Science in Christian Perspective

Book Reviews

Book Reviews from September 1970.

EVOLUTIONARY PHILOSOPHIES AND CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY by Eric C. Rust, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1969, 256 pp.
EVOLUTION AND THE REFORMATION OF BIOLOGY by Hebden Taylor. The Craig Press, Nutley, N.J., 1967, 92 pps.
MAN'S ORIGIN, MAN'S DESTINY by A. E. Wilder-Smith. Harold Shaw, Wheaton, Ill.: 1968. 320 pp., $5.95.
BIOCHEMICAL PREDESTINATION: by Dean H. Kenyon and Gary Steinman. McGraw-Hill, New York: 1969. 301 pp. Hard cover-$12.S0, Soft cover-$4.95.

EVOLUTIONARY PHILOSOPHIES AND CONTEMPORARY THEOLOGY by Eric C. Rust, The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1969, 256 pp.

According to Rust, the Christian Church today is surrounded by many philosophies each competing with the other and the Church to forge the most complete interpretation of reality. There is no one dominant philosophy; rather science itself is the tool or method by which different philosophies do their work. Hence the situation today is not as it was in past eras, such as in the Augustinian when Neo-Platonism was the dominating philosophy, and the church interpreted reality in idealistic terms or in the Aquinian era when Aristotelianism held sway and the church became empirical in her methodology.

Because of this, various process philosophies lie before the church to which she must listen to hear what, if anything, God is saying through them and to which she must speak if she is to be faithful to her trust. Because of the dominant scientific method, evolution also must be considered and accepted in some form. Any intelligent person today recognizes, and accepts as proven, biological evolution, according to Rust. The excitement that exists is due to the merging of process-philosophies and evolutionary modes of thought and the reflection the church must give these to see if there are any analogies present in these forms of thinking which point to a personal transcendent being who is seen most fully in the Christian revelation.

Rust then proceeds to give an overview of "process" philosophies and philosophers from Hegel to Hartshorne, including A. N. Whitehead, J. C. Smuts, W. Temple, Teilhard de Chardin, and j. B. Cobb, Jr., and tries to show how their thinking can he seen as analogical to Christianity. Rust is to be commended for his effort. While the Church is called to be faithful and to bear witness, yet she is to do this to, in, and for the world in which Cod has not left Himself without a witness. The children of darkness are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Christ is the light which lightens every man, coming into the world. Church dogmatics and historical theology are replete with men and groups who have spoken the treasure with earthen vessels.

Yet church history also shows that the high points in the theology, confession, and fruitfulness of the church have been those periods when the Scriptural norm has judged all modes of thought and has been received as God's direct revelation in history in rational form. Rust, however, seems to reject the Scriptural voice, when he speaks of creation ex nihilo as prehistory and as mythical. It does not teach us of a transcendent, self-existing Creator, who called into existence that which did not formerly exist. Rather it only speaks of a God who is continuously creating, who is what He is because of what He is for man, rather than what He is in Himself. God then means something for process, rather than process having meaning for God. The Scriptural assertion of the beginning of history by the creative power of the self-existing God is reinterpreted in the light of the process movement of reality on an evolutionary scale. If the beginning of history loses its biblical force for Rust, so does the end. The parousia is only a symbol; the Church can only speak mythically here. Here again, the objective, self-existing, transcendent God of Scripture is lost as Cod gathers the whole universe into His own life. The great redemptive events of biblical history are either ignored or reinterpreted by Rust. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is avoided. The incarnation enthrones the personal at the heart of the universe rather than invading the world and assuming flesh and blood.

Rust's position then is best summarized as follows: "One thing is certain: the emphasis in our time falls on process, on a dynamic understanding of our world. Static categories are finished with. Our task as Christians is to seek what light evolutionary and process models may throw upon our theological understanding." It is true that the Christianity of the Bible does not deal with static entities, such as an "unmoved mover." The Trinitarian God exists in a mutual fellowship of love between Father, Son, and Spirit. But this living God has done certain things at certain points within history. He created the world; He brought His people out of Egypt; He raised His Son from the dead; He is coming again to consummate history. This does not rule out evolution as one of the ways in which God works, It simply keeps the living God above His creation-free, transcendent, purposive. The degree to which evolution is possible as a way of God's working must be finally grounded in the biblical witness. Evolution is certainly not a rigid, fixed, rule by which God must work. He has chosen to so work generally, but has freely transcended evolution in grace.

Rust, then, has overstated his case, so that the living God of the Bible is hidden within the life processes of this level of existence. And vet the courage he demonstrates is the risk to which the biblical faith calls the Church. She is to be in the world but not of it morally; she is to confess purely her faith in love. She is to speak valiantly for truth, but vicariously for the world. She is to share the world's intellectual and moral anguish. The best way to do this is not to speak from an analogy of being or becoming, but rather to speak from the analogy of faith and the analogy of Scripture. Rust, in the final analysis, has not done this. lie has rather reduced the biblical perspectives of the creation, redemption, and eschaton to the level of one general, universal process-philosophy unfolding itself on an evolutionary scale.

Reviewed by Irwin Reist, Associate Professor of Bible and Theology, Houghton College, Houghton, New York.

EVOLUTION AND THE REFORMATION OF BIOLOGY by Hebden Taylor. The Craig Press, Nutley, N.J., 1967, 92 pps.

This monograph is an attempt to show "that only a truly scripturally motivated biological science along the lines already developed by Herman Dooyeweerd and Duyvene de Wit can avoid the problematics and antinomies inherent in modern transformis t biology." Cod's word, alone, puts meaning into the facts uncovered by scientific investigation.

Scholarly in presentation and conservative in outlook, the theology is Reformed. Microevolution is conceded, mega-evolution strongly rejected. The author agrees with Schaeffer in placing ultimate blame for the contemporary dichotomy between science and theology on Thomas Aquinas; he disagrees with Teilhard's supposition that the earth was probably horn by accident though the universe itself was created by the power of the Cod of Scripture.
This is recommended reading for anyone concerned with a Christian overview of biological research.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Calhoon, Jr., Department of Chemistry, Houghton College, Houghton; New York.

MAN'S ORIGIN, MAN'S DESTINY by A. E. Wilder-Smith. Harold Shaw, Wheaton, Ill.: 1968. 320 pp., $5.95.

This important book is a strong attempt to convince modem scientists that the Biblical Weltanschauung is the simplest, most consistent and most coherent world view, and that it can be applied without contradition to all areas of existence.

The text is generally a reply to the sobering conclusions of the 1957 Moscow Symposium on "Origin of Life on the Earth" that life arose spontaneously from non-living matter. In it Wilder-Smith discusses three questions that are basic to both the Christian and Darwinian worldviews: (1) Does Darwinism really render the idea of Cod superfluous? (2) Has evolution been God's method of building the world of life as we know it? (3) Is a slow, spontaneous evolution of animal and plant life from the simple to the complex by chance, scientifically feasible?
Wilder-Smith immediately sets about answering the last question by attempting to prove that spontaneous evolution defies the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Energy harriers, he asserts, are too great for the complicated decrease in entropy required by chance evolution. In response to the evolutionists' objection that the sun provided the energy necessary for this process, Wilder-Smith replies that the sun's energy can only be used by living organisms. Therefore, non-living matter could not have used the sun's energy to create more complex chemical systems. To account for the presence of highly complex and energized systems, the author postulates God as the Creator-entropy decreaser in the universe.

Wilder-Smith strongly criticizes the obvious scientific problems in evolutionary theory, particularly with reference to the origins of the earth and of men. He shows inadequacies in the C'4 Dating method, the Index Fossil Theory, and the various prehistoric "links" which have been shown to be either hoaxes or the remains of modern men.
Explanation of Creation ex nihilo has its difficulties and Wilder-Smith is aware of this. To make certain his arguments are understood, he includes much extraneous material and uses much repetition which, he hopes, will clarify his point and convince the reader. His arguments have weight, and when he argues from scientific data rather than from subjective interpretation he presents a rather strong case for Creation.

Wilder-Smith takes an intelligent step in stating that if science creates life, Cod does not become meaningless. The scientists who create life are merely thinking Cod's thoughts after Him. It is modern science and not religion, or specifically Christianity, which is at present making the most unverified assumptions concerning the nature of the universe. He points out that science is creating a mythology greater than the one Christians are accused of accepting.

Wilder-Smith adds an intriguing thought to the concept of theistic evolution. The principles of Darwin that require nature and men to fight, struggle, and kill for the mere sake of existence, he says, are totally contradictory to the character of Jesus. Cod does not use chance, is not bound by time, and never relies on injustice to achieve his ends. He follows these excellent thoughts, however, by delving into a political discussion. His wanderings into the Darwinian influences behind the Communist, Fascist, and Nazi states and the spiritual development of Charles Darwin bring Wilder-Smith into a rather subjective realm, and as a result, he suffers a communication loss with the reader.

Wilder-Smith's discussion of man's destiny will probably confuse the non-Christian reader. It is surprising to find him discussing man's future after death rather than his future on earth. In doing so, he trades the sound scientific arguments of the book's first half for the less convincing spiritual arguments concerning post mortem eschatology. Wilder-Smith, in an earlier section, rebuked the evolutionists for claiming that certain of their theories were correct even though there was no visible evidence to validate them; he himself, however, then titles a subsection "Lack of Evidence Does Not Prove Nonexistence." Wilder-Smith's analysis of the happenings to the body and person of Christ between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is an interesting scriptural study but seems irrelevant to the purpose of the text. One wonders why he chose such metaphysical and mystical topics like the Christian metamorphosis to introduce the nonChristian scientist to Christianity. Because of this aspect, Man's Origin, Man's Destiny is not likely to be widely accepted in non-Christian circles. Nonetheless, it's sound scientific arguments against evolutionary theory need re-emphasizing. They make the book worthwhile thinking for all interested men of science.

Reviewed by Stephen Coupland, Graduate Student in Chemistry, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbono, Ill.

BIOCHEMICAL PREDESTINATION: by Dean H. Kenyon and Gary Steinman. McGraw-Hill, New York: 1969. 301 pp. Hard cover-$12.S0, Soft cover-$4.95.

