The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Who Held on to a Strong Faith While Wrestling with the Mystery of Human Origins
December 31, 2013 Thomas Nelson
The aim of this book seems to be to make the case that a scientific and a Christian faith-based worldview do not have to be mutually exclusive and truth be told, he makes a (somewhat, but just somewhat) persuasive case. I am not being facetious; in the introduction the author himself says something in the lines of warning the reader that she or he may feel like “throwing the book across the room” when reading various parts. He was right and very early on, not because of anything any of his interviewees said but because he stated in the introduction itself that scientists can be “arrogant know-it-alls”.
This scientist (yours truly) was not amused.
What Mr. Stafford said is true of some scientists, no doubt about it, but it is also true of some bakers and bankers, some firefighters and farmers, and well, people of every walk of life including some priests and ministers! Thus, I believe that it was an unfair characterization of scientists, although not an unexpected one, based on what he narrated in the introduction about a loved one being torn between science and religion.
I found his description of scientists particularly amusing and ironic because in page 101 one of the interviewed scientists states “A lot of Christians dont’ understand [science], and as a result they are offensive to scientists”.
Mr. Stafford is an admittedly biased interviewer; he is after all, a writer at Christianity Today. However, I must acknowledge that he makes a true, honest effort at being objective. Because of that, I can forgive him when he occasionally lapses into his deep-seated beliefs.
Stafford interviewed 11 scientists, all trained at excellent universities, who differed on their perspectives of Christian faith. They were arbitrarily divided into Young Earth Creationists (YEC), Intelligent Design Advocates (ID) and Theistic Evolutionists (TE). If you are reading this review, I am sure you are familiar with these three philosophies, so I will not elaborate.
Full disclosure: I’d like to think that I am a pretty good scientist, well-trained at excellent universities (or somebody made a terrible mistake at the grad schools where I got both my graduate degrees … (:-)…), BUT, am not an atheist. I do not think I am a theist either (most of the time at least. 😀 ). I have stated my opinions on faith in other blogposts, and be warned, I do not take bullying from either philosophical side!
Now, as practicing scientist, I do not think that either YEC or ID have scientific merit; end of story. I also think that TE is indistinguishable from evolutionary theory except for the fact that its advocates believe that evolution was actively guided by God (and this last statement cannot be proved one way or another). Mr. Stafford, to his credit, sees the scientific merits or lack thereof in each of these three alternate interpretation of origins. I actually enjoyed his summary chapter at the end of the book, very honest! If you have time to only read one chapter, read the last one. Spoiler alert: He likes TE the best…
Another thing that I liked about the book were the personal stories of these scientists in the light of science and (Christian, and only Christian… O_o) faith. This is interesting from the perspective of the multiple issues on the question of origins in U.S. society. Some of these scientists have been demonized by “both the other two sides” and this book help us understand how wrong this demonization is. All these people are sincere in both their beliefs and their scientific interpretation of reality, whether the evidence is on their side or not is an altogether different matter.
Moreover, whether their interpretation of reality harms scientific progress is of course, yet another matter. It was really irritating to read the propagation of statements which at best are misrepresentations and at worst were well, lies, like for example when some say that S.J. Gould “questioned” the reality of evolution. This was a perfect example of a book-throwing moment. There were several others, especially on scientific matters which I will let you discover by yourself.
Please do not use this book as a source of scientific facts; this is not its purpose and the author is very honest about it. Also, despite the claim of the author about merely describing each scientist’s point of view, it was plain as day that he “editorialized” in more than one part. It is his book after all, and he kind of gave us permission to throw it against the wall should we feel like it… Furthermore, this is not the kind of work that will change anyone’s mind, YEC, IDer or TE-inclined.
In conclusion, a valiant effort; Mr. Stafford’s heart was in the right place. In all honesty, I did not expect to like it as much as. I did.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers (booklookbloggers.com) book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255