The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate by Del Ratzsch (IVP,1996), 248 pages.
Most debates are polarized and extreme positions are opposed to one another in a right versus wrong, true or false, kind of way. This is definitely how the popular media tends to portray disagreements and debates. Polarizing positions this way keeps things simple, easy to follow, and increases readership or TV ratings. Other opinions that may be in the middle, or more sophisticated arguments, are ignored in favor of simplicity and drama.
Alas, our Christian or religious media tends to do the same thing as well. Especially in regards to the Creation-Evolution debate, many Christian writers tend to cast the two positions as absolute opposites with no middle ground. One is either totally for Creationism—which is often portrayed as believing in a literal six-days creation and young earth—or one is totally for Evolutionism—which is portrayed as atheistic, anti-Bible and anti-God. Thus, both sides are seen as totally incompatible and only one side can be right or wrong. There are exceptions, however, and The Battle of Beginnings is one of them.
Written by Dr. Del Ratzsch, Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College, specializing in the philosophy of science, The Battle of Beginnings gives a levelheaded, honest look at the arguments from both sides. Ratzsch contends that both sides frequently misunderstand each other’s positions and theories and thus are criticizing views or positions that each other do not hold. “Creationists widely misunderstand both Darwin’s theory and the theories of his contemporary descendants. Evolutionists widely misconstrue various creationist positions, and frequently raise objections that creationists themselves recognized and responded to decades ago” (page 10), states Ratzsch.
Ratzsch is not defending either Creationism or Evolutionism in this book. As he admits, “I do not pretend to know which is correct” (page 12). His main point is that “large numbers of the critical arguments from each side against the other do not come to much—either because they are themselves defective or because no one holds the views against which they are directed” (12). With that, Ratzsch proceeds to devote three chapters each on Evolutionary Theory and Scientific Creationist Theory. These chapters give the historical background, and briefly introduce or explain the theories, and then tackle the popular misunderstandings of each side held by the other. For example, Ratzsch points out that many popular creationist “refutations” of evolution assumes evolution is linear. But “Darwin’s theory is not linear. … One of the crucial concepts of his theory is divergence, with separate species splitting away from some common ancestor species, thus creating forks — not linear arrangements — in the paths of evolutionary development” (page 39). Hence, some popular creationist refutations of evolution—such as “the missing link” argument—are irrelevant to Darwinian evolution, since “in Darwin’s theory, modern monkeys and modern humans are only cousins, descended from some common, more primitive ancestor … and there is no reason to anticipate intermediates [or links] between the two” (page 41).
On the other hand, evolutionists often do not understand the creationist distinction between macro-evolution and micro-evolution, evolution that cross species and evolution that occurs only within species. “The creationist position … is that microevolution is undeniable” (page 87). But many anti-creationist arguments fail to understand this and see evidence in favor of micro-evolution as evidence for macro-evolution.
If you are seeking a definitive answer or resolution to the creation-evolution debate, you won’t find it in this book. But this book is the FIRST book you should read on the subject as it exposes the popular misconceptions and, hence, false refutations from both sides. What it does provide is a framework for you to discern the debate and find your own answer.