Science in Christian Perspective
Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Book Reviews For June 2001
THE CARE OF CREATION: Focusing Concern and Action by R. J. Berry, ed. Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2000. 213 pages, notes, bibliography, indexes. Paperback; $17.99. ISBN: 0851116574.
This book will have failed if it is regarded as merely another book on the environment from a group of "green" Christians, however dedicated and informed. It is both less and more than that. It is less because it is specifically and mainly a theological commentary on a particular document (An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation); it is more because this is not simply an exercise in advocacy: the commentators are united in their Bible-based understanding of the environment as God's creation entrusted to our care and wonder.
Three truisms are given: (1) A virtually unanimous, somber acknowledgment that humans have damaged their environment; (2) A general feeling of helplessness by individuals: What can I do about climate change, species extinction, genetic holocaust and so on; and (3) A Christian's dithering between a Scylla of welcoming disasters as a sign of the "end-times" and a Charybdis of shipwreck on pantheism and New Age nightmare.
The resulting frustrations led to a meeting in 1992 at the Au Sable Institute. The report of that meeting stimulated the forming of the Evangelical Environmental Network and through that, in 1994, the formulation of the Declaration mentioned above. John Stott's introduction follows the text of the Declaration.
Part II of the book titled "Context" starts with a description of the history that led to the meeting that formulated the Declaration. Chapter 1 republishes a lecture given by Lynn White, Jr., at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1966. His conclusion was that the disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science originating in the Western medieval world. The growth of the disruption can only be understood by realizing that it is deeply grounded in Christian dogma, White says, especially in the interpretation of Gen. 1:28. Christians were slow to react, but gradually discussion developed.
Many Christians think that God's command means creation must not only be used but preserved. The growing concern for the environment among Christians caused reaction in the "anti-environmental movement." In chapter 5, Richard T. Wright describes some of the negative reactions rooted in a free enterprise ideology. These reactions are often funded by industries dependent on exploiting natural resources. Exploitation is, of course, opposed by environmentalists. Wright points to the "Contract with America" published by the Republican Party in the 1990s. For Christians wanting to live environmentally responsibly the result was frustration: The Endangered Species Act was not renewed and the United States did not take any action to curb greenhouse-gas emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Accord. Wright says that it is odd that free-trade capitalism is supported by many Christians. He mentions E. Calvin Beisner.
It is almost cynical to read in the Declaration: "÷ we support the development of just, free economies which empower the poor and create abundance without diminishing creation's bounty." That statement should be changed. A "free" economy gives power to the "rich" and does not give the "land" and the "poor" a chance. Statistics support that the income-gap between the rich and the poor grows, and the GNP grows. In agricultural areas, small farms disappear. The larger farms that remain grow mostly one kind of crop and often use chemicals for growth. Gradually the ground loses its richness. The people that live in the country are moving in large numbers to cities, which use and destroy even more land. Also, pollution is increased by the many cars needed to get people to work in cities (see Northcott, pp. 171-4).
It would seem that these trends are against God's laws. God set aside one day a week to rest workers, and one year in seven to rest the land. Slaves were to be set free in the seventh year, and the land was to be given back to its original users in the fiftieth year. A major reason that Israel went into exile was that God's provisions were not followed (2 Chron. 36:21, Lev. 25, Moltmann, p. 112). God reminded the Jews of these laws just before they went into exile (Jer. 34:8-20).
Calvin DeWitt points out in chapter 4 of "Context" that people became the predominant destructive force on earth. DeWitt quotes Rev. 11:18: "the time has come to judge those who destroy the earth." He lists, referring to Psalm 104, seven degradations of the earth, followed by seven provisions of creation. DeWitt mentions ten excuses used by many evangelical Christians to avoid being creation-keeping disciples.
Part III "Commentary" has fourteen chapters, written by different authors, some mentioned above. Others include: Alister E. McGrath, Richard Bauckham, Jurgen Moltmann, Ghillean T. Prance, Howard J. Van Till, Peter Harris, Stephen Rand, Susan Drake Emmerich, Ron Elsdon and Michael S. Northcott. Some points discussed are: Does Gen. 1:28 mean that humans are totally in charge of creation or is he just a keeper (steward) for God? O'Donovan says "Man" is a just steward of the creation. As such he has to guard the creation. Harris says that we should start our speculations knowing that God is the Creator. Then if we worship him, we will be less tempted to see our personal redemption as the beginning and end of God's concern with us. Elsdon points out that creation and Gospel cannot be separated, and Greek philosophy has influenced Christian thought.
I am tempted to quote from other chapters, but read the book for yourself. This book is not only for scientists but for all believers. It shows the necessity to take action now. Believers should not be the last ones to advocate earth keeping; they should be in the forefront of earth care.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, Canada.
AN EARTH CAREFUL WAY OF LIFE: Christian Stewardship and the Environmental Crisis by Lionel Basney. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994; Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2000. 168 pages. Paperback; $18.95. ISBN: 1573831727.
Basney was a professor of English at Calvin College from 1985 until his death in 1999. He taught previously at Houghton College from 1968-1985. He also has published other articles and poems relating to the theme of Christian stewardship, which he describes in this book.
It might be expected that a book on environmental stewardship would include such topics as renewable energy resources, the thermodynamics of recycling, and practical efforts directed toward conservation. This book, however, is not so concerned with technological development as it is with the development of our values. Basney is particularly concerned with the lifestyle values that Christians portray to the world.
This book is passionately and eloquently written and is a lively and refreshing read in comparison to many of the dry, technically oriented books presented by Christians about the environment. The book will also expose many of us less liberally educated to the literary works in the areas of environmental stewardship. It even provides a very nice appendix on sources that the interested reader could use to explore more literary works in the environmental genre.
The book is arranged in a progressive manner that begins with a discussion of how our culture and environment are related. Basney vividly describes how our culture influences our perception of what we see in our environment. He gives the example of a supermarket, from which we can mistakenly infer a land of great abundance. Breakfast cereals appear as a seemingly endless variety filling long aisles in the supermarket. But, Basney points out, this seemingly endless variety of cereals are all common to only four grains and, Basney states, these grains are grown as "plants on life support." The inference of a land of plenty is false, says Basney, we are actually in an environmental crisis. Throughout the following chapters, he echoes this theme of being blinded by our culture to the true nature of things whether it is the food supply, land development, or manufactured items.
Basney then makes the case for reconnecting ourselves to the land as an effort to change our manner of thinking and of supporting ourselves at a more subsistent level. He pleads the need for people in the church to become aware of the environmental situation and not live blinded by culture. He offers solutions based on observation of nature, of practical use of subsistence gardening. Though these may appear to be practical things, the underlying message is directed toward things less tangible. It is directed to our way of thinking, of seeing, and ultimately to the way we live as Christians. This is the value of the book, not technical, but personal; not scientific, but spiritual.
As scientists, we can easily be critical of Basney's solutions. We may say that the use of his automobile to enable his life in the country, and the use of a wood-burning stove are in the end counterproductive. We may say he would be thermodynamically ahead if he were to live in an energy efficient condominium within walking distance of his employment. But such a critique would be meanspirited when Basney so eloquently describes and critiques us for the way we live a life without seeing. It may be that there are external benefits to life in the country and the physical effort of turning soil, planting seeds, and harvesting our own food. It has certainly provided for a great little book that ought to give scientists and nonscientists some food for thought.
Reviewed by Gary De Boer, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at LeTourneau University, Longview, TX 75601.
THE SATANIC GASES: Clearing the Air about Global Warming by Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling, Jr. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2000. 234 pages, including index. Paperback; $10.95. ISBN: 1882577914.
Michaels, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, and Balling, professor of geography at Arizona State University, have spent much of the past decade publicly challenging the prevailing consensus amongst atmospheric scientists that the risks of climate change are real and significant, and that the policy community should take action to mitigate these risks. In The Satanic Gases, Michaels and Balling pull their contrarian arguments together into a collective volume that they, and the Cato Institute, claim will bare the "truth" about the climate change issue.
Throughout the book, the authors lament the difficult role of the contrarian within scientific debate. They argue that those who hold views that differ from the mainstream theories of the science community have a more difficult time getting research funding, are challenged much more rigorously by peer reviewers, and are less likely to have papers accepted by scientific journals than researchers who undertake studies that are likely to agree with prevailing views. On this point, I believe the authors have a valid claim. While the science community has always prided itself on encouraging adversarial debate and uses a peer review process to challenge weak aspects of scientific arguments, our human nature still causes us to become defensive and somewhat resentful toward those who try to call us wrong. What Michaels and Balling do not seem to understand, however, is that contrarian views must also be presented in a spirit of integrity and honesty, not in a highly selective fashion. It is here that I have the greatest discomfort with the contents of The Satanic Gases.
