Science in Christian Perspective
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith March 2000
Faith & Science
ROCKS OF AGES: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Lifeby Stephen Jay Gould. New York: Ballantine, 1999. 241 + viii pages with index. Hardcover; $18.95.
Harvard Professor of Geology Stephen Gould is well known for his technical work relating to evolution and for his popularwritings on natural history. His name should be familiar to those involved in science-theology dialogue, especially in connection with issues relating to creation and evolution. Gould has been very critical of "creation science" and related movements. While he has generally been civil in his statements about religion, in contrast to someone like Richard Dawkins, his agnostic-leaning-toward-atheist position has also been fairly clear. It would be easy to assume that he would really like to get rid of religion.
For those who have made such an assumption, the present book will come as a surprise. Gould proposes here a principle of Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) to distinguish the domains where the forms of teaching of science and religion are appropriate. "[The magisterium] of science covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all enquiry" (p. 6). He sees this as a simple way of eliminating conflict between the magisteria and allowing each to focus on its proper concerns.
This type of proposal is not new, being the second of four ways of relating the two areas which Ian Barbour set out in Religion and Science: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration. The Independence view has been taken by a number of modern theologians, such as Bultmann, for whom religion as a matter of personal faith is not really concerned with the natural world, and by those who distinguish science and religion as different "language games." It is hard to avoid the suspicion that some theologians find this approach attractive because it avoids the possibility of the types of embarrassment that happened with Galileo and Darwin. Gould is not making a parallel attempt to avoid attacks from religion, being realistic enough to know that proponents of "Bible science" and similar notions will pay little attention to his arguments. He simply thinks that while science and religion are both interesting, they are totally disparate realms.
As one would expect, Gould discusses "modern creationism" as "a distinctively American violation of NOMA" (p. 125 ff.). But his treatment of Bryan and the Scopes trial brings out the fact that the text which Scopes used to teach evolution violated the principle from the other side by making assertions about the superiority of "the Caucasians" to other races. "Bryan advocated the wrong solution," Gould says, "But he had correctly identified a serious problem."
As a proponent of the Independence view, Gould makes pointed criticisms of other ways of relating science and religion. He demolishes the fallacy that everybody in the Middle Ages thought that the world was flat on his way to demonstrating that Drapers and Whites Conflict or "warfare of science with theology" view was greatly overstated. His criticisms of the Integration view, which he labels syncretic, are more current, zeroing in on some recent reports about science-theology dialogue and the Templeton Foundation.
Genuine syncretism, which tries to erase the distinctions between science and religion, should be rejected, but Gould overstates the case, attacking what seems to me appropriate dialogue between the two. Non-overlapping magisteria should not mean that there could be no points of contact or flow of ideas between the two.
A serious problem with Goulds proposal is that, in the Enlightenment spirit of a total fact-value split, religion would finally be unable to say anything about the physical world, and thus have doctrines of creation or eschatology without any real content. It is certainly true, as Gould argues in Chapter 4, that the status of humanity proclaimed in Psalm 8 cannot simply be inferred from observations of the natural worldbut Ps. 8:34 makes that clear! It is not intended as a statement of natural theology but of revelation, and the Christological interpretation of it made in Hebrews 2 points toward the proper way of dealing with the disturbing aspects of nature which Gould emphasizes. Religion does not derive "ultimate meaning" from scientific data, but if the meaning really is ultimate it should have some place for that data.
Goulds arguments and examples are well stated and, in the irenic spirit which he intends here, should help to take the heat out of some debates between science and religion and to avoid the pitfalls of facile integration. But they will not, and should not, end dialogue between the two magisteria.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, St. Pauls Episcopal Church, 1361 W. Market St., Akron, OH 44313.
CAN SCIENCE DISPENSE WITH RELIGION?by Mehdi Golshani, ed. Tehran: Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1998. 205 pages. Hardcover.
"Can science dispense with religion?"an intriguing question that is answered in brief responses from thirty theistic scholars. The individuals come from a range of disciplines, countries, and religious commitments (six are Muslims and twenty-four are Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox Christians) making for a diverse collection of ideas. The editors background in physics and Islam is aptly applied in creating this book whose aim is to "contribute to the illumination of the relation between science and religion" (p. 1).
Each contribution is a response to the following questions:
1. What is your definition of science and religion?
2. Do you see any conflict between your definitions of these two concepts?
3. Where do you think that there may have been a conflict between the two?
4. What have been the grounds for the development of conflict between these two?
5. What has been the role of religion in the development of science in the West?
6. Can we have a religious science?
7. Can science dispense with religion?
8. Can one separate the domains of activity of science and religion completely?
The value of the book lies in the variety of perspectives on science and religion provided by authors of vastly different backgrounds and specialties. Brief biographical vignettes precede each essay, providing a frame of reference that helps in understanding each authors viewpoint. This background provides an appreciation of the similarities and differences between the various contributors and diverts attention from the repetition that necessarily occurs with a collection of this type.
Several articles are particularly valuable in encapsulating profound ideas in succinct statements. For example, "we cant have religious science because religion is accepted freely, unlike science" (p. 82) or that religious science will always mean " the understanding of religion as some kind of knowledge [whereas] the main goal of religion is not knowledge but salvation" (p. 121). The issue of religious science was generally thought to be an oxymoron except for the caveat that a religious scientist "may indeed attain to a far deeper understanding of what science has unearthed than is possible from a profane or secular point of view" (p. 197).
Can Science Dispense with Religion? provides a unique contribution to the dialogue between science and religion. The format provides a meeting-in-print that, like most meetings, contains a mixture of diamonds and stones depending on individual interests. This book is a valuable resource for those teaching in the area of science and religion, since the questions and responses lend themselves to interactive classroom discussions.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
RETHINKING THEOLOGY AND SCIENCE: Six Models for the Current Dialogueby N. H. Gregerson and J. W. Wentzel van Huyssteen, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1998. 240 pages, index. Paperback; $25.00.
I, as well as most readers of this journal, harbor an interest in both the scientific way of looking at the world and the theological/Christological approach to understanding this same world. Unfortunately, the last several centuries have witnessed many types of intellectual imperialism with various and often extreme positions taken by theologians and scientists alike. This collection of essays attempts to present several defensible models of relating science and theology, especially in light of the postmodernist critique.
