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Book Review: The Privileged Planet

Reviewed by Dick Dayton

I believe there is some great confusion among us fundamentalists about the Intelligent Design principle. We need to understand it enough to gain a greater appreciation for the fact that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”

Authors Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards split their book into two major pieces: the first two sections (221 pages) look at the unique position of our earth in space and time, while the third section considers the implications of these observations.

In section 1, “Our Local Environment,” Gonzales and Richards focus on the immediate environment of our solar system and the Milky Way. They point out that any slight variation in our earth’s location in the solar system and our solar system’s location in the galaxy, any variation in the energy output of the sun, would make complex life as we know it impossible. Everything seems to fit an exact plan.

In section 2, “The Broader Universe,” the authors show that we are uniquely placed in our spot in the universe, both in terms of geography and time.

At first reading I was a bit frustrated, because Gonzales and Richards seem to be presenting their arguments from the point of view of billions of years of stellar evolution. I believe this is why so many of us have rejected the idea of Intelligent Design without giving it any consideration. As I have reflected upon these things, I believe the authors may be saying, “Let us use the arguments of stellar evolution, give them careful examination, and see where an objective analysis takes us.” Their conclusion is that we are so uniquely positioned in the universe that our complex existence could not have been the result of the mindless, random process of evolution; we must be here because we were meant and designed to be here. Those conclusions then can open the door for a conversation about spiritual matters from a Biblical perspective. The authors spend a fair amount of time toward the end of the book sharing Scriptures and their principles. (Interestingly, Dr. Gonzales taught physics and astronomy at Iowa State University but was denied tenure there.)

This book is definitely not a light read, and probably would interest only those with a scientific inclination. However, it is worthy of our consideration so we can speak with some degree of understanding of the world in which we live. One valuable part of the book is a 70-page, small-print set of endnotes, filling out some explanations of the first two sections’ details.

Richard Dayton is the pastor of Urbandale Baptist Church in Urbandale, Iowa.

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