Science in Christian Perspective



JASA BOOK REVIEWS For September 1960

Table of Contents
The Transformist Illusion, by Douglas Dewar; Dehoff Publications, Tennessee; 1957; 306 pp.
The Song of Life by Sara G. Blair, Pageant Press, Inc., New York, 1960 ($3.50).

The Transformist Illusion, by Douglas Dewar; Dehoff Publications, Tennessee; 1957; 306 pp.

Reviewed by D. S. Robertson, Assistant Professor, Department of Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames.

In the spring of 1957 Douglas Dewar died before seeing this, his last book, in print. Although the publication date is 1957, the bulk of the material was completed in 1948, with some appendices added in 1951.

All of the main areas of evolution are discussed within a creationist framework. There are chapters dealing with the origin of life, the fossil record, macro-evolution, human evolution, geographical distribution, vestigial organs, embryology, etc.

I think that even the most militant evolutionist is willing to grant that there are many problem areas in applying the theory of evolution to nature as we find it. Alany of these problems are underscored by the author of this book. He regards the presence of such problems as evidence against evolution. One of many examples cited is the case of the hymenopter, Ibalia, which parasitizes the larvae of the wood wasp, Sirex. The Sirex larvae usually bore deep in the wood. However, when parasitized by the Tbalia larva they burrow toward the surface where Tbalia, a relatively weak borer, does not have so far to go once it leaves the Sirex larva. Dewar concludes that the change of boring habit of Sirex, which is of no benefit to it, cannot be explained by natural selection. It is left for the reader to conclude that the only possible explanation is that God created it with this kind of behavior pattern. This is the type of argument that is frequently used. Where man cannot explain or where the missing pieces of the puzzle have not been found, Dewar assumes God. This reviewer would be the last to criticize this approach, since 'he has used it himself, but one must remember that as science finds explanations, and as the fossil record becomes more and more complete, one's God, in a sense, becomes smaller and smaller.

It is fairly obvious that Dr. Dewar's chief field of interest was paleontology. Roughly half of the book is given to the discussion of the fossil record. Here he seems, to this novice at least, to have handled his material fairly well, but when he gets into other fields he does not always sound so convincing. For example, in the first chapter where the origin of life is discussed, he argues that the probability of a single protein molecule coming into existence by chance, if its constituent parts were shaken together, would be so low (100160:1) as to be virtually impossible. I am sure that most modern biochemists would agree that this is a fair estimate of the probability of getting a protein under these conditions. However, he does not seem to be aware that modern biochemists do not suggest that proteins were first produced by such a milk-shake method. Again in the first chapter, he does not understand the principle of entropy as it relates to evolution, although in stating what he considers to be the main difficulty that the principle of entropy creates for the evolutionist, he actually gives a very adequate description of the relationship of life to the second law of thermodynamics. "If both groups of scientists be right, then within the great clock (the Universe) which is running down, is a tiny clock (the living world) which is winding itself up" (page It). This is a good description of what is actually taking place. The sun's "winding down" has provided the energy for all past and present life on the earth.

In chapter 13, where blood precipitation tests are discussed, he reveals all too clearly that -he does not understand the theory of modern immunology by such statements as, "The fact that the blood of some men is fatal if transfused into another man of the same race, should convince any unprejudiced person that blood precipitation tests are of no value in determining relationship" (page 193). In reality, since the inheritance of many of the blood types of man has been worked out, the incompatibility reactions have turned out to he quite dependable tools for determining kinship. Another obvious error in this chapter is the information that 0 type persons can have injected into them without harm blood of all other groups and that AB type individuals can donate to all types.

In his discussion of the fossil record he makes much of the sudden appearances of new forms and the gaps that separate many groups from their proposed ancestors. He feels that the fossil record is best examined by assuming that ". . . all the main types of living beings were brought into existence by one creative act in considerable numbers, each type in the parts of the earth that were then best suited to its habits. . . . In the long course of the history of the earth this distribution underwent great changes in consequence of what Joly describes as 'great cycles of world-transforming events' which caused the extinction of many kinds of animals and plants and a vast amount of migration culminating in the survival of only the types now living and -their present geographical distribution" (page 32). According to this view all of today's plants and animals were present in the world during the Cambrian and subsequent periods of geological time but do not appear in the fossil record because -they did not live in the regions where the fossil beds were formed. The orderly appearance of forms in the fossil record is explained by a series of migrations of various living things into regions where deposition was going on. To this reviewer, such a theory would be hard put to explain the more or less orderly progression of forms in the fossil record from the "lower" to the "higher." Even granting that what one calls higher or lower might he rather arbitrarily determined, there is, nevertheless, an obvious orderly sequence of forms in the fossil record that would not be expected upon a scheme of chance migrations from a population containing a mixture of "low" and "high" forms.