The subject matter is not for the casual reader. Some of the contributions are quite dense and theoretical. This is in some sense unavoidable since the rethinking of the relationship between theology and science must delve into the complex and sometimes murky areas of epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of religion in some fundamental ways. Readers looking for a helpful way to think about some classic evolution/Bible issue, such as how to make sense of physical anthropology and hominid fossils, will need to look elsewhere. These essays attempt to inform how one might make sense of data and theories and ideas from diverse fields of human knowledge.
These leading American and European scientist-theologians move "beyond the work of first-generation thinkers in the field," such as Peacocke, Barbour, and Polkinghorne. Six models are presented: (1) post-foundational epistemology, (2) critical realism, (3) scientific naturalism, (4) non-integrative pragmaticism, (5) complementarity, and (6) contextual coherence theory.
Kees van Kooten Niekerk, Willem Drees, Eberhard Herrmann, and Fraser Watts join the two editors in explicating these varying ways of organizing thinking. I found all the contributors made helpful observations and comments pertinent to the relationship between science and theology, though the six contributions are diverse and often mutually exclusive. One cannot read the book and simply agree with all the points made by each author! In this line, I would have appreciated the authors dealing and debating with a concrete example from the history of the science-theology debate (e.g., the status of the anthropic principle within Christian apologetics or genetic determinism). I found myself attempting to focus the often general and theoretical comments into more practical and thorny "real issues," with only moderate success.
Rather than attempt to summarize or evaluate each of the models, I will focus on the lengthiest and, in my opinion, the most helpful model: Gregersens contextual coherence theory for the science-theology dialogue. Gregersen, following Nicholas Rescher, points to the criterion of coherence as a critical norm relevant to all forms of knowledge. "Coherence means that different beliefs (or practices) are justified insofar as they are interconnected within a logically consistent and substantially comprehensive pattern of thought (or practice)." However, this needs to be balanced with an appreciation of epistemic diversity or the differences in our approaches to reality. Gregersen cites the different descriptions of the nature of water (chemical, biological, fluid dynamic, symbolic, recreational) to differentiate intrinsic from relational properties. Thus, our web of knowledge will have patches of tightly integrated structures (redox chemistry) with looser connections to other areas of knowledge (cell metabolism or sociological theory). No realm of knowledge needs to subsume or reduce other areas but there should be some sort of compatibility or acknowledgment/modification in light of other relevant areas of knowledge. However, science qua science is more tightly integrated and isolated than theology. Thus, theology needs to integrate the natural history of the world and what we know about DNA and personality as part and parcel of its mission, whereas science proceeds quite indifferently to advances or changes in Old Testament hermeneutics. In this sense, the "sciences cannot help but influence the self-understanding of theology; but not so the other way around." The attempt of theology to make a coherent web or map of knowledge is more akin to the classic scientific materialists attempt to do the same. Both use scientific knowledge to develop a (hopefully) coherent and helpful world view.
Gregersen shows how Resher attempts to distinguish his coherence theory from its rivals in the context of cognitive pluralism. He dismisses skepticism (nothing goes) as self-defeating. Likewise, he contrasts his position with the indifferentism of Rortys pragmaticism (anything goes). Putmans syncretic (it all goes) is also used as a foil to delineate the fourth and final position, perspectival rationalism. Gregersen illustrates how this model deals with real historical cases of scientific progress/change, such as Priestleys phlogiston theory. He summarizes that the "realist claims are grounded in the fact that the applicative (experimental) and the theoretical cycles have historically reinforced one another. A corroboration by coherence has been achieved."
Gregersen goes on to show how this might provide an alternative to Murpheys recasting of theology as an empirical research program. He shows how a critical incorporation of scientific theories allows theology to grow in its understanding of the world without losing its ability to critique the science or the associated scientific materialist world view of some scientific spokespersons. He compares and contrasts the reaction of various theologians (Henry Drummond, Cardinal Newman, Frederick Temple, Eduard Geismar, Aquinas, Paley, and Peacocke) to evolution in order to show how the contextual coherentist model can inform and guide the construction of our world view or "raft of knowledge." Gregersen is not content with models that do not allow for "any cross-fertilization of perspectives between scientific and religious views of life." The precept "Connect!" aims at more than mere "compatibility," but a "rational competition between different meta-scientific, philosophical or theological views of reality." Thus, it allows for the fact of cognitive pluralism within a common framework of rationality.
In summary, interested readers will profit greatly from this tome complete with notes and bibliographies for each chapter/contribution.
Reviewed by M. Marcinko Kuehn, 20 Woodward Avenue, Dundas, ON L9H 4J5.
IN SEARCH OF DIVINE REALITY: Science as a Source of Inspirationby Lothar Sh”fer. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997. 240 pages, index. Paperback; $26.00.
This fascinating and challenging, albeit very short, book is written by a physical chemist who has been on a lifelong search for evidence, particularly from quantum mechanics, of a transcendent part of physical reality. In just over one hundred pages, the author argues that the insights of quantum mechanics provide the basis for a new covenant between human minds and the mind-like background of the universe. Unlike classical science that took meaning out of life and separated fact from value, findings from the study of quantum phenomena point to a reintegration of these elements. Material things seem to have a nonmaterial basis. The components of real things are not real in the same way that the things they form are real. Local order is affected by non-local, faster-than-light, events. Choice and chance play a large part in creating the visible order of things, and observation creates reality. In violation of common sense, and perhaps in opposition to what many would call scientific knowledge, these phenomena describe the transcendental physical reality of the universe.
Sh”fer develops his argument by describing what he considers to be the transcendent aspects of knowledge, reality, human nature, and divine reality. By transcendent he means those things that are beyond our control and beyond empirical or rational verification. It is through consciousness, he argues, that we become aware of the transcendent, and it is through our conscious minds that we participate in and communicate with nature. As he states at one point, quoting an unknown source: "The universe is network, not clockwork."
The second half of the book is made up of eighteen small appendices that contain explanations of a number of the scientific and philosophical concepts that the author employs throughout. These include Poppers logic of science, empty atoms as Platonic forms, the nonlocality of the universe, and defining a realistic view of the world. In a discussion of the illegitimate components of knowledge, the author argues that a realistic view of the mind sees it as deeply affected by cultural traditions and operating on epistemic, aesthetic, and ethical principles. The kernel of the authors argument is that the universe as a whole operates on these same principles.
