Science in Christian Perspective



JASA Book Reviews for December 1964

Table of Contents
EVOLUTION (1962) by Ruth Moore et al (192 pages)
GOD IN THE SPACE AGE by Martin Heinecken, John C. Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1959.
IMPLICATIONS OF EVOLUTION by G. A. Kerkut Pergamon Press: International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology. Volume 4, 174 pp. 1960.

EVOLUTION (1962) by Ruth Moore et al (192 pages) is one of the more well-rounded summaries of a field. The coverage, it seems to me, is more balanced and certainly more to the point than Burnett's Darwiniana The Wanders of Life on Earth also published by Life, which covers some of the same material and on which the present volume draws to some extent.

Beginning with a short historical survey emphasizing the voyage of the Beagle, attention is given to the development of some of the pertinent discoveries of the Beagle on Tierra del Fuego and the Galdpagos Islands as they applied to Darwin's thought. A brief review of basic genetics helps the reader understand how plant and animal breeding has been manipulated under domestication, and the nature of the genetic materials is well illustrated. The methods and materials of paleontology are discussed with some indications of the probable significance of such data. The last three chapters are concerned with the evolution of man and are more ostensibly theoretical than the rest of the book. Still there is a good survey of the data available with facts and figures concerning the major human-like fossils as well as some of the artifacts discovered. The picture story, much of which has appeared previously in Life's The Epic of Man, emphasizes the human traits of primates and the reconstruetions based upon the fossil evidence. The book closes with notes on races and human hereditary traits.

Naturally there is little new in this presentation, but the account is valuable for its delineation of the facts involved in the historical development of the theory of evolution. Little overlap can be found between this book and Savage's book by the same title. While Savage is interested in how the environment can work upon a genetic matrix to fix certain patterns in a gene pool, the Life book is interested in the theory that natural selection has been active in bringing about a great diversity of living things and in how this theory has been developed and is applied. While Savage addresses himself to the question of "How?" the Life book is more interested in the question of "What?"

Of greatest personal interest to me in the Life book was the chart on pages 156-157 proposing a phylogeny of man on the basis recently suggested by Coon, who was a consultant for this volume. This proposal suggests what is technically known as a polyphyletic origin for the major races of man on what appears to be a consistent ecogeographical basis-Australoids from Java man, Mongoloids from Pekin man, Caucasoids from Swanscombe man, and Negroids from South African man. Although Coon has received considerable heat from other anthropologists and evolutionists on this theory proposed in his Races of Man, 1962, Knopf & Co., the creationist can certainly see a consistency here for the development of Adam's descendents. Although the chart sets Leaky's Zinjanthropus off by itself, there is a current tendency in the field (and even by Leaky himself) to lump this form with the other australopithicines (South African men), which does not disturb the rest of the chart.

I recommend this book for giving one of the current approaches to the theory of evolution and the data consistent with this approach. As noted in the case of Savage, it would be erroneous to conclude that this approach reflected adequately the concern of all students of evolution or even that it is the only approach considered by them. Much current work is directed to problems not apparent through the monophyletic historical approach outlined by Miss Moore.

J. Frank Cassel
North Dakota State University

GOD IN THE SPACE AGE by Martin Heinecken, John C. Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1959.

While briefly browsing through the El Paso, Texas, public library last summer, I noted the above title. The author is Professor of Systematic Theology and is employed at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. As the title indicates, the book is about the impact of space travel and space knowledge upon our concept of God. Although Professor Heinecken discovered interesting aspects of this subject he digressed too many times and one, therefore, tended to lose the thread of the argument being presented.

Regarding life on other planets, it is estimated that there are about 100 billion planets in our galaxy, (give or take a few billion) and that there are about 99 billion other galaxies beside ours. Thus there seems to be a mathematical possibility that conditions somewhere are suitable for supporting life. Some have reasoned that some extra-terrestrial men may have sinned and are in need of missionaries from the earth. Others think there may be sinless creatures living beyond the reaches of our telescopes.

One of the interesting questions raised is the exact location of God and whether space travel will eventually find Him? Professor Heineeken believes that God is not exactly in our space-time continuum. If He were, He would not be above his own creation. This whole matter is rather "sticky". No clear-cut answer is possible but the author believes that God may be both within and without our frame of reference.

Many other interesting questions are raised and it is my opinion that many people in our group will profit by reading this book.