In summary, it can be said that if one wants a catalog of the difficulties confronting the theory of evolution, this book will supply an extensive one. However, if one is looking for a satisfying Christian philosophy of Biology, one will have to look elsewhere.

One final comment: the publisher has gone to some pains to put out a handsome book. The maroon cover with gold letters is very attractive. One could only wish that he had expended a little more effort on what is found within the covers. Sprinkled throughout the text is the most extensive collection of typographical errors this reviewer has ever encountered in a finished book. The worst error of this sort is found on page 181, where two lines from page 188, on the recapitulation theory, are inserted in the middle of a discussion of Tom Sawyer's ideas about incantations. Tom has certainly become erudite since my last encounter with him.

The Song of Life by Sara G. Blair, Pageant Press, Inc., New York, 1960 ($3.50).

Reviewed by Francis D. Houghton, 27 4venue E, Claymont, Delaware.

The book which is the subject for this review may seem to be a strange one for an evangelical scientist to report on for a journal such as this. However, the points of interest become obvious as we proceed, and the basic point of view of the book toward knowledge, wisdom, evolution, and many other subjects, is remarkably similar to our own.

"In the dawn of mankind there was only one science-Divine Science." This is the opening sentence of the introduction. It was this sentence that caught the writer's attention so that he read the entire book with a great deal of interest.

Many will disagree with some of the chronology ("The Aryan Hindu is one million years old"), but in the science of the ancient East we find an unexpected ally in our differences with the evolutionists and those who would make science their god. "Only by a proper attitude of mind, a high regard for the handiwork of a tremendous Intelligence, a humility before this unknown mightiness as revealed by nuclear energy and all of nature, dare Man hope to share in the abiding peace which is his birthright. Long ago, the Hindus worshiped on the Ganges, the Egyptians on the Nile, the Chinese on the Yangtze Kiang, the Babylonians on the Euphrates. Did the Ancients know that all rivers flow to the sea, that Man must approach wisdom with deep and sincere humility; that his motive must be pure?" (Italics the reviewer's.) Miss Blair shows that in the ancient East all wisdom, power, and science came from above-from the Divine Being-who made heaven and earth.

Pointing out the thinking and the knowledge of the dim past, and how it relates to modern scientific marvels-and explains them-the author gives us a fascinating glimpse of a world little known, or even suspected, by twentieth-century science. She covers atomic science, the ether, life, space travel, and evolution in the first part of the book. The second-and largest-part consists of a "Correlation of Ancient Eastern Science and Modem Western Science." Admittedly, some of the scientific facts are a little weak, but Miss Blair's over-all grasp of modern physical science is to be admired, especially since she is a writer and a philosopher, and not possessed of a scientific background or training.

On the subject of evolution we find this interesting statement: "Man did not evolve from the ape or any like body, but he degenerated into it. Nor did Man and the anthropoid ape have a common ancestor. Man has always been Man, and he was first on the planet. . . .

There are many more such interesting and illuminating statements, and we could repeat them all in connection with our own defense of spiritual things, and the spiritual nature of Man and his world, but we shall quote only one more: "In concluding this interpretation of the ancient Eastern physics, we might say that this is a plea for faith in our troubled times. The very fact that our universe has a spiritual genesis should make us all walk like kings."

Although the book is interestingly written and quite clear in many parts, the reviewer feels that many of the intricacies of the Eastern physics and metaphysics will prove confusing to the average reader. However, the author includes a Sanskrit glossary, and her frequent cross references make it possible for an interested person to acquire a fair background of the ancient system of things, outlining the flow of everything-matter, energy, wisdom, and life-from the Ultimate Reality-which is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent-as the God of Christianity is all presence, all knowledge, and all power.

The "Correlation" is handled in a two-column, side-by-side style, which compares modern scientific concepts from biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and theology with their oriental counterparts, most of which antedate our present knowledge by considerable periods of time. It must have been a very difficult job to gather the information and organize it into its present form. For this reason it is easy to overlook the deficiencies and to credit Miss Blair with an excellent attempt to open up an exceedingly obscure and fascinating field of study. Many a more prominent writer would never have dared to venture into this area, and we should give her our thanks for giving us much to think about.