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The Prism and the Rainbow

A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a Threat

Joel W. Martin

Publication Year: 2010

God or Darwin? It is one of the most contentious conflicts of our time. It is also completely unnecessary, according to Joel W. Martin, an evolutionary biologist and ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. In this slim but powerful book, Martin argues that it is not contradictory to be a practicing, faithful Christian who accepts the science of evolution. Martin finds that much of the controversy in the United States over evolution is manufactured and predicated on a complete—and sometimes willful—misapprehension of basic science. Science and religion, he says, serve different purposes and each seeks to answer questions that the other need never address. He believes that many of the polarizing debates about evolution distract from the deeper lessons of Christianity and that literal, fundamentalist readings of the Bible require the faithful to reject not just evolution but many of science's greatest discoveries. Just as the scientific explanation of rainbows is not meant to refute the biblical "rainbow" story of God’s promise, evolutionary theory is not a ploy to disavow the divine. Indeed, Martin shows that the majority of Christians worldwide accept the theory of evolution. He urges his fellow Christians to refuse to participate in the intellectually stifling debate over evolution and creationism/intelligent design.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-8

Several years ago, some students who attended the same church that I attend stood up in their high school biology class to announce that they were against the teaching of evolution because they thought that it went against their religious beliefs. It probably took a considerable amount of courage to get up in class and mount a protest. Clearly, ...

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1. By the Numbers

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pp. 9-14

In my introduction, I made the claim that most Christians, world-wide and in the United States, are accepting of modern science, and specifically evolutionary biology, as being fully compatible with their faith. Is this really true? And on what evidence would I base such a statement?...

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2. The Prism and the Rainbow

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pp. 15-20

Ss a child I learned that rainbows were a sign from God. I still see them that way. There are few things in this world so surprisingly and shockingly beautiful as a full-blown rainbow, and each time I see one I am momentarily amazed and thrilled. To be reminded of God every time that I see one, a holdover from those early years in Sunday ...

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3. The Flat Earth Society

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pp. 21-26

It might seem strange that I now switch to a discussion of whether the earth is flat after stating that this book deals primarily with science, faith, evolution, and creationism. But I want to make a slight diversion here in order to introduce a problem arising from “biblical ierrancy,” the belief that the Bible is without error with regard to history ...

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4. Of Serpents and Certainty

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pp. 27-30

In the small coal mining community of Jolo, West Virginia, in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains close to where I grew up, there is a church of the “Signs Following” movement. Members of this movement take literally the passage in Mark where Jesus states: ...

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5. The Nature of Science

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pp. 31-38

The Flat Earth Society and the Snake Handlers of Jolo represent two distinct but related problems. They are similar in that both groups have claimed that their beliefs are biblically based; they feel that they are following the scriptures as closely as they know how. But they are different because the problem provided by the Jolo snake ...

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6. What Does “Theory” Mean?

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pp. 39-46

I should discuss briefly the confusing term “theory,” used in most of today’s conversations to mean a good guess, a hunch, or an idea, where your theory about why Mrs. Johnson is having a bad hair day is just as good as mine. In science, the word has a very different meaning: in science, “theory” indicates a well-supported body of explanatory ...

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7. What Is Evolution?

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pp. 47-54

Evolutionary biology is the study of the history of life on Earth and of the processes that have led to life’s diversity. It’s one of the biological sciences. And yet it’s also more than just “one of the biological sciences” in that it gives us a broad, general framework that unites the biological sciences. Fields of study as diverse as physiology, ...

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8. What Is Creationism?

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pp. 55-62

At its simplest, creationism is the view that the earth and everything in it was created by God and that nothing much has changed in the meantime. Many religions have creation stories, but most often when someone mentions creationism they are referring to the creationism of Christianity, based primarily on Genesis ...

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9. What Is Intelligent Design?

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pp. 63-68

For some people, the term “intelligent design” seemed like a welcome and recent addition to the conversations about faith and science. For people searching for a way to accept both the findings of modern science and religion, the name sounded like an agreeable meeting place, a gentle compromise where modern science could ...

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10. Is There Evidence Supporting Intelligent Design?

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pp. 69-80

It’s important to take a closer look at the arguments that people have used to try to support the teaching of ID as if it were a science. These arguments are usually not presented as evidence for something as much as they are complaints against problems they perceive in evolutionary theory. One line of reasoning and evidence ...

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11. Human Arrogance

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pp. 81-86

Although I am a scientist, I do not know anyone personally who has seen a molecule, or an atom, or an electron. Indeed, although we can observe indirect images of atoms using the most sophisticated tools available (scanning tunneling electron microscopes), the best we can do is to infer their presence. The electron ...

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12. In the Beginning

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pp. 104-109

By far the most frequently mentioned passages in the Bible in discussions and debates about creationism, science, and evolution are the early verses of Genesis. The opening words quoted above are as familiar as they are awe-inspiring and comforting to millions of people worldwide. The King James Version has a slightly ...

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13. The Unnecessary Choice

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pp. 93-98

The Galileo incident and the history of belief in a flat earth1 are fairly well known. But these are both exceptions to the rule rather than typical examples of the interaction of science and faith. Throughout history, faith and science have actually coexisted quite nicely. Indeed, it has only been in relatively recent years ...

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14. What Are We to Believe?

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pp. 99-102

So what, as Christians, are we to do? What are we to believe? I would recommend several things. First, if you are a Christian or are even mildly interested in learning more about the Christian faith, I think it’s worth the time it takes to really study the Bible. Don’t take my word, or anyone else’s, for what’s in there. ...

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pp. 103-106

My time spent as a youth worker in the Presbyterian Church has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life. Students ask some very challenging questions. One that has come up fairly regularly is: Where is the evidence of God in the world today? We read about his works and his miracles in the ...

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pp. 107-110

Many people, not all of whom have agreed with, or approved of, my style, presentation, or conclusions, have read over parts of this book at various stages, and I thank them sincerely for it. They include Andrew Lustig (Davidson College), Michael Ruse (Florida State University), Wes Elsberry (National Center for Science Education), ...


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pp. 111-130


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pp. 131-150


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pp. 151-156

Recommended Further Reading

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pp. 157-160

Helpful Web Sites

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pp. 161-162


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pp. 163-170

E-ISBN-13: 9780801897511
E-ISBN-10: 0801897513
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801894787
Print-ISBN-10: 0801894786

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2010