Science in Christian Perspective

Book Reviews


JASA Book Reviews for December 1968

Table of Contents

FAMINE-19751 AMERICA'S DECISION: WHO WILL SURVIVE? by William Paddock and Paul Paddock. Little, Brown and Co., Boston 1967. 286 pp. $6.50.
GALILEO, SCIENCE AND THE CHURCH, by Jerome J. Langford, 0. P., Deselee Company, New
York, 1966. 237 pp. $5.95 cloth.

FAMINE-19751 AMERICA'S DECISION: WHO WILL SURVIVE? by William Paddock and Paul Paddock. Little, Brown and Co., Boston 1967. 286 pp. $6.50.

In the 24th chapter of Matthew Jesus warned his disciples-and us- of "famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places". William and Paul Paddock somberly predict that the decade ahead will see a transition front the jet and Atomic Ages to the Age of Food, an age in which food will be the determining factor in international power politics. As suggested by the somewhat dramatic title of the book, this calamity will be upon its by 1975, the approximate date for the beginning of the "Times of Famine". One might wonder if this is not another example of sensationalism by a pair of authors who want to sell a book. It is my Opinion that: 1) the authors of this book are deadly serious, and 2) the Christian of today must look on these awesome prospects with the concern and the compassion that led our Savior to feed the multitudes, physically as well as spiritually.

William Paddock is an experienced agronomist and recognized authority in tropical agriculture. Since most of the underdeveloped countries are in the tropics, he writes from years of first hand, practical experience with the problems of food production in relation to world population. Paul Paddock has spent over twenty years in the United States Foreign Service, mostly in underdeveloped countries of Asia and the Far East.

In a carefully documented presentation, they demonstrate that the population-food collision is inevitable. None of the methods now in use or under consideration, individually or collectively, are capable of controlling world population in the near future. Due to the impossibility of an immediate increase in agricultural production, in proportion to the population increase, the hungry nations of today will inevitably be the starving nations of the next decade. There is no hope to avert this disaster. Synthetic foods, hydroponics, desalinization, the ocean, fertilizers, plant breeding, irrigation, land reform, government support, private enterprise, or any "unknown" panacea cannot possibly contribute enough in time. Neither can the developed nations avert the disaster. Only the United States will be able to provide any help, and our resources are totally inadequate to feed the world of 1975.

What, if anything, can be done in the light of such a grim prediction? The only solution, the authors urge, -in the name of reason, national self-interest, and true humanitarianism-is a famine-disaster version of the military medical "triage" system. The United States, in sharing its limited resources, must divide the underdeveloped nations into three categories: 1) Those so hopelessly headed for or in the grip of famine (whether because of overpopulation, agricultural insufficiency, or political ineptness) that our aid will be a waste; these "can't-be-saved nations" will be ignored and left to their fate; 2) Those who are suffering but who will stagger through without our aid, "the walking wounded"; and 3) Those who can be saved by our help. The determination of each nation's category will involve the consideration of factors such as its political stability, its progress toward self-help, its value to "the economic viability and relative prosperity of the United States" and to "the economic stability of the world as a whole". As specific examples, the authors suggest that Haiti, Egypt, and India can't be saved; Gambia and Libya will survive without our help; and Tunisia and Pakistan should receive food.

As Americans and as scientists we may rebel at the thought that anything good will not eventually be achieved. Such a grim prediction and equally grim solution as the Paddocks offer seem remote and unreal. But, as the authors point out, even the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts essentially the same horrifying, worldwide fond catastrophe. The U.S.D.A. is more hopeful only in that they give its until 1985! The recent three volume report, The World Food Problem, published last year by the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), reaches a similar conclusion. While maintaining that a solution is biologically, economically, and technically possible within twenty years, their report raises the "question whether the world is up to meeting the problem" in time.
These are not the vague predictions of sensational journalists or the date settings of an off-heat prophetic sect. These are the considered estimates of the authors and others concerned with population and food. The Paddock brothers indicate that until recently the demographers were sure the agriculturalists would come sip with an answer in time. But the agriculturalists were counting on the demographers to control population and hence avert the calamity!

I see two serious questions for Christians in the predictions of the Paddock brothers. First is the question of accuracy and realism. Some demographers and agriculturalists give a more optimistic evaluation of the situation. But we have seen that both the Department of Agriculture and the President's Science Advisory Committee see a grave and ominous food-population crisis as probable by the mid 1980's. The recent (also 1967) report, Alternatives for Balancing World Food Production and Needs, of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural and Economic Development has been billed as more optimistic and less extreme than either the Paddock brothers or the U.S.D.A. However, the major emphasis in the Iowa work is on what should he done in contrast to the Paddock's discussion of what will be done. As Director Earl 0. Heady states in the foreword to the Iowa publication: "While the optimistic alternative is possible in attainment, the pessimistic alternative will be the outcome if governments and world organizations do not activate vigorous policies (italics mine) directed both at increasing food supply through agricultural development and restraining demand for food through population control." There certainly has to be some drastic changes in the attitudes and deeds of the American Congress and people, as well as the United Nations, for these goals to be met. On this basis then, I'm afraid the Paddock brothers are all too realistic and accurate.

The second question is whether the Paddock version of triage is as humanitarian and reasonable as this book implies. I, for one, cannot see its writing off India, for example, when thousands of Americans have served in India as agriculturalists, engineers, U.S. government employees, and missionaries, and thousands of Indians have received some of their education in this country. Such personal contacts have developed friendships and emotions that would not calmly allow India to be left to her fate. The same is true of other nations that might be classified as "can't-be-saved". However, if the situation is as grave as the Paddocks say, we as Christians had better adjust to the triage concept OR come up with a better solution. On the basis of the evidence in this book (and elsewhere), we cannot afford to just sit back and hope that the problem will solve itself or just fade away. Neither can we coldly shrug it off as none of our concern.

Famine-1975 is a disquieting and disturbing book. Not only does it remind its of Matthew 24, but it also sounds ominously like parts of the Revelation. Certainly, the prime mission of the church is not to promote birth control nor to develop a program of agricultural research. Most certainly, the church does not have a mission to oppose such programs. As Christians, we must, however, plan to exercise our compassion in a concern for the feeding of the physical man as well as the spiritual man. We must recognize-as must of our mission boards recognize-that it is difficult to present the Gospel effectively to millions with empty stomachs. The "Time of the Famines" is almost here. We must, for conscience sake, seriously concern ourselves with what we should do, even if, happily contrary to the predictions of this book, the actual event is not as gruesome as the Paddock brothers pi-edict. Certainly, we ought to carefully examine ourselves to see whether American pride and affluence have subverted our Christian charity and compassion. Jesus said: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me". Is it just coincidence that our Lord's plea for feeding the hungry and satisfying the thirsty appears near the end of His discourse on the end times in Matthew 24 and 2.5? In the light of the Paddock brothers' book, and substantiating evidence elsewhere, I doubt it. And I have become deeply convinced that we as Christians have work to do.

Reviewed by Wilbur L. Bullock, Zoology Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H.

GALILEO, SCIENCE AND THE CHURCH, by Jerome J. Langford, 0. P., Deselee Company, New
York, 1966. 237 pp. $5.95 cloth.

Galileo, like Darwin much later, has become a symbol of the heroic courage of science valiantly combating the ignorant dogmatism of the church. As popular myth has it, both Darwin and Galileo suffered on the rack of Biblical literalism. Genesis proclaims special creation and Joshua the movement of the sun around the earth (Joshua 10:12-13; Cf. Psalms 19:4-6; 93:1; 104:5, and Ecclesiastes 1:5). Darwin, of course, was luckier than Galileo: Protestant England had no Inquisition. But the less fortunate Galileo, so the story goes, suffered the Inquisition's torture, agonized in its dungeons, and finally recanted only to say later, "Yet it [the earth] does move!"

The Galileo legend is, of course, a gross distortion of history. Scholars have known this for a long time, and recently popularizers (such as Arthur Koestler, in The Sleepwalkers) have tried to erase the myth from minds of general readers. It is true, of course, that Galileo tried unsuccessfully to keep the Church from declaring the Copernican system heretical and was later forced to abjure his own defense of Copernicus. Still, Galileo was not particularly courageous nor his antagonists particularly ignorant. Galileo had friends as well as enemies in Rome, and some of these Catholic scholars defended him openly. Galileo was, perhaps, threatened with torture, but he was never shown the instruments and never clapped in a dungeon. He never stood up to his inquirers at the trial, but (apparently despite the facts) claimed he had not taught the Copernican system. Nonetheless, forced to abjure Copernicanism, he submitted, never saying, as the myth has it, "Yet it does move!" He was under house arrest before the trial, but afterwards his prison sentence was commuted and his daughter, a Carmelite nun, was allowed to say for him the seven penitential psalms that he was required to repeat once a week for three years. Galileo was released and forbidden to write further on the Copernican system, but he was free to work on his new physics and therein made a considerable contribution. All of this has been known to scholars for years.

Father J. J. Langford, who teaches at St. Thomas College (St. Paul), is, however, concerned to dispel not only the gross distortions of the Galileo legend, but (1) to establish as much as possible the contested facts of the case, (2) to understand those facts in terms of the theology and science of Galileo's own day, and, finally, (3) to draw from the situation "a tentative theory of the relationship between science and religion" (p. xv) relevant to our own day.
With regard to the first goal, Father Langford does a commendable job. The records of Galileo's life, the letters between him and his friends and enemies, even the official documents are fogged by gaps and phrases of questionable meaning. Father Langford cuts through the fog, challenges (successfully at times) the evaluations of modern secular Galileo scholars (such as Giorgiano de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo), while still admitting that problems remain.

In reaching his second goal, Father Langford places the relevant facts surrounding the decree against Copernicus (1616) and the trial of Galileo (1632) in the context of seventeenth-century science and theology, clarifying both as he does so. Father Langford's discussions of papal infallibility, counter-reformation exegetical principles, and authority and proof in science and theology are especially helpful. As a result of his investigations, Father Langford neither excuses the Church's action nor makes a hero out of Galileo. Rather Galileo emerges as the victim of a "tragedy of errors." As a convinced honest Catholic, he did not doubt the Church's authority in matters of faith. Now, he was told, astronomy was a matter of faith: Copernicanism was heretical. Galileo must then choose to remain faithful to his religion or to deny it. Given such a choice, Galileo could only abjure his anti-Christian astronomy. Lamenting the result, Father Langford says, "Catholics will always be in the unfortunate position of having to admit that a court of Catholic theologians condemned a doctrine and a man, who, as it turned out were right" (p. 161).

Father Langford's third goal is to present a "tentative theory of the relationship between science and religion." Here a reader steeped in modern attempts at such rapprochements will find little new, After tracing the relation between science and philosophy from the seventeenth century, Father Langford defines what lie takes religious faith to be: "To have religious faith is to assent to certain religious truths because they are revealed and guaranteed by God Himself" (p. 186). As far as the content of such faith is concerned, this sentence suffices: "God is the Personal Creator who sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die and overcome death that all men might be saved through personal commitment to Christ" (p. 185). Both science and faith are autonomous; each has its realm, its methods, its goals. Still, he insists, there must be established within Christendom an understanding of their relation. So far, Father Langford feels, Teilhard de Chardin has made the most progress toward this goal. 

It is somewhat difficult to give an evaluation of the book as a whole. All of it is well written and will be clear to general readers. But in the section on Galileo's life and trial, Father Langford makes a scholarly contribution of interest to specialists in the history of science and the church. Finally in his discussions of the necessity for a "theology of science," one can appreciate his goal without being convinced about the ultimate value of Teilhard's system. This final philosophic section, unlike the historical section, is simply too cursory. One suspects that at this point Father Langford speaks only to general readers. Still, the whole work remains an informative, even exciting, account of a classical skirmish between science and religion.

Reviewed by James W. Sire, Editor, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.