Research devoted to investigation of the origin of life question has increased greatly in the past two decades. Today investigators numbering in the hundreds devote at least part of their research time to origin of life studies. Molecular biologist Dean Kenyon and biochemist Gary Steinman have critically drawn together the multi-discipline threads of the work of recent years in providing this comprehensive "state of the art" report. In addition to a review of the literature the authors elaborate on the pattern which seems to be emerging from these investigations and provide suggestions concerning the nature of future research. This very readable hook should do much to stimulate discussion and future investigation.

Chapter places current approaches in a historical perspective in considering the assumptions and methodology employed in attacking the origin of life question. The investigator is frustrated by the fact that he is considering events which occurred in the distant past in an environment whose features are little known but radically different from the present scene. In addition, there appears to he little hope that any record of intermediates involved in chemical evolution can be found, or, if a species is discovered, whether it was related to a life evolving process.

 For the authors,

"the most characteristic features on the origin of life problem are associated with the formulation of the problem, the setting up of hypotheses, the criteria of success for a given experiment, and the status of conclusions, and not with individual laboratory operations. What emerges from the results of many kinds of simulation experiments is a very complex and detailed partial picture of slowly increasing plausibility. Proof in the sense in which one thinks of it in chemistry and physics is not attainable in the problem of primordial biogenesis."

Chapter 2 deals with methods employed to estimate the age of the earth and the few fossils which remain from the Precambrian period. Some experimental and mathematical detail is provided and the authors are careful to indicate the hazards involved in dating. The best data indicate that the Earth's crust was consolidated about 4.55 billion years ago and that the earliest forms of life appeared at least 3 billion years ago.

Chapter 3 discusses the largely indirect lines of evidence and reasoning which are employed to support present conceptions of the primitive Earth. However,

knowledge of the details of Earth history, which will probably remain hidden from its in any case, may not be required for a complete understanding of biochemical origins."

This point is expanded in chapter 4 as the authors review the experimental approaches that have been taken in investigating possible modes of synthesis of biomonomers under primitive Earth conditions. The substance of this work suggests that essentially all classes of a wide variety of required monomers could have appeared under primitive Earth conditions. The next stage in the developmental sequence involves the association (condensation) of the simple biomonomers to form the large molecules of biological significance such as the polypeptides, polysaccharides, and polynucleotides. Chapter 5 considers the results of experiments concerned with dehydration condensation and polymerization reactions structured in terms of the degree of hydration of the environment. Emphasis is placed on discussion of such factors as reaction stability, bond specificity, and non-randomness involved in the methods believed to represent primitive Earth phenomena. The authors conclude, 

" appears to be quite evident that dehydration condensations essential for biogenesis could very likely have taken place under the conditions believed to have existed on the primitive Earth. It can be concluded further that the primordial production of essential condensation compounds was a probable occurrence which could have taken place in a variety of environments. It is very difficult to establish which of the models considered represents the most significant contributions to this phase of chemical evolution. To answer this question is really of little importance since what has been demonstrated is that the appearance of these classes of compounds was very likely, in terms of what is considered to he the nature of the primitive Earth."

Chapter 6 details possible ways in which primitive chemical systems become organized into autonomous units-cells. It is within the cell that the essential functions of life take place. This stage of chemical evolution is perhaps the most difficult to study and define. The gap between nonliving and living matter has not yet been experimentally bridged.

"It is not immediately clear why cellular organization appeared in the first place, or for what reason metabolism evolved. However, since we do observe these phenomena in contemporary biological systems, it can be concluded that these events constituted an essential aspect of primordial biogenesis. Perhaps the most important point to be drawn out of all the experiments discussed in this chapter, whether they be concerned with Jeewanu proteinoid microspheres, coacervates, or even air bubbles in seawater, is that there appears to be an inherent morphogenieity and ability to locally concentrate materials in the types of compounds that may very well have existed on the primitive Earth."

Chapter 7 entitled Conclusions and Prospectus is a superb example of scientific writing aimed at broad audiences. In a dialogue format the authors discuss major points from the preceding chapters and suggest a number of specific problems which need study.

"One thing that is important for us to realize at this point is that we are certainly a long way from solving the problem of the origin of life. What has been done already is far from synthesizing the simplest living cell. We suspect now that we'll ultimately be able to understand the origin of the first cells on the Earth on the basis of known chemical and physical laws. It is possible that some new physical principles may be discovered that are relevant, but we don't think we need to invoke such things as VITALISM, NEOVITALISM, AND SUPERNATURAL INFLUENCES."

The basic theme of the hook is caught in the title Biochemical Predestination

"By this I mean that the association of units toward the ultimate development of the living cell is determined by the simplest starting compounds from which these systems evolved. In other words the ultimate characteristics of the living cell can be traced back to the nature of the starting compounds from which it was produced. Therefore, we should not look on the appearance and development of the living cell as an improbable phenomenon but rather as one which followed a definite course governed and promoted by the properties of the simple compounds from which the process began."

This book is highly recommended for all persons interested in the subject of origins.

Reviewed by John W. Haas, Jr., Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts 01984