Science in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews For June
Table of Contents
Factors of Evolution by 1. 1. Schmalhausen (Blakiston Co. 1949)
Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein; pp. 282; $4.75; Philosophical Library, New York, 1950.
Factors of Evolution by I. I.. Schmalhausen (Blakiston Co. 1949) This is a book of 327 pages translated from the Russian by Isadore Dorick and with a foreword bv Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky. The latter, one of the foremost geneticists of our time' is of the opinion that Schmalhausen is the greatest living biologist in the Soviet Union.
Variability, mutations, the struggle for existence, natural selection, and adaptations are discussed quite fully in the book and sometimes quite repetitiously. On the whole one might find the volume poorly organized and quite dogmatic in spots.
Some statements to which one might take exception are-"In this way, environmental factors are more and more controlled by the organism" (comment certainly not true for lower organisms)-"It is obvious that every hereditary variation should change the entire organism" (comment-this would need a lot of interpretation)-"the mutation is genetically an even more stable condition" and later he says-"the normal is the least stable condition" (comment-these two statements, on the same page, are hardly reconcilable) cc every change in the hereditary foundation is a mutation" (comment-this is rather a broad statement, to say the least)-'the creative role of natural selection, which produces new types". (Comment-natural selection does not produce new types but only acts on those produced by other forces).
Schmalhausen believes that mutations and consequently evolution occurs most frequently in the higher organisms. The reasons he gives are not very convincing. It is true that many lower organisms have remained phylogenetically identical or almost identical but still there are fantastically large numbers of forms and varieties among these; evidence (possibly) that many changes have gone on in these organisms.March 26, 1955
Out of My Later Years by Albert Einstein; pp. 282; $4.75; Philosophical Library, New York, 1950.
Apparently people will never stop accepting uncritically the words of a famous personality. Albert Einstein has many opinions on many subjects, and there are those-including the publishers of this book who rejoice that such opinions even exist.- This attitude often implies unquestioned acceptance of Einstein's ideas. On the other hand, there are those who feel a scientist's opinions in non-scientific fields need not be considered-especially so in the case of one whose ideas are as extreme as those of Einstein. It is wrong to applaud his ideas because he is famous and as bad to dismiss them lightly.
This book is a collection of essays and talks made by Einstein between 1934 and 1950 on science (written popularly), philosophy, religion, politics, economics, scientific personalities, and Jews. Each essay and talk is an apology. He is clear, eloquent, and his logic has real force. It is difficult to find flaws in his argument. His conclusions, though radical, are almost forced upon us. For example, he concludes (I) there is no personal God, (2) that ethics and (3) morals are man made, (4) that the Bible cannot be absolutely true, (5) that socialism ought to supplant capitalism, (6) that man is progressing morally, and (7) that there should be world government.
There is a tendency to brush aside his conclusions. But his strong logic leads to these conclusions. Are those who do not accept his conclusions illogical?These are his arguments:
1. While the idea of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent God gives comfort and guidance to man, it then follows that all occurrences, including human events, are the work of God. He believes, as a man ' that men have freedom of action., Then the God with the attributes he has described could not exist.
2. Ethical principles according to him rest on axioms, and these axioms man derives from his experience. For example, the ethical principle "Thou shalt not lie" he shows rests on the axioms (derived from life experience), "Human life shall be preserved" and "Pain and sorrow shall be lessened as much as possible."
3. We can observe life and note that the principles of all men should be such that there is the greatest satisfaction and security, with the least suffering, to all. Conduct which follows from this rule is moral. For him this defines morality.
4. Science is the refined thinking of man. He says some science conflicts with Biblical statements and therefore these Biblical statements are not true.
5. Technology is making men more and more interdependent. Individuals thus have. less and less control over their own fortunes. To enable individuals to keep themselves from being thrust out of their places in the economy, Einstein proposes that they be given back some of the power interdependency has taken from them. Two things are proposed: that the workers own the means of production and that each be guaranteed employment. This, for Einstein, is socialism.
Socialism will work because men have within themselves the ability to cooperate with each other. This ability and other abilities flourish best when they are not hindered by the competitive spirit, a selfish spirit. The argument in the previous paragraph shows that socialism is now an absolute necessity, but he says that because of the undesirability of the competitive spirit socialism would always have been preferable.
6. If there is a theme in this book, it is that man is progressing morally. For, says Einstein, the purpose of man's existence is to progress. Man has the ability and the desire to progress. Thus, Einstein would expect man to progress morally and, while he does not prove it, he has no difficulty in finding examples.
7. The argument for world government is similar to that for socialism. Modern technology has made war so devastating that it threatens civilization. A good way to stop groups from warring with each other is to place an authority above them. The world government he envisions is such that the only power it would have is that necessary to prevent war.
World government, like socialism, will work because men can cooperate with each other. This spirit of cooperation can flourish if only the barriers-in this case, between nations-are broken down.
These seven conclusions and the reasoning that leads to them are not always stated formally; rather, these seven arguments are gleaned from the whole book and they very evidently represent the basis of Einstein's philosophy. There is little, if any, of this book that cannot be related directly to these arguments. The scientific essays are no exception, for his scientific efforts are aimed at finding the law from which all other natural laws are derived; for him such scientific activity is closely related to the inevitability of the general progress of man, which includes his moral progress.
Einstein uses logic correctly but his basic premise is wrong. If we accept any of his conclusions-and certainly some Christians also believe in socialism and world government-it should be for reasons other than those he gives. His thoroughly bad premise that leads to so much mischief is this: Man can, by hiinself, do good.
For then Einstein, the observer, can make a good, a correct judgment in deciding that men have a perfect freedom of action which leads to the deduction there is no personal God. Then, too, man can correctly observe and evaluate his experience and arrive at the ethical and moral principles. It also follows that man's science and his understanding of the Bible are right and that therefore the Bible is wrong. If we assume that men can do good, then moral progress, the ultimate in economic cooperation (socialism), and the ultimate in international cooperation (world government) must also be accepted.
It seems that accepting his premise forces these conclusions upon us. If we reject this premise, the conclusions still may be acceptable on other grounds. But as Christians we should recognize the force of his logic and that we part ways with him at the very beginning of the argument. There are too many people who attempt to disprove these conclusions by looking for weaknesses in the logic of the argument, neglecting the premises. Thus, the idea of world government is rejected because Russia will not cooperate. Such people will say that the socialist (and therefore socialism) is wrong because he ascribes far too much evil to capitalism. Some will also suggest that moral progress is not a fact because it is not observed to be a fact.
But Einstein is very realistic and arguments like these do not refute his main ideas. For example, he can easily and convincingly visualize a world government which does not include Russia. He does not ascribe all economic evils to capitalism, and, even more, he does not think socialism will remove all those evils. One cannot successfully dispute with him about moral progress because he readily admits there is only a small met advance, and that there are many backward steps.
Christians should not be willing to accept the foundation of the beliefs of the non-Christian and be satisfied with trying to weaken-usually in a questionable way-the superstructure. Above all, Christians should not be afraid to say plainly and clearly that ultimately it is God, and not man, that does good.
To say that Einstein is a logical thinker and that he is preeminent among scientists does not mean that he cannot make statements which seem rather foolish.
1. Concerning thought in the nineteenth century (p. 9) he says, "No one would have been taken seriously who failed to acknowledge the quest for objective truth and knowledge as man's highest and eternal aim."
2. He finds difficulty (pp. 248-250) in answering the question "What is a Jew?" But he concludes Jews are a community of tradition and that they have two essential characteristics, which comprise a definition: (a) They are that group which has the ideals of social justice, cooperation, and tolerance among all men. (b) The other distinguishing characteristics of this group is that they have a high regard for intellectual and spiritual effort.
3. On p. 170 he says that some day everyone will be glad the Russians have demonstrated the practical possibility of planned economy "by vigorous action".
4. On pp. 186-187 the question of the power a world government should have, in order to keep the peace, is discussed. He says that for this reason it would be necessary to prevent oppression, such as that found in Spain and Argentina. However, he says the ruling group in Russia is not a menace to the peace.
5. He says that one of America's chief faults is that she causes the Russians to distrust her. America should (p. 192) renounce offensive use of the A-bomb. In this same vein (p. 157) he said in 1947 that keeping troops in Korea was bad for America because that was accepting the premise of war. Before the Korean War his advice was taken.
