Science in Christian Perspective



JASA BOOK REVIEW For December 1961

The Unleashing of Evolutionary Thought, Oscar Riddle. New York, Vantage Press Inc., 1954.
Reviewed by I. W. Knoblocb

This is an ambitious book of 414 pages and is frankly a rather violent attack upon religion. It has been praised by many irreligious people and condemned by those of the opposite persuasion. Riddle's four conclusions (on page 388) may be paraphrased as follows:

1. The attitude of organized religion toward evolutionary t h o u g h t constitutes a dangerous cultural impasse.

2. Science has now advanced far enough to make any imaginable view of the supernatural unacceptable to a high proportion of the best informed minds.

3. Organized religion consumes and hoards much wealth, enlists and misdirects much human effort, represses thought, freedom and progress, points men to unreal goals and socially ruinous hopes.

4. Human for supernatural purposes must be now substituted and this remains the big task of science.

Religion has, of course, tended to stifle evolutionary thought in the past. At present, however, t h e r e are some who admit the truth of evolution and are able to reconcile it with the articles contained in the Apostle's Creed. Others recognize that organic evolution and speciation are not synonomous; that the former is forever destined to remain a theory and the latter is a proven fact. Modern religionists do not read deviltry into scientific research. It is questionable if the "best-informed" minds have, by scientific experiment, ruled out all possibility of the supernatural. It is an axiom of science research that more mysteries are unfolded by it than are solved and that the universe grows more marvelous and intricate with each passing decade. It seems almost impossible for a scientist not to believe nowadays in some supreme intelligence. Parts of Riddle's third charge are true. Some of them are only half-truths, and others are open to serious question. Making the world a better place to live in is a worthwhile goal, but the entire world is somewhat empty and without meaning if there is not some higher goal than this.

We do not kn ow what background Dr. Riddle had or what caused him to launch such a vitriolic attack on religion. We do know that men of 78 (in 1954) tend to be overly dogmatic at a time when they should be starting to understand things.