Irving W. Knobloch

IMPLICATIONS OF EVOLUTION by G. A. Kerkut Pergamon Press: International Series of Monographs on Pure and Applied Biology. Volume 4, 174 pp. 1960.

After over a hundred years of debate and controversy in the general area of "evolution" and the Bible, it would seem that the major problems should be clarified to at least the point where there is some agreement on definitions. But it is at precisely this point where the Christian biologist encounters some of his greatest frustrations. And these frustrations come from theologians, from fellow biologists, and even from fellow Christians in non-biological areas of science. To the theologian and the clergyman the Christian biologist appears too ready to "accept evolution" and, since evolution is an evil hypothesis, it must be totally rejected. This theological rejection must be on the basis of Biblical interpretation regardless of any scientific evidence. On the other hand, to those biologists who are not the least concerned with being biblical, evolution is a "fact," the Bible contradicts this fact, and as a scientist he must accept the fact and reject the Bible. In this situation the Christian biologist becomes a contaminated evolutionist to many of his non-biological Christian friends and a medieval creationist to most of his fellow biologists. While such classifications can never be completely avoided, especially with many of the protagonists emotionally rather than rationally committed, it is most unfortunate that the defenders of one position must persist in gross ignorance of the basic aspects of other viewpoints. It is even more unfortunate that people involved in such controversy can't at least define their own terms before they make the argument emotional. It is in the context of this problem that G. A. Kerkut's IMPLICATIONS OF EVO LUTION comes as a stimulating breath of fresh air to the Christian biologist.

The only axe that Kerkut grinds is that of scientific honesty. The book is not anti-evolutionary; and the conflict of evolution and the Bible is not mentioned. In fact, in the preface Kerkut explains his position (p. vii). "May I here humbly state, as part of my biological credo that I believe that the theory of Evolution as presented by orthodox evolutionists is in many ways a satisfying explanation of some of the evidence. At the same time I think that the attempt to explain all living forms in terms of an evolution from a unique source, though a brave and valid attempt, is one that is premature and not satisfactorily supported by present-day evidence. It may in fact be shown ultimately to be the correct explanation, but the supporting evidence remains to be discovered. We can, if we like, believe that such an evolutionary system has taken place, but I for one do not think that 'it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt'." It is to clarify this problem that Kerkut has written his little book.

He begins with an amusing account of the typical undergraduate (British) attitude on the subject. This undergraduate, while obviously better informed than most of our American undergraduates, is described as an "opinion-swallowing grub" who "repeats parrot fashion the views of the current Archbishop of Evolution." It might be well to emphasize here that this is not the raving of an anti-evolutionary Fundamentalist but the expressions of a well-recognized Comparative Physiologist, editor of the most recent edition of that classic text: Borradaile and Potts, THE INVERTEBRATES.

Kerkut lists (p. 6) seven basic assumptions that are seldom regarded as such in discussions of evolution. These assumptions are:

1) Non-living things gave rise to living (spontaneous generation).

2) Spontaneous generation occurred only once.

3) Viruses, bacteria, plants and animals are all interrelated.

4) The Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa.

5) The various invertebrate phyla are interrelated. 6) The invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates.

7) Within the vertebrates the fish gave rise to the amphibia, the amphibia to the reptiles, and the reptiles to the birds and mammals.

These assumptions form the "General Theory of Evolution" and are by their nature "not capable of experimental verification". Even though some of these processes may be simulated today this shows only that such processes are possible; it does not prove that they did occur.

The next seven chapters of the book are concerned with evaluating the evidence for these assumptions. In this Kerkut nicely documents the varying interpretations of the evidence. Whether he is discussing the interrelationships of the lower protistan groups to each other and to the higher plants and animals (Chap. 3), the relationships of the various protozoan groups (Chap. 4), or the relationships of the invertebrate phyla (Chap. 7), Kerkut carefully points out that there are usually several mutually exclusive hypotheses for solving each of these problems. The longest chapter in the book (Chap. 6, 50 pp.) discusses which metazoan groups are the most primitive and the possible interrelationships of these primitive groups. His conclusions in this matter are of considerable interest:

There are, as we have seen, five contestants, Porifera, Mesozoa, Coelenterata, Ctenophora and the Platyhelminthes, for this title. These groups are almost completely isolated from each other though a few tenuous connexions can be made . . . We are still very ignorant about the comparative physiology and biochemistry of the lower Metazoa and very little experimental work has been done on their embryology ... It is also possible that the new information will Indicate more clearly that the Metazoa are polyphyletic.

