Science in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews March 2002
Barlow, George W. The Cichlid Fishes: Nature's Grand Experiment, 54:1, 58, M 2002. (Robert Rogland)
Barnes, Michael Horace. Stages of Thought: The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science, 54:1, 57, M 2002. (Gary De Boer)
Behe, Michael J., William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe: The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, September 25, 1999, 54:1, 60, M 2002. (Donald A. Yerxa)
Dover, Gabriel. Dear Mr. Darwin: Letters on the Evolution of Life and Human Nature, 54:1, 61, M 2002. (John W. Haas, Jr.)
Drummond, Lewis A. The Evangelist: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham, 54:1, 62, M 2002. (Richard Ruble)
Duriez, Colin. The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to his Life, Thought, and Writings, 54:1, 62, M 2002. (David T. Barnard)
Gibson, Arthur. God and the Universe, 54:1, 61, M 2002. (Dan Simon)
Gratzer, Walter. The Undergrowth of Science, Delusion, Self-Deception and Human Frailty, 54:1, 58, M 2002. (John W. Burgeson)
Gribbin, John. The Birth of Time: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the Universe, 54:1, 59, M 2002. (Lawrence Fagg)
Jaki, Stanley L. The Savior of Science, 54:1, 57, M 2002. (David T. Barnard)
Lewis, James R., ed. Odd Gods: New Religions and the Cult Controversy, 54:1, 63, M 2002. (Richard Ruble)
Pahl, Greg. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Saving the Environment, 54:1, 56, M 2002. (Steve Batzer)
Petrie, Alistair. Releasing Heaven on Earth: God's Principles for Restoring the Land, 54:1, 55, M 2002. (J. David Holland)
Rothman, Hal K. Saving the Planet: The American Response to the Environment in the Twentieth Century, 54:1, 55, M 2002. (J. David Holland)
Sargeant, Kimon Howland. Seeker Churches: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Non-Traditional Way, 54:1, 61, M 2002. (Lytton John Musselman)
Walsby, A. E. et al. Science and Technology Encyclopedia, 54:1, 58, M 2002. (Dennis W. Cheek)
SAVING THE PLANET: The American Response to the Environment in the Twentieth Century by Hal K. Rothman. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee Publisher, 2000. 216 pages, index. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 1566632889.
Rothman is editor of the Environmental History Review and is professor of history at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Among his other publications are books about tourism in the twentieth-century American West, a history of environmentalism in the United States since 1945, and the preservation of American national monuments. This book is one of twenty publications that comprise the American Ways Series, a series that focuses on various aspects and issues of American history. Most of the books in this series are available in both hardcover and paperback editions.
The title of this book is somewhat misleading as the book is not about "Saving the Planet." However, the subtitle is accurate as the author provides a fast-moving survey of the American response to the environment throughout the twentieth century. The book begins with a chapter on the situation in the United States in the late 1800s which then sets the stage for the important developments that take place during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Rothman clearly explains the difference between the preservationist ideas of John Muir and the concept of conservation promoted by Roosevelt and his chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot. The book then traces the political and public response to various conservation issues through the New Deal era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the economic growth of post-World War II America, and the rise of the environmental movement during the last part of the century. Five of the eight chapters of the book focus upon important events in American environmental history that have occurred since World War II.
While the book is primarily a survey of twentieth-century environmental history in America, Rothman does pause at times to provide additional information regarding several events which greatly influenced the direction of this history. Events discussed include the building of the Hetch-Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park, the battle against the Echo Park Dam within the Dinosaur National Monument, the toxic waste problem at Love Canal, and the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island. Other important events and influential individuals, while at least mentioned, are treated more superficially.
Throughout the book, the actions of the federal government and the attitudes of the public take center stage. Regarding the latter, Rothman accurately traces the evolution of thinking about the environment in twentieth-century America from a utilitarian view of conservation to the present day concern with "quality of life" issues. He attributes post-World War II changes in attitudes to the decline of outright faith in technology and the increased lack of trust in pronouncements made by those in positions of authority. He concludes the book by suggesting that attitudes of the American people toward the environment at the end of the twentieth century are in many ways similar to the views of the progressive conservationists at the beginning of the century.
This book is a highly readable and compact account of one of the most important movements in the past century of American life. Although a formal bibliography is absent, the author does include several pages on sources at the end of the book. Footnotes and endnotes are also missing which limits the usefulness of the book as a source of research material. In spite of these limitations, this book could easily be used as a textbook in a survey class on American environmental history. It is also recommended to anyone interested in reading about the individuals, legislation, and events which have influenced the American response to the environment during the past century.
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Biology Instructor, Springfield College in Illinois, 1500 N. Fifth Street, Springfield, IL 62702.
RELEASING HEAVEN ON EARTH: God's Principles for Restoring the Land by Alistair Petrie. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2000. 261 pages. Paperback; $12.99. ISBN: 0800792785.
Petrie is an ordained Anglican minister who is presently the Canadian coordinator for the Spiritual Warfare Network. He is also director of Joshua Connection Canada, an interdenominational mission ministry that serves the Church throughout North America and overseas. He is a frequent conference and seminar speaker whose main thrust of ministry has been in helping the church discover the "cutting-edge insights of turning an entire community toward Christ." Petrie earned a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in the area of Spiritual Issues of Church Growth. This book is a description of Petrie's "extraordinary journey of discovery connecting the stewardship and healing of land with the release of evangelism on that land, resulting in the extension of the Church and overall growth in the Kingdom of God" (p. 16).
