Timothy H. Heaton, Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of South Dakota, Review for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE)

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"Most books on origins are designed to defend a particular perspective, but occasionally a book comes out that offers a semi-fair analysis of different viewpoints. This book falls into that category."

 

I would describe this review, published by the National Center for Science Education (Reports of the NCSE, November 22, 2013), as neutral. From an organization dominated by a naturalistic viewpoint, I consider that an accomplishment. Since he calls my analysis 'semi-fair,' it only seems right to return the favor. Some of his statements are copied below, with my comments:

Rau does not defend any of the six models explicitly or even admit which one he favors, but he seems to have the least empathy for the extreme positions. Anyone familiar with the origins debate will recognize that nearly all of the detailed model building has been done by advocates of those extreme positions, while advocates of the middle positions tend to pick and choose various elements from those extremes (thus the linear spectrum).

Comment: I doubt that organizations such as Biologos, Reasons to Believe, or Templeton Foundation, all in the middle of the spectrum, would agree with this statement. The former two have done extensive work on developing their own models, and the latter actively promotes development of models in those middle positions. Either the reviewer is unaware of this vast literature, or does not want his readers to be aware of it.

Ironically, Rau has trouble identifying self-professed advocates of his three subcategories of Theistic Evolution, and he has to pretend that the advocates of the various models are much more unified than they actually are. Nevertheless, this approach allows him to cover some interesting ground that is lacking in most other treatments.

Comment: Actually, I repeatedly say in different ways that there is a great amount of variation within each model, and the only position I had difficulty identifying advocates for was DE, which had never been clearly distinguished as a separate model before my work. It is impossible for someone to be a 'self-professed advocate' of a position that has never been defined!

He denies that ID is "closet creationism" but fails to address the historic and polemic bases for that charge. At times he engages in ID rhetoric, such as promoting "information" (in DNA) as evidence for design without adequately defining what it is or the alternatives for how it might have been generated.

Comment: Unfortunately, to do all the things the reviewer asks would have taken a book twice as long (add in the theology that theologians want and it would be three times as long). I can only say briefly that, yes, ID had roots in creationism and uses many of the same arguments. Christianity had roots in Judaism as well. Everything had roots in something. At what point can something be said to have moved beyond its roots to a new identity? When NCSE talks about creation, they refer back to the definition set forth in McLean v. Arkansas, which is clearly referring to YEC, but ID is clearly distinct from YEC in every major tenet.

For someone so interested in how God might have guided the earth's history, Rau does little to address what a combination of natural and supernatural activities might look like and what the scientific and theological implications of such a mixture would be. It would seem worth addressing whether a natural/supernatural distinction even makes sense, or whether it is a convenient invention of our mixed scientific/religious culture. But Rau states in the opening pages that he had to scale this book way back because he only had space for an overview. I expect we will hear more from this author.

Comment: Deo volentis.

The whole review is available at:
http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/218/368