Some readers may object to the rather terse style of this book, but the author states quite clearly that he is presenting his conclusions, and not necessarily the details of formulation, from several decades of thought on these matters. This book should be of particular interest to those who find it difficult to understand how scientists can claim to be both religious and scientific. It should also interest those who are looking for a fairly sophisticated, yet highly readable, example of how scientific principles can help us to understand seemingly nonempirical and nonrational aspects of the universe.
Reviewed by Robert A. Campbell, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS, Canada B1P 6L2.
History of Science
FORBIDDEN ARCHEOLOGYS IMPACTby Michael A. Cremo. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1998. 569 pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $35.00.
This is an unusual book, possibly an inaugural work of its kind. Cremos Forbidden Archeologys Impact is a compilation of reports, letters, challenging papers, internet messages, and correspondence the author has had with scientists, and his written responses to the multitude of criticisms, which he claims professional journals have refused to print. This book is based on the response to his 1993 work titled Forbidden Archeology, a controversial extremist view of human antiquity that literally stunned the scientific community. The book crossed many intellectual and cultural boundaries with the premise that the scientific community has been suppressing knowledge about a full array of beliefs to include creationist ideas and a plenitude of conspiracies.
Criticism of Cremos work, both the original volume and this follow-on chronicle, runs the gamut of a "cornucopia of dreck" to the other end of the spectrum where some claimed that the books were "the landmark intellectual achievements of the late 20th century." Foreword writer, Colin Wilson, claims that Forbidden Archeology "is simply an extremely erudite and extremely amusing account of what might be called the other side of the post Darwinist story." The vast array of opinions on the original work makes the second book all that more interesting, for Cremo responds to each one in a definitive, albeit, somewhat disorganized, manner.
Cremo is an author and researcher specializing in the history and philosophy of science. His persistent investigation during the eight years of writing Forbidden Archeology documented a major scientific cover-up, making him a world authority on archeology anomalies regarding human antiquity. In 1996 an NBC-TV special, The Mysterious Origins of Man, hosted by Charleston Heston, featured Cremos original work which exposed the scientific world to a series of conspiratorial allegations.
By Cremos admission, "the problem with the scientific method is that it is driven far too much by theory, and not enough by fact. By which I mean that science moves forward by the development, and subsequent testing, of hypotheses, when at times formation of hypotheses should be strenuously avoided because they grow into filters which taint otherwise vital and compelling data." What this book does is document the explosive reactions to Cremos assertions. It also continues to ignore conventional archeological wisdom by claiming that "science is not comfortable with unknowns." So, rather than leave a question unanswered (e.g., "How old is humankind?"), Cremo attempts to tackle head on what many scientists refuse to ponder. In both books, there is no doubt that Cremo has the courage not to ignore data which "flies in the face of accepted scientific wisdom. "
To offer an opinion of this book requires exploring the intent of the original work. However, since both works are separate in construct, Cremos newest book is nothing short of a menagerie of disjointed letters and reports. The author obviously had no intention of intertwining these textual elements into a cohesive woof, so readers should not expect the book to develop any central argument.
The curious reader may find Forbidden Archeologys Impact worthwhile, if for no other reason than to see how an author may defend a fairly unpopular thesis. While this book is long and laborious at times, it provides enough information to stimulate further study of his original work.
Reviewed by Major Dominic J. Caraccilo, 1212 Whisperwood Drive, Columbus, GA 31907.
DEBATING DARWIN: Adventures of a Scholarby John C. Greene. Claremont, CA: Regina Books, 1999. 289 pages. Hardcover; $34.95.
Greene, History Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut (Storrs), is one of the foremost experts in the history of evolutionary thought. His The Death of Adam: Evolution and Its Impact on Western Thought (1959) and Darwin and the Modern World View (1961) are now classic studies of the influence of Darwin on Western intellectual life. Debating Darwin is an autobiographical retrospective of Greenes distinguished career in which he explores Darwinism both as a successful scientific theory and as a world view that served essentially as a religious and philosophical faith.
Greene, an Episcopalian, rejects the notion that scientific explanations are total explanations and that nature as known to science exhausts reality. In particular, he finds the efforts of leading Darwinists to derive knowledge of human duty and destiny from evolutionary biology unconvincing. Moreover, his rhetorical analysis of leading evolutionary thinkers works indicates that they have resisted the notion of a purposeless world stripped of meaning and value, despite the logic of neo-Darwinistic positivism. Predictably, Greenes views were not always received with enthusiasm, but they did bring him into extended correspondence with two of the towering figures in twentieth-century Darwinian thought: Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ernst Mayr. One of the great virtues of Debating Darwin is the reprinting of a good deal of this correspondence (some, but not all, of it published elsewhere) along with essays which provide the context for the exchanges.
Greenes correspondence with the Harvard evolutionary biologist (ornithologist) Mayr began in 1979 and continued into the late 1990s. It is supplemented in Debating Darwin with several chapters of Greenes analysis of Mayrs evolutionary philosophy. The Greene-Mayr exchanges are certainly interesting, but reveal that the world views of Mayr, an atheist, and Greene are so different that it is difficult for them to find substantive common ground. Mayr cannot fathom how anyone who really understands the theory of evolution could be a theist. Most scientists, Mayr contends, are like himself, deeply religious people, but see no need for theological dogma based upon some divine revelation.
While Greenes dialogue with Mayr dominates the book, his correspondence with the Columbia University geneticist Dobzhansky is far more interesting, no doubt because they share the same theistic assumptions. The two began corresponding in December 1959, following the Darwin centennial celebration at the University of Chicago, and continued until the summer of 1962. Their correspondence focuses on Greenes assertion of the religious role of metaphor in evolutionary biology. Greene contends that Dobzhansky and other leading Darwinians illegitimately use teleological and vitalistic figures of speech in describing the evolutionary process they hold to be mechanistic, blind, and purposeless. He suggests that the evolutionary literature is full of words and figures of speech smuggled into the discourselike "progress," "improvement," "higher," and "advance"that clearly suggest striving, purpose, and achievement. The exchanges with Dobzhansky reveal a fault-line that still divides many Christian intellectuals today. Dobzhansky noted quite perceptively that for Greene "evolution is something unwelcome though unavoidable," but for himself "evolution is a bright light" (p. 99).
Debating Darwin is extremely interesting intellectual history and autobiography. While its organization is at times challengingwith frequent citations from some of Greenes previously published essays interspersed with current commentary, sections of the book are riveting. Debating Darwin illustrates the value of a historians sustained examination of the world view implications of modern science. Throughout his career, Greene has voiced unpopular ideas within the academy about a scientific world view that has functioned as a secular faith. Without calling into question the "methodological naturalism" of science or advocating anything like a "theistic science," he has exposed the philosophical pretensions of leading Darwinians.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170.
MESSAGES FROM AN OWLby Max R. Terman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997. 233 pages + xii. Paperback.
This book has an important message from a fastidious observer of owls: Science is more than technology. Technology is only one tool of the scientist. Contemporary students, dazzled by high tech gene transfer, humming laboratories, chromosome painting, GIS methods, and a plethora of other techniquesall wonderful in themselvesseldom think of Darwins voyage on the Beagle as a scientific process. We usually use the phrase the scientific methodhypothesis, experimentation, etc. Is this what Darwin used? No. Much of science is careful observationa trait we need to develop early on in the training of young scientists. This book deals with careful observation as well as experimentation using such modern techniques as radio telemetry.
Terman, biology professor at a small Christian college, rescues a great horned owl and develops a remarkable friendship with the animal over a period of several years. The human-animal interface is perhaps the thing I found most fascinating about the story of Stripey the owl. Can humans communicate with owls? Is the young bird deleteriously imprinted by contact (I almost said fellowship) with humans? Will the bird allow a human friend access to its home? Does Stripey have a family? For answers to these and more, read the book and the surprise ending!
When I first read the book, I was annoyed by what I thought were unnecessary digressions about problems in the authors life. Then I realized that consciously or unconsciously, the author was chronicling his life parallel to that of the owl. We, the readers, are observing him in the cycles of the academic year, family concerns, and professional growth. These are some of the "basic themes of life" Terman refers to in the preface.
It is obvious that the author loves Stripey. As a result, we are presented with page after page of poor quality photographs, rather like proud grandparents who understand their offspring more than their camera.
Anyone interested in careful research and the simple joy of reading about animals will find this book delightful. It shows how real science can be done in the fencerows and fields of Kansas and, by extension, in our own backyard.
Reviewed by Lytton John Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0266.
ROMANCING THE UNIVERSE: Theology, Science, and Cosmologyby Jeffrey G. Sobosan. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999. 212 pages, notes, bibliography, and index. Paperback; $16.00.
Sobosan is professor of theology at the University of Portland, Oregon. He has written several books including The Ascent to God, Bless the Beasts, and The Turn of the Millennium: An Agenda for Christian Religion in an Age of Science. The last title provided some of the materials in the book under present review.
This book describes the authors admiration of the universe as revealed by astrophysics. It is also a reflection of the authors appreciation of science. Sobosan marvels at the beauty of the stars in the night sky and the fascinating explanation of their formation. In addition to his observations of nature and comprehension of scientific theories, he discusses some theological aspects of cosmology. He believes that, while Christian theology has intensely depended upon philosophy for its doctrines, now is the time to depend similarly on contemporary sciences. He argues that there should be a union between theology and science, and theology must first establish this union.
Sobosan is well read on contemporary sciences and cosmology, as evidenced by the numerous references in these fields cited in Romancing the Universe. However, the sciences under discussion in this book are predominantly astronomy and physics. Biology and chemistry are rarely mentioned.
Sobosan brings up an interesting issue of applying the indeterminacy notion in quantum theory to the macroscopic world. He then refers to a belief that all things in this universe are somehow interconnected with one another, and so influences are reciprocal. Sobosan mentions two hypothetical examples: (1) plucking a flower might trouble a star; and (2) the flapping of a butterflys wings in Bolivia might produce a windstorm in New York. This belief sounds like part of Buddhist teachings on wisdom and resembles the holistic concept in Eastern philosophy.
Though the author writes in plain English, some parts of the text are hard to follow. Sentences over fifty words are common. One sentence has 103 words! To understand such lengthy sentences, one must read them repeatedly. Thus, one can easily lose the main point of the discussion. In addition, double negatives abound throughout the book. The main text is only 154 pages long, yet there are 215 endnotes, most of which are as long as a paragraph. Those numerous and lengthy endnotes, though expository, are quite distracting.
Reviewed by James Wing, 15107 Interlachen Drive, Unit 1014, Silver Spring, MD 20906.
A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD EARTHby Don Stoner. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997. 256 pages. Paperback; $10.99.
Stoner earned a B.S. in physics, was involved with the development of the optical disc, and holds two U.S. patents. His grandfather, Peter W. Stoner, was chairman of the natural science division at Westmont College, a charter member of the American Scientific Affiliation, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church. His parents were engineers who both worked on the Manhattan Project.
Many ASA members have read Peter Stoners book, Science Speaks (Van Kampen Press, 1952; Moody Press, 1963 and 1969). It is relevant to compare Dons book with his grandfathers. The elder Stoner apologized to fellow Christians on behalf of scientists. He acknowledged that the Bible had been under attack from the natural sciences, but he showed that more recent findings (especially in astronomy) tended to agree with biblical teachings about the universe. Therefore, science was not the enemy of faith, as many had suspected. In contrast, the younger Stoner is calling his fellow Christians to apologize to scientists. Since science properly understood cannot conflict with the Bible rightly interpreted, religious people must stop treating scientists as enemies.
In the foreword, Hugh Ross emphasizes both the reality of a science-religion conflict and the need to end it. Young-earth creationism, says Ross, has been a stumbling block for believers and nonbelievers. It has brought divisions among Christians; it has made secular society more skeptical of the church; and it has provided ammunition for those who seek to delete all biblical references from public education.
I appreciate Stoners call to humility in Chapter 1, which is entitled "Judging Ourselves First." He reminds us that we often remember biblical details incorrectly. Worse, we cannot always be sure what Bible words meant in the original languages. For example, the Hebrew terms rendered day and die in Gen. 2:1617 could each be taken several different ways. The most literal interpretation, that Eve would drop dead the day she ate the fruit, is contradicted by subsequent verses. Stoner would resolve this dilemma by translating yom as era (thus, Eves sin ushered in an era of human mortality). I do not share his interpretation of Genesis 2; nevertheless, I admire his apt illustration of the difficulties of translating Hebrew and the potential pitfalls of strict literalism. Stoner concludes that young-earth adherents need to reevaluate their interpretation of Scripture. He urges them to get rid of faulty assumptions and wrong attitudes:
it is difficult for those who are not scientifically educated to tell the difference between scientific truth and error Juicy claims about how some Ph.D. has misread the facts are circulated from Christian to Christian just like gossip Unfortunately, we might never bother to find out if any of these stories are true we have been mocking educated men and, what is worse, we have done it from a position of ignorance.
Chapter 2, "Science, Theology and Truth," emphasizes that scientist is not the antonym of Christian. Indeed, Stoner says, science has much in common with religion. Scientists use a set of rules to discover truth from nature; theologians follow another set of rules to discover truth from the Bible. Both groups need to exercise faith; both need to be skeptical of their own theories; both are fallible. Just because scientists claim that something is true does not mean Christians have to believe the opposite.
In Chapter 3, "The Present-Day Stumbling Block," Stoner summarizes and refutes eight arguments for interpreting yom literally. He concludes that there are no compelling theological or hermeneutical reasons why Genesis must be taken as a chronology of consecutive 24-hour days.
Chapter 4, "A Shadow of Eternity," argues that the universe must be billions of years old if we can observe galaxies that are billions of light-years distant. Stoner rebuts young-earth claims that (1) stars are much closer and smaller than astronomers think they are; (2) the speed of light has decreased; and (3) God created the stars with light already in transit to make them appear older than they really are.
Chapter 5, "The Testimony of Many Witnesses," explains several evidences for antiquity, including tree rings, stratigraphy, lunar soil, and radiometric dating. It also critiques thirteen scientific arguments for a young earth, including geomagnetism, polystrate fossils, and alleged fossil human tracks in the Paluxy River.
Chapter 6 traces the origins of modern scientific creationism to Seventh-Day Adventist theology and the flood geology of George McCready Price. I do not understand Stoners rationale for including this discussion. He seems to imply that his readers should reject the young-earth view because of the religious tradition in which it arose. This runs counter to his teaching in chapter two: we should discard the young-earth model because there is overwhelming scientific evidence against it, not because groups we disagree with happen to embrace it.
In Chapter 7, Stoner argues that we can read Genesis 1 in a way that is consistent with current cosmological theories. His concordism is similar to one given by his grandfather in Science Speaks. In his model, Gen. 1:1 describes the Big Bang; Gen. 1:2 refers to a dark nebula; Gen. 1:3 records stellar formation; Gen. 1:4 suggests the clearing of interplanetary dust by solar wind; etc. Stoners interpretation of the creation narrative is very interesting, and it might be correct. But, like any other theory, his needs to be held tentatively at the fingertips so that a gentle breeze of fact can dislodge it easily. The danger with a concordism is that our religious message may be doubted if the scientific details with which we link it are some day discredited. According to Stoner, this is precisely what has already happened with the young-earth paradigm. The current old-earth model may be right, but we need to tread lightly, as all scientists and theologians should do.
Stoner says in Chapter 2 that one of his purposes in writing A New Look at an Old Earth was to prepare Christians to lead scientists to Christ. I commend him for that goal, but his statement troubles me for two reasons. First, this book alone cannot accomplish the goal. If Stoner convinces his readers to abandon the young-earth model, that will at least remove a stumbling block, but more is necessary. Christian nonscientists will need to become liberally educated in the sciences if they expect to win the confidence of nonbelieving scientists. They will also need to study the Bible and be trained in effective techniques of evangelism. Second, I have long assumed that Christians in scientific professions (e.g., ASA members) were in a better position to witness to their unsaved colleagues than nonscientists would be. If God raises up nonscientists to win scientists, perhaps it means we have neglected our opportunities.
Every ASA member should read A New Look at an Old Earth. Most of us do not need to be convinced that the earth is old, but all of us need to hear Stoners plea for humility. Buy a copy for your churchs library; discuss it in your adult Sunday school class. Please share this book gently in Christian love with any brothers and sisters who still adhere to young-earth views.
Reviewed by Joseph Lechner, Professor of Chemistry, Mount Vernon Nazarene College, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.
ORIGINS: Cosmos, Earth, and Mankindby Dominique Simonnet, et. al. Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1998. 569 pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $35.00.
As advertised, this book is a primer to modern sciences answers to some very basic questions about the origins of the solar system and the evolution of our Earth. General readers and undergraduate students get a painless introduction to modern sciences answers to basic questions about the origins of the universe, life on Earth, and evolution of humankind. This book is cleverly organized into a question-answer based format that offers a third person narrative asking the questions that lead to a response by one of three subject-matter experts.
The unintimidating questioner is deputy editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine LExpress, Dominique Simonnet. Throughout this three act (nine scene) book, Simonnet poses questions to the cast: Hubert Reeves, an astrophysicist professor at the University of Montreal; Joel De Rosney, an organic chemist who was formerly the director of the famed Pasteur Institute and currently directs the City of Science in Paris; and Yves Coppens, an anthropologist and professor at the College de France who co-discovered Lucy. Topics for these acclaimed scientists include the big bang theory, the chemistry of DNA, the four fundamental physical forces, and various discoveries of hominid fossils.
"What this book intends is to describe, in easily understandable terms, [the] history of the universe and the world, relying on the latest scientific knowledge." The three actsthe cosmos, life, and humankindcover roughly fifteen billion years, the estimated time of the universes existence.
Reeves leads off by offering a prescription for the story of cosmology from the formation of the basic building blocks of matter in the era after the Big Bang to the convergence of our planets around our sun. Assisting us to understand the vastness of the universe in which we live, Reeves helps the reader to understand that "whenever you focus your telescope on any given region of the universe, what youre really doing is observing a moment of its history." Brimming full with laymens examples, this act sets the stage well for the rest of the book.
After understanding what makes our planet different from the others in the solar system, De Rosnay then examines how the conditions that existed on primitive Earth gave rise to life as we know it today. One of the biggest lessons offered by De Rosnay is that "life does not evolve spontaneously, it took a very long time for it to appear." Even more so, De Rosnay explores the three "solutions" which explain the initial manifestations of life: divine intervention, chance, and an extraterrestrial mean.