The book is divided into three sections, the first of which presents the foundations of biblical stewardship. Petrie argues that what we do on the land has a cause-and-effect impact on our relationship with God. Biblical stewardship teaches us that we are responsible for managing and caring for God's resources, remembering that they always belong to him and never to us. However, as long as we live in a world estranged from God, our stewardship is subject to defilement and therefore requires cleansing. We can bring defilement into our lives by what we do ourselves, through the way we relate to others, and from the inheritance we receive from earlier generations.
The stewardship of the land is the focus of the second section of the book which is also the longest of the three sections. This section begins with an overview of several world views that can lead us toward the worship of the creation rather than the Creator and which can become an open door for the defilement of the land. Four specific causes of defilement are then summarized and supported from the Old Testament. These defilements include idolatry, immorality, bloodshed, and broken covenants. Petrie goes on to suggest that "whenever mankind is filled with self, rather than with the Holy Spirit, the land and those who dwell on it suffer the consequences" (p. 65). These consequences or judgments on the land include famine, ecological destruction, war, and disease.
Several other important concepts are presented in section two, the first of which is that supernatural powers exist behind institutions and the human agents that so often represent them. When spiritual forces of evil gain the upper hand, strongholds of unbelief, self-will, and rebellion can become established within specific localities. Petrie defines a stronghold as a sphere of influence that feeds on sin and that gives spiritual and geographical leverage to the enemy of God's people. These strongholds can be released, inherited, or transferred from person to person, city to city, and even from generation to generation. Citing evidence from the Old Testament, Petrie argues that strongholds that are left unchecked can become hereditary factors that will affect generations to come. This section concludes by looking at two specific examples of strongholds that can lead to curses being placed on people and the land; the influence of Freemasonry and the existence of ley lines.
The last section of the book provides insight into the various ways in which land that has been defiled through generations of human sin can be cleansed and healed. All of these methods emphasize the importance of using spiritual means to overcome what the author believes is primarily a spiritual problem. Methods discussed include spiritual mapping, identificational repentance, intercessory prayer, confession of sin, evangelism, and the use of various symbolic acts. Once the Church realizes that the healing of the land can be accomplished by taking up these weapons of spiritual warfare, heaven can be released on the earth as transformed localities, cities, and even nations experience the blessing of God. These blessings, which are described in Leviticus 26, include ecological health, economic health, personal security, civil security, international security, growth, creativity, and the presence of God among his people.
Many Christians would agree with Petrie's basic thesis that human sin is the underlying cause of environmental degradation and ecological destruction. One concern with his approach to the problem, however, is the assumption that Old Testament promises given by God to Israel are directly applicable to our situation today. Petrie assumes that God's "promise" of 2 Chron. 7:14 (to heal the land if the people humble themselves, pray, seek his face, and turn from their wicked ways) is just as valid for cities and societies around the world today as it was for the people of Israel. One could question the validity of this assumption since the context in which this promise was given is completely ignored. Another concern is the lack of evidence that the methods of spiritual warfare described in the book actually work. Although a few examples of spiritual transformation from different parts of the world are briefly mentioned, the inclusion of several, more detailed accounts would certainly have enhanced the credibility of the book.
Who should read this book? Since the principles for restoring defiled land are spiritual rather than scientific, this book is recommended primarily for pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and others who are in church leadership positions. This book is filled with references from Scripture and most of the books that are cited in the bibliography deal with issues of spiritual warfare which are based upon a supernatural view of ecology. While some will challenge the author's tendency to interpret verses of Scripture out of context, the basic thesis of the book is one that needs to be seriously considered by all Christians.
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Biology Instructor, Springfield College in Illinois, 1500 N. Fifth Street, Springfield, IL 62702.
THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT by Greg Pahl. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2001. 348 pages. Paperback; $16.95. ISBN: 0028639820.
As many Christians are concerned about good stewardship of the environment, the topic of this book is timely and relevant. The cover assures the reader that contained inside is "expert advice on what you can do to help fight our planet's greatest threats" including "practical strategies" and "foolproof ways to conserve our natural resources."
What the reader actually gets is a book that seems to be a modern (i.e., shallow) junior-high audience text replete with fun graphics, various environmentalist dogma, and rather obvious methodologies for reducing one's impact on the planet. In fact, many conservative Christians may be somewhat offended by many of the stances taken in the book. It is stated as fact by the author that Noah's story as related in Genesis is just a rehash of "an earlier Babylonian Story from 1700 B.C.E." (p. 16). The biblical view of the wilderness is "an evil place" (p. 18).
While God does not appear in the index, it is apparent the author places a higher value on creation than he does on the Creator, or indeed his fellow man. He states that, "We still have time to make the difficult choices needed to resolve overpopulation" (italics added by the reviewer, p. 290). This is a thinly veiled reference to abortion, which is listed in the index as appearing in the neighborhood of that quote. Apparently, however, the author lost his nerve, and has not quite yet advocated abortion or infanticide.
Several of the insights in the book are good, such as the maxim that you are not really recycling unless you are purchasing recycled products. Others are just flat out misleading, such as his statement that it takes only a gallon of used oil to make a 2.5 quarts usable motor oil, as compared to 42 gallons of virgin crude (presumably, the other 41.625 gallons of crude distillate was poured into the local creek). He also gives the rather breathtaking admonition to those in the developed world to change their ways, lest they be copied by the developing world. "Unless we are willing to change our ways, and learn to live in balance with the our environment, we can hardly ask them to do the same." As someone who has traveled in America and Europe, I can hardly think of a better thing to do than to coax the third world to emulate Western civilization, politically, culturally, religiously, and environmentally. Just imagine a world in which the North Koreans could vote, worship God, and feed themselves. The author apparently subscribes to the myth that indigenous peoples are in harmony with nature, simply because they live in poverty. As a rule, the most developed nations have the best balanced environmental policy.
If you are looking for a compilation of some handy tips to reduce your environmental footprint, this may be a good book for you to look up in the library. Otherwise, simply live a balanced, considered life, and shut off the lights when you exit the room.
Reviewed by Steve Batzer, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701.
Faith & Science
STAGES OF THOUGHT: The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science by Michael Horace Barnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 334 pages. ISBN: 0195133897.
Barnes is professor of religious studies and alumni chair in humanities at the University of Dayton, a Catholic, Marianist university. He is the author of the introductory text In the Presence of Mystery, editor of the volume An Ecology of the Spirit, and the author of many journal articles. Barnes specializes in philosophical theology including the dynamics of religion, the problem of God, religion and science, and process thought.
As Christians we decry the thought that our faith is merely the result of an evolutionary process that was necessary to provide a productive culture that would ensure the survival of our species. Yet as scientists we do see that cultures change, that the faith of a community can evolve, and that our own faith and understanding of God and our relationship with him also change. So how do we, as Christians in the sciences, evaluate the condition of our faith and the extent of its growth? What tools of the scientific trade can be incorporated into this study and self-examination?
This book makes some attempt to answer these questions and provides some interesting things to think about with respect to our faith, culture, science, and the evolution thereof. The book is based on the controversial supposition that Piaget's theory of cognitive development can also be applied to cultural development and to both the religious and scientific thought within that culture. This is controversial in that it measures the cognitive development of one culture against another culture and also shows a strong relationship between scientific and religious development. The author states that the levels of cognitive reasoning in both religious thought and scientific thought correlate and the two areas have much more to share than either area would like to admit. The stated contention of the author is that a better understanding of culture, and the development of religion within a culture, will help peoples of different cultures be better able to coexist and make decisions on how they want their cultures to grow and develop. But I think that the book can also be used as a self-examination of one's personal stage of cognitive development and a measure of the evolution of one's personal faith. The book is well documented with a useful index and an extensive bibliography.
The book is organized around the defense and the application of Piaget's theory of cognitive development applied, not to individuals, but to cultures. It begins with a defense of this method in regards to cultural prejudice and gives examples of the stages of cultural development. The discussion of cultural development begins with archaic thought, including both preliterate and literate, and then moves to the classical style of thought. Later comes a discussion of western cultures and models of reality in science and religion.
The book ends with a discussion on religious responses to modern science. This part of the text deals with types of religious truth claims and how theologies deal with miracles, cosmology, and evolution. These discussions are again organized around the ideas of Piaget, though one could argue that this part of the book goes beyond the original treatise. I found it to be the more interesting part of the book. This final section of the book provides an excellent survey and critique of the various ways religious theologies have dealt with the findings of science and the scientific method and is applicable to the general topic of science and religion regardless of the application of Piaget's theory to the development of cultures. The author concludes with the point that our system of theology must deal with establishing methods for determining religious truthfulness in a manner that is similar to that found in science and that a rejection, by religion, of scientific means for determining religious truth will not serve the long-term interests of religion.
This book allows for an academic and scientific analysis of the development and operational level of our religious and scientific beliefs and methods. No doubt it provides food for thought that should allow all of us to evaluate and enhance our own cognitive levels of reasoning.
Reviewed by Gary De Boer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, LeTourneau University, Longview, TX 75602.
THE SAVIOR OF SCIENCE by Stanley L. Jaki. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000. 256 pages. ISBN: 0802847722.
Many ASA members will be familiar with the work of Jaki. His work has been reviewed in PSCF on several occasions, and his long list of publications frequently deals with the interplay between science and theistic thought.
This book is a republication of lectures delivered in 1987 and originally published in 1988. The main argument is that Christian faith provides the only viable intellectual context for the development of science, so in this sense Christ is "the savior of science." The author begins by arguing that scientific developments begun in several ancient cultures were not sustained because of the absence from those cultures of the particular theological and intellectual orientation and impetus that result from faith in Christ. There are some detailed arguments showing how Christian thought provides a context for reflection on and harmonization with modern scientific developments.
The main argument is one that can be debated fervently. But there are doubtless other reasons that might be given for what Jaki sees as inherent shortcomings in non-Christian world views as a context for science. The author has a tendency to dismiss opposing viewpoints in cavalier ways. For example, the (somewhat dated) enthusiasm (pp. 190, 191) about the eventual success of the Star Wars initiative because of the developments of faster computers misses the point that opponents of the system were making when he was writing (inherent intractability rather than capacity limitations). And in the same passage, the reference to the possibility of a "general code-breaking mechanism" made possible by "superconductivity" and "super chips" again underrates the difficulty of the problems. It makes me nervous to see such issues in the areas of my own specialty (computer science) and causes me to wonder about similar statements in other domains.
Having said this, the main argument of the book is an intriguing one, and the author is articulate and widely read. Those interested in this idea, and not minding a presentation somewhat dated in its circumstantial expression, could benefit from reading this book.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ENCYCLOPEDIA by A. E. Walsby, et al. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. 572 pages. Paperback; $22.50. ISBN: 0226742679.
This handy reference work first appeared in Great Britain in 1999. Twelve leading British scientists and engineers served as consultants to the creation of more than 6,500 concise, authoritative entries from "aa" ("a type of lava with a blocklike structure") to "zygote." To provide a flavor of entries consider this one-page sequence: Deneb, denitrification, denominator, densitometer, density, dental formula, dentine, dentistry, dentition, denudation, deoxyribonucleic acid (see DNA), dependent variable (see VARIABLE), depletion, and deposition. A later one-page example is: Neanderthal, neap tide (see TIDE), near-sightedness (see MYOPIA), nebula, neck, necrosis, nectar, Neel (Louis Eugene Felix), nekton, nematocyst, nematode, neo-Darwinian, neodymium, Neolithic, and neon.
Metric units are employed throughout with imperial measurements in brackets. Over 850 brief biographies of scientists and engineers, ancient and modern, are included with a heavy emphasis on European and North American names. Additionally over 250 detailed black and white illustrations appear at appropriate points in the text. These include schematic diagrams, natural history artwork, and technical cutaway diagrams that greatly enhance the understanding of technical descriptions. Their visual and technical quality is excellent. A system of over 20,000 cross-references makes it easy to navigate to related topics or explore one particular area in considerable depth. The majority of entries are four to six sentences in length. The longest entries are about half a page. This volume is a great resource for classroom teachers, students, and professionals since it packs a lot of quality, up-to-date information into a small, almost pocket-size reference.
Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek, Director, Office of Research, High School Reform and Adult Education, RI Dept. of Education and Adjunct Professor of Education, University of RI, 255 Westminster St., Providence, RI.
THE UNDERGROWTH OF SCIENCE, DELUSION, SELF-DECEPTION AND HUMAN FRAILTY by Walter Gratzer. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 321 pages, index, bibliography. Hardcover; $27.50. ISBN: 0198507070.
While stories of deliberate fraud in the scientific enterprise are often entertaining, says the author of this fascinating book, of much more interest are the tales of collective delusion and human folly which appear in our world from time to time. Some of these apparently stem from virtuous scientific principles, some from a desire for fame or fortune, some from self-righteousness, and some, living in infamy evermore, from political convictions. Gratzer writes about many of these, including N-Rays, mitogenic radiation, polywater, parapsychology, cold fusion, eugenics, and, in two horrifying chapters, Soviet and Nazi "science" in captivity to deviant political thought.
Gratzer, who writes book reviews in Nature on a regular basis, is at the Randall Institute, King's College, London. Although he has served as editor to two other publications, A Bedside Nature (1996) and The Longman Literary Companion to Science (1989), this appears to be his first book. It is a good book on a topic of substantial importance to many of us, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my ASA colleagues. Gratzer's writing is precise, sometimes encyclopedic, easy to digest, for he is "telling stories," stories in which the scientific enterprise does not always appear as the hero, and in which the self-correcting nature of science is slower to take effect than we might like.
Editorializing, while inevitably present, is kept to a minimum; Gratzer is content to tell the stories and let the reader draw his own moral and ethical conclusions. The bibliography is particularly valuable; the author includes comments on each source, urging the reader to dig deeper. I recognized many of the references; Gould's The Mismeasure of Man does a better job on eugenics than this one does, but this one is, after all, an overview. Likewise, Gratzer urges interested readers to look up Irving Langmuir's classic 1953 lecture transcript, "Pathological Science," in Physics Today 42 (1989): 36.
Gratzer concludes that "Ö scientists, for all their vaunted training in observation and skepticism, are as much a prey to human frailty as anyone else Ö" (p. 309). It is when that warning is ignored, or worse, denied, that bad things are about to happen. Buy the book. Read the book. Make its stories part of your own world view. This book is a keeper.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Stephen Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Durango, CO 81301.
THE CICHLID FISHES: Nature's Grand Experiment by George W. Barlow. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2000. 335 pages, glossary, references, index. Hardcover; $28.00. ISBN: 0738203769.
Barlow is professor emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley. He is an ichthyologist; the study of the cichlid fishes has been central to his work for over thirty years. This book is a labor of love by one of the world's foremost experts on the subject, written both for specialists (aquarists and ichthyologists) and for those interested in the larger questions of natural history and speciation.
