I read Relics of Eden (Prometheus Books, 2007) upon the recommendation of my friend, Gordon Glover. Fairbanks, writing from his perspective as a research geneticist, lays out in layman’s language some of the basic building blocks for reconstructing the history of life on our planet from DNA. He proceeds to give the reader an overview of what DNA tells us about the interrelatedness of species. I found the book easy to read, and informative. Some of the early chapters (as he develops the building blocks of genetic understanding) are somewhat technical. But the payoff comes as he demonstrates how these bits of information are used to paint a remarkably consistent picture of our past.
As I have said elsewhere, I consider common descent to be undeniable in the face of DNA evidence. Either humans share a common ancestry with all living things, or God went to a great deal of trouble to make it look that way, right down to the tiniest details of our DNA. If evolution did not happen, then the Creator is a trickster and a deceiver, and all science is rendered meaningless. Relics of Eden powerfully confirms this understanding (Fairbanks describes the mounting evidence as “spectacular”). But the trail of DNA science does not stop there. Comparative DNA is like an accurate time clock, giving us strong clues regarding the “when” of various evolutionary events. This growing treasure trove of information is also being used to reconstruct the great human migrations across our planet, and to do so with a precision which has never been possible for the anthropologist before. And perhaps most significantly, DNA science today is able to trace the history and development of various diseases, and offer up new ways of combating them. It is ironic that so many who resist what DNA is telling us about the history of life are more than ready to accept the great medical advancements of our day which are based upon the same science. Modern medical science is built upon the evolutionary model.
The final two chapters consist of an appeal to both sides of what Fairbanks characterizes as a false dichotomy: that somehow faith and reason cannot co-exist. Without detailing his own beliefs, Fairbanks makes it clear that he is a man of faith who believes in God as Creator. He appeals to those who choose to perpetuate psuedo-scientific creationism and Intelligent Design to reexamine the evidence, and lay down their battle-axes. I say, “Amen!”