The book is also replete with contradictions. The authors contend that the "consensus" viewpoints with respect to what we can and cannot say about the science of climate change, e.g., assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cannot be trusted because the scientific experts involved are virtually all employed by government institutions and universities, which are in turn driven by political and fund- seeking agendas. Yet they liberally quote the IPCC report wherever it fits their arguments. They argue that all scientific research is biased by personal, ethical, and economic interests of the researcher, but then they try to marginalize the views of individuals such as Sir John Houghton, chair of the key IPCC science working group, by pointing out that he is a Christian who allows his views of the supernatural to influence those with respect to the natural. They claim that funding research through academic and government mechanisms tends to encourage results biased toward political and economic agendas, yet imply that their own indirect funding by the private sector generates no such bias.
More disturbing, however, is the very selective but charismatic manner in which the authors use scientific results from the tomes of available climate science literature but ignore the much broader information base (often in the same papers) that disagrees with their theses. When the arguments presented by Michaels and Balling are placed into the context of that broader scientific literature base, one finds that most of their arguments have been repeatedly refuted within the literature, and that they either misunderstand much of the results or misrepresent them to support their underlying thesis that human- induced climate change is a non-issue. Both as a Christian and a scientist, I find this dishonesty, presented within public media that has not been subject to any peer review, troublesome.
When in criminal court, one would only expect a fair trial if the jury listens to the arguments of a trial defense lawyer within the context of the counter arguments presented by a prosecutor (and vice versa) and the advice provided by the trial judge. Likewise, I suggest this book only be read within the context of the broader literature available on the topic. Other excellent scientific books that present a much more balanced perspective of what we know and do not know about climate change include the various IPCC reports (all extensively peer reviewed) and Sir John Houghton's Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Cambridge University Press, 1997). The latter, apparently much to the annoyance of Michaels and Balling, includes a chapter describing how the author brings personal belief and ethics into his assessment of the climate change issue. Other books by investigative science writers that help provide a better context for some of the politics behind the climate change debate include Lydia Dotto's Storm Warning: Gambling with the climate of our Planet (Doubleday, Canada, 1999) and Ross Gelbspan's The Heat is On (Addison Wesley, 1997).
Reviewed by Henry Hengeveld, Senior Science Advisor on Climate Change, Environment Canada, Toronto, ON M3H 5T4.
MORAL ACQUAINTANCES: Methodology in Bioethics by Kevin Wm. Wildes. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000. 214 pages, index. Paperback; $20.00. ISBN: 0268034508.
There is an ever-increasing stream of books and essays concerning bioethical issues such as physician-assisted suicide, organ transplantation and allocation, genetic research, and the distribution of health care resources. Christians and secularists are quite busy in this emerging field arguing for particular positions and societal actions. Some issues in bioethics seem to find quick agreement among ethicists as to appropriate courses of action, and problems are quickly resolved. Other areas in bioethics (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, fetal tissue research) find ethicists deeply divided as to what is ethically permissible and appropriate. Some of these differences are traceable to the fact that there is no specific training at present that makes one a "bioethicist." Lawyers, theologians, philosophers, physicians, scientists, nurses, and a variety of other experts produce articles and books in the field of bioethics. Yet, subject matter background alone does not seem to adequately account for the range of approaches, since many times people with the same disciplinary background reach dramatically different positions on key bioethical issues.
Wildes, an assistant professor of philosophy and medicine at Georgetown University and Associate Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, wades into these issues not from the standpoint of direct contributor to a specific issue but from the vantage point of methodology. He explores the methodological underpinnings of bioethics and finds a bewildering array of approaches and value assumptions that underlie current work in this multidisciplinary field.
He believes, rightly in this reviewer's mind, that we have not spent enough time thinking through the moral views in our pluralistic society that lie underneath the musings of particular bioethicists. His consistent focus throughout this carefully argued book is on how we conceive and define controversies in bioethics and how we seek a moral course of action. Wildes opens with a critical look at various foundational methods already in use within the field of bioethics including Singer's utilitarian project, Donagan's theory of morality, natural law, contractarianism, and virtue theory. An entire chapter is devoted to discussing the appeal to four middle-level principles of Beauchamp and Childress, i.e., justice, autonomy, beneficence, and nonmaleficence, that, they believe, have the power to unify this field. These principles, when applied to the various foundational methods employed in the field of bioethics, should yield common ground.
Wildes, along with other critics, believes that these principles are so vague and "content-thin" that they succeed at their fundamental task but at the expense of masking deep differences among the various approaches used in bioethics. He puts forward an alternate "moral acquaintances" approach (expanding on Englehardt) that starts at the opposite end of that of Beauchamp and Childress, i.e., focusing on differences among approaches rather than commonalities. Wildes believes that holding to a conception of distinct moral "communities" in discourse within one another better fits the dramatically different value systems that underlie contemporary approaches to bioethics. We should not mask our differences, he argues, but rather recognize them explicitly and then while working out of them, seek to find common ground via the inevitable compromises of social negotiation. He rejects the notion of complete moral pluralism where no consensus or common ground is possible and believes that through the application of acquaintanceship we can better resolve moral controversies and dilemmas of medicine, health care, and human biology.
This volume is a worthy addition to college libraries and can be used fruitfully in conjunction with one or more books of readings for a bioethics course. The approach Wildes suggests may have wider application beyond bioethics in areas such as creation/evolution, ecclesiology, and eschatology where Christians disagree with one another.
Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek, Director, Office of Research, High School Reform and Adult Education, RI Department of Education and Adjunct Professor of Education, University of RI, 255 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903-3414.
VOODOO SCIENCE: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 230 pages, including index. Hardcover; $25.00. ISBN: 0195135156.
Park, professor of physics and former chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland, has also directed the office of public affairs in Washington for the American Physical Society for almost two decades. In this role, he has been a frequent writer of op-eds and science features for the New York Times, the Washington Post and other newspapers. In Voodoo Science, Park exposes the various forces that contribute to the promulgation of bad science within a society predisposed to believe in magic and miracles.
Park begins by recounting three separate incidents during the past two decades where inventors claimed to have found magic sources of energy: Joseph Newman's energy machine, James Patterson's magic energy beads, and Pons and Fleischmann's "discovery" of cold fusion. Although all of these inventions appeared to contravene some fundamental laws of physics, they were widely profiled by media, more to entertain than to inform a gullible general public.
In Chapters 2 and 3, Park discusses how our brains function as belief machines that constantly process information received by our senses to generate new beliefs about the world around us. He argues that these belief engines encourage us to develop and hold fast to beliefs that closely resemble those we grew up with, and that such faith in our beliefs can often lead us over the fine line between perseverance and fanaticism. Closely linked to this belief machine is the placebo effect, where the brain is fooled into thinking the problem is being taken care of when in fact the action taken has no real effect on the problem. Those who put their faith in natural medicine as a cure for serious illnesses are often responding to this placebo effect. The antidote to this belief machine, according to Park, is science, by which higher centers of the brain provide us with the aptitude to recognize patterns in what we observe and to develop testable laws and theories to explain them.
Chapters 4 through 7 provide a broad range of further examples, all based on firsthand experiences of the author, of the belief engine working overtime. These include the physical impracticality of the American science fiction-like dreams of space travel, a second look at the politics behind and the public fascination with the cold fusion debate and other inventions that defy the fundamental laws of physics, and a close examination of the controversy about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. All involve a few fringe scientists who seek to promote their theories and beliefs before a gullible public, and a science community which is ill-prepared to deal with bad science.
The next two chapters deal with the evolving role of the courts as gatekeepers of credible science and the unwitting role of official secrecy surrounding government investigations in fostering public and political belief in illusions such as UFOs and star wars technologies. The final chapter examines more closely the role of many scientists in presenting information about our universe to an impressionable audience in terms that portray a sense of mystery and awe at the strangeness of it all--an awe that encourages resurrections of old superstitions as new pseudo-scientific concepts.
Voodoo Science is easy to read. With a sense of humor and from a perspective of personal involvement, Park recounts many incredible stories of how fraudulent science is often given credibility by the media despite the fact that their preposterous claims seem to break all of the accepted laws of genuine science. Park decries the tremendous public cost of voodoo science, not just in terms of the billions of dollars squandered but also in the human cost of imaginary fears and distorted views of how the real world works. Yet, he suggests that, within the bigger picture of evolving scientific knowledge, voodoo science is simply like background noise that may be annoying but does little to interrupt the overall flow of genuine scientific discovery.
I enjoyed reading the book, and could relate much of what he had to say about voodoo science to my own personal experiences in this area. Yet I found idolatrous his almost religious belief in the role of the scientific method as the only way to truth, the source of all wisdom, and as a required antidote to faith in our inherited beliefs. Park presents a world view that has little room for the Creator. While human faith in the many false gods of our society is foolishness, a blind trust in science to lead us to knowledge through the mists of our mental belief machines is equally foolish. Hope in better understanding lies in a Christ-centered world view, not in the science-centered world view proposed by Park.
This book would be good material for classroom discussion of fraudulent science's presence within our society and the costs associated with such science. Yet it may be equally important as a topic for discussion amongst Christians with respect to the misplaced supremacy that some would give science as the ultimate source of truth.
Reviewed by Henry Hengeveld, Senior Science Advisor on Climate Change, Environment Canada, Toronto, ON M3H 5T4.
Faith & Science
THE JOURNEY INTO GOD: Healing and Christian Faith by Kenneth L. Bakken. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2000. 264 pages. Paperback. ISBN: 0806640480.
The thesis of this book is the word "theosis," a Greek term that roughly translates into "transformed into God." It is a call for the Christian Church to rediscover its historic ministry of healing and wholeness as we understand anew Christ's call to be servants of one another.
The author wears many hats as an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a physician, and president of Health Vision Ministries. He writes with fervency and spiritual insight on the inadequacy of the current biomedical model and for the use of the many untapped resources for health and wholeness in normative Christian faith and practice. He argues that while physical, emotional, and spiritual healing have real value, "÷ the ultimate purpose of our journey is theosis--transformation into the image and likeness of God" (p. 135).
The book is a series of meditations, rather than scholarly arguments. There are eleven chapters, each carrying the reader another step along the way to appropriating the theosis concept into life. I found it both interesting and useful reading and will be putting the volume into our local (Presbyterian) church library. I think that other ASA members, particularly those involved in healing professions, will find it of keen interest.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Stephen Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Durango, CO 81301.
INTELLIGENT DESIGN: The Bridge Between Science and Theology by William A. Dembski. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. 304 pages. Paperback; $19.99. ISBN: 0830815813.
Dembski is an excellent writer who introduces the reader to a relatively new and exciting concept of Intelligent Design (ID) in nature. It is an alternate explanation of the world, which does not presuppose a Creator. It does not depend on miracles or speculate on the nature of intelligence. It states that marks of intelligent design in nature can be identified.
The author is eminently suited for the task, holding qualifications in mathematics, philosophy, and theology. His argument is that ID in nature is a valid subject for scientific investigation, an idea that has wide implications in academia. The book challenges naturalistic atheistic evolution, a comprehensive world view that rejects a creator and the idea of ID.
Dembski postulates that ID is a theory of information without an a priori commitment to Christian theism. He suggests that this approach will provide theology, philosophy, and science with the appropriate tools to challenge atheistic naturalism. It is linked to the notion of specified complexity, an idea that was subsequently taken up and developed in the writings of Michael Behe and others. The author has updated and rewritten whole sections of his recently published articles on this subject and brought them together in this very interesting book.
ID is the kernel of the book. The eight chapters are arranged in three easily readable sections followed by an extensive bibliography with explanatory notes and an index. The first section is a general introduction to the topic and explains how, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, atheistic naturalism banished ID from science. Charles Darwin proposed that naturalism was a mechanism to explain life. The origin of life, however, demands an explanation because nature seemed as though it was planned. Some have suggested that Darwin dismissed design because he assumed it could not be a proper scientific explanation of nature. Postulating that God's existence is "beyond the scope of man's intellect," he sought an alternate explanation. Later, other people exploited Darwin's ideas agreeing that design in nature was superfluous to the basic theoretical concepts of undirected evolution. Yet in Dembski's view, science and theology should have remained a coherent pair. After all, design was the basis of British natural theology with the flowering of science at the close of the seventeenth century. Dembski discusses its demise in chapter three, the concluding part of this section.
The middle section is the core of the book. Here Dembski expands on the concept of naturalism, a view that nature is self-sufficient. He shows that design can be observed in nature and is accessible to scientific enquiry. Chapters seven and eight properly conclude the final section, offering a means of resolution of the perceived partition between science and theology and showing that ID establishes the crucial link between the two. The distinction between undirected natural causes and intelligent causes is the basis of these arguments from design and this issue is adequately covered in the discussion. These chapters examine divine action as a means of understanding intelligent causation and hence design. As Dembski's argument develops, he shows that within theism God is the ultimate reality.
The book contains many interesting and new ideas to reflect on and apply. Dembski believes that rejecting naturalistic evolution does not mean the acceptance of a young-earth creationism.
Dembski has presented an innovative concept to a wider group of readers and has achieved his purpose in clear, readily understandable language. The importance of this book is that it is written for the general reader. It introduced me to a new area of ideas, which, in another way, have been known to all who believe in God's creation. Here is a book that challenges naturalistic atheistic evolutionary theories and contributes to our understanding of divine action in our cosmos. I highly recommend it. I think it should be required reading for those interested in evolution-creation issues. It also should be available in tertiary institutions and civic libraries.
Reviewed by K. N. P. Mickleson, 21 Windmill Road, Mt. Eden, Auckland 3, New Zealand.
A GEOCENTRICITY PRIMER by Gerardus D. Bouw. Cleveland, OH: The Biblical Astronomer, 1999. 58 pages.
The title of this book may seem strange to a modern scientist. Had not the idea of a geocentric universe died long ago? Apparently not. In Bouw's opinion, "Our main conclusion is this, that criticism[s] of the Bible on the grounds of heliocentrism are unfounded." This is a conclusion with which many Christians would surely agree. However, I do not find that the conclusion follows from the treatise of the text. The text's thesis is that the Bible declares the earth to be fixed, spherical, and the center of the physical creation. I have several problems with this notion.
The cosmological context in which the Old Testament was written was not Greek with its spherical earth, but Egyptian. Egypt pictured a flat earth--not "round." Old Testament texts clearly reflect this view. This is not strange for we today enjoy beautiful "sunsets" and not glorious earth rotations. The reading of the texts to picture a spherical earth is but an early accommodation to Greek science by church fathers. Bouw greatly criticizes accommodation in any form; he does not recognize the accommodating shift from the flat to spherical earth.
That God does accommodate himself to us and to our limitations is quite evident. An early accommodation is when he invited Adam to name the animals. "And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." If God had done the naming he might have done a better job, but he did not seem concerned with Adam's getting it all correct.
Accommodation is clearly seen in Israel's establishing a kingdom. In the story of Israel's choosing its first king (1 Sam. 8:6-10), God accommodates himself to the people's unwarranted desire for a king. God recognized their wish as a rejection of him and his ability to provide. In this deplorable way, the succession of the kings of Israel began. It was an improper felt-need that established the Jewish kingdom. God redeems the situation by proclaiming Jesus as King.
A second major criticism of Bouw is his extreme literalism. In Bouw's view, the Bible is not only inspired, but dictated word for word. This means we can learn both science and language skills in the Bible. In discussing Ps. 93:1, Bouw asks: "But is God really a clumsy grammarian?" (p. 8). Throughout the book, he repeatedly answers "No."
Bouw maintains that we must take every word of the Bible literally, and then, argues for his meaning of the words. There is no room for phenomenological or anthropological language. There is no room for accommodation of any kind. Bouw's position leads naturally to such statements as: "Can there be room for doubt that God has a man-like figure when the Bible reports 'one like unto the Son of man?'" (p. 78). "[It is] without biblical support, that a spirit has no form."
My major difficulty with Bouw's thesis is the reliance of faith upon the provability of Scripture. To require that the Bible be scientifically accurate--even prophetically so--as a ground for faith, is dangerous. It is akin to seeking a sign so that we may believe (Matt. 12:8, 39) and is far from the confession of Peter (Matt. 16:16, 17).
Suppose science found the remains of two people who could only be Adam and Eve--it was "scientifically proven" that they were Adam and Eve. The proof was to everyone's satisfaction. Would that strengthen faith? If it were also discovered that they had bellybuttons, would such a discovery influence faith? If not, would it be because of the confidence in God's ability to create Adam and Eve, who were never born, with belly buttons- just-as-though they were born? But why just belly buttons? Why stop there? Why not create "today" just-as-though "yesterday" and all previous days existed? It would be God's little joke on us. To us, it would look like the world had a history when it really did not. We would never know. Silly questions? Yes, but why are they silly? Are they silly because our faith, like Peter's, is based elsewhere?
In light of current discussion of space among scientists, physicists will be interested in the content of vacuous space as proposed by Bouw. A postscript written by Gordon Bane extends the illogical excursions of Bouw to a new height. He concludes that the universe is both relatively young and relatively small as compared to modern thinking.
Reviewed by George Blount, 2340 Highway 66, Ashland, OR 97520.
CREATION: A Witness to the Wonder of God by Mark D. Futato. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing Company, 2000. 121 pages. Paperback; $8.99. ISBN: 0875522033.
Futato is professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has written widely on creation and the natural world in biblical studies. This book was originally a series of sermons each transformed into a chapter for the book. In the preface, the author states that one of his deep passions in life is experiencing God in his creation. Futato shares this passion with the reader by way of a biblically based presentation of several important attributes of God which are evident from creation.
Each of the six chapters is devoted to a particular attribute of God. Attributes included are the glory, power, wisdom, love, justice, and faithfulness of God. Each attribute is explained and illustrated from a variety of biblical texts, many of which are taken from the Old Testament. Besides describing and illustrating each attribute, Futato explains how meditating on each attribute can have an impact on the personal lives of the readers. Each chapter concludes with the words from an appropriate hymn along with a series of questions for personal reflection or group discussion.
The book is easy to read and each chapter is clearly outlined with each major point being supported with passages from Scripture. The purpose of each chapter is twofold: (1) to provide evidence for each attribute of God from creation as revealed through the Bible, and (2) to challenge the believer to ponder how a clearer understanding of each attribute should impact one's own personal life.
This book can easily be used in an adult Sunday School class or small group Bible study. It also could be used as a supplementary text in a college level environmental science or biology course that is taught from a Christian perspective. Pastors who desire to preach on the subject of creation as a witness to the wonder of God will find this book very useful. It can also be used by individuals during their own personal devotions. While this book will not answer all of the questions that one might raise regarding the extent to which the attributes of God are revealed through the natural world, it does provide a biblical basis for group discussion and personal reflection. Its primary goal is to encourage Christians to get to know God better by acknowledging and experiencing the wonder of God in creation. This goal is summarized in the preface of the book where the author quotes the following line from a familiar hymn: "In the rustling grass I hear him pass, he speaks to me everywhere."
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Biology Instructor, Springfield College in Illinois, Springfield, IL 62702.
SCIENCE & CHRISTIANITY: Four Views by Richard F. Carlson, ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000. 276 pages, notes, index, bibliography. Paperback; $15.99. ISBN: 0830822623.
As a professor with forty years of experience in nuclear physics, Carlson has met many students who suspected that their scientific world view precluded the possibility of believing in the Bible. In large measure, this book is addressed to those young scientists who are questioning the reasonableness of faith. Carlson is effectively saying, "Look, here are at least four points of view that show how a thinking person can be both a committed Christian and a good scientist." The many readers of this journal who have already discovered that faith and science are compatible will also profit from this insightful dialogue regarding the relationship between science and Christianity.
Carlson has recruited five contributors to articulate four contrasting views: creationism, independence, qualified agreement, and partnership. Each contributor devotes a chapter to a particular view of the relationship between science and Christianity, and each chapter is followed by the responses of the other authors. This debate-like format creates dialogue among the contributors, which is an essential strength of the book.
The first essay, "creationism," is written by Wayne Frair, a biologist and past president of the Creation Research Society, and Gary Patterson, a professor of physical chemistry. Their essay has surprisingly little to say about creation science. Rather than argue in favor of either a young-earth or old-earth theory of creation, they focus on the lack of scientific evidence capable of explaining the origin of life. They shape their exposition as a call for "sound exegesis" based on "biblical inerrancy," and conclude merely that scientists should be informed by the Bible. The problem is they never adequately define "inerrancy," nor do they demonstrate just how sound exegesis of the Bible informs science. They do, however, make a compelling case that theology and science are overlapping disciplines in pursuit of common truths.
Jean Pond, another biologist and professor, takes the opposite view in arguing for "independence." Pond essentially repeats Stephen Jay Gould's principle of "non- overlapping magisteria" or "NOMA," which he elaborated in his 1999 book, Rocks of Ages (reviewed in PSCF 52, no. 1 [March 2000]: 60-1). According to this view, science and faith avoid conflict because they deal with completely separate issues and really have nothing to say to each other.
Stephen Meyer has written several books and articles in support of intelligent design as the most reasonable inference to be drawn from the natural sciences. He summarizes his arguments here in a well-reasoned case for "the God hypothesis," which illustrates how "qualified agreement" can be seen in the relationship between Christianity and science.
Howard Van Till, a professor of physics and astronomy, reflects on the "partnership" between Christianity and science, a topic he has repeatedly addressed since the publication of his 1986 book, The Fourth Day. Van Till traces his idea of the "robust formational economy" of the cosmos back to Augustine's idea of creative potential of the cosmos. Van Till's concept parallels the Calvinist theme known as concursus, which says that God and human nature work in tandem. Van Till seems to be applying the concept of concursus to the creation by saying both God and nature work in tandem in bringing about the evolution of life and cosmos. Ironically, Van Till's position seems most closely aligned with Pond's view of independence. This raises the question whether Van Till is justifying his view of partnership upon the premise that science and faith reside in non-intersecting semantic planes.
Each essay is a thoughtful and passionate exposition of a personal faith within a scientific world view. The result is a highly readable personal dialogue, not a rigorous academic treatment of the metaphysics of science and theology. For the latter, one would do better to turn to recent works by Barbour, Polkinghorne, Peacocke, and Van Huyssteen.
These four essays demonstrate that Christians can share a commitment to biblical faith without agreeing on the metaphysical relationship between theology and science. Indeed, Pond hits close to home when she wryly observes: "The unifying element of a Christian interpretation of the Bible is that Christians will not agree on how to interpret the Bible."
In his introduction, Carlson sums up the debate by astutely suggesting that if there is any one key issue in the debate, it is "How does a faithful Christian read the Bible?" It comes as a disappointment then that none of the authors dig deeply into this issue. Rather, they each tend to put forward the conclusions they have drawn based on the way they interpret the Bible, leaving Carlson to sketch the basic principles of biblical exegesis in his postscript.
In topics such as this, which deal with the meaning of existence, it is all too easy for proponents of differing views to speak past one another without truly engaging each other. This book is a valuable attempt to mitigate that difficulty by creating a dialogue in print. The authors here respond to each other with gentle but incisive arguments. Even so, they frequently tend to speak past one another. The most valuable criticisms they offer stem not from argumentation, but rather from the questions they sincerely put to one another. Carlson, as editor, has the benefit of speaking last in his thoughtful postscript, and he directs pointed questions to each of the contributors. These closing questions not only challenge the five contributors to go deeper in their thinking, but also challenge the reader to go further in the healthy exercise of leading an examined life by reflecting on one's world view. In this sense, the book and the questions it provokes are good for our health.
Reviewed by Bruce Baker, Medina, WA 98039.
CAN ARCHAEOLOGY PROVE THE NEW TESTAMENT? by Ralph O. Muncaster. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2000. 48 pages. Paperback; $3.99. ISBN: 0736903674.
This book is a companion to a similar title Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament? by the same author. Both are short, compact books--just right, if you are looking for a concise summary of archaeology finds as they relate to the Bible. The present book cites twenty books in the bibliography to point you to further research. Nearly all the books are secondary sources published by Christian presses.
The seventeen divisions in the book average three pages in length, an indication of its succinctness. The first half of the book is introductory; the second half contains archaeological evidence relating to the New Testament. This evidence involves substantiating the geographical, political, and appellation accuracy of New Testament references.
The contents of this book are aimed at verifying the accuracy of many New Testament references. Its ultimate goal is to ignite curiosity among seekers, persuade skeptics, and strengthen the faith of believers. The author is a professor at Vanguard University in Southern California. Formerly a skeptic of the Bible, he is the founder of Strong Basis to Believe, a ministry intended to help people who have doubts.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
GOD, SCIENCE, & HUMILITY: Ten Scientists Consider Humility Theology by Robert L. Herrmann, ed. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000. 314 pages. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 189015143.