Finally, Coppens concludes that "the evolution of the universe, like that of life, has been, to say the least, chaotic." In the final act, he recapitulates the now familiar African origin of hominids, their gradual development into our human ancestors, their invention of technology, and their spread throughout the world. Realizing that "Africa could be the cradle of the human race," and framed by a series of droughts, Coppens tells us that humankind has evolved to what it is today.
This leads us to the final question posed by Simonnet in the closing chapters: "How would you characterize this next act?" In response, De Rosnay offers that the future of humankind will embody the "cultural evolution," where "we are constantly improving the mastery of our body and of our environment." In the end, Origins is a great handbook that defines how the universe evolved, and how the future will most likely unfold. It continuously reminds us that "we are but a flickering spark in the overall context of the universe."
Reviewed by Major Dominic J. Caraccilo, 1212 Whisperwood Drive, Columbus, GA 31907.
Philosophy & Theology
MEANS TO MESSAGE: A Treatise on Truthby Stanley L. Jaki. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. 233 pages. Paperback; $22.00.
Jaki, Distinguished Professor at Seton Hall University, is one of the twentieth centurys most prolific historians and philosophers of science. He has earned doctorates in both theology and physics, written nearly forty books, made an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, and was the recipient of the Lecomte du Nouy Prize for 1970 and the Templeton Prize for 1987. His work is not easily categorized. Although he is a staunch foe of scientism, Jaki avoids identification with some of the more parochial evangelical Christian responses to matters of evolution, design, and teleology. In this provocative essay, Jaki vigorously defends realist epistemology and the importance of metaphysics. In the process, he presents a sustained critique of "the baneful influence of science on philosophy."
Jaki begins by asserting that a philosopher must rely upon the reality of the means used to convey any philosophical message. The meansusually a book, but not necessarily sois something tangible, real. And the use of any means "obligates the philosopher to recognize the objective truth of means, so many objects." Rational discourse must begin with the reality of objects. Any attempt to deny the reality of the means (that is, objects) leads to all sorts of epistemological "sleights of hand" which have marked the Western philosophical tradition, especially since Kant. The rest of the book is an extended investigation of the implications of the philosophical priority of the means over the message, which prompts Jaki to discuss a wide range of topics, often with devastating clarity: free will, purpose, causality, change, the mind, the universe, ethics, God, history, and miracles.
While it is a philosophical treatise, Means to Message will be of particular interest to scientists. Jaki minces no words: "Philosophy is in the process of being swallowed up by science, or what is just as disastrous, philosophy is being confused with the discourse of nonscientists who ape science." Science should not be done as a form of philosophy, Jaki argues. We ought not rush to science to gain our philosophical insights, especially since science is unable to account for the reality of the means that bears its messages. A controversial example is twentieth-century theoretical physics, which, Jaki contends, has constructed an edifice of quantitative ideas and beautiful mathematical propositions unable to provide "the very material, tangible physical reality, on which its equations are supposed to work." One might well challenge Jakis characterization of theoretical physics as reductionistic, but he is correct to note that science dominates contemporary cultural discourse. Senior scientists who lack the clarity of sophisticated philosophical reasoning are increasingly lionized as important philosophical voices. And popularizers recklessly ransack science to put a "scientific veneer" on patently nonscientific claims ranging from uncertainty to the nature of the cosmos. We live in a culture where "scientific packaging" dominates serious discourse.
Another example is the philosophical myopia evidenced by the acceptance of the view that a purposeless evolutionary process could produce a being whose very nature is to act for a purpose. Jaki is not taking on evolution per se, but the unjustified ideology of evolutionism, based on the "miscegenation of chance and necessity." Chance, Jaki contends, is a "glorious cover-up for ignorance," and necessity is "refuted by the very freedom whereby it is posited." Jaki finds it duplicitous to argue for necessity and purposelessness in books freely written for a purpose.
Many readers will no doubt take exception to some of Jakis bold assertions, not the least of which is his relegation of science to the magisterium of the measurable. Yet rare indeed will be the reader who does not gain from a careful examination of this book. With so many in the science and theology field recasting the historic doctrines of Christianity to comport with the current scientific thinking in ways often unrecognizable, Jaki remains a strong voice of caution. Means to Message is recommended both as a great introduction to Jakis substantial work and a noteworthy philosophical essay on the limits of science in an age of science.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170.
TWILIGHT OF THE CLOCKWORK GOD: Conversations on Science and Spirituality at the End of an Ageby John David Ebert. Tulsa, OK: Council Oak Books, 1999. 211 pages. Hardcover; $22.95.
Eberts premise for Twilight of the Clockwork God: Conversations on Science and Spirituality at the End of an Age revolves around establishing that our predictable world, a world where science and laws dictate the outcome, is quickly becoming obsolete. This clockwork god is the deity who, in Isaac Newtons universe, set the great celestial clock in motion and then walked away to let natural law take over daily regulation of the spheres. "The transformation of scientific theories into mythic analogs will create a more affective language for science what religion can borrow from science, on the other hand, is new knowledge about the universe that, in turn, can transform through the mythic imagination."
Using a series of interviews as a venue for conveying his complex, but thoroughly complete, thesis, Ebert resoundingly supports his premise that the world view of materialism is currently undergoing transformation into a more spiritually informed way of regarding the cosmos. The interview style helps keep the reader from becoming lost in unfamiliar and advanced theory-based ideas and helps us to understand the many players involved in supporting his propositions.
Ebert has been an editor with the Joseph Campbell Foundation for six years. A graduate of Arizona State University, he is a recognized authority on the relevance of mythology to contemporary society, especially that of myth to science. He has written and spoken extensively on these subjects in national journals, reviews, and public speaking tours. Ebert has appeared as the expert on mythology numerous times on A&E Channels Ancient Mysteries.
"According to this neat but limited understanding, religion worshiped the clockmaker god, whereas science examined the clock." This clockwork god should have been put to rest and "yet we continue to maintain faith in the absolute power of our scientific knowledge and believe, that, in the end, more technology will resolve the problems that surround us." That is why this book is so important. As stated in the forward by F. David Peat: "it argues powerfully for the new vision of nature, and ourselves, that emerged in this century." This "new" type of thinking is not monolithically hierarchical; rather it is a fusion of two of the most powerful spheres related to humankind: science and religion.
