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Book Review: Big History, by Cynthia Stokes Brown

  • The New Press
  • September 2008
  • 288 pp.

In Big History, Brown sets out to do a task that many historians do: to tell the story of humans. What makes Brown’s book unique is that she begins her story at the Big Bang. Because of this, the first forty or so pages of Big History give an interesting walk through the latest scientific theories on how the universe came into being and how, specifically, the Earth became a plant with humans on it. This will obviously raise a myriad of red flags in Christ-followers because we have been trained to believe that science and the Bible have become irreconcilable. However, whether you agree with the Big Bang Theory or not, is it not beneficial for us as witnesses of Jesus to know and understand the beliefs of the people around us?

And honestly, when I read Brown’s description of the Big Bang, I can’t help but feel awe. Some examples:

  • “The universe erupted from a single point, perhaps the size of an atom, in which all known matter and energy and space and time were squeezed together in unimaginable density” (p. 4)
  • “The power in [the] initial expansion [of this one point] was sufficient to fling a hundred billion galaxies for 13.7 billion years and counting” (p. 4)
  • “Before one second had elapsed the four fundamental forces that govern matter had come into being…These forces work in perfect balance to allow the universe to exist and expand at a sustainable rate. If the gravitational force were a tiny bit stronger, all matter would likely implode on itself. If gravity were slightly weaker, the stars could not form.” (p. 5)

Does such a theory honestly sound like something that challenges the existence of God? On the contrary, after reading these words, I have a deeper appreciation for the incredible power of God’s “Let there be light.”

The other hotly debated issue that Brown presents as fact is human evolution. Again, reading the chapters that discuss this are helpful in understanding what evolutionary theory teaches about how humans came to be on the planet.

Once readers get to page 57, human hunter-gatherers are on the scene, and from there on out, Brown’s story of humanity remains as global as possible, discussing advancements in human capability and responsibility across large theaters like Afroeurasia and the Americas. Brown’s telling of history is seems to at times labor tremendously towards being as iconoclastic as possible, often shaping facts in a revisionistic manner. However, Brown does offer an interesting and manageable (less than 300 pages) telling of global human history, and her book encapsulates an approach to history that is getting the attention and backing of the Gates Foundation. It’s worth a read!

Check it out for yourself at Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at TeachingtheCore.com. He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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