Science in Christian Perspective



JASA BOOK REVIEWS For December 1960
Table of Contents

Darwin, Evolution and Creation, Paul A. Zimmerman, Editor. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; 1959; 231 pp.; $3.95.
Darwin's Biological Work, Some Aspects Re- considered,
P. R. Bell, Editor. Cambridge University Press; 1959.
The Theory of Evolution, John Maynard Smith Pelican Books; 1958.
Christian Theology and Natural Science, E. L. Mascall. New York: Ronald Press; 1956.
Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief, the Unresolved Conflict, David Lack. London: Methuen & Company; 1957; 128 pp.
Creation and Evolution, Jan Lever. Trans. by Peter G. Berkhout. Grand Rapids International Publications; 1958. Distributed by Kregel's, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan.

Darwin, Evolution and Creation, Paul A. Zimmerman, Editor. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House; 1959; 231 pp.; $3.95.

Reviewed by I. W. Knobloch

Here is a book on science and religion written by Lutherans and which presumably will replace the books written by Theodore Graeliner. There is an introduction which is followed by six chapters, an excellent bibliography, subject and author indices, and finally an index to Scripture passages. Apparently Lutherans have come a long way in their thinking since the 1930'~s because there are touches of a faint liberalism here and there. For example, it is conceded that species can be changed and that the earth may be older than 6,000 years. Also, the word
in-in or kind as given in Genesis is not to be equated with the Linnaean species (p. 14). The question of light being created before the sun, is taken up nicely by showing that phosphorescence and the aurora borealis are forms of light with no direct connection to sunlight. It is believed that creation encompassed six normal days and the reasons are given for this stand. The reviewer has contended elsewhere that if any God-fearing Christian doubts that God could create the world in six days, then he is not really God-fearing. Noah's ark is treated briefly and the difficulty is pointed out of Noah sacrificing 8,500 birds and 14,500 mammals, hence the dropping (in this book) of the belief in the fixity of species. Difficulties in the theories regarding the origin of the solar system are dealt with delightfully by Zimmerman. He also has a nice section on DNA and later, one on the age of the earth. He apparently understands radioactivity but distrusts it greatly as a measure of time. He believes the earth is younger than scientists would have us believe, but he does not subscribe to the Usgher chronology. I am a little puzzled by his statement that the uranium-lead method is limited to rocks of less than a million years in age. Another author in the volume freely admits that changes have taken Diace since the first creation, but he completely discrea,its all the mechanisms known to produce these changes. This seems somewhat inconsistent. He also fails to mention the phenomenon of hybridization in any detail, the best authenticated method of speciation known. It might have been better, in speaking of apes versus man, to have said that apes have an opposable thumb and an opposable big toe whereas man has only an opposable thumb.

If one were an atheistic scientist, one could point out counter arguments to many of the points raised, but since I am not, I will say, in conclusion, that the book is well written, timely, and should be on the shelf of all serious students of either science or religion.

Darwin's Biological Work, Some Aspects Re- considered, P. R. Bell, Editor. Cambridge University Press; 1959.

Reviewed by L W. Knobloch

This book is a collection of papers by distinguished British scientists. There is not really too much new material here nor is the old material presented any differently than heretofore, but the book is well worth reading. Haldane emphasized that it is possible to believe in evolution as a historical fact and yet reject Darwin's theory of how it happened, wholly or in part. This makes good sense. Actually, selection is not a primary mechanism of speciation. Mutation, recombination, and others are the primary mechanisms. Once these mechanisms have operated to produce a variant, selection may take over and preserve it or eliminate it, if the variation has selective value. If not, chance may preserve or eliminate it. J. Challinor, in his chapter, makes some interesting statements. He says that 1000 feet of strata in one place may be represented by .100 feet in another region not many miles away. Erosion differences may account for the disparity. He refers to the fossil evidence in one place by saying that the few oft-cited cases of evolutionary series are given as if they were representatives of a host of such cases, instead of stressing the fact that such cases are rare. In regard to the trilobites, he cites the great wealth of material in this group, but says that there is here no clear plan of evolution discernible.

The Theory of Evolution, John Maynard Smith Pelican Books; 1958.

Although this little volume is meant to be a resume of evolutionary theory, some points are made here and there which allow one to suspect that the theory is still capable of being modified. For example, it is stated that the australopithecines of Africa are probably not directly ancestral to man because they are too recent. A reservation of our judgment on man's ancestry is thus indicated. Existing wild horses are slightly smaller than were their ancestors in the Pleistocene, Smith says. This illustrates the point that change is not always toward larger forms but may be toward smaller ones. The tiny deer of Java and the huge elk also illustrate the point. Although Haeckel's theory "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny" is not accorded the respect it once had, it is interesting to note that Smith can emphasize that the gill pouches of mammals resemble more the gill pouches of an embryo fish than they are like the gill slits of an adult fish. This would be agreed to by De Beer and is in opposition to Haeckel. It is emphasized that reptiles have structures which could not possibly have been found in any reptile ancestor such as an amnion, allantois, yolk sac, etc. It might be asked, From what group did the reptiles inherit the genes for these characters?

Christian Theology and Natural Science, E. L. Mascall. New York: Ronald Press; 1956.

It is possible that although this book is four years old, it has not fallen into the hands of some of our members. The author seems to be a man well versed in the philosophy of religion with the result that the volume, of 328 pages, is a veritable mine of interesting viewpoints. Some of the more interesting areas deal with the theories of science, creation, modern physics, the body and soul, and man's origin and ancestry.

