I’ve known Karl Giberson over a decade. In the early days, he was a respectful critic of ID. That now seems to have changed with the publication of his most recent book, Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (go here for the Amazon listing). The subtitle is curious. Ordinarily one believes in a religion and attains competence in a field of scientific inquiry (does it matter if I believe that quarks really exist? isn’t it enough that I can apply the standard model?). Giberson’s subtitle inverts our ordinary epistemic attitudes (was it intentional?).
The title is more interesting still — Saving Darwin. Why should anyone want to save Darwin? Aren’t his ideas strong enough so that he can save himself? Does anyone seriously consider saving Newton or Einstein? The Publishers Weekly review of Giberson’s book is revealing in this context (go to the Amazon listing linked above):
Drawing on his fundamentalist upbringing and experience teaching physics at an evangelical college, Giberson has a native understanding of how conservative Christians feel and think about evolution. As a Christian evolutionist, he finds himself occupying a frequently misunderstood middle ground in the midst of a culture war, fought with culture-war weapons by culture warriors. Behind the culture war, Giberson sketches an engaging historical narrative including Darwin’s background in intelligent design, what really happened at the Scopes monkey trial and how catastrophist geology derived from Seventh Day Adventism found an audience among the evangelical mainstream in the post-Sputnik era. By tackling the debate in cultural as well as scientific terms, Giberson does greater justice to the motivations of Christians who reject evolution. Yet he does not conceal his frustration—on theological as well as scientific grounds—with the rubbish of scientific creationism, which has climbed onto the radar screens of American intellectual culture only as a bad joke. Giberson’s sarcasm, however honestly come by, may cause the book to alienate an evangelical audience it might otherwise engage.
So in Giberson we have an erstwhile fundamentalist who used to reject evolution, got some education, swallowed Darwin hook, line, and sinker, and now spends his days justifying why his move to embrace Darwin was the better part of wisdom — all the while proudly proclaiming that he remains a Christian. Given the mental contortions required to remain a Christian once one embraces Darwin, Giberson is loathe to admit that Darwin is passe and the mental contortions were unnecessary. Hence the need to “save Darwin,” for in doing so Giberson saves his own intellectual and spiritual credibility.
This last paragraph seems largely right. It is a bit of psychologizing, which is what Giberson seems to do throughout his book to the ID side. Let me suggest that we all move beyond such motive mongering and look at the actual scientific evidence that bears on the truth of Darwinian evolution and ID. To that end, you’ll do much better reading my new book with Sean McDowell, Understanding Intelligent Design (I just received my first author’s copy yesterday via UPS), than reading Giberson’s latest. Mike Egnor, a world-class neurosurgeon who appeared in Ben Stein’s EXPELLED, has this to say about it:
Bill and Sean have written a superb book that I wish I had when I was in high school — it would have spared me decades of believing in Darwinism! This book presents a crystal-clear overview of the most important and exciting development in science in our lifetime — the growing recognition that life and the cosmos reveal clear scientific evidence for design by a Mind.
Too bad Giberson didn’t have this book before his exposure to Darwin. In that case he might have been saved from Darwin rather than spending his days trying to save him.