in Christian Perspective
JASA BOOK REVIEWS FOR SEPTEMBER
Table of Contents
STUDIES IN GENESIS ONE by Edward J. Young Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia, Penna., 1964. 105 pp., paper, $1.50.
THE NATURE OF THE NATURAL SCIENCES by Leonard K. Nash Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1963. Pp. xix, 406.
This volume of the series of Biblical and Theological Studies edited by J. Marcellus Kik for Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company originally appeared as a series of scholarly articles by Professor Young in the Westminster Theological Journal. The concern of the author is strictly with exegesis of the Biblical text: he criticizes theological writers whose exegesis he thinks has been influenced unduly by science, and he himself tries to avoid encounter with scientific questions. Young argues against other theologians who interpret Genesis 1:1 as a dependent clause, against Rabast and Barth for their interpretation of the unformed state of the earth in Genesis 1:2, against von Rad and Orlinsky for their translation of "fearful storm" or "wind" instead of "the Spirit of God!' in Genesis 1-2, and against Noordtzij and Ridderbos for their assertion that the form of Genesis I is that of a structural "framework" rather than a chronological sequence. Most ASA members will find these arguments too esoteric for a scientist to follow, requiring a technical knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, Ugaritic, and even Arabic-and with explanatory footnotes in Dutch, German, French, Italian, Latin, and Hebrew as well as English. However, peering at these technical arguments from the outside, a scientist does get the impression that even among conservative theologians who hold equally high views of the authority of Scripture there are many debatable points.
Young's conclusions are that the pattern of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is that of six days followed by a seventh, to be understood as a succession but with the length of days not specified; that the Hebrew word for day is used in two different senses in Genesis 1:5 and in a third sense in Genesis 2:4b; and that the terms "evening" and "morning" may be figurative ways of denoting a figurative "day," especially since the first three days were not solar days. Although the account of creation is in terms of fiat and fulfillment, process is not necessarily excluded, the language suggesting, for example, that the vegetation came forth from the earth as it does today. The purpose of the first section of Genesis (1:1-2:3) is to exalt the Creator who made heaven and earth by the Word of his power and adapted the earth for man's habitation, the chronological sixday format indicating that this was done step by step.
Young calls Genesis "semi-poetic" but regards it as straightforward history, meaning by history "that which actually happened," whether part of man's experience or not. The arguments that Genesis I is historical in this sense are that (1) it is closely tied to the subsequent genealogical part of Genesis, (2) the characteristics of Hebrew poetry are lacking, and (3) the New Testament regards events in Genesis I as having actually taken place. Many ASA members will appreciate these conclusions but may feel there are theological problems yet to be faced by those who do wish to take scientific data into consideration. If we find creation "a very difficult doctrine to accept" it may be because of stubborn pride, as many theologians imply, but it may also be because the doctrine has been defined by conservative theologians in a way which we are not yet satisfied is truly Biblical.
For example, Young makes a deep distinction between God's work of creation and his work of providence without defining this distinction. Then he says that when we let our interpretation of Genesis 1 be influenced by what we know of science, we are limiting the power of God: "Why could not God in the twinkling of an eye have formed the stars so that their light could be seen from earth? We cannot limit the creative power of God by what we today have learned from his providential working." It seems possible to this reviewer that some of us might also be limiting the creative power of God by what we have learned exclusively from His revealed Word-or think we have learned from it.
Reviewed by Walter R. Hearn, Associate Professor of Biochemistry, lovia State University, Ames.
The title is apt; the author actually does discuss the methodologies of working scientists, the formal structures of scientific theories and models as their advocates and critics have seen them, and the social character of the physical and biological sciences as they (or have been) lived internally and in external linkage with the general cultural atmosphere of the day. Most books on the philosophy and methodology of science tend to explore into the unrealistic paradigms which establish standards science never has, and probably never will, achieve. The scientist, consequently, finds them artificial and foreign to much of his thinking and action while the outsider (if he understands them at all) is given a distorted picture of real scientific work. Nash's work reveals a refreshing attempt to avoid this "idealistic" tendency. Again, few studies in the logic and operational work of the natural sciences pay sufficient attention to what one might call the psychology and sociology of science. Historians of science, sociologists such as Merton and Barber, and an occasional psychologist continue to remind us of the fact that the philosophy of science isolated from conditions of its development is blind, but not many listen. Nash is one of the few; possibly because he is a working chemist, and not a philosopher but, more than this, because he has really tried to. understand what his fellow scientists have done and are doing and has obviously succeeded in gaining a great deal of wise insight as a result.
It is quite impossible to do justice to enumerating, let alone discussing, the theses of the book. Possibly an outline of some topics which are discussed will suffice to whet further interest. Nash begins with a fairly thorough treatment of the way in which we move from sense stimuli to constructs to concepts and to colligative relations among concepts. He then organizes this theme around the specific tasks of natural science in an interesting way. The foundation is now prepared for an extensive probing into the qualifications required of any subject matter claiming to be scientific and for a fine analysis of the cross-influences of scientific work and philosophy of the scientist. Following this Nash explores the sources of theories and laws on which such analysis is structured, and the use and nature of models. Finally, there is a neat dissection of the corroboration and falsification of scientific theories which leads directly both to discussion of the organization of the scientific community and to the psychological facets of research. The book concludes with the author's conclusions as to the character of the real world which science explores.
This reviewer, however enthusiastic, found a few points with which he disagreed and more where he felt there was oversimplification, but they cannot be explored here. None seems to seriously affect the values of the book. In any case, the work is so comprehensive and well-organized that anyone who desires to teach a course from it in the philosophy of science or in the nature of science for undergraduates will find it easy to leave the assimilation of the major proportion of the subject matter to the students' own reading and to use lecture time for elaboration and discussion of points of difference. That to my mind is the sign of a good text: not so simple as to be a useless adjunct to lectures and not so obtuse as to require slavish exegesis in class.
May I suggest that those reading, or teaching from, Nash's book make the book even more valuable by supplementing it with readings from Bernard Barber or Robert Merton in the sociology of science, from Pap and Nagel and Popper in the philosophy of science, and with some papers from Scientific Change just published with A. C. Crombie as editor. If we take all this study to heart perhaps our attempts to place the sciences into a Christian world-view will be better informed and more heuristic than most of what I've read.
Reviewed by Thomas H. Leith, York University, Toronto, Ontario.