An intriguing book, with interviews from Brian Swimme, Deepak Chopra, William Irwin Thompson, Rupert Sheldrake, Ralph Abraham, Lynn Margulis, Terrance McKenna, and Stansilov Grof, Twilight of the Clockwork God is clearly a multidisciplinary approach in support of Eberts theory that there is a distinct relationship between the imagery shared by archaic myth and contemporary science. Drawing from this new generation of scientists, all of whom extrapolate great inspiration from mythology in their scientific practice, Ebert masterfully illustrates their place in the history and development of Western thought.
Reviewed by Major Dominic J. Caraccilo, 1212 Whisperwood Drive, Columbus, GA 31907.
SCIENCE WITHOUT LAWSby Ronald N. Giere. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 241 pages, endnotes, index. Paperback; $25.00.
Giere, a philosopher of science who originally trained as a physicist, advocates a multidisciplinary perspective on science that avoids the excesses of either extreme relativism or extreme essentialism. Through the essays collected in this volumeall but one have been published elsewhereGiere attempts to demonstrate that we can have realism without truth, and scientific judgment without rationality. He begins from the position that there is genuine scientific knowledge that has accumulated, especially over the last century. However, he argues that trouble arises when we assume that the same world view, within which we were able to develop successful scientific theories, provides a firm foundation for theories about science. The idealism and universalism of the Enlightenment project, both of which have been institutionalized in science and the philosophy of science, prevent us from developing theories of science that reflect actual scientific practice. For Giere, notions of scientific truth, scientific rationality, and laws of nature largely based on theological imperatives only serve to misdirect our efforts to understand science.
Giere advocates a naturalistic approach to the study of science that is characterized by a focus on practice, rather than trying to explain science on the basis of some supernatural or nonempirical system, no matter how logically consistent such a system might be. Giere also argues that models are the primary representational entities of science, and that, in practice, scientists are concerned with the goodness of fit between their models and the world around them. In several places, Giere uses the example of the pendulum, or simple harmonic oscillator, to illustrate the effectiveness of models.
The idea that there can be realism without truth is based on the idea that conceptually what is meant by realism is whatever our best representations of the world can provide. In other words, realism has to do with the fit between a model and the real world, and the fit will always be partial and imperfect. Any notion of truth in this respect is reserved for discussions of the internal characteristics of the model itself. Similarly, when Giere argues that we can have scientific judgments without rationality, he is not implying that scientific judgments are irrational, but that they are not rational in some formal or strictly logical sense. Instead, they reflect an instrumental rationality that will be based on a multitude of cultural, social, and practical factors.
The book is divided into three sections, and the essays are arranged according to their difficulty and to their intended audience. The first section is intended for a general readership of scientists, historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science, as well as undergraduate students in these areas. The middle section is directed at those scholars involved more directly in science studies, and the language and examples used by the author reflect ongoing debates in this field. The final section is intended for philosophers of science and as with the essays in the middle section, the form and content of the authors arguments reflect the norms of the discipline. Most chapters serve to develop Gieres naturalistic approach to science and the majority contain an illustration of some successful model. The final two chapters, however, one on the history of logical empiricism and a very brief one on the concept of underdetermination, appear to be random add-ons that do little to advance the authors position.
From my perspective, the major problem with this book is that it is highly repetitive. I was unable to determine how the work as a whole advanced my understanding of Gieres position beyond what I could glean from any one of the individual essays. In fact, for those readers interested in the details of Gieres position, I would recommend his 1988 book, Explaining Science.
Reviewed by Robert A. Campbell, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS, Canada B1P 6L2.
CULTURAL BOUNDARIES OF SCIENCE: Credibility on the Lineby Thomas F. Gieryn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. 398 pages, index. Paperback; $21.00.
Gieryn has for many years been in the thick of the debates about the nature of science and the boundary between science and nonscience. His earlier books have argued for a sociological construction view of science. He does not fall, however, into the trap of a reductionist subjectivism that sees science as only a socially constructed view of the world. That is, he believes that science does provide real information about the real world rather than just an ontological reality of our own making (e.g., Von Glassersfeld). His earlier edited work, Theories of Science in Society, sketched out a number of ways in which societal beliefs, mores, and institutions shape the direction, scope, and growth of science.
This work concentrates on the cultural boundaries that distinguish science from nonscience. Typically, demarcation arguments have focused on the more objective methods of the sciences versus other fields of human endeavor, the power of peer review, the creative use of technologies, and elaborate theoretical (explanatory) constructs to account for disparate empirical data. Gieryn argues that the credibility of science arises not from these essentially internal features but from cultural authority in the form of "cultural maps" that people use to decide whom to believe. He argues rightlyin this reviewers mindthat there are no fixed criteria whereby science can be demarcated from nonscience. Science is a pliable cultural space within human belief systems that at different points in time has exhibited markedly different responses to such artifacts as phrenology, cold fusion, various social science theories, and "organic" medicine and agriculture.
A series of specific and highly diverse case studies are used to illustrate his points and forge the essential argument. The first chapter looks at John Tyndalls double boundary-work exploring science, religion, and mechanics in Victorian England. The second chapter takes up the struggles of the U.S. Congress to demarcate natural science and social science beginning with the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) in the 1940s through issues surrounding the social sciences within the National Science Foundation. The third vignette looks at the competition for appointment to the Chair of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in 1836 between the phrenologist George Combe of Edinburgh and the Oxford-trained philosopher from the Scottish Common Sense school, Sir William Hamilton. Next he takes up the story of cold fusion at the University of Utah, focusing especially on the medias role in shaping perceptions and understandings about the legitimacy of the claims being advanced. His final case concerns Albert and Gabrielle Howard and the fusion of composting, science, sociology, and culture. His concluding chapter provides fresh insights into the current science culture wars, including public debates within and outside science about "creation" and "evolution." This is a useful book to obtain, read, discuss, and mull over in light of whatever new theories in the name of science are advanced.
Reviewed by Dennis Cheek, Director of Information Services & Research, RI Department of Education and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education, University of RI, 255 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903-3400.
BAKER ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICSby Norman Geisler. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999. 841 pages. Paperback; $49.99.
Geisler serves as dean and professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary. His books, mostly in the area of apologetics, include Christian Apologetics, When Skeptics Ask, and Answering Islam. This book is addressed to a wide audience and includes all Christians who encounter skeptics or are dealing with their own skepticism. It is intended to provide extensive coverage of philosophical systems, contemporary issues, difficult biblical passages, and apologetic concepts.