In these days of emphasis on the biochemical aspects of life biochemistry is often used as the clinching evidence for evolution by many college biology texts. It is, therefore, refreshing to hear a physiologistbiochemist discuss, as Kerkut does in Chapter 8, "Biochemical Studies of Phylogeny". Of particular interest, is his examination of the problem of the phosphagens, important high energy, phosphorus containing compounds of protoplasm. The usual presentation of the data in this area indicates that vertebrates have phosphocreatin, most invertebrates have phosphoarginine, while the echinoderms and primitive Chordates have both. Therefore, the vertebrates evolved from the echinoderms. Kerkut shows that this is an incomplete and unfair presentation of scientific fact. Referring to recent reports of numerous investigators, he points out that, not only are both of these compounds so widely distributed throughout the animal kingdom as to show little phylogenetic pattern, but there are also other similar organic phosphates that confuse the picture even more.

Aside from this readable and informative presentation of these generally ignored aspects of the evidence for the theory of evolution, I think there are two features of Kerkut's book that are of special importance to Christian biologists. The first of these is Kerkut's repeated references to the "polyphyletic" nature of many animal groups. While this is not new in this book it is well emphasized that at least some of the groups in the animal kingdom probably had many origins and that, therefore, they did NOT originate from a common ancestor. Such an idea is a long way from Darwin's Origin of Species and any "fact" of general evolution that could possibly conflict with the Genesis account. This is a most significant development. It does not prove evolutionary gaps or miraculous interventions or any of the many interpretations of Genesis. But it does make perfectly clear to any honest person that the phylogenetic trees that are fed to our students, graduate and undergraduate, are sheer speculation with little real evidence to support them. To continue to give more than speculative value-and speculation can be a valuable research tool-to these trees does a disservice to the truly scientific search for truth.

The second contribution of this book that is of value to Christian biologists is best given in Kerkut's own words. In the concluding paragraph of the last chapter he says:

There is a theory which states that many living animals can be observed over the course of time to undergo changes so that new species are formed. This can be called the "Special Theory of Evolution" and can be demonstrated in certain cases by experiments. On the other hand there is the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an Inorganic form. This theory can be called the "General Theory of Evolution" and the evidence that supports it is not sufficiently strong to allow us to consider it as anything more than a working hypothesis. It is not clear whether the changes that bring about speciation are of the same nature as those that brought about development of new phyla. The answer will be found by future experimental work and not by dogmatic assertions that the General Theory of Evolution must be correct because there is nothing else that will satisfactorily take its place.

Some may recognize here concepts similar to Goldschmidt's macroevolution and microevolution. However, Kerkut's terms are more workable because they do not restrict demonstrated "evolution" to changes that occur uithin the species. Since in most animal groups we still have "lumpers" and "splitters" when it comes to describing species, there is no reason to insist that evolutionary changes take place only within the species. All-including conservative theologian and agnostic scientist-should recognize the importance of the historical fact that it was the Swedish biologist Linnaeus, in the middle of the 18th century, that claimed that God created the "species." And this "species" was defined, not by the Bible, but by Linnaeus! Since the Bible does not mention "species" there is no foundation for "fixity of Species" in Genesis, uninformed theologians and biologists notwithstanding. When this is fully realized the impact of Kerkut's sceptical evaluation of General Evolution furnishes a fruitful area for research and speculation.

This book does not profess to give pat answers. It does, however, call the 20th century scientific world to account for its readiness to dogmatize on the basis of insufficient evidence. If Kerkut gets his message across to biologist and clergyman alike the book could become a classic. Unfortunately, there are too many that, even after Kerkut, continue to insist in the "fact" of evolution solely "because there is nothing else that will satisfactorily take its place." But his main theme is still valid and of the utmost significance to all. Let's define our terms in an honest and scientific fashion. To the Christian theologian I can but add the admonition that they recognize that "Special Evolution" has no relation to Genesis or the problems of atheistic materialism. It is only when the phenomena of "Special Evolution" are assumed to account for an unproven and unproveable hypothesis of "General Evolution" that the Biblical concept of creation could be involved. Certainly no one who would be an authority for or against "evolution" should fail to read this short, well-written book.

Wilbur Bullock Department of Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire