Science in Christian Perspective
REVIEWS FOR JUNE 1965
Table of Contents
CHRISTIANS IN A TECHNOLOGICAL ERA by Hugh C. White, Jr., Editor Seabury Press, New York, 1964, 143 pp. $3.50
EVOLUTION AFTER DARWIN, VOL. 3, ISSUES IN EVOLUTION ed. by Sol Tax and Charles Callender, Chicago, Univ. Chicago Press, 1960.
RELIGION AND BIRTH CONTROL by John Clover Monsma Doubleday 1963 $3.95
The editor makes the point that after the debates at the beginning of the century on science and religion, evolution and Biblical authority, and inspiration, the church has been "disengaged from the mainstream of American thought and "occupied with private life, commonly referred to as pastoral care." Margaret Mead suggests that those committed to religious vocations are oblivious to the past two hundred years of history. Paradise finds no example in America of a "first rate theological mind!' dedicated to the meaning of technology or "of one theological book of any weight trying to interpret it." Obviously since the essays are by Europeans, the inference is that something is being done about it, but not by Americans.
According to Polanyi, Greek philosophical speculation brought about an erosion of traditional beliefs and an extension of the I-it relation of impersonal and objective thought. Analogously the patterns of impersonalisin have developed in our time. The Christian message explodes on the scene to restore the I-Thou relationship. Modern science and scientific philosophy cannot analyse the human person without reducing it to a machine. Religion suggests a more comprehensive approach. Comprehensive knowledge requires the awareness of a number of clues which cannot be exhaustively identifed. Beyond the particularities man has the capacity to anticipate the "hidden meaning of things." There is no other way of approaching a hidden meaning than by entrusting ourselves to our intimations "of its yet unseen presence." (p. 38). The act of scientific discovery for Polanyi "offers a paradigm of the pursuit of a hidden meaning guided by an intensely personal foreknowledge of this hidden reality." (p. 44)
For Ladrifte the "technician mentality" is a vast enterprise embarked upon a stream. The participants are filled with anxiety concerning the outcome. Does the stream lead to a waterfall of destruction or out into a spacious and beautiful lake? Ladri6re finds a "logos" at work in this progression of reason and technology in the world. This "logos" exhausts its meaning in the very expression of itself. Man needs to be delivered by the Christian faith from this nonsense of the technological "logos." Man needs to find his effort linked to the life of the totality, "which is quite simply the very life of God."
These echoes from the European scene may well stimulate American Christians to examine the question of the real relevance of Christian theology to the world of the technician. Our popular refigiosity may be covering an essentially schizoid pattern of assumptions. Hopefully, American Christians wift listen to science as well as pronounce upon it and technology will give us effective ways to implement our spiritud ohNfigation to proclaim the good news with unction.
Reviewed by James Forrester, President, Gordon College and Gordon Divinity School, Wenham, Mass.-
This book of 310 pages continues the theme of the first two volumes published by the same press. One article is called "Creation and Evolution in the Far East" by Ilza Veith. Another is "Current Roman Catholic Thought on Evolution" by J. Franklin Ewing, S. J. There are a few more articles in the volume but the largest part consists of panel discussions on the origin of life, the evolution of life, man as an organism, the evolution of mind, and lastly, social and cultural evolution. Famous names are on these panels, such as Edgar Anderson, Julian Huxley, G. L. Stebbins, Leslie White, Marston Bates, Ralph Gerard, Sir Charles Darwin, Th. Dobzhansky and many others.
A few thoughts from this volume picked at random will provide some idea of the coverage. Julian Huxley makes his usual dogmatic statements about evolution being an incontrovertible fact. He speaks of its being an irreversible process in time in which living forms became more and more complex and then he cites proof of this from the increase in melanism of British moths. This, I submit, is no proof of evolution in the way he first describes it. Stebbins challenged Huxley by showing that reversible evolution has probably occurred. An area always of great interest is that of sex. The classical idea is that the simplest organisms had no sex and that sex, like most other phenomena, has evolved. Stebbins believes that genetic recombination (parasexual recombination) is found in the simplest organisms (such as bacteria) and thus sex of this type was always present. Pelikan brings in Luther's belief that while God did not create anything on the seventh day and that He is said to have "rested", yet He did not cease to preserve and govern the universe on that particular day. Some would say, therefore, that God was really an administrator or executive on the seventh day and that logically, He did not really rest. I leave this conundrum for the experts on religion to mull over.Irving W. Knobloch
Since the fuller meaning of birth control includes not only "conception" control but also all aspects of obstetrical care and control during pregnancy, as well as abortion, sterilization, artificial insemination and natural childbirth, these five categories are discussed in this book.
It was stated that some people feel that these matters are too private to speak about and many others do not know what their church's stand is in these matters and even the physician who is asked to advise and act on these issues is confused by the uncertain attitude of the public. Matters are confused still more by the militant stand of the Roman church which, generally speaking, is against any form of control or manipulation and finally the lack of uniformity of state laws does not help matters.
But it is important that the Christian physician be clear in his own mind as to his personal attitude toward every aspect of birth control so that he can advise, taking into consideration the patient's religious, socio-economic and medical background in such a fashion that guilt feelings may be prevented.
There was a considerable amount of agreement by the protestant physicians (about 19) as they spoke generally or discussed their assigned topics; each took one of the five categories of birth control. Only one Roman Catholic physician presented the conservative view of his church on "conception" control while the one Jewish physician presented the reformed view which was perhaps the most liberal view presented. The reviewer sensed a lack of concern for any Scriptural authority in this liberal viewpoint. It might have been more fair to the Catholic and Jewish (especially Orothodox) viewpoint to have another physician from each faith present his views; however, several protestant physicians reviewed the Roman Catholic view.
The general points of at least partial agreement among the protestant physicians could be stated as follows: Contraception control is not contrary to the "Natural law"; abortion (therapeutic) is justified only if the mother's life is threatened; sterilization (generally of the woman) may be justified for a number of reasons if it will contribute to the health and happiness of the family; artificial insemination of semen from the husband may be acceptable but there is a serious question about semen from other, even unidentified, males. A section on natural childbirth presented divergent viewpoints.
This short and cryptic summary may anger you enough so that you will read this book to fill in the exceptions and additions which were discussed. The Scriptures and scriptural principles played an important role in the thinking of these physicians. It was pointed out that each case must be judged by the physician separately because of the many variables.
For those interested in this subject as it relates to the population explosion I would refer them to the annual convention of the ASA, 1961, which was devoted mostly to this subject and published in JASA 14(l), 1962 (March).
This is not the first book edited or written by John Clover Monsma. One of several, written in similar style, entitled Evidences of God in an Expanding Universe (published in 1958, Putnam, summarized in JASA, 11 (3), 1959) utilized 40 writers including several ASA members.
Read this book and pass it on to your church library or to some young couple who are concerned. We will hear more of this matter in the near future. Since writing this review the American Medical Association has moved from a studiously neutral position on birth control to the view that "the prescription of child-spacing measures should be made available to all who require them, consistent with their creed and mores".