F. LaGard Smith takes on ‘the queen of evolutionary problems’
Charles Darwin threw down a challenge that Christians — with…
The thesis of “Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution’s Fatal Flaw — The Origin of Sex” is that the very nature of sexual reproduction in the living world renders it impossible for species to evolve into other species, and therefore serves as indisputable evidence that God himself has directly and instantaneously created every species that has ever lived.
The author, F. LaGard Smith, is a lawyer who attempts to take on science by “ignoring religious assumptions” and arguing on the basis of his understanding of science, for which task he has read numerous scientific writings — especially popular-level books.
As to the audience, Smith tries to cast a wide net, inclusive of scientific specialists and those who do not know much science.
The book has some commendable strengths:
• It expresses concern for the well-being of young people and the role of education and worldview in their formation as persons.
• Smith brings rightful criticism of those who would turn a biological theory (evolution) into a philosophy of how people should live.
• Although often obscured by its rhetoric, the book at times possesses the virtue of wonder at the natural world. Smith’s discussion moving from flatworms to damselflies to Norway rats to Argentine lake drakes might remind readers of the nature tour that Job experiences in Job 38-41.
The book also possesses many weaknesses:
• Its length, repetitiveness and organization will likely tire and confuse readers.
• The overly-polemical rhetoric more insults scientists than invites reasonable discussion.
• It is hard to know what to make of Smith’s self-description. In his introduction, he writes that he is “often wrong but never in doubt.”
• The imprecisions in scientific concepts (including species, speciation, fossils) cast doubt on whether the issues are understood clearly.
• The book never offers a comprehensive, coherent story that integrates the individual positions that Smith takes with all of the known scientific data.
Readers will understand that Smith believes in the fixity of species (that species are fixed and do not evolve into other species), mutability within species (change can occur within existent species) and the divine, unmediated, instantaneous creation of all species. What readers will not understand, for example, is how the entire fossil record, all known genetic analyses, and the geographic distribution of species fit into the comprehensive scheme that Smith does more to imply than state.
• The biblical alternative advocated is built upon misunderstandings that violate the book’s own claims to succeed in exegesis (drawing out a passage’s intended meaning) over eisegesis (importing one’s beliefs into a passage).
For example, the book’s assumed definition of creation fails to account for uses of the Hebrew verb bārā’ (“create”) that refer to events that include natural agents, causes, and processes (Psalm 102:18; 104:30; Isaiah 43:1, 7, 15; 45:7; Ezekiel 28:13, 15; Amos 4:13). Also, the book’s discussion of soul in chapter 12 fails to do justice to the Bible’s references to animals as souls (for example, Genesis 1:20-21, 24, 30; 2:19; Levitcus 11:10, 43, 44, 46), as well as Paul’s clear, though often disguised, statement about the mortality of humans’ “soulish” (psychikos) bodies (1 Corinthians 15:44). Resurrection of the dead is not the same thing as the immortality of the soul.
• The book confuses biblical interpretation and inspiration, and, with this error in logic, identifies by name Christians who read the Bible differently and impugns their faith (“low view of Scripture,” chapter 13). In fact, on the matter of faith and biblical interpretation, the book is willing to side with an outspoken atheist (Jerry Coyne) against fellow Christians who read the Bible differently. This should give readers serious pause.
“Darwin’s Secret Sex Problem” offers a unique perspective: the nature of sexual reproduction requires the fixity of species. For this uniqueness, the book might go on the shelves of readers who study a range of Christian perspectives on science.
For readers not well-acquainted with the issues, the book might give false hope. Not even young-Earth creationists uphold the fixity of species, but uphold instead “the fixity of kinds” — the belief that God created distinct “kinds,” that each kind (for example, the “Cat Kind”) includes numerous species within it, that kinds are fixed and cannot evolve into other kinds, and that species within a kind can evolve into other species that also remain within that kind.
Readers of this book, whether persuaded or not, can take opportunity to be prompted into further learning, as well as into greater love for neighbor and enemy alike.
DANIEL GORDON has a Doctor of Ministry in Science and Theology and teaches Bible, ethics and faith-science relations at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. He blogs at danielgordonblog.com.
Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.
Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.