Book Review: The Genesis Enigma

gen enigmaThe Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is scientifically accurate from 2009 is an intriguing book and is a bold endeavour but unlikely to find many advocates. If you’re a six-day young earth creationist then ‘there’s nothing to see here’. Dr Parker is a staunch advocate of evolution and research leader at the Natural History Museum in London.

What’s more interesting is that Dr Parker isn’t a Christian and from evidence in the book is moving from atheist to deist or theist position. However his attempt to reconcile scripture and evolution quickly ran foul of ardent evolutionists who want no entente cordiale with divine revelation.

Parker’s bold attempt seems to have been influenced by conversations with John Lennox and Alister McGrath amongst others and some deep reflection while visiting the Sistine Chapel. What he sets out to do is match the verses of Genesis 1 with the evolution of life on earth and it’s here that he gets into trouble with basic exegesis.

There’s plenty of times where his scheme is just plainly forced but nowhere more evident that on the fourth day. In Gen 1:14-19 it seems at pretty much every level that this is talking about the creation of the sun and the moon. For Parker trying to keep his chronology intact this can’t be so because the sun came before the earth and anyway the author of Genesis accounted for that back in Gen 1:3-5.

So what is Parker’s solution? It is, he says, the evolution of vision – the beginning of sight in the pre-historic trilobites and just as it happens that fits in very neatly with his theory (the light switch theory) to explain the Cambrian explosion which remains a matter of some debate and not quite the closed book that Parker presents.

However, it all falls really because Gen 1:14-19 isn’t talking about the evolution of vision but the creation of the sun. Anyway that small fact doesn’t stop Parker from ploughing on and in it all gives an evolutionary tour of life on earth and then attempts to reconcile science and religion. I said it was bold.

I’m all for his conclusion that Genesis is divinely inspired (although the conclusion that the final redactor was Ezra is interesting) and that science and religion need not be enemies and that there are things which science can’t explain and that atheism is empty and cold in comparison to faith in God but sadly his means of getting there will leave most people unhappy. Indeed I think there are plenty of areas where Genesis and science are in remarkable agreement without the need to do utter violence to the biblical text.

There are a few other shortcomings to the book, firstly it’s somewhat hubristic of Parker both to showcase his own evolutionary theory as a clear solution (when it isn’t) and that somehow all this is new (which it isn’t either). The tone and style are supposed to be some sort of ‘come with me on a unique adventure’ and seems to have been written with clear hopes of a TV series in mind.

Those things aside what stands out is the utter contempt he has for creationism and this is in itself very interesting (I shall reserve those thoughts for another post) because Parker is not opposed to religion but is opposed to bad science which is what he accuses the creationists of.

In the end it’s a book which is a bit like my old maths exams sort of the right answer but with horribly wrong workings out.

*For a good volume on Christians views on creation and evolution read this one

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Genesis Enigma”

  1. Jon says:

    Ezra as the redactor of Genesis isn’t that interesting an idea. He oversaw the reading and exposition of the Book of the Law to the Israelites returning from exile (Nehemiah chapter 8). As he had to explain it, that implies the people weren’t familiar with it.

    This fits in with the Babylonian influences on the Genesis accounts in particular, as Ezra may have recast those accounts using religious terminology the Israelites returning from Babylon would understand.

    I remember all this from my Old Testament degree classes. Did you not do OT?

    1. Simplepastor says:

      I was a very poor student Jon and paid little attention to more or less everything until I came across Bonhoeffer. Actually, poor bit of editing from me because it was the reason Parker thought it was interesting – a chap called Friedman is his main source but it’s because for him it adds weight to his hypothesis that the writer of Genesis wasn’t thinking of science and because in Parker’s reading Genesis 1 fits so beautifully with evolution ergo Genesis was divinely inspired.

      On the Ezra front the idea that because the people weren’t familiar with it therefore Ezra redacted it, gives too much credit to religious instruction and to people in general. We all know what we think people should be familiar with and what they are familiar with are often two very different things!

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