Sir John Templeton has inspired another collection of essays written by several scientists active in the science and religion dialogue. These writers were asked to look at their particular field of science or medicine through the lens of humility theology, a concept important to Templeton and described in the first essay by Russell Stannard:
It takes as its starting point, not the Bible, but our experiences of the world and of life--the same basis as that adopted by science. It asks whether these show evidence for the existence of God, and if so, what type of God. It asks: does the totality of our experience make better sense in the light of the God hypothesis or not? Like the pursuit of science, this type of theology is humble in the sense that it is prepared to adapt its understanding of God to whatever the evidence indicates. As the total fund of knowledge and experience grows, so one's conception of God is expected to develop and become ever more refined. Like science, humility theology is progressive.
Humility theology might be characterized as an attitude and an approach. It is nonfoundational and emphasizes the parallels between science and theology when both take a critically realist and nondogmatic stance toward human knowledge of the world and of God. It prizes a humility before the profound mysteries of both God and the creation that combines awe with an open- minded search for knowledge and understanding. It looks for God in nature without seeking data to construct design arguments. Humility theology joins science to this search without subordinating or co-opting it.
These ten writers take the reader through some informative forays into recent research. Following a Foreward by Templeton on humility theology, Stannard looks at theology as a science; Robert Russell considers what contemporary cosmology may tell us about faith in God; Charles Harper and Owen Gingerich each reflect on the search for extraterrestrial intelligent life and its theological implications for human self-understanding; Francisco Ayala considers human self-understanding in the light of the remarkable discoveries in brain-mind studies; David Myers explores the psychology of humility; Giuseppe Del Re reflects on the contributions of chemistry to our understanding of emergence and complexity in nature; Herbert Benson and Patricia Myers, and David and Susan Larson, in separate papers chronicle studies of the positive effects of spirituality and religious commitment on physical and mental health; and Frazer Watts considers the implications of artificial intelligence research and theory on the theological understanding of mind and soul. In an epilogue, editor Robert Herrmann reflects on their contributions.
Rather than trying to summarize each paper, let me make a generalization or two. Most are informative surveys packed with a lot of interesting information, especially about the psycho-physical-spiritual dimensions of human life. For example, the papers by Benson and Patricia Myers as well as the one by Larson not only convincingly illustrate the value of religious belief in promoting recovery from illness but also challenge health professionals to take their patients' beliefs more seriously and enlist them in healing. I particularly enjoyed Del Re's essay, The Case of Chemistry, which gave me a deeper appreciation for the value of chemical theory and research for understanding the origin and emergence of life.
But I would judge that the case for humility theology itself is less well made. Few of the essays succeed in developing this concept as it applies to their scientific discipline, or in distinguishing it from a stance of humility any scientist should adopt when studying nature. Implied throughout but not well articulated is the message that theologians must show a humility before the astonishing discoveries of modern science and a willingness to alter their visions of God, humanity, and nature in their light. Perhaps this reflects the novelty of this theology: all are grappling with a concept in the early stages of its development. I welcome this initial foray into a new theological approach. Its kerygma, a call to humility in both enterprises, could serve each well, and further work in this theology is to be encouraged. But it must also find a way to maintain the integrity of each approach, the theological and scientific, to avoid the conflation of belief and science that has been criticized in both metaphysical reductionism and creationism, the danger here being the collapse of theology into science.
Reviewed by Robert J. Schneider, Distinguished Professor of General Studies, Berea College, Berea, KY 40404.
History of Science
SCIENCE, RACE, AND RELIGION IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH by Lester D. Stephens. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000. 338 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $39.95. ISBN: 0807825182.
The subtitle of this extraordinary volume is "John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895." Five other scientists of note--Edmund Ravenel, John Holbrook, Lewis Gibbes, Francis Holmes and John McCrady--play their parts, and Audubon and Agassiz have cameo roles, but it is Bachman, a Lutheran clergyman, and by 1830, an international authority on North American mammals, who is the central figure.
However, the book is really not about Bachman at all--but about the practice of science in a culture very foreign to us. Three themes--biography, culture, and science--are interwoven seamlessly by Stephens, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Georgia, who shows his mastery of history, science, and the art of excellent writing on every page, making the book difficult to put down.
The first three chapters introduce us to the remarkable naturalist, John Bachman, sketching his developing interests in mammalogy as well as his personal life very briefly. Chapters four through eight do the same, in less detail, for his five colleagues. Bachman reenters the story in chapters nine and ten, as he argues for the essential unity of all humankind, based primarily on the scientific knowledge of the day. Even with this argument, he was captive to his culture, holding the slavery of black people as an acceptable, even good, practice. The book describes the arguments in detail, particularly as they conflicted with those of Agassiz and others, who advocated polygenism (the separate origin, and therefore the separate species, of black persons).
Chapter eleven describes the effects the Civil War had on the six scientists and the devastating impact it had on Southern science. Chapter twelve ends the book by returning to one of the secondary figures, John McCrady, as the circle of six pass from the scene. McCrady's futile attempts to find alternatives to Darwin's thesis provide insight, I believe, into how Southern culture played a key role in delaying the recovery of science in the region.
What, then, is this book really about? Not about the six naturalists; the biographies are far too short. Not about the culture of the South; too much is missing. It is, primarily, about scientific argumentation. The debate between polygenism and monogenism was intense, complete with ad hominems, name calling, disparaging comments, and faulty reasoning--with Bachman, according to the author, holding the high ground. It reminds me of current debates about origins. Most scientists who embrace one or the other position do so, interestingly enough, on scientific, not religious grounds. In these debates, both sides, reflecting their culture, held that black persons were still considered inferior. It is interesting to read Stephens' accounts of how the subject of cross-race mating was addressed, although this issue is tangential to the book's theme and gets relatively little attention.
As the book's central figure, Bachman emerges as the "hero," with Audubon, Agassiz, and McCrady receiving considerable criticism. It is worth pointing out that William Stanton, in his 1960 book, The Leopard's Spots, is much less convinced that Bachman should be so praised, calling him "half theologian, half scientist." Stephens' claim is, of course, that Bachman was wholly both.
From the perspective of over a century of scientific progress, the arguments depicted in this book seem strangely quaint. They are based, it is apparent, on woefully insufficient data. Perhaps some of the arguments of today will seem similar to our great grandchildren. I suspect that will be the case.
In Acts 17:26, the apostle Paul is recorded as preaching to those on Mars Hill that God had made every nation of humanity from one man. I believe that because Scripture asserts it; I find that the science of today confirms it. It is for that reason that, when the census taker came to my door in April 2000, I answered "human" to the question "What race do you perceive yourself to be?" It was the only honest answer I could give. I highly recommend this book to my ASA colleagues, and to others, looking forward to stirring conversations with John Bachman and his colleagues in the life to come.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Stephen Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Durango, CO 81301.
THE QUOTABLE SCIENTISTS by Leslie Alan Horvitz, ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. 169 pages. Hardcover; $14.95. ISBN: 00713660638.
This is an informative and entertaining book, one you can read with pleasure in small increments. It contains quotes "straight from the lips of the greatest minds in human history" (jacket quote). The editor is a New Yorker who has written several books, among them Frontiers of Science. He frequently writes articles for the Science Times and the Washington Times.
The quotes are divided into forty-six categories, albeit not in alphabetical order. The basis for the arrangement is not apparent, but the table of contents assists in finding each topic. A helpful addition would have been an author index. The introduction sets the stage by explaining why this book was compiled.
Some of the obvious topics include scientists, nature, evolution, and biology. Less obvious, perhaps, are taxonomy, ornithology, entomology, and unsolved mysteries. Quotes from Albert Einstein, Stephen Jay Gould, William James, Stephen Hawking, and Louis Pasteur might be expected. Less so are quotes from Michael Fox, Goethe, Tom Robbins, C. P. Snow, and the biblical book of Ecclesiastes.
One of the topics omitted is "religion" although quotes on "creation" are included. Topics touching somewhat on the metaphysical include "purpose of creation," "science and necessity," "risks and limitations of science," and "cosmology."
Some quotes will amuse. For instance, Charles Darwin's father told him: "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family." Or how about Charles Townes' paradoxical comment: "Most of my successes have come out of failures." Finally, L. L. Whyte commented: "The mythic believes in an unknown God, the thinker and scientist in an unknown order; it is hard to say which surpasses the other in nonrational devotion."