He points out that, in contrasting the "running down" universe versus the "steady state" universe, the latter, by spreading out creations out of nothing over a long period of time, both intensifies the mystery of creation and increases the necessity for God. This is so because, as far as we know, something never comes from nothing. The laws in nature simply do not permit this.

His argument on original sin is not too convincing. Original sin, he claims, is not so much a positive entity as an absence of original righteousness. Therefore no physical mechanism (e.g., genes) is needed to transmit the absence of something. While the present reviewer does not wish to champion original sin, it can be pointed out that we seem to have instincts and certain familial personality traits with which we are bom and these would seem to require a gene-chromosome mechanism, althoughthe exact nature of this is unknown. Greed, jealousy, anger, and other undesirable traits seem to be present in the very young and at an early age. Some Christians believe these traits stem from man's sinful nature whereas the true evolutionist believes them to be part of man's animal ancestry.

Space does not permit one to deal with all of Mascall's points but possibly enough has been said to whet the appetite of those interested in the subjects covered by the book.

Evolutionary Theory and Christian Belief, the Unresolved Conflict, David Lack. London: Methuen & Company; 1957; 128 pp.

This is a rather small book but written by the man who made "Darwin's Finches" well known. Although it touches upon some deep topics, it is written in a clear, easy style and should be intelligible to almost any adult. Strictly an evolutionary book, it yet indicates that evolution cannot account for certain features, hence the "unresolved conflict" part of the title. The ten conclusions reached by the author are given below, to demonstrate the scope of the book.

1. Animal evolution is a historical fact, and fossils have been found which link man with apelike forms, so that there is every reason to hold that man evolved from other animals.

Various statements concerning natural history in the first three chapters of Genesis are factually wrong. But these chapters should be regarded as allegorical, or at least as allegorical history, which is probably what their writers intended them to be. This need in no way lessen their spiritual truth, which is concerned with matters ,that come outside science.

3. Evolution is comprehensible in terms of the natural selection of hereditary variations, and so far as known, does not take place in any other way. The variations are random in relation to the needs of the animal, and the directions of evolution are determined by natural selection.

For this and other reasons, the concept of either an internal urge or an external Life Force directing the course of evolution is inadmissible. It is also unnecessary and undesirable to postulate that animal evolution 'has been helped by supernatural interferences with natural laws.

5. The fear that the course of evolution has been entirely "fortuitous" or "random" is due to a misunderstanding, since evolution has proceeded in accordance with natural laws. The alternative fear that its course has been rigidly predetermined by mechanistic forces is likewise due to a misunderstanding, since evolution has taken a particular historical course; and the true nature of scientific laws and of historical sequences, and their connection with causation and determinism, are hard problems in philosophy on which the theory of evolution throws no special light.

6. That the universe appears to he run according to natural law does not, in itself, provide a compelling argument for either theism or atheism, though such a claim has been made both ways. While, too, some have vividly felt the existence of God from the grandeur of the universe or the beauty of living things, others have felt nothing of the kind.

All should accept the finding of science in the field of science. The agnostic T. H. Huxley"follow humbly wherever nature leads"-and the parson Charles Kingsley-"science is the voice of God"-speak to the same effect -on this point. Hence though it may be hard for some Christians to, reconcile natural selection with the God of mercy, or for some secular humanists to reconcile man's evolution by natural selection with morality or beauty, such difficulties provide no valid reason for doubting scientific evidence.

8. On the other hand, it is important that the claims made by scientists in the name of science should relate to genuinely scientific matters, and that when they really refer to philosophical problems, this should be made clear. In particular, the claim that man has evolved wholly by natural means is philosophical and not scientific.

9. The theory that man's moral behavior has been evolved, directly or indirectly, by natural selecti,on fails to account for the essential aspects of the moral experience. Yet no other means of evolution is admitted by biologists.

10. Science has not accounted for morality, truth, beauty, individual responsibility, or self-awarrness, and many people hold that, from its nature, it can never do so, in which case a valid and central part of human experience lies -outside science. But if man evolved wholly by natural means it might he supposed that all human nature s~ould be interpretable in scientific terms. It might therefore be argued that man cannot have evolved wholly by natural means. But others would disagree, since there are unabridged gaps and unreconciled contradictions in every view -of the meaning, or lack of meaning, of the universe.

Creation and Evolution, Jan Lever. Trans. by Peter G. Berkhout. Grand Rapids International Publications; 1958. Distributed by Kregel's, Grand Rapids 6, Michigan.

The author is professor of zoology at the Free University at Amsterdam and has written a very interesting book of 243 pages. It deals with the Bible and Reality,the Origin of Life, the Origin of the Types of Organisms, the Concept of Species, the Origin of Man,and Creation and Evolution. One valuable aspect of the book is that the thinking -of European scientists is given, in translation. Most of us do not have the time to read foreign journals. In fact, it is difficult to keep up with the literature in this country. It is not always easy to sift Professor Lever's opinions from those of others but several examples of his ideas can be given. He believes that man is distinguished from other animals by the use of fashioned tools; thus one should allow at least 500,000 years for his existence here (since fossils and tools have been found dating to the Pleistocene). The first page has a quotation from Portmann and since Lever does not dispute this, we may assume that he agrees with it. The quotation is as follows:

Measured in relation to the ultimate purpose in the investigation of reality, the theory of evolution is a bold attempt at understanding the meaning of a tremendous mass of facts. However, in all its details, it is still the object of criticism and discussion, which, in its final inferences, on every side projects beyond the scientific facts into the area of faith.-A. Portmann, Bioloqische Frangmente zu einer Lehre von Menschen, Basel, 1951.

The book is probably too "heavy" for the average layman. Scientists will, no doubt, profit from a close perusal of it.