The first chapter tells what makes a fish a cichlid (the Angelfish and the Oscar, known to aquarists, are cichlids) and where cichlids are found (chiefly in Africa, tropical America, and India). The next ten chapters are devoted to the unique features of cichlid anatomy (including the presence of two sets of jaws, one in the mouth and one in the throat), plastic cichlid gender (the dominant female in a harem will change sex in a matter of days if the male is removed), feeding behaviors (varied), and, above all, the diversity of cichlid social structures and mating behaviors.
Cichlid speciation, "nature's grand experiment," is the subject of the last two chapters of the book and perhaps a matter of greater interest to most readers of PSCF than the material covered in the first eleven chapters. Speciation is a cichlid specialty: "In sheer number of species, [cichlids] are one of the most successful of all families of vertebrate animals." Not only are there hundreds of species in the cichlid family, but their rate of speciation is mind-boggling. Lake Victoria, in East Africa, has been in existence only 12,400 years. In that time the original founders (two "tribes" of cichlids) have radiated into somewhere between 400 and 500 species. Barlow believes cichlid speciation has been largely or exclusively allopatric (as opposed to sympatric), despite the fact that much cichlid speciation has occurred in rivers and lakes without obvious physical barriers to prevent the interbreeding of variants. His reasoning will not necessarily convince those inclined toward the sympatric view, but the majority of evolutionary biologists, leaning toward the allopatric view, will probably find his arguments plausible.
The entire book is a fine read, even for someone who is neither an aquarist nor an ichthyologist. One does not have to be an cichlid specialist, or even a biologist, to be drawn into the world of cichlids by Barlow. His love for and intimate knowledge of the cichlids and his ability to write clearly for the nonspecialist enable him to make the details of cichlid life and love interesting to the general reader. As for the chapters on speciation, they certainly illustrate microevolution in action, though whether cichlid speciation deserves to be called "nature's grand experiment" is open to question. (The ease with which aquarists regularly hybridize even radically different cichlids in captivity suggests that perhaps only microevolution is going on.) Indeed, Barlow does not draw far-reaching conclusions about the evolutionary process ý la Gould or Dawkins; he simply assumes evolution and sees it in action in the exuberant speciation of the cichlids. Clear illustrations throughout and eight pages of well-chosen color photographs add to the attractiveness of the book. I commend it to any PSCF reader who has an interest in zoology or natural history.
Reviewed by Robert Rogland, Covenant High School, Tacoma, WA 98465.
THE BIRTH OF TIME: How Astronomers Measured the Age of the Universe by John Gribbin. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999. 237 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.50. ISBN: 0300083467.
Gribbin, a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex, is the author of many books for the lay reader on a variety of scientific subjects from quantum physics to cosmology. He therefore comes well qualified to write a book addressing the longstanding problem of determining how long the universe has existed. The book is certainly timely since the age of the universe has been the subject of especially intense study among astrophysicists in the last two decades.
Gribbin has written an engrossing account of how astronomers have progressively focused in on an ever more accurate value for this vital number. Because of the finite speed of light, astronomers observe light from a galaxy today that was emitted at a much earlier time. But this means that, since the speed of light is a well-known quantity, how long ago the light was emitted can be determined if the distance can be measured. So Gribbin's book is really the story of how astronomers through history up to the present have measured the distances to stars and galaxies.
The book begins with a brief introduction summarizing some of the aspects of the age problem, for example, the embarrassing fact that not very long ago the age of some stars was measured to be greater than that of the universe. The remainder of the book consists of eight chapters, the first and longest of which is devoted to an engaging and informative history of the subject. It essentially begins in the seventeenth century with Archbishop Ussher's calculation based on biblical lifetimes that the world began in 4004 B.C. In the next two centuries, however, with the geological study of fossils by Leclerc, Fourier, Hutton, Lyell, and others it was realized that the world was much older. The time was further extended by the calculations of Kelvin and Helmholtz on the lifetime of the sun. It was extended still further early in the twentieth century by studies such as those of Rutherford of naturally occurring radioactive uranium to more than two billion years.
The next chapter deals with the nuclear burning of stars, their size and lifetime, including the important discussion of how the stars in globular clusters around the center of galaxies consist of some of the oldest in the universe. In the third chapter, Gribbin actually begins the treatment of early distance measurements to nearby stars and galaxies by means of parallax triangulation techniques by observing the angle to a star at the extremes of the earth's elliptical orbit. He also treats cepheids, stars of periodic luminosity, which were the first among a number of stars of known luminosity, or "standard candles," used in extending distance measurements beyond that possible with geometry.
The next four chapters contain the story of modern cosmology and its associated distance measurements. It includes the seminal work of Hubble, Humason, Slipher, and others in establishing that the universe extended beyond the Milky Way and was expanding at a rate proportional to distance. A description of the big bang theory from the early work of Lemaitre and Gamow to the discovery of the cosmic microwave background is interlaced with explanations of standard candles for distance measurements such as RR Lyrae stars and type Ia supernova, the latter of which now seem to be telling us that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. A significant part of the recent history is the drama of the disagreement between two groups of astronomers as to the value of the Hubble constant, giving the present rate of expansion from which the universe's age can easily be calculated. Although one group started with an age of about sixteen and the other about twelve billion years, they are now converging to roughly halfway in between. Gribbin's final chapter includes a description of the contribution of his own work with the group at Sussex University.
It must be realized that the subject is considerably richer and more complex than can be treated in this brief capsulization. Although a few photographs about the heavens are included, lacking are any diagrams which could help the lay reader better understand the concepts involved. Nevertheless, despite a little too much time discussing the many varying values for the Hubble constant in chapter 7, this reviewer found the book enlightening and enjoyable, in part because of charming glimpses of the personalities of the many scientists involved. It is to be well recommended for ASA readers.
Reviewed by Lawrence Fagg, Research Professor of Nuclear Physics, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064.
Origins and Cosmology
SCIENCE AND EVIDENCE FOR DESIGN IN THE UNIVERSE: The Proceedings of the Wethersfield Institute, September 25, 1999 by Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. 234 pages. Paperback; $12.95. ISBN: 0898708095.
The authors of the three papers that constitute the body of this volume hardly need an introduction to readers of this journal. Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer are, along with Phillip Johnson, the most recognizable names in the intelligent design movement. Dembski is without a doubt the most prominent and, lately, controversial design theorist; Meyer is the movement's leading philosopher of science and methodological specialist; and Behe is its most noteworthy practicing scientist. The three combine their insights in this compilation of papers from a 1999 conference of the Wethersfield Institute to produce a very serviceable and useful summary of the intelligent design movement to date. Dembski, Meyer, and Behe, however, break no new ground in this brief anthology and are, in the main, offering the reader reworked versions of essays published elsewhere. As an introduction to intelligent design, Science and Evidence for Design ranks among the best and is certainly a viable candidate for adoption in undergraduate science and religion courses. But aficionados of the design movement can safely pass on this one.
Dembski opens the book with a fairly straightforward and accessible distillation of his work in a paper entitled: "The Third Mode of Explanation." He makes his now-familiar case for rehabilitating the legitimacy of design--along with chance and necessity--as a mode of scientific explanation. It is all here: the signal that the SETI researchers found in the movie "Contact," the "explanatory filter" that provides a means of detecting design based upon the criterion of "specified complexity," and, of course, "methinks it is like a weasel."
Meyers follows with "Evidence for Design in Physics and Biology," a very readable essay that is helpful as much for its documentation as its argument. His section on design and the origins of the universe is one of the finest brief introductions to the anthropic principle and related topics I have encountered. He attaches this to his now standard DNA-design essay that he has already published under various titles.
Behe concludes the main section of the book with "Evidence for Design at the Foundation of Life." In it, he surveys the case for irreducible complexity, utilizing the familiar examples of the cilium and the bacterial flagellum. We are spared the mousetrap illustration but not the argument.
The conference papers are supplemented with three additional essays. In the first, Behe nicely synthesizes his various responses to scientific objections raised against intelligent design. He takes heart that critics like Russell Doolittle and Kenneth Miller are advancing scientific arguments against intelligent design. This suggests to him that design is in fact falsifiable and can be debated on the basis of observation. Meyer supplies a new opening and title for an essay that appeared in The Creation Hypothesis (1994) as "The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent." It remains the single best essay on design methodology, but I am puzzled that the original source was not cited, especially when forty of its forty-four pages of text are lifted verbatim from the earlier book. Lastly, Dembski and Meyer's 1998 Zygon article on the dialogue between science and theology is included. They argue that "the logic of explanation suggests that theology might provide science with a source of (albeit in many cases metaphysical) hypotheses and explanations for its empirical findings and results."
It is bad form for a reviewer to criticize a book for not being what the authors never intended it to be. In fairness, Ignatius Press makes no claims that Science and the Evidence for Design is a groundbreaking work, and it is likely that the book was intended simply as an introduction to intelligent design, especially for Catholic audiences. As such, it succeeds. After all, the Wethersfield Institute has as one of its missions the exploration of "the cultural and intellectual dimensions of the Catholic Faith." That aside, I am disappointed with the redundancy evident in the published work of prominent design theorists. Like many others, I am looking for evidence that design theory is maturing as a research program. Science and the Evidence for Design does little to alter the impression that the design movement seems not to have progressed all that much from its first intriguing manifestos.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170; Assistant Director, The Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215.
DEAR MR. DARWIN: Letters on the Evolution of Life and Human Nature by Gabriel Dover. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. 268 pages, index, glossary, bibliography. Hardcover; $27.50. ISBN: 0520227905.
Molecular biologist Gabriel Dover uses imaginary correspondence as a literary device for explaining how our ideas about evolution have evolved since Darwin's day. Dover is the developer and champion of the molecular drive theory of evolution. A gifted writer, his imaginative style lightens the load for one not tuned to the reading of intricate details of modern biology.
In fifteen exchanges, Dover moves from Darwin's natural selection to "an intricate and fascinating mix of a variety of evolutionary activities of which natural selection is one" (p. 5). As time has passed, the place of natural selection in the face of the contributions of Mendel, the "jumping genes" of Barbara McClintock and other DNA mechanisms such as unequal crossing-over, DNA slippage and gene conversion, which can lead to an internally driven spread of elements through a population of individuals, has been problematic. Dover sees natural selection as promoting the co-evolution of systems of repression of "jumping genes" which improves the "levels of internal tolerance" to potentially destructive mobile elements.
Dover's fourth letter "The Ignorant Gene" reflects his mission to refute the metaphysics of Richard Dawkins and "the fundamental ignorance of the workings of natural selection that it reveals Ö I intend to use a provocative anti-Dawkins polemic as a device to paint a much larger picture of some of the late twentieth-century excitements of new genetic discoveries and their evolutionary implications Ö [which] have no room for Dawkins' misappropriation of your theory of natural selection as embodied in the selfish-gene illusion" (p. 50).
Dawkins calls genes, and other things from which copies are made, replicators. The problem with this term is that the suffix, -or, refers to the doer of the action. How can the doer (active agent) become the (passive) product? The photocopier/photocopy metaphor is instructive. Dover argues that cells replicate genes and that organisms are active agents in evolution by virtue of their roles in restructuring the genome in the process of producing compatibility among the components of organisms and species.
In the process of debunking Dawkins and the limitations of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, Dover spells out the details of his "molecular drive." The problem for the non-biologist reader is in the abstruse details. If you already have a good grasp of "allelles" and their ilk (their place on chromosomes and how they function) Dear Mr. Darwin would be valuable in understanding the state of evolutionary theory.
Reviewed by John W. Haas, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
Philosophy & Theology
GOD AND THE UNIVERSE by Arthur Gibson. London: Routledge, 2000. 377 pages, index. Hardcover; $29.95. ISBN: 0415236665.
Gibson is a philosopher at the University of Surrey, Roehampton. He has also been an active researcher in other areas that impinge on philosophy, such as astronomy, genetics, and religion. The title of the book indicates that its subject matter covers just about everything, and that is indeed the case.
The book is divided into four main parts, each part contains several chapters. The first part, "Renaissance in Language," argues that philosophy can do more than analyze. It can also propose solutions. Gibson claims that science and "soft" subjects (such as religion) have more in common than generally supposed. For instance, both mathematicians and musicians recognize "beauty" in their subjects; and both science and religion use inexact metaphors to describe concepts that are beyond complete human understanding. The second part of the book, "All in God's Space-Time," says that both scientific and artistic communication are alike in that their meaning depends on time-varying culture. Gibson continues his emphasis on scientific metaphor in this part (e.g., scientists use literary metaphors for the subatomic structure of matter and for quantum theory). The third part of the book, "The Cosmology of Life," argues that there is no certainty that biological evolution could (by itself) lead to the beginning of life. Gibson also touches on the problem that the existence of human consciousness presents to naturalism. The last part of the book, "Cosmological Ethics," switches from the science/religion relationship to the science/ethics relationship. Gibson discusses such issues as the connection between Aristotle's and Christ's ethics, and the concept of just war.
The book has an extensive bibliography of over 800 references. It also contains about twenty-five figures and photographs, some in color. The book's main point seems to be the author's speculations on the hidden similarities between religion and science. However, details are difficult to recognize. Written by a philosopher, the book's abstruseness is matched only by the obviousness that it is not written for the layperson.
Reviewed by Dan Simon, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH 44115.
SEEKER CHURCHES: Promoting Traditional Religion in a Non-Traditional Way by Kimon Howland Sargeant. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 2000. 256 pages. Paperback; $20.00. ISBN: 0813527872. Hardcover; $50.00. ISBN: 0813527864.
"Although seeker churches are the main topic of this book, the larger question this project considers is: What does it mean to be religious, especially to be an evangelical, at this moment in history?" writes Sargeant in the preface, setting the tone of the book.
The seven chapters discuss the approach seeker churches take to such topics as traditional religion, ritual, message, strategy, organization, and translation. This is followed by a brief history of Willow Creek Church which is the major focus of the book and the best-known seeker church.
Willow Creek Community Church, in a suburb of Chicago, is the flagship of the seeker church movement although Sargeant visited other seeker churches including well-known Saddleback Community Church in California. The basis of the book is an analysis of a survey of leaders of seeker churches across the country. While the tone of the book can sound like a dissertation, Sargeant raises and discusses several points that are of concern to any of us who, like me, are active in a seeker church.
Matters of methods including marketing, worship styles, and theology are discussed in detail. The author concludes that the theology of seeker churches is evangelically sound--at least at present. But with a tone of Reformed theology, Sargeant asks if the expedient has not replaced the transcendent in this modern church movement, implementing techniques which even mainline denominations are now using to swell declining memberships. I am reminded of David Wells, No Place for Truth--Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, who has argued that what is needed in the modern church is an emphasis on the Transcendent rather than on therapy. I think Sargeant would agree.
I found this a most insightful and helpful book for anyone who is interested in evangelical church growth. While I cannot comment on the research techniques in the social sciences, it appears that the design and execution of the survey were good. An appendix deals with the methodology of the survey. Replete with well-chosen examples, extensive references, and thought-provoking discussion, Seeker Churches is well written and well edited ensuring that it will be a useful resource for years to come.
This book is an important contribution to understanding where the church is headed and will be required reading for church planters as well as for many of us who appreciate an analysis of the most dynamic movement among evangelicals in the last fifty years.
Reviewed by Lytton John Musselman, Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529.
Religion & Christian Faith
THE C. S. LEWIS ENCYCLOPEDIA: A Complete Guide to his Life, Thought, and Writings by Colin Duriez. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000. 240 pages. ISBN: 1581341369.
This book is based on a previous work by the author (The C. S. Lewis Handbook, 1992). It is presumptuous to think that a work of this size could be "complete" relative to the much larger corpus of Lewis' own work. However, it is a very helpful presentation of a great deal of information. The intention is to promote interest in Lewis and his vast array of writing, and it should prove very effective to that end.
The topics covered include Lewis' popular Christian writings, his fiction, and his scholarly books. Lewis wrote many things, so even those who are familiar with his work can take advantage of the kinds of summaries that are available here. For newcomers to Lewis, this book can help give an overview of the various components of Lewis' work and thought. It can be recommended to admirers and readers of Lewis, both experienced and neophyte.
The book suffers from some sloppy copyediting. For example, on page 30, there is a reference to "animals, talking" but the actual entry is "talking animals"; on page 58, there is a cross reference to an entry for "King Arthur" that does not exist; on page 63, the author of the Inspector More novels is given as Colin Dextor rather than Colin Dexter; and there are others.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
THE EVANGELIST: The Worldwide Impact of Billy Graham by Lewis A. Drummond. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2001. 288 pages. Hardcover; $22.99. ISBN: 084991208.
This book details what Billy Graham believes and how these beliefs impact who he is and what he does. Material about Graham's life and crusades is only given to illustrate his convictions and methods of operation. Some of Graham's beliefs are catalogued in chapters on the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, God's Sovereignty, and Christ. Chapters on suffering, boldness, godliness, and revival provide insight on how Graham functions.
Although Graham must sometimes rely on bodyguards, he has never canceled a crusade because he feared for his own personal safety. An incident which occurred at a crusade in Augusta, GA, illustrates Graham's boldness and courage. One night a wild party was in progress in the hotel room next to those where he and Grady Wilson were staying. Since the noise was keeping them awake, and they wanted to be fresh for the next day, Graham put on his bathrobe, and knocked on the door of the noisy room. Graham announced that he was an evangelist, chastised those present, invited them to his crusade, and preached a short sermon on the spot. Several people responded to his message, and there was no more noise that night!
Some people might question John R. W. Stott's statement in his introduction that this book "never descends to the level of hagiography" (p. x). Maybe not, but if Graham is not called a saint, he's presented with all the characteristics of one. Readers will have a difficult time finding anything negative recorded. And perhaps this is appropriate since Graham has seemingly avoided the pitfalls of some of his contemporaries. And perhaps also it is not surprising since the author is an obvious admirer and friend of Graham's. Drummond currently serves as the Billy Graham professor of evangelism and church growth at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, and ministers at conferences sponsored by Graham.
For certain, Graham has not pleased everyone. His critics have included separatists like Carl McIntire, Bob Jones, Sr., and Ian Paisley. Liberals, Unitarians, and the Christian Century have also found fault. Graham has not responded to his critics, but he has not been oblivious of them. He said, "I don't want to get to heaven without any scars." Slight chance of that, with so many conservatives and liberals putting Graham's words and deeds under a theological microscope.
Perhaps the most unfair criticism ever made of Graham resulted from an interview he gave to some Charlotte Observer reporters in the 1980s. Based on their research, this headline appeared: "Billy Graham's Secret $23 Million Fund." An Orlando, FL newspaper printed a picture of a dollar bill with Washington's face replaced by Graham's. This aroused questions in readers' minds about Graham's financial integrity. It shouldn't have. There was nothing secret about the fund which was established for a building at Wheaton College and a conference center in Montreat, NC. The foundation which held the money was approved by the IRS, had been audited every year, had been announced in many press releases, and was not for Graham's personal use. Nothing illegal or unethical had been involved. Eventually criticism faded, and sufficient funds were collected to complete the projects.
Billy Graham's life and ministry have been presented via many books, articles, documentaries, and television interviews. This book takes a unique approach in demonstrating that Graham's beliefs, actions, and personal qualities are firmly based on the Bible. The book is a very good source for a primer on basic Christian doctrine. Five appendices provide some helpful documentation about Graham's ministry. For instance, one gives a list of Graham's writings; another the 13-page Corporate Statements of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
ODD GODS: New Religions and the Cult Controversy by James R. Lewis, ed. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001. 435 pages. Hardcover; $33.00. ISBN: 1573928429.
Lewis, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, is the author of Doomsday Prophecies: A Complete Guide to the End of the World and The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. In Odd Gods, Lewis and three dozen experts deal with religious expression in the USA which is described as a "crazy-quilt landscape." Most of the book describes the history and beliefs of unusual religious groups including sects derived from Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh persuasions. Also dealt with are the "Moonies," Wiccans, Satanists, Spiritualists, Channelers, Scientologists, The Heaven's Gate Cult, New Age and UFO devotees, and many others.
Lewis accurately points out that the public often has false perceptions of cults which lead to public fear with subsequent scapegoating. Some cult groups are socially pathological, but there are also many unorthodox sects which pose no threat. Lewis analyzes the differences between dangerous groups and the merely innocuous, and discusses the appeal of minority religion affiliation.
This substantial book contains an expansive index, lengthy bibliography, and black and white photos of many cult founders. With accounts of cults from A (Anthroposophical Society in America) to Z (Zoroastrianism), this is the book to buy if you are curious about America's so-called cult phenomena.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.