The editor notes in the "introduction" that the majority of scientists are not quotable. He points out that scientists seem to go out of their way to write impenetrable prose. They choose jargon and circumlocutions instead of lucidity. He offers several quotes from scientists who can write bemoaning that fact that their colleagues cannot. Stephen J. Gould, the famous Harvard professor who has written many books, says, "I don't think academic writing ever was wonderful." Happily, not all scientists are inept writers. Many have an excellent command of the language which allows them to explain difficult concepts in clear prose. They also can compress a big-sized, eureka thought into a small sentence. Fortunately, Horvitz has included many of them in this volume, which I highly recommend.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
THEISM AND HUMANISM: The Book that Influenced C. S. Lewis by Arthur J. Balfour. Michael W. Perry, ed. Seattle, WA: Inkling Books, 2000. 159 pages, appendices, notes, glossary, index. Paperback; $14.95. ISBN: 1587420058.
Balfour was a late nineteenth-century British politician who became Prime Minister, wrote the Balfour Declaration which set the stage for the formation of the state of Israel, and campaigned all his life against the naturalistic philosophy of Huxley. In addition to this short book, Balfour also wrote Foundations of Belief.
In 1914 Balfour was selected as the Gifford lecturer. Theism and Humanism was the text of these lectures as recalled by Balfour a year later. Gifford lectures were funded by the trust of Lord Gifford for the purpose of propounding Natural Religion, that is, what can be learned of God from nature.
Balfour's thesis is that a thorough study of the natural world leads more reasonably to a belief in theism than to a belief in naturalism. He includes in his study not only the argument of design, but also arguments from aesthetics, ethics, human intelligence, and the assumption of uniformity upon which all scientific endeavor is based.
The emphasis of this book is quite a change from much that has been written recently regarding the evolution- creation controversy. Balfour had no need to debunk the discoveries of Darwin. Balfour's faith was firmly rooted in the absurdity of natural selection as the only mechanism by which the world as we know it came to be. He accepts that science is quite capable of studying nature and drawing reasonable conclusions regarding its laws. It is when science tries to be a world view that Balfour believes it has gone too far. To prove his case, he challenges atheists and agnostics to explain such questions as these: How does natural selection explain human values? What is the survival value of great art or of the abstract philosophies that fascinate the human intellect?
Imagine reading the words of someone who actually studied under John Stuart Mills. This was my first experience of reading nonfiction of a century ago and I found it difficult going in places. However, it was also very illuminating.
In his 1944 paper, "Is Theology Poetry," C. S. Lewis wrote that Theism and Humanism was "a book too little read." Nearly twenty years later, in a 1962 letter to the magazine Christian Century, C. S. Lewis numbered Theism and Humanism among the ten books that had most shaped his philosophy of life. It is the editor's hope that the re-publication of this little book will transform it into one that is very much read and appreciated. I share this hope and recommend Theism and Humanism to the ASA membership.
Reviewed by Elizabeth M. Hairfield, Professor of Chemistry, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA 24401.
THE SCOPES TRIAL: A Photographic History. Introduction by Edward Caudill, photos by Edward Larson, afterword by Jesse Fox Mayshark. Knoxville, TN: The University of Tennessee Press, 2000. 88 pages. Hardcover; $45.00. ISBN: 1572330805. Paperback; $18.95. ISBN: 1572330813.
The Scopes trail of 1925 was "one of the greatest trials of the twentieth century" and a defining event in shaping the debate over science and religion in this nation. In the tiny hamlet of Dayton, Tennessee, a young school teacher, John Thomas Scopes, became the centerpiece for a move designed partly as a publicity scheme and partly as a test of a newly enacted anti-evolution law. Scopes agreed to be arrested for teaching Darwin's theory of natural selection in the public schools.
The antagonist, the brilliant trial lawyer Clarence Darrow, was pitted against three-time presidential candidate and fundamentalist Christian, William Jennings Bryan. For twelve days, the controversy held the nation's attention and branded Tennessee for years to come as "a backwater of anti-intellectualism and Bible-thumping education-haters." The controversy stemmed from the Butler Act that declared that no book should be adopted to teach Darwinism; Genesis should be taught. The debate brought to a head some topics resulting from the conflict between science and the Bible: the limits of individual freedom, the authority of science, the basis for government, the truth of the Bible, and the teaching of controversial theories, especially one that "threatened a child's faith."
With these issues at the forefront, the Scopes Trial became what some people called "the most famous nonfelony trial of the twentieth-century" and others deemed an unabashed ruse instigated to establish a faltering state economy. Legally, the trial was inconsequential. Symbolically, as annotated by Caudill, it defined the science-religion debate for the modern times.
The Scopes Trial: A Photographic History is a triad of elements smartly compartmentalized to tell this intriguing story. Larson's captioned photographs alone effectively convey this captivating legal tale. The Scopes Trial has had a long-lived effect not only on Tennessee but also on the nation's education system as a whole. The Scopes Trial is an ideal single source on this notorious subject.
Reviewed by Dominic J. Caraccilo, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, 1212 Whisperwood Drive, Columbus, GA 31907.
SCIENCE SAYS: A Collection of Quotations on the History, Meaning, and Practice of Science by Rob Kaplan, ed. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company Publishers, 2000. 254 pages. Hardcover; $19.95. ISBN: 0716741121.
This book is full of wit, wisdom, and wonder. Wit: "Stand firm in your refusal to remain conscious during algebra. In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra" (Fran Lebowitz). Wisdom: "Enough research will tend to support your theory" (Murphy's Law of Research). Wonder: "The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men" (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
I love quotes. They distill into a few words the essence of a complex thought. They provide wonderful stimulation to the mind. They entertain with their novel way of looking at and expressing ideas. They have the potential not only to inform but also to inspire. They provide fodder for conversation and lectures. They point to pragmatic truth for professional scientists. They give us an insight into the operation of the quoter's mind.
This is the third book of scientific quotations I have recently reviewed. Why this genre has become so popular recently, I do not know. This is especially puzzling since scientists as a group are not known for being especially quotable. Of course, there are exceptions. Anyone reading the quotes in this volume will detect that not all the persons quoted are scientists. Sometimes good observations on science come from comedic sources: "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact" (Mark Twain).
This book contains many brief quotes, but also includes some longer passages. Some quotes are just a few words: "Science is a cemetery of dead ideas" (Miguel de Unamuno); none are longer than a paragraph. The quotes are organized thematically into fourteen chapters. An author index is included. "Science, Spirit, and Religion" and "Good and Evil, Life and Death" are topics of possible interest to readers of this journal. The editor has twenty-five years experience in book publishing. He heads his own literary firm and is the co-editor of A Passion for Books.
For the scientist and nonscientist, Science Says will amuse, amaze, beguile, console, inspire, and motivate. It will provide an invaluable resource for friendly or adversarial conversation, for informative or combative talks. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
EVOLUTION, SCRIPTURE, AND SCIENCE: Selected Writings by Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. Mark A. Noll and David N. Livingstone, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000. 331 pages, bibliography, index. Paperback; $23.99. ISBN: 0801022177.
Veteran intellectual historian Mark Noll and geographer David Livingstone have gifted us with a very useful and interesting collection of Warfield's writings on the relationship of science and Christianity, paying special attention to his views on Darwin and evolution. This is a companion to their 1994 volume of Charles Hodge's writings on science and religion, also published by Baker Books.
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) was a leading Presbyterian scholar and prolific theologian who spent almost his entire career at Princeton Theological Seminary (1887-1921). He was an ardent defender of confessional Calvinism and is perhaps most often remembered as an advocate of the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible. But throughout his professional life, he was also intensely interested in the relationship of science and religion. Noll and Livingstone suggest that this longstanding interest originated from his father's cattle-breeding activities in Kentucky. Warfield's firsthand knowledge of the modification of species over time gave him a unique perspective for an American theologian.
Today biblical inerrancy is most often associated with the creationist approach to origins. Noll and Livingstone remind readers that this very conservative theologian was also an evolutionist--of sorts. Of course, he was staunchly opposed to using evolution as a basis for a scientifically materialistic philosophy of life and rejected any naturalistic reductionism that would banish the supernatural from serious consideration. But Warfield was guardedly open to the possibility that evolutionary mechanisms were operative.
