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Taking Leave of Darwin: A Longtime Agnostic Discovers the Case for Design

by Neil Thomas, Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press, 2021.

Ray Hartwell, MDiv, is the director of Grateful Living, the Stewardship and Planned Giving Trust Services ministry of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Calhoun, Georgia, United States.

Do not read this book just to prove divine Creation, although it will likely reinforce your convictions on that account if you are already a biblical creationist.

Author Neil Thomas set out on a personal journey to investigate the validity of the Darwinian theory of the origin of the species. Having been educated at Oxford, Munich, and Cardiff before becoming a professor at the University of Durham, England, Thomas had the educational chops to carry forth this quest. A longtime member of the British Rationalist Association, Thomas was a committed Darwinist and agnostic. Yet he began to discover quite a different view emerging from distinguished members of the scientific community, including Nobel prize winners, biologists, mathematicians, embryologists, cosmologists, and other recognized academics in their fields.

Beginning with Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, the story is traced of how their theory of evolution by natural selection came to be formulated. Reviewing the development of the theory and the arguments present in Darwin’s day, both for and against, is most illuminating. Rather than just dismissing it as a nonbiblical approach, it is very helpful to understand how it developed, what gave it potency, what the challenges were to the Darwinian theory in its introduction, and why Darwin himself continually revised his work based on the challenges he consistently had difficulty answering.

Thomas then proceeds to show the development and near cultlike acceptance of the theory of the origin of the species as a “must have” answer that many academics were determined to hold even in the face of many unexplainable issues and discoveries. Quoting extensively from a variety of sources, Thomas fairly presents the position of those who are adamant that only this theory can explain life, and at the same time, he presents the scientific evidence from numerous scholars demonstrating that such a position is insufficient at best and a major “scientific con” at worst.

Some of Thomas’s best observations are of the cosmological discoveries in the last half-century, leaving researchers and scientists in awe of how the earth gained the unique supportive biosphere that enables plant, animal, and human life—like no place anywhere else in the universe. He frequently references Richard Dawkins, the British evolutionary biologist, atheist, and author well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. I appreciated when he found Dawkins admitting that life is “almost unimaginably complicated in directions that convey a powerful illusion of deliberate design. . . .

“. . . Does it sound to you as though it would need a miracle to make randomly jostling atoms join together into a self-replicating molecule? Well, at times it does to me too” (109).

At the conclusion of his work, Thomas gives this summation of the evidence he researched, gathered, and personally responded to: “The genesis and evolution of our fine-tuned cosmos and biosphere must in the end come down to a clear binary: either nature did the fine tuning and selection or God did (however that latter entity may be conceived and glossed). To say that ‘God did it’ obviously does not sit well with people holding a non-theistic worldview. To say that ‘nature did it’ arguably carries even less plausibility, so that many persons may feel themselves torn between two equally improbable positions. However, with the naturalistic/materialistic alternative having failed so signally, we are left with no other choice but to consider the possibility of the ‘God hypothesis’ ” (143).

This small volume is an excellent contribution to the current issues in origins and well worthy of any pastor’s library.


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Ray Hartwell, MDiv, is the director of Grateful Living, the Stewardship and Planned Giving Trust Services ministry of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, Calhoun, Georgia, United States.

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