Where Darwin Meets the Bible: creationists and evolutionists in America,
by Larry A. Witham, Oxford University Press, 2002; 344 pages, $30.00 hardcover; ISBN 0-19-515045-7
As a reporter and senior writer at the national desk of The Washington Times, Larry A. Witham possesses tools, training and experience that are well represented across the pages of Where Darwin Meets the Bible. Interviews, taped conferences, surveys, polls, newspaper and magazine articles, proceedings, research reports, seminal books and journal papers are the sources from which the author draws a complete, well balanced picture of the perennial creation-evolution controversy in USA. Practically each paragraph is supported by references, many of them corresponding also to interviews with the author of the cited work. Both sides of the debate are covered.
The book comprises fifteen chapters plus preface, introduction, appendix, notes and analytical index. For possible future editions, it would be useful for academic purposes to include an alphabetized bibliography and alphabetized references. This edition mixes explanatory notes and bibliographic references. For those that prefer a first quick reading a differentiation between them would be helpful.
The first chapter titled “Darwin’s Legacy in America” is devoted to describing how the debate began. Witham relates the origin of the debate to the appearance of The Origin of Species and to the opinions that the book provoked, presenting the scientific and educational context from that epoch to today. Chapter Two uses a “two books” parable concerning the two ways of knowing: scriptural and natural. Witham describes the initial interactions and contradictions between these two ways.
The third chapter uses the “boundary theory" concept from the social sciences to initially identify several groups involved in the controversy. Witham characterizes a vast spectrum of such groups, including evolutionists, theistic evolutionists, progressive creationists and young-Earth creationists.
The fourth to seventh chapters cover in detail the battles between creationists and evolutionists over the origin of life forms on this planet. Chapters eight to ten consider specific venues and vehicles of the debate such as schools, textbooks, higher education, museums and sanctuaries. In the section on higher education, Witham shows how various universities treat the opposed positions.
Chapters 11 to 14 discuss the beliefs of scientists, mass media coverage, and how scientific and theological viewpoints could develop an American definition of human nature. The last chapter, "Search for the Underdog," covers five issues that remain controversial, and how the debate continues.
There are some small errors, such the omission of an “A” in "AAAS" that changes the American Association for the Advancement of Science into the American Astronomical Society (p. 43), or lapsus calami I guess, giving 1840 instead of 1844 as the year of first edition of Robert Chamber’s Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, and the confusion between the persons of paleontologist Richard Owen and socialist thinker Robert Owen (p. 181).
Witham’s book is a clear and superb example of neutral investigative journalism, if such a thing exists. It is a broad but stenographic history of science and religion interactions concerning evolution and creationism. It should be read by anyone desiring an introduction to this subject.
Durruty Jesús de Alba Martínez
Instituto de Astronomía y Meteorología
CUCEI, Universidad de Guadalajara