Book Review: Mapping the Origins Debate, by Gerald Rau

This book attempts to organize various views of the origins debate into six categories and present them in a way that encourages thoughtful, unbiased comparison. Overall, I think it does a good job, and is amazingly free of bias, rancor, or the negativity that so often characterizes this topic. It’s difficult to discern the author’s personal perspective, which adds to the careful balance of the text. Tables that summarize key aspects of each view make this a useful reference for anyone interested in the origins debate.

Mapping the Origins Debate
Mapping the Origins Debate
Six Models of the Beginning of Everything
by Gerald Rau

The book starts with some opening generalities about various views of science, and how models can be used to compare different systems in general. It carefully sets up context, lays out the general idea of models, then precisely defines the six models he wants to work with. His open style does not claim that they are the only, or even correct, set of definitions, only that they are useful for the comparisons at hand.

Once the context is set, it then describes the six models used to organize different views, and tests them against four aspects of origins: the origins of the universe, of life, of species, and of humans. For each aspect, he summarizes the relevant evidence from various perspectives, then presents different interpretations of that evidence by drawing on each model. This approach clearly positions each model with the others.

At the end, Rau describes values that each model offers. This serves to further balance the presentation by showing how each view, although they cannot all be correct, nevertheless all have something to offer. An appendix at the end presents salient details of each model in table format, making it easy to compare and contrast specific points.

Although part of Rau’s scale includes acceptance of supernatural perspectives, the book itself has no spiritual content. It is a straight-forward description of views that sometimes have spiritual perspectives, but the descriptions themselves are essentially secular. That’s entirely reasonable since the goal isn’t really to seek or present truth, but rather to simply describe.

For the most part, the writing is at a moderate level, although some of the science descriptions, especially when delving into biology, can get a little technical. Aside from that, however, the text is clear and straight-forward.

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the origins debates, no matter what perspective they come from.

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