A great virtue of this volume is that the editors point out that Warfield was very much interested in preserving "methodological pluralism." Crucial in this was his notion of concursus, originally developed in his inerrancy argument. His high view of verbal inspiration of Scripture did not rule out the "full, active participation of the human authors" of the sacred texts. Warfield argued against a mechanical view of divine dictation and in favor of the concursus of divine and human activity such that the Scriptures are "at once divine and human in every part, every word, and every particular." Warfield adopted a similar position regarding divine and natural action. Evolution, according to this line of thinking, could serve an important though limited explanatory role, but never at the expense of notions of divine providence. Warfield's idea of concursus allowed him to accept--particularly in the two last decades of his life--that some evolutionary explanations were accurate mechanistic accounts of phenomena which also required teleological explanations. Or put more simply: Divine design could be located "in the orderly and regulative laws of nature."
Warfield was deeply concerned that the relationship between science and Christianity not degenerate into one of mutual hostility. Consequently, his 1888 essay entitled "Charles Darwin's Religious Life" was most instructive. Warfield portrayed Darwin's spiritual pilgrimage with great sensitivity, and yet it was a portrait of an unnecessary tragedy. Darwin adopted a literal reading of Genesis which he used to bifurcate God's role in nature into two extreme and inevitably incompatible alternatives: either God tinkered with every detail, or he was entirely absent. Lost was the via media position that "views God as working in, with, and through the natural processes of the physical world."
One obvious fact that confronts the contemporary reader of Warfield's writings on science and Christianity is the conceit of those who take a purely presentistic approach to such matters today. Noll and Livingstone help us to see that Warfield not only anticipated many of the contours of the present science and religion dialogue, he also frequently demonstrated the value of exploring mediating positions that take both science and Christian faith seriously.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170; Assistant Director, The Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215.
SPEAKING OF SCIENCE: Notable Quotes on Science, Engineering, and the Environment by Jon Fripp, Michael Fripp, and Deborah Fripp, eds. Eagle Rock, VA: LLH Technology Publishing, 2000. 241 pages. Paperback; $14.95. ISBN: 1878707515.
The subtitle of this book pretty well summarizes its contents. The editors have gathered pithy quotes from some strange (Al Gore, Homer Simpson, Bugs Bunny) and not so strange (Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Blaise Pascal) sources. Contained in the book are quotes from speakers spanning 4,000 years from 2000 B.C.E. to 2000 C.E. The quotes range from the hilarious to the insightful. The hilarious: "I know that this defies the law of gravity, but you see, I never studied law" (Bugs Bunny). The insightful: "Almost anyone can do science; almost no one can do good science" (L. I. Larison Cudmore).
The editors initially collected, used, and shared quotes. When their collection increased in size and popularity, they decided to publish it. The compilers include brothers and Michael's wife, all three of whom are scientists and engineers. The editors introduce the collection with two quotes celebrating quotes: Sophocles (496-406 B.C.E.) said that a quote is "a proverb, a short saying that oft contains much wisdom"; Benjamin Disraeli (British Prime Minister) said: "the wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages are perpetuated by quotations."
The quotes are grouped into seven chapters or categories: science, mathematics, engineering, man and the environment, nature, teaching science, and the working environment. Each chapter has numerous sub-groupings. Included at the end of the book is a reference section, biographies of those quoted, and an author index. Cartoons and images of money featuring scientists illustrate some quotes.
Who are potential readers? Scientists, engineers, environmentalists, policy makers, project managers, technical public relations personnel, and teachers and students. That pretty well includes everybody. The foreword indicates that this is the first edition and implies the editors anticipate brisk sales. I hope they are right!
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
THE BOOK OF THE COSMOS: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking by Dennis Richard Danielson, ed. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2000. 556 pages, index. Hardcover; $35.00. ISBN: 0738202479.
The physical universe itself, as progressively comprehended by human beings, has prompted some of the deepest emotions and thoughts ever put on paper. Danielson, professor of English at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has assembled a wealth of quality writing--from ancient to modern--in the course of teaching honors and graduate courses on the literature of cosmology at UBC. Now to the delight of all readers, he has placed a carefully edited set of readings drawn from diverse centuries, continents, and world views in the hands of a wider audience. Greek, Hebrew, and Christian texts are skillfully woven together in the first part of the book including selections from the Old and New Testaments, Apocrypha, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Aristotle, Eratosthenes, and Plutarch.
The next section follows a storyline from Ptolemy to Cardinal Nicholas Cusanus who envisions an infinite universe with no center and a moving earth. "Copernicus to Newton," the third part of the collection sweeps us through both original writings by Kepler, Calvin, Brahe, Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Milton, Pascal, Huygens, and Newton as well as commentary by modern authors on the views and visions expressed by these ancient sages. Part Four unfurls Newton's universe with selections drawn from ancients and moderns including William Derham, Leibniz, Halley, Cotton Mather, Kant, Herschel, Laplace, Paley, Olbers, Humboldt, Edgar Allan Poe, Maria Mitchell, and William Huggins.
The fifth part of this wonderful anthology moves us into the visionary hysteria of Percival Lowell, the cosmological speculations of Darwin, G. K. Chesteron's musings on what might-not-have-been, and the beauty and mathematical magnificence of the heavens as expounded by astronomers, physicists and writers such as Einstein, Feynman, John Wheeler, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, George Bernard Shaw, Hubble, Eddington, and Hoyle. The grand finale features profound philosophical speculations about cosmic scales, magnitudes, mysteries, and meanings from the gifted pens of a diverse set of writers including Werner Gitt, Arthur C. Clarke, James Lovelock, Steven Weinberg, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, Stephen Hawking, Kitty Ferguson, Martin Rees, Alan Guth, Vera Rubin, Freeman Dyson, and Paul Davies. Interestingly, Danielson gives a Christian the last word as Owen Gingerich provides a previously unpublished sermon he delivered in 1993 at Cornell University's campus chapel, "Do the Heavens Declare?"
A very strong collection of writings, carefully chosen and brilliantly edited is enhanced yet further by delightful commentary that the author intersperses throughout the entries. Clear notations enable a reader to find the full texts of every article or book excerpted and a glossary defines terms that may be unfamiliar to readers. An excellent index permits the reader to follow a particular theme or topic of interest across the volume, in effect, creating his or her own anthology. The author also recommends other edited collections of primary and secondary material in astronomy. His collection is quite diverse in its geographic and philosophical representation. It combines both literary and scientific writers, and provides a well- chosen collection of the writings of female astronomers within the group. This is a superb book and highly recommended for personal reading and for every library. Readers will highlight their favorite quotations, share them with others, and find many uses for the deep thoughts so nicely packaged in this collection.
Reviewed by Dennis W. Cheek, Director, Office of Research, High School Reform & Adult Education, RI Department of Education and Research Professor of Education, University of RI, 255 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903-3414.
LUCIFER'S LEGACY: The Meaning of Assymmetry by Frank Close. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 259 pages. Photographs, illustrations, index. Hardcover; $27.50. ISBN: 1572330813.
In this book, Close, a particle physicist and currently a professor at the University of Birmingham, UK, offers an appreciation of symmetry and its profoundness in natural philosophy. He looks at symmetry and the deep structures of the universe and questions whether a single act that took place at the origin of our universe is responsible for the asymmetric derivations existing today.
Recently Close was at CERN (an international research organization based in Geneva, Switzerland) where scientists are now preparing to uncover the asymmetries at the heart of the Big Bang. While at CERN, his studies suggested that life is the result of cosmic asymmetry. Close's book explores matter and antimatter, positive and negative charge, and exposes common shibboleths to the truths surrounding them.
Recent scientific studies have made it clear that the true understanding of our universe will come only from identifying and understanding the asymmetries that surround us. One example that Close uses is the moderately well-known teaser which questions the use of mirrors to query why reflections are reverse left and right but not top and bottom. To the contrary, Lucifer's Legacy is not all "smoke and mirrors" for it provides an intriguing study of seemingly simple ideas by uncovering the underlying uniformity of a great-unsolved mystery.
Not only cosmic life but also our own everyday variety is full of other examples of asymmetry, from the human body to the molecules of life. Lucifer's Legacy explores the origins of asymmetry on the molecular level to the universe at large. Intriguingly inspired by a chance encounter with a statue of Lucifer in the Tuilleries Gardens in Paris, Close takes the reader on an interesting tour of asymmetry in the world around us, from the development of human embryos to the mysterious Higgs boson.
Reviewed by Dominic J. Caraccilo, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, 1212 Whisperwood Dr., Columbus, GA 31907.
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM: An Astronomer's View by Mark Kidger. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 1999. 306 + xii pages with index. Hardcover; $22.95. ISBN: 0691958237.
