Science in Christian Perspective



JASA BOOK REVIEWS For September 1967

Table of Contents

CONTINUITIES IN CULTURAL EVOLUTION, By Margaret Mead. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1964. 471 pp. $2.95 paper. $8.50 cloth.
by Evan Shute. Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1961. 286 pp. $3.50 paper.
by Harry van der Laan. Published by The Association for Reformed Scientific Studies, Hamilton, Ontario, 1966. 63 pp. $1.25 paperback.
BEHIND THE DIM UNKNOWN. Edited by J. C. Monsma. Putnam's Sons, N. Y. 1966. 256 pp. $4.95.

CONTINUITIES IN CULTURAL EVOLUTION, By Margaret Mead. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1964. 471 pp. $2.95 paper. $8.50 cloth.

This book is a collection of dissimilar ideas strung together under the above title. Although, in general, the book shows little evidence of continuity, some individual chapters are very good. Others express old ideas in a new setting. The book could have been written with less verbiage and more content: with fewer Meadian impressions and more empirical data; and by less of her staff and more of herself.

Certain areas in the book are relevant to the ASA particularly her concept of cultural evolution which concerns man's potential and the manipulation of genes and man's future through scientific change. These areas will be covered in this review.

As the setting of this book, it must be kept in mind that earlier theorists considered people outside of western culture as living proofs of the "fall of man", degenerates, a result of an original sin. Others thought in terms of a Golden Age of man, a perfect society, then fall. In either view non-western man was living in a state or stage of degeneracy. Many of the words which are in use today, in describing non-western peoples, are remnants and echoes of this past: savage, heathen, barbarian, primitive and even civilizedl Man was classified in various steps or stages of evolution depending upon what material he used as a cultural base -stone, bronze, iron, etc. This older concept of evolution was sufficiently "disproved" by Boas and his "non-evolutionary" view in 1913 and not heard of again until the 1940's when the students of White, Sahlin and Service,1 revived the older evolutionary concept by removing the bitterness of monolineal evolution with general evolution. It is in this idea of general evolution where Mead's concept of continuities fits. This she describes in detail (Appendix A,) in an essay written jointly with Theodore Schwartz, in 1961 which she introduces as follows: "We were asked to discuss non-evolutionary typology. Considering the non-evolutionary, however, we decided that a typology of whole cultures is either evolutionary or trivial. What might constitute a non-evolutionary classification? It is possible to make classifications of cultures that would not have been considered evolutionary as long as evolution was taken as limited to unilinear or multilinear sequences of progressive stages. Very recently the concept of evolution has become more inclusive to the extent that most of the interests of cultural anthropologists are embraced by this concept. Biological evolutionists such as Huxley and Simpson have long conceived of evolution as encompassing not only general progress and multilinear regularities of sequence but also the divergence of species and other taxa that do not lead to higher grades and that do not parallel the course of other lineages."

The concept of general evolution (in culture), "deals with classes of representative forms arranged in levels according to the criterion of thermodynamic advances with a series of relatect structural criteria." (p. 328). In the reviewer's opinion this view is: 1) too deterministic, echoing the necessity of stages and steps in the older monolinear model, and 2) it represents a new form of technological monism, that is, the mechanics and measurement of change is material in nature, viz, the atom bomb and moon shots are the highest norms of cultural attainmentl One notes that culture change and evolution are not synonomous any more than change and progress are synonomous. We have merely assumed and then learned that they were. How many of us believe it? Neo-evolution in culture does not seem to be new even in its most general form.

Mead goes to some length (chapt. 10) to discuss the problem of man's participation in the evolutionary process or genetic-psychological manipulation. Unfortunately her attitude is completely negative saying, for instance ". . . that it will be possible by the propagation of the test tube to create a dozen Churchills to fill the needs of a dozen politicians." (p. 237). Her point is well-taken when she states:" Neither from those who dream of, gaining power by genetic manipulation, by the manipulation of behavioristic psychology, or ~by the use of a set of precisely operative drugs ... do we obtain an image of the future that is capable of inspiring the man of today to become an active and responsible participant in the world of tomorrow." (p. 240). It would have been more to her credit if she had included the positive aspects of gene "manipulation" in its use "for the genetic welfare of future generations."2

Mead is critical in her attitude of the physical scientists as their work relates to the future of mankind. It is a warnig expressed in pessimism; a point of no return: "Having evolved the means of destroying all mankind and not having as yet the mechanism through which a sufficient section of mankind can be saved to insure genetic and cultural continuity, mankind exists precariousness." (p. 242). "Having come so far, can we make the next (cultural) invention in time?" With this note she closes her book. I would add only to this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit sayeth the Lord."

1. Sahlin and Service, Evolution and Culture, Univ. of Michigan Press, 1960.

2. Anderson. E. "The Control of Man's Genetic Future". Paper read at the ASA meeting, North Park College, Chicago, 111. August 22, 1966.

Reviewed by George R. Horner, Head, Department ot Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work. Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, Massachusetts.

FLAWS IN THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION. by Evan Shute. Craig Press, Nutley, New Jersey, 1961. 286 pp. $3.50 paper.

Dealing with topics including the origin of life, embryology, vestigial organs, blood groups, similarities and interrelationships among living things, distribution, classification, geology, and the origin of man, this book's main thrust appears to be that the evolutionists are beset with problems; therefore a creation position is the more logical. The author stresses that intricacy and interrelationships in nature are problematical for evolutionary interpretation and so they are evidence for creative design. Concluding the book is a creation poem by Vera Jameson, a classification of plants and animals, list of rock strata, glossary, reference list, index of proper names, and subject index. The classification and glossary may be helpful to some readers, but there are significant omissions and errors (e.g. Phylum Annelida and its classes are missing from the classification list, and in the glossary coelenterates wrongly are called sponges).

The author condemns evolutionists without representing them adequately. Such statements as, "This must have the up-to-date evolutionist very confused, I am sure" (p. 83), drastically weaken the authenticity of arguments presented; and this type of statement betrays a lack of understanding of the ways modem evolutionists do handle the data and their problems. A very striking example is the chapter on "Blood Groups" which is deplorably out of date, for the author quotes Dewar who pointed out certain "absurdities" in the data published by Nuttall some 60 years ago. For several decades serologists have known why there are apparent errors in some of Nuttall's results.

Research by men like Alan Boyden and his students have shown that organisms with similar anatomy consistently will show high degrees of serological correspondence.

Most evangelical Christian biologists will agree with Shute's conviction that nature clearly reveals only limited changes among organisms and that there is considerable evidence for creation. Many also welcome literature which lucidly exhibits the hypothetical quality of much in evolutionary doctrine. In dealing with these themes Dr. Shute has performed a valuable service, but the broad coverage of the work seems to have limited its depth in many areas. Dr. Shute, a surgeon, humbly and honestly admits his lack of competence, but in spite of this be wrote the book without enough reference to authorities (including Christians) in the various disciplines. The bibliography is deficient in pertinent literature by Christian men of science such as Klotz, Marsh, and Rusch. The serious student of evolution and those capable of distinguishing the good from the questionable in the book may not feel comfortable with it, and those incapable of such discrimination could be led into acceptance of erroneous facts and concepts. Hopefully on the other hand, the book not only may encourage some readers seriously to question and reevaluate current popular evolutionary ideas but may also reimpress them that nature is the Creator's handiwork.

Reviewed by Wayne Frair,
Department of Biology,
The King~s College,
Briarcliff Manor, New York

A CHRISTIAN APPRECIATION OF PHYSICAL SCIENCE by Harry van der Laan. Published by The Association for Reformed Scientific Studies, Hamilton, Ontario, 1966. 63 pp. $1.25 paperback.

The book consists of three lectures delivered at the Study Conferences of the ARSS, Summer of 1966, which are part of an attempt to provide Biblical direction for students in a number of academic disciplines.

In the first lecture, "Background, Roots and Content," Dr. van der Laan states as his objective in his lectures: to search for the Way of Life in the sciences, to discuss contemporary appreciation and interpretation of science, and to challenge the materialistic worldand-life view. He starts by posing and answering three "ultimate" questions: (1) What is the Origin of all things? Jehovah God, through the power of His creative Word; (2) What provides cohesive interrelatedness of all aspects of human experience? The fact that all aspects of reality are bound together in a coherent, modally ordered structure which unfolds itself subject to the Law set by the Creator; (3) What gives meaning to each individual part and the totality of Creation? God's sovereign requirement that we love and serve Him and our fellow man with our whole heart, which is possible only in Christ Jesus the Savior. He then defines culture as part of the created world order, as man's response to his calling, the outcome of his responsible initiative. The "sphere universality" of the natural aspects of creation shows the unity of its order. The possibility of knowledge is founded in God's revelation that we were created, that we are called to disclose this creation, and that we are equipped by God to fulfill this task.

In the second lecture, "Scientific Inquiry, its Philosophical Dependence and its Aims," the author shows the close relation between philosophy and science; the, scope of philosophy is the total, coherent experience of the temporal world order. The Christian uses the Bible as his focal point from which to examine critically the interpretation of the fundamental results of science. He shows how Humanism depreciates "integral" knowledge of everyday life, and how it sets up a dualism between the scientifically informed elite and the masses whose experience is largely "bare of meaning." The Christian view is that our full experiential life is the foundation and necessary condition for the acquisition of scientific knowledge. Science is not the tool which gives meaning to everyday experience, but it may enrich that experience, and show new opportunities to the scientist. The aim of scientific inquiry is to gain knowledge of the structural laws of the created world, each of which governs an iffeducible functionable mode in man's experiential spectrum.

The third lecture, "A Closer Look at Physics," deals with the mandate that Christians, too, must engage in physical science. They will not arrive at a separate science, but will conflict with the unbeliever in the interpretations of fundamental theories and in the formulation of basic working hypotheses. In science the antithesis shows up in subtle assumptions, bold extrapolations, unwarranted priorities, and comprehensive conclusions. There is no part of science that is not related to the scientist's faith, and interpretation of his work is unavoidable. Our knowledge is incomplete, fragmentary, and not free from error, but it is rooted in the creation order which guarantees the meaningful coherence of our integral experience, and thus also forms the foundation for our scholarly work. In experiments the psychic and analytic functions of man come to the fore, but they remain aspects of the total structure and are always directed by the heart, which must be committed to Christ the Lord.

This book, as a Christian, scholarly approach to the natural sciences, well deserves reading and studying, and may be used as a stepping stone to a more articulately Christian participation in the natural sciences and to a clearer definition of the Christian's work in these disciplines. We may well take up the author's challenge to the world-wide community of Christian scholars to work and build together in the confident expectation of the regime of Him who even now sustains the universe by His Word of power.

Reviewed by Aaldert Mennega,
Associate Professor of Biology
Dordt, College, Sioux Center, Iowa

BEHIND THE DIM UNKNOWN. Edited by J. C. Monsma. Putnam's Sons, N. Y. 1966. 256 pp. $4.95.

Twenty-six scientists unite to demonstrate in separate chapters the greatness of the God of creation by presenting some of the unsolved problems in their respective fields of science. The fact that these problems have not yielded to to the concerted efforts of intelligent men suggests, they say, that a still greater intelligence than that of man must have designed and created a world so complex. Several of these authors are members of the ASA and represent diverse disciplines of science.

In addition to the stated goal of focusing on the greatness of God this book reveals that scientists are not necessarily athiestic; that in fact, there are some scientists of strong religious faith, which they hold as not inconsistent with good science - a fact that needs to be constantly restated to the world. cover description. It would further appear that the

The authors stayed surprisingly well on the subject except in a few cases where they could not resist the temptation to carry the torch for the creationist viewpoint or for the literal interpretation of Genesis. Also in one or two cases the dangerous suggestion was made that there must have been an intelligent God at work in a certain phenomenon because there was no other explanation - as if God would no longer be responsible for it if a physical explanation if a physical explanation for it were to be found. But, in general, clear, rational presentations by statements of personal system with particular emphasis on the meaning and belief that this God of intelligence is also the God of providence of the Holy Bible.

These conclusions of the authors as well as the statements of the editor in the introduction concerning divine control of eschatological events were derived basically from the claims of the Bible and not from any rational proof or evidence from science. While these claims are not necessarily inconsistent with science it does mean that at this point the book is not completely a scientific work as was claimed in the cover description . It would also appear that the goal of the editor has been enlarged from a presentation of the greatness of God as stated inside the book jacket to include an identification of this God as the God of providence of the Bible. In fact, the reviewer got the impression that the editor would have welcomed a distinct statement from the scientific world to the effect that science proves or suggests that this great intelligence is also the God of the Bible. This science cannot do.

While the reader is presented with evidence for the greatness of this God of intelligence he is not presented here with any of the self disclosures of God from the Bible or with any rational constructs that would link the God of the Bible and the God of intelligence, but he is asked to accept this relationship in one gulp. No evidence was presented to show that this God of intelligence is any more the God of the Bible than the God of Islam.

This book will do little to persuade one with a person's philosophical bent but it should be effective in reinforcing the faith of Christians or those with Christian backgrounds. These chapters are short, easy to read and enjoyable and should be profitable to young and old and to layman as well as to the scientist who may be interested in learning of problems in other fields of science.

Reviewed by Marlin B. Kreider. Research Physiologist, U.S.
Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick,