Science in Christian Perspective
JASA Book Reviews for December 1953
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE by Martin Gardner. Putnam, 1952
Anyone desiring serious evidence that the mind consists of little creatures-by a former airplane manufacturer-or a "proof" that the angle can be geometrically trisected-by a recent president of a large respectable university-will not be disappointed. It seems that no branch of knowledge has avoided a penumbra ranging from the slightly less than orthodox to the ridiculous. Such a group of pseudo-scientific endeavors has been gathered and discussed by Martin Gardner in his book.
The field of Physics has seen, in comparatively recent years forces explained by odd concepts of pull and the blue of the sky caused by a mysterious orgone energy. Other anti-Einsteinian concepts are discussed by the author, some of which were fairly legitimate and others which were obviously by crackpots and paravoids.
One can find in this literature an earth with habitable shells, interior dowsing rods, a lost continent Atlantis, et cetera.
The author also discusses such things as the Forteans, Velikovsky and Worlds in Collision, Ron Hubbard and Dianeties, phrenology, extrasensory perception, medical cults and quacks, food faddists, General Semantics, racial superiority and the Gravity Research Foundation among others. By and large, he has appraised the fields well.
Of particular interest is his chapter on "Geology versus Genesis" directed primarily at the Flood Geology of George McCready Price although he also includes adverse comments on the work of such authors as Louis T. More, T. B. O'Toole, H. Belloc, and Mortimer J. Adler. His comment on the arguments of Adler of Great Books fame-is that they "were straight out of the arsenal of Bible Belt evangelism!" Comments on the Scholfield (sic) Reference Bible notes in Genesis are made. He calls, in another chapter, Sir Charles Marston's works on the Bible and archeology "the most dignified books in this pseudo-archeological literature".
The major criticism of the book is that in ferreting out pseudo-science the author often seems oversure of the "normalcy" of orthodox science. For example, to him apparently anyone that dares to question evolution is out of line, for in lining up theories from "almost certainly false" through 'working hypotheses debatable because of insufficient data" to "almost certainly true" he includes the "belief that the earth is round or that men and beasts are distant cousins" in the latter. Also stages of a successful hypotheses and reality are sometimes confused as in Chapter 8 where he judges gravitational force "screenings" by the warping of space-time continuum. Research in screening gravity is probably a useless endeavor but not simply because the relativity theory may be correct.
Speaking of freedom of thought, the author writes "Fundamentalists in the Bible Belt continue to read their dismal literature denouncing Darwin, but you are not likely to find a fundamentalist in any position of scientific authority or eminence". In other occasions "fundamentalists" come in for their share of condescending criticism. . Prophetic portions of the Great Pyramid literature is said to have appealed to Protestant fundamentalists of all denominations.
While the author's judgement of fundamentalism is one-sided, a point on terminology may be injected. This reviewer has long felt that the word "fundamentalist" carries with it a stigma of being included with flatworlders, pyramidologists and the like. I personally prefer the classification of "conservative" in Christian faith.
Aside from its faults, the book affords very interesting reading and covers a wide range of fascinating topics. It is shocking to read of things that have been written and done "In the Name of the Lord".
On its second page, this book quotes with approbation the following statement. "I will stand upon principles of freedom, equality, brotherhood, service and love."
The main purpose of the book, however, is not the development of these great idealistic principles, but rather the tearing down of the doctrines and beliefs of the Christian religion, which, as a matter of fact, form the only basis upon which any true and lasting development of these abstract principles can be made. The author was raised in an atmosphere of orthodox Christianity, but evidently one in which the doctrines were simply presented, rather than being explained and intelligently discussed. He now takes a position in which he denies practically every outstanding Christian doctrine, including the infallibility of the Bible, the deity of Christ, His atonement, the bodily resurrection, etc.
The book is hardly to be considered as a scholarly presentation of a viewpoint. It is rather a series of sermons in which the great Christian doctrines are one after another declared to be unimportant, or untrue. The book abounds in inaccurate statements about the Bible or about higher criticism. Thus on page 13 the author says: "Jesus never mentioned . . . the 'Infallible' Scriptures." Has he never read such verses as Matthew 5:18? Or Luke 24:25 and 44? He says that Jesus never mentioned the substitutionary atonement. Has he never read John 3:14-15, or Mark 10:45? He says that Jesus never mentioned the trinity. Has he never read John 14:9-11?Equally inaccurate are Dunnington's references to the higher criticism. Thus, on page 21, after stating that there is one creation story in Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a and another in 2:4b to 3:24, he says, "The later account runs from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a and is known as the 'E' account." One wonders where Mr. Dunnington got his knowledge of the higher criticism. No outstanding critic during the last fifty years has considered 1:1 to 2:4a to belong to the E document. For the last seventy years nearly all proponents of the divisive criticism have agreed in claiming that Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a belongs, not to the E document, but to the P document! Dunnington proceeds to point out alleged contradictions between these two supposed stories of creation, some of which are imported from his imagination, as can be seen by even a superficial examination of the actual words of Genesis.
It is truly unfortunate that such talks as those contained in this book should be given on a university campus, since they are bound to confuse people without a background of solid Biblical study.Allan A. MacRae