEC is more likely to consider only Homo sapiens to be human." This is exactly backwards. Old-earth creationists see the hominid forms as lower animals that have gone extinct. They believe humans alone were created in God's image (see Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana with Hugh Ross). Young-earth creationists accept many of the Homo genus fossils as variations of fully human individuals. Perhaps Rau knows of some OEC and YEC advocates who match his description, but I have yet to encounter such.

Comment: Again, mea culpa. I am currently reading Rana's book, which is excellent, and have posted a Correction.

Read the full review (two parts) at:
http://tnrtb.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/book-review-dr-gerald-raus-mapping-the-origins-debate-part-1/
http://tnrtb.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/book-review-dr-gerald-raus-mapping-the-origins-debate-part-2/

The same review was posted earlier on Travis' personal site:
http://sciencereasonfaith.com/review-mapping-the-origins-debate/