Apologetics is a rational defense of the Christian faith, and Geisler strives to provide appropriate and reasonable responses to critics of Christianity. The classic charges and questions against Christianity are presented along with possible answers. According to the publisher, this book "stands as the culmination of the authors lifelong career and ministry." It contains an extensive bibliography as well as Scripture and article indices. The alphabetical listing of the articles makes the information easy to locate. Topics discussed include creation, Darwin, determinism, the problem of evil, evolution, and science and the Bible.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
THE SHAPING OF RATIONALITYby J. Wentzel van Huyssteen. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1999. 303 pages, index. Hardcover; $35.00.
Van Huyssteen is a Professor of Theology and Science at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of two other books and numerous papers on theology and science. In this book, van Huyssteen discusses the nature of human rationality, and how it can successfully bridge varied domains of life (e.g., science and theology). The view that we have inherited from modernity is that the impressive performances of the hard sciences stand in stark contrast to the relative irrationality of religion. But the real issue between science and religion has not been one of propositions, but rather of powerclaims to authority. Both science and religion, however, now find themselves challenged by postmodernisms irrationalism. We must not let rationality slip away or we will lose that which gives us our uniqueness as human beings.
The first chapter explores the nature of postmodernism. Postmodernism challenges sciences claims of objectivity. For example, scientists compete subjectively for the acceptance of their individual results and theories. The direction of scientific research is influenced by the politically driven distribution of research funds. The list goes on and on. Though on the surface it appears that postmodernism improves the relationship between science and theology by blurring disciplinary boundaries, postmodernism actually challenges rationality and thus removes any possibility for science and theology to relate to one another.
Chapter two focuses on nonfoundationalism as an important root of postmodernism. Modernisms foundationalism claims that knowledge rests on a few self-evident facts. Postmodernisms nonfoundationalism claims there are no fundamental bases of truth. Nonfoundationalism is devastating to the attempt to relate science and theology because it removes any possibility for common ground. But foundationalist scientists and theologians have disagreed on the foundations of knowledge, which has also removed any possibility of dialogue. Van Huyssteen argues for what he calls postfoundationalism. Theological and scientific truth claims must be viewed as fallible and provisional but rationality provides the common ground on which science and theology can meet. This trust in human rationality is distinctly modernist.
Chapter three details postfoundationalism. Postfoundationalism avoids postmodernisms nonfoundationalism, and also avoids modernisms claim for a single unified knowledgea "splitting of the difference" between modernism and postmodernism. The classical notion of rationality has been decidedly scientific in its emphasis on universality and its lack of emphasis on values. Van Huyssteen calls for a broader model of rationality that includes problem-solving ability and an awareness of experience and social surroundings. This model of rationality can be applied equally well to science, theology, and their relationship.
Chapter four shows how the richness of human rationality reaches both science and theology, and thus can be used to break down the traditional modernist separation between the two. Scientific knowledge differs from religious knowledge only in degree. Science and theology offer complementary interpretations of our experience. The common evangelical belief that commitment precedes religious understanding is a form of fideism that erects a barrier between science and theology. The view that science and religion are complementary, because science answers "how" questions while religion answers "why" questions, results in the privatization of religion. Science and religion differ in many ways but they share the same rationality.
Chapter five argues that the dialogue between science and religion begins with opinions and values. Theology, like science, does not have a single focus or overriding concern that defines its current image. Theology and science need to deal with this fragmentation by avoiding the arrogance of prescribing foundationalist rules for interdisciplinary dialogue. Both sides must accept the fact that others will not only differ, but that it may be perfectly rational for them to do so. Both sides must embrace intellectual honesty, which will be different for each person because of varying experiences and traditions. However, this postfoundationalism escapes relativism by claiming that rationality is only conditioned (rather than determined) by context.
This treatise is an in-depth treatment by an eminent scholar. It has over 150 bibliographic references, and I came away with the impression that it was written more for the specialist than the layperson. The author makes no attempt to communicate in an easily accessible style or vocabulary. There are other books on the topic that are less difficult, but for those willing to put some work into it, this book is full of subtle yet crucial themes on the relationship between science and theology.
Reviewed by Dan Simon, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH 44115.
UNHOLY MADNESS: The Churchs Surrender to Psychiatryby Seth Farber. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. 162 pages. Paperback.
"Get some counseling," the Bible teacher told the woman in her group who was suffering in an abusive marriage. "Talk to a counselor," was the advice of the pastor of a church where a member was involved in molesting a child of another family in the same congregation. "You might be depressed, maybe its a chemical imbalance," we told our friend. "Have you considered counseling?" Does this sound familiar? According to the author of Unholy Madness, it is all too familiar.
In this well-written book, Farber contends that the church should be more involved in caring for those with emotional problems, an argument posited by other writers such as Larry Crabb. But this book goes far beyond urging that professional counselors be replaced by caring elders. Farber follows the radical psychiatrists, Thomas Szasz and R. D. Laing, who contend that there is really no such thing as mental illness. With a changed paradigm, care for people diagnosed as mentally ill could be handled in the church, Farber reasons, if the church were more countercultural and more egalitarian.
He writes of the damage caused by Augustinian theology. Because Augustine believed strongly in the sovereignty of God, humans were not encouraged to realize their God-given potential. What is needed, he stresses, is a true humanism, not "the misanthropic Augustinian anthropology that has pervaded Christianity for centuries."
Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire also has had a deleterious effect on the church. By becoming part of the culture and losing its countercultural stance, the church became irrelevant. Unlike the anti-Augustinian stance, other authors (most recently, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson in Blinded by Might) have suggested that the most effective way for the church to influence society and culture is by being the church. This means a concern for programs and organization.
Unholy Madness is a thought-provoking book. I am not a counselor or a psychiatrist, but I find it hard to accept that there is no such thing as true mental illness. I heartily agree that we live in a society obsessed by therapy. And I agree that the church turns too quickly to therapy rather than searching for spiritual meanings in the experiences of those put into the "mental illness" category. But I find Farbers polemic against mental illness a bit extreme. When I discussed the book with a practicing Christian psychologist, he said that his experience convinces him that mental illness does indeed exist. Whether or not you agree, I recommend this book to anyone concerned with the psychiatric industry and its relationship to the church and society.
Reviewed by Lytton John Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529-0266.