Book Review - God's Word or Human Reason?

For all its flaws, young-earth creationism gave me my first exposure to science, and it’s because of my interest in finding evidence for my beliefs that I originally fell in love with science. Because I was forced to deny or explain away so many elements of science across so many disciplines, I ended up with a fairly broad familiarity with many different areas of science and natural history. This familiarity was, of course, extremely shallow and replete with critical misinformation, but it covered a lot of ground.

Equipped with a broad range of simplistic arguments touching virtually every branch of science, creationists can be frustratingly efficient at churning out Gish Gallops that would take a whole panel of PhDs to effectively counter. Creationism has consistently succeeded at identifying gaps in the public perception of science and filling each of those gaps with simple-sounding, “easy” answers.

However, there’s a silver lining. Though creationists are well-equipped to confuse, obfuscate, and mislead about a broad range of science, former creationists are even more prepared to explain and illustrate real science in a clear and convincing way. This advantage is demonstrated in splendid fashion by God’s Word or Human Reason?: An Inside Perspective on Creationism, a book written by five former creationists and published by Inkwater Press.
Creationists have long practiced the “one single flaw” fallacy, insisting that if they can find a single perceived inconsistency in any part of the scientific consensus, then the whole sordid affair of “evolutionism” comes crashing down. God’s Word or Human Reason? turns this common creationist tactic on its head. Each of the most pernicious problem areas often complained about by creationists – geology, dating methods, avian evolution, and human evolution – poses its own threat to the survival of creationist rhetoric, and so the book addresses each one in turn. Each main chapter, excepting the first, is followed by a brief subchapter explaining the personal story and history of that one author.

It’s an angle that works well. Each chapter stands on its own in debunking a major area of creationist dogma, but together they form a cohesive and effectively complete whole.

Books about creation and evolution tend to fall into one of two traps: either they focus too heavily on refuting specific creationist claims and become bogged down, or they present the science without exploring creationist responses at all. God’s Word or Human Reason? makes neither mistake. Each topic is treated independently and is presented based on the progression of evidence and research, but creationist objections are explained and refuted along the way. As a result, even readers wholly unfamiliar with the creationism controversy can follow along easily.

Although the book carefully avoids laborious point-by-point refutations, it makes no secret of who the other actors are. Creationists and creationist organizations are identified by name as examples of each objection and counterargument come up. Rightly, the book focuses most heavily on Answers in Genesis and their Creation Museum, but responses from ICR and other groups are also discussed. This works very well, particularly in demonstrating the glaring disagreement between rival creationist organizations in the classification of hominid fossils.

The title of the book may be confusing to some, as only the last chapter deals extensively with the theological side of the creationism controversy. “God’s Word or Human Reason?” is not a description of the book’s contents, but a reference to the way creationist organizations try to frame the debate, as explained in the first chapter.

Including personal accounts from each author helped make the book more accessible, but it may be a stumbling block for some readers. Although the book’s authors all accept that faith and evolution have no intrinsic conflict, several of the authors have left orthodox Christianity, and so hostile readers may see this as confirmation of their beliefs that evolution leads to apostasy.

God’s Word or Human Reason? is most effective in its thoughtful, detailed explanations of avian evolution and human evolution, my two favorite chapters from the book. Because the authors are former creationists, they understand perfectly how common misconceptions and misinformation confuse the issue. As a result, they are able to consistently preempt creationist objections while beautifully laying out these portions of our history. I was particularly pleased by the illustrations of feathered dinosaurs across evolutionary time; these were accompanied by images of each actual fossil in order to demonstrate that the feathered depiction was not merely artistic license.

This is a great book for anyone interested in the creationism controversy. Having evidence presented from the perspective of former creationists is invaluable, and readers will come away with a clear picture of creationism’s current state and its litany of shortcomings.

The author thanks fellow PT contributor Jonathan Kane for the opportunity to review an advance copy of this book.