However, Einstein is vigorous enough in opposing Communists in certain critical matters-world government and A-bomb secrecy among them-to show that he could not be a Communist sympathizer.
The science essays are stimulating. There is discussion of relativity theory, an intriguing derivation of E=MC2, discussion of the logic and foundations of physics and discussion of field theory and attempts to unify the laws governing matter, radiation, and electrical, Magnetic, and gravitational fields.Some significant ideas:
1. An object moves only with respect to another object, not with respect to space. This is the basis of relativity theory.
2. The basis of physics-now in evolution-cannot be obtained by induction, but only by free invention. The resulting simpler and more inclusive laws are proved only by their usefuness.
3. Quantum theory cannot give "a complete description of the physical system or happening". Field theory has not yet explained molecular structure and quantum phenomena.
The scientific section of the book is unintelligible to
the non-scientist, but is useful and clear-conipared
with other discussions of field theory and relativityto the scientist. The non-scientific part of the bookover two-thirds of the book-is recommended to those
who accept nothing on the authority of man and who
are not over-anxious to find common ground with any
and all who have conclusions to make.
May I say a few words in reply to the uncomplimentary review of my book, "The Creation: Facts, Theories, and Faith" in the March issue of your "Journal"?
Book reviews can be quite revealing, more so when viewed in juxtaposition than when viewed separately. In another review a Christian professor of biology of Ph.D. rank had criticized my book on the following grounds "Some of the statements regarding evolution do not properly present modern evolutionary thinking. On page 61 we are told that Darwinism is not as popular as it was in the days immediately following Darwin, and two statements from books published in 1927 and 1929 are quoted in substantiation. Actually a modified form of Darwinism is still the prevailing theory of evolution today."
In your review, now, a professor of anthropology at a different college comes along and writes: "Evolution, as in so many anti-evolutionary writings, is treated almost completely as Darwinianism unchanged. The author believes that 'The strongest proof against it is that acquired traits are not transmissable to one's offspring. . .' when evolutionists for over a generation have known this and have developed their theories accordingly."
The two professors obviously do not agree. If two men who both have that "formal background in the scientific disciplines related to the subject" can see the same thing so differently, it again emphasizes the truth which I attempted to stress in my book that man's scientific knowledge is uncertain, whereas God's truth is certain.
Both professors crticized me for quoting not only recent writers, but also men of the 20's and the 30's. Also this, if it is a foregone conclusion that all scie'ntific opinions become obsolete in twenty or thirty years, should caution us not to lend to much credulity to any evolutionistic theories or other philosophical specula-
tions of today. In another ten years or so they will be discarded, anyway. -
Some of'the studies made by the A. S. A. are good. I liked the attempt of Russell Maatman to define " natural law" in the March issue. Such underlying concepts will help to keep the science of Christian men from becoming too much like secularistic science. If we remember that "This grand natural law that only God can know is the simple, all-embracing law of which man's generalized laws are but feeble prototypes," then we are not so apt to lay too much stress upon these feeble prototypes in building our world-view.
In reply to Mr. Handrich, it would appear that the statement: "Some of the statements regarding evolution do not properly present modern evolutionary thinking," and the statement: "Evolution . . . is treated almost completely as Darwinism unchanged" are in substantial agreement.
The remainder of the first statement seems to imply, as my review explicitly stated, not a criticism for quoting men of the 20's and 30's, but for quoting them as "scientists of today." Both reviews refer to the same development on pages 61 and 62 of the book.
There may be further semantic shades of difference between the two quotations in Mr. Handrich's letter, but the first seems merely to be saying that actually a form of Darwinism is popular today, which is true; while the other is concerned with the fact that if the author believes such a "proof" as he advances, is the strongest one against evolution, his conception of evolution is not that held by present-day evolutionists.
Many members of the ASA probably believe that ministers and other non-scientists who use scientific data or theories in public should first check their statements with a specialist. We have all been embarrassed by the unfounded statements about science or scientific subjects in sermons, and we feel that such statements do harm to the cause of Christ. Would it not be well for us, who may be specialists in one or more of the branches of science, but who cannot possibly be more than intelligent "laymen" in others, to