Friday, March 20, 2009

Reading: The New Creationism

I have a confession to make: I don't read many creationist books. I guess the simplest reason is that most books are aimed at the lay reader and don't say much I haven't heard before. My "to be read" shelf is populated with a mix of historical works (creationist and otherwise) and books of direct relevance to my research, especially books on genomics or history of science.

Occasionally, a creationist book comes out that is particularly popular and that I will be asked about (which forces me to read it). Better still are those rare works that I actually want to read. Paul Garner's The New Creationism falls in the latter category. I've known Paul since the 2003 ICC, and I've had the privilege of working with him on the Genesis Kinds book and his compilation book Christian Perspectives on the Origin of Species. Paul consulted me along the way during the preparation of New Creationism, at first about how it should be structured and written and later on the content of specific chapters. Don't get me wrong, though; whatever suggestions I made were minor. The book is Paul's work alone, and it's good.

Paul takes a unique approach to creationism. Instead of presenting yet another critique of evolution and apologetic for creation, he offers a summary of creationist research of the past twenty years or so. For those of you who have missed out on what's been going on, the past two decades have been a kind of blossoming of creationist research. There's been some really interesting stuff happening in all areas of creationism. I'd tell you all about it, but I think you should buy Paul's book instead.

The book is not written to be technical, nor is it a summary of the history of creationist research (although that would be a fascinating read). Paul organizes the book around themes that roughly correspond to stages of creationist history (creation week, Fall, Flood, Babel). In each theme, he explains the conventional view and how it handles the data. He then presents outstanding problems in the conventional view and whatever creationist theories have been proposed as alternatives. It's a remarkably balanced approach. I didn't come away from this thinking that it was a slam dunk for creationism, which is the way it should be. I was left thinking about the unfinished business of creationism, the problems we have yet to resolve, but I was also encouraged by how much progress has already been made. It was an honest yet optimistic book.

It's also a fairly short book and doesn't cost much. So there's no excuse not to get a copy. The official publication date is today, and you can see the publisher's press release here. Amazon's not showing it as in stock yet, but that should change any day now. I read a prepublication manuscript, so I'm looking forward to getting the finished product with illustrations.

Garner, P. 2009. The New Creationism. Evangelical Press.