When Faith and Science Collide

G. R. Davidson, Malius Press, Oxford, MS, 2009

The perspective of this book is certainly one which accepts the evidence for an ancient Earth (4.5 billion) and ancient universe (13.7 billion) as overwhelming. The two major chapters are Ch 8 on The Credibility of Modern Science and Ch 9 on "Creation Science". In Chapter 8 he covers the standard topics on the origin and development of the universe and the Earth and the fossil record. About halfway through that chapter he starts his overview of life's development, and takes a position which affirms an evolutionary process, making his treatment more similar to Miller, Falk, Collins and even Ayala than to other old-earth writers who balk more at the evolutionary paradigm. He even takes an evolutionary approach to the origin of life, but in all these areas he affirms God as the Creator who has put all this in place.

In Chapter 9 he has the most thorough analysis of the methods of the "Creation Scientists" that I have seen lately, and I admire his fortitude for being willing to wade through enough of their literature to offer commentary. Certainly it is scathingly critical of the strategies and techniques of the young earth spokespersons. He puts in the necessary effort to offer counter evidence and criticism, which I have often thought of doing, but just didn't have the stomach for it. A few chapters of Morris, Whitcomb or Gish was enough to make me sick to my stomach with the distortions on nature to force fit it to their presumptions.


p9 Among those mentioned are Kent Ratajeski and Ray Williams. Also mentions Ken Wolgemuth who is one of the coauthors with Davidson of a paper "Theologians Need to Hear from Christian Geologists About Noah's Flood", presented to the Evangelical Theological Society in New Orleans in 2009. Also acknowleges the influence of Davis Young who was on the geology faculty at Calvin College.

1. Setting the Stage -- Crisis of Faith

Describes the dilemma of a person inclined toward faith but being exposed to rigid young-earth creationism which conflicts with what he understands about the age of the Earth.

p14 Asserts a strong commitment to the Bible in 6 tenets.

2. Historical Context - Heliocentrism vs Scripture

Overview of Galileo story with the scriptures that were taken to imply geocentrism.

p 21 Poses three questions that "should be asked any time a scientific theory appears to conflict with scripture."

  1. Does the infallibility of scripture rest on a literal interpretation of the verses in question?
  2. Does the science conflict with the intended message of the scripture?

  3. Is the science credible?

Spends most of the rest of this chapter discussing these questions.

p 27 Lists some of the ways people have dealt with apparent conflicts between science and scripture in, as I see it, pathological ways.

3. Beginnings - Matthew and Genesis

Discussion of the geneologies of Matthew and Genesis.

4. Genesis - Inside and Out

p Discusses the problems encountered with a literal interpretation of Genesis.

5. Does Science Challenge the Message of Scripture?

p 53 Comparison of Bible and scienc on the Big Bang.

p 54 Origin and development of life discussion, uses 3.5 billion as life origin time.

p 56 Timetable for types of life.

p 58 Origin of man discussion. Discusses mitochondrial eve.

p 66 Death and the fall.

p 67 Death before Adam discussion. Pretty thorough. Synthesis on p72.

p 73 Cain's fear and the Nephilim, summary pg 76 with further discussion about Neanderthals and Nephilim.

p 79 Noah's flood.

p 80 Catastrophic floods of the Mediterranian area. Book "Noah's Flood" by Ryan and Pitman, 1998 in which they explore the natural evidence for great floods in the area.

p 84 Genealogies and the Time Since Creation.

6. Confusing Science with Philosophy

p87 Deals with philosophical naturalism vs methodological naturalism, though using different words.

p 88 "science cannot logically lead to materialism."

p 89 "To get to materialism, a large, blind leap of faith is required to believe that only that which is testable by science truly exists." His footnote is to Francis Collins' "Language of God", p165, where he criticized Dawkins' leap of faith and to Stephen Jay Gould.

p 90 About Johnson's "Darwin on Trial", "Johnson's attacks on naturalism/materialism hit dead center. His attacks on evolutionary science miss the target, in large part because he is still aiming at materialism."

p 90 Davidson is taking the stance that though it may look like chance, God is guiding it. His view of evolution is influenced by this view. "Rather than defining evolution as Darwinism, evolution should be defined as the name man has given to the study of what God's creativity looks like. God does not guide, mimic, prod or adjust evolution as if it is an independent force that God must reign in. God creates. Evolution is merely the physical, chemical, and biological description of what that creation looks like."

p 91 Brings up Dawkin's treatment of the flatfish in Blind Watchmaker and Kenneth Miller's (p102, Finding Darwin's God) sort of agreement with it to deal with the issue of seemingly imperfect design.

p 91-94 Makes a good effort to discuss this issue.

7. Choice of Terms

p 95 Those who battle against evolution refer to themselves as Creationists, and refer to all who believe in a naturalistic origin Evolutionists. Discusses the problems of young earth evolutionists who believe in accelerated evolution after the flood.

p 96 Discusses theistic evolution, although confessing distaste for the term. But the tone suggests that he feels God could have directed things without violating natural law so that it looks like evolution. "If God created life forms without violating any of the natural laws he set into motion, the study of life through earth history will look the same to theists and atheists alke."

8. The Credibility of Modern Science

p 98 The birth of the universe. Friedmann/Einstein equations, cosmological constant story, Eddington, Hubble and the expanding universe leading to Big Bang theory.

p 100 The age of the universe. Expanding universe - parallax - projection to 13.7 billion years.

p 103 Uranium decay - half-life - role of supernovae - isotopes

p 106 Use of light spectra of Uranium to determine abundance of U-238 and imply approx 12 billion year age for old stars. Use of microwave background radiation and WMAP satellite to project to 13.7 billion years.

p 108 Geologic history and the age of the earth. Good two page survey of the development of the view of uniformitarianism, gradualism, catastrophism, and actualism (the physical laws controlling the process of change today are the same as those acting in the past.) Discusses Lyell , Hutton, other pioneers of geology. Also William Smith, one of the pioneers of analyzing layers and veins that cut across them to build some picture of the time progression.

p 110 Cuvier and Brongniart as catastrophists who observed the layering of fossils. Segewick in Wales and the Cambrian layer and period. Identification of the periods. Salt methods of estimating age, Kelvin cooling time. (Kelvin didn't know about radioactive heating.)

p 111 Illustration of layers and characteristic fossils.

p 112 Illustration of geologic column, the different eras.

p 114 Uranium-lead dating. Discusses fission-track dating, other aspects of implying the ages of different kinds of rock. Bracketing techniques.

p 117 Plate tectonics

p 118 Illustration of plate tectonics with mid-Atlantic ridge. 180 million years, 5600 km spread, 3.1cm/year with data varying from 2.8 to 4.4 cm/yr. Currently measured spreading rate 2.5 cm/yr, so the consistency of the current rate and that obtained from the radioactive dating is a strong case for their validity.

p 120 Discussion of Darwin and Wallace, and a general overview of evolutionary theory. He is generally sympathetic with the picture of mutation and natural selection, but from a creationist perspective.

p 124 "Life was designed with change in mind." He follows this with discussion favorable to macroevolution, but from a perspective of seeing this as the creative process.

p 125 Discusses that which was "prematurely labeled junk DNA" He attributes all this process to God and ends with "the Creator knew what he was doing when the master plan was developed. Why should it seem incredible to the Christian that God could implant the seeds of diversity within the very design of life?"

p 125-131 Goes through a plausibility sequence for developing a bird from a dinosaur - similar to the kind of thing that Franscisco Ayala does in "Darwin's Gift ..".

p 132 Talks about transitional species and cites Henry Morris and Duane Gish as attacking evolution but agreeing with the order of development of life revealed in the geologic column.

p 132 Having opened the door to talk about the young-earth perspective, he proceeds to respond at some length to their take on the fossil record.

  1. Succession of life forms
  2. Extinctions
  3. Transitional forms

p 132 Succession of life forms. Has discussion and a series of diagrams to show that none of their scenarios work.

p 139 Extinctions - shows with diagram and discussion that flood model doesn't work.

p 142-151 Transitional forms - cites Duane Gish, but then asserts that there are thousands of transitional fossils. An extensive section in which he defends the transitional fossil process, again having a flavor similar to that of Ayala.

p 151 Origin of life. He proceeds through the replicating molecule path which is hammered by Pullen in Intelligent Design or Evolution and even seems back there with Dean Kenyon when he wrote Biochemical Predestination. That is surprising. Looks like he is just not aware of the work on the complexity of this.

p 156 Evolution of man. Goes through the hominids to Neanderthal.

9. Creation Science - The War of Words

p 165 He certainly doesn't mince words in his opening barrage here.

p 165 "Young earth proponents start with the presupposed truth that the days in Genesis 1 were intended as a literal rendering of the creation events. As such, evolution must be false and the earth must be young. All examination of evidence must demonstrate this position. Two types of people emerge from this starting point." One type argues honestly from the evidence.

p 165 "There is a second type that is more disturbing. To this group, the truth of special creation is of such importance that the truthfulness of arguments used in its support can be justifiably twisted if it leads toward belief in the ultimate truth of creation. The loose affiliation shared by these people make up the membership of a creationist cult, where the God of creation has been replaced by worship of creation events rather than the Creator. All is done in the name of Christ, but employing methods grossly inconsistent with Christian character."

p 165-226 A series of examples of all kinds of examples of young earth strategies with countering examples.





10 What about Intelligent Design?

He certainly gives the subject a short treatment, only 5 pages. Mentions Behe and Dembski, but not Meyer, and seems to be unaware of the information scientists in the discussion, like Johnson and Pullen. Really just comments on his framework of intelligent design. Those comments are closer to Ayala and Miller than to the above persons.

p 227 "Intelligent Design proponents believe that

  • live and the universe were created by an intelligent designer
  • nature bears physical evidence of design
  • evidence of design can be scientifically documented

He then asserts that the first two are nearly universal among religious worldviews, and expresses doubt that the third can be demonstrated. Talks about irreducible complexity and specified complexity. Calls the claim that intelligence in creation can be scientifically documented "bad science and bad theology".

p 228 On the "bad science" side he just asserts that it is impossible to demonstrate scientifically the premise that intelligent design is required. Certainly it is a valid point that we cannot go back and experimentally produce DNA to show that intelligent design is required. He seems not to recognize any abductive approach of the "inference to the best explanation", but that is arguably because he has already decided that God did it. Pretty well concludes that the argument from irreducible complexity is a "God of the gaps" argument. He does not address the possible limits of chance and necessity as clues to a Designer.

p 230 On the "bad theology" front he sees a problem in "believing that natural observations can scientifically document the existence of God .." "If the existence of God can be demonstrated scientifically, there is no longer a need for faith." Cites Hebrews 11:1-3 "by faith ... worlds prepared by the word of God ...not made out of things which are visible"

11 Opening Doors

p 233 "If the best interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 is consistent with what modern science now tells us about the age of the universe and the adaptive development of life over time, what could be the consequences of rejecting it?" He lists three.

  1. Failure to recognize and be awed by the magnificence of God's creativity when we see it.
  2. "We will be forced to rationalize the righteousness of a God who designed his natural creation to intentionally lead astray all but those willing to deny the story it yields."
  3. We will be an obstacle to the faith of questioning materialists. "They will be looking at God's workmanship while denying the Creator, and we will insist that to acknowledge the Creator they must deny his workmanship!"

p 234 "Can there be a more ineffectual witness? How much better to simply open the door to show how the very work they see carries the signature of its author."

Windows of Creation
Evidence from nature Is the universe designed?
Reasonable faith
  Reasonable Faith Go Back