Identification of the star seen by the magi in Matthew 2 has long been a popular topic. Planetariums often have programs about "the Christmas star," and some discussion of the topic can attract interest in a church's education program. Knowledge of the Bible, history, and astronomy is needed for an adequate treatment. The author of this book, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Tenerife, concentrates on providing an up-to-date account of astronomical knowledge relevant to the subject.
In the course of his discussion, Kidger gives interesting accounts of a number of astronomical phenomena: comets, meteors, novae and supernovae, planetary conjunctions, and occultations. Many scientists may be aware that there are important astronomical records from ancient China, Korea, and Japan, but probably will not have studied the matter in any detail. Chapter 9 is a helpful introduction to this topic.
One questionable assumption that Kidger makes is that the magi, whom he thinks were probably from Babylonia territory, were part of a long-established project of looking for astrological signs of the birth of a king of the Jews. This leads him to argue that the "star" must have been a rare event, for otherwise the predecessors of the magi would have come to Jerusalem long before the birth of Jesus. But even if one holds that there was a single well-defined messianic expectation in Israel a thousand years before Christ's birth, and even if (as is plausible) the Babylonians learned of this, there is simply no reason to think that the magi would have attached great attention to this belief and made it part of a centuries-long program of observation and interpretation.
Kidger's conclusions are, nevertheless, reasonable and offered in an appropriately tentative spirit. He thinks it likely that the magi noted a number of signs in the heavens, some of which have been discussed individually in connection with the Star of Bethlehem by other writers. The triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in 7 B.C., a massing of those planets with Mars in the next year, and pairings of Jupiter with the moon and Saturn with Mars in the next year all occurred in Pisces, a constellation associated with the Jews. These events might have alerted the magi to the imminent birth of a king of the Jews. The final sign, which actually started them on their journey then could have been the nova seen by Chinese astronomers in 5 B.C. DO Aquilae is the star, which, the author suggests, can most plausibly be identified with the Star of Bethlehem.
I do not think, as I have said, that the star would have had to be as rare an event or combination of events as Kidger believes. Both the triple conjunction and the nova by themselves, for example, are legitimate candidates. With that qualification, however, Kidger does a very good job of setting out the astronomical data relevant to the problem. Anyone interested in "the Epiphany star" (to give it a more precise name) will find his book a very useful resource.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Akron, OH 44313.
HERE BE DRAGONS: The Scientific Quest for Extraterrestrial Life by David Koerner and Simon LeVay. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 264 pages, notes, color plates, index. Hardcover; $27.50. ISBN: 0195128524.
Written jointly by an astronomer and a biologist, Here Be Dragons is a comprehensive overview of the scientific quest for life and intelligence in outer space. The authors are Koerner, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, and LeVay, an independent consultant and former associate professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. They both write well and show their expertise in the respective fields in this book. The text is intertwined with astronomy and biology. One can easily tell who wrote which passages of the main text.
Specifically, the book covers such topics as the birth and evolution of the universe, origin and evolution of living organisms on Earth, conditions for sustaining life, probabilities of finding other planets with conditions suitable for sustaining life, past and present projects for searching for extraterrestrial life and intelligence, possible variations of the terrestrial type of life, and the potential existence of other universes. The last two topics should be interesting to those who love scientific speculations.
The book mentions creationism and intelligent design of the terrestrial life. However, in contrast to Alone in the Universe by David Wilkinson (reviewed in PSCF 50, no. 1 [March 1998]: 61-2), it does not offer any religious ramification to Christians when extraterrestrial intelligence is indeed found. Wilkinson, suggested that we openly welcome aliens with Christian love, an idea with which members of the American Scientific Affiliation would agree.
The color plates in Here Be Dragons are beautiful and illustrative. Unfortunately, a few of them are missing from the book. It is noteworthy that several references and notes are given in Internet addresses only. This "hi tech" referencing will handicap those readers who do not use the Internet. Finally, the title of the book, Here Be Dragons, does not appear to relate to the main theme of the book. Without its subtitle, what would one think is the subject of this book?
Reviewed by James Wing, 15107 Interlachen Drive, Unit 1014, Silver Spring, MD 20906.
SUPERSYMMETRY by Gordon Kane. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, 2000. xviii + 199 pages, index. Hardcover; $26.00. ISBN: 0738202037.
Kane is a physicist who has written a few books. All of the ones with which I am familiar are attempts to explain modern physics to a reasonably intelligent lay audience, or to physics students. I read one of them before, and it was quite good. Supersymmetry is an attempt to explain the topic of the title. There is no discussion of religious matters, other than some appropriate speculation about how things came to be the way they are.
Unfortunately, there are problems here. Either I am not interested enough in supersymmetry, or Kane does not do a good enough job of explaining it, or the topic itself is nearly incomprehensible, or more than one of these factors is true. Kane leads up to his subject in three chapters. In the process, he explains the Standard Model well, and is good in writing about the history of the development of his subject. Although String Theory is not the topic of the book, he is as lucid as anything I have read about that, also. He is also pretty good about making a case that lots of money should be spent on particle physics. Here is what he says about his topic:
Supersymmetry is a surprising and subtle idea--the idea that the equations representing the laws of nature don't change if certain particles in the equations are interchanged with one another ÷ It turns out that the idea has remarkable consequences for explaining aspects of the world that the Standard Model cannot explain, particularly the Higgs physics. The most important implication may be that supersymmetry can provide a window that enables us to look at the entire world of string theory from our full-size world, so that experiment can provide guidance to help formulate string theory, and so that the predictions of string theory can be tested. Supersymmetry ushers in the second phase of the search for understanding ÷
If the world we live in does exhibit the property called supersymmetry, even though it has been hidden from our view until now, we will have a systematic way to peer at the most basic law(s) that govern nature and our universe. Without supersymmetry that may not be possible. Though there is considerable direct evidence that the world is indeed supersymmetric, this is not yet certain. It is worth a lot of effort to find out (pp. xvi-xvii).
That is about as clear an explanation as Kane can give. He does say more, of course. He writes about problems that a discovery of supersymmetry would solve, and how the ideas of supersymmetry are going to be tested.
A long time ago, there was a physicist named George Gamow. In his Mr. Tompkins books, his Biography of Physics, and in other writings for the public, Gamow made it easy for people who were living in a Newtonian paradigm to think that they understood Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and SchrĖdinger. His topics, weird as they seemed, were made comprehensible to the "average" interested reader. However, neither Gamow, nor anyone else, has been able to explain the weak force in such a way that I could adapt his explanation to explain it to my wife, or to a nonmajor physical science class. Kane has not done that for supersymmetry, either. Supersymmetry, like the weak force, may just be too far removed from the everyday world as we perceive it to admit of a clear ten-minute explanation. If so, this book is probably going to be about as good an explanation as we are going to get.
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Central, SC 29630.
Origins & Cosmology
CAN RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS ACCEPT EVOLUTION? by John C. Caiazza. Huntington, NY: Troitsa Books, 2000. 134 pages. Hardcover; $34.00. ISBN: 1560726601.
The author's summary answer to the title question is, yes, as long as religious believers do not accept the anti- supernaturalistic philosophy that is often packaged with it. He calls this mechanistic philosophy "hyper-Darwinism." The author is identified only as "John C. Caiazza, Ph.D." with no credentials listed. Yet the book demonstrates that he has read from a variety of perspectives.
Caiazza explores various aspects, subtitling the book "25 Questions Answered Regarding the Conflict between Evolution and Revealed Religion." Among the twenty- five, he asks: "How many definitions of evolution are there?" He lists ten, ranging from accepting the ages implied by cosmological and geological data and the paradigm that all life is phylogenetically connected, to the evolutionary extrapolation that there is no God or that he is irrelevant. He also asks: "Isn't Evolution Just a Materialist Philosophy Meant as a Replacement for Religion?" He answers, no, but it is often promoted that way. He believes that "a certain minimalist theory of evolution which eschews metaphysics and hyper-Darwinism altogether may be possible."
"Is it possible to replace evolution with creationism or some other theory?" He thinks not. "Does evolution have anything to say about society and social ethics?" He answers: "Malcolm Muggeridge once accosted Edward O. Wilson, the best known promoter of sociobiology ÷ to ask him how sociobiology accounted for the sacrifices of Mother Theresa ÷ There is no obvious translation of palpably charitable acts into any actual form of survival, no matter how precisely conceived in terms of the preservation of one's genes. The precise point of being human is being able to transcend or choose among one's impulses, genetic and otherwise."
Much of the material in this book is familiar to regular readers of Perspectives, but it is sometimes rephrased in provocative new ways. It may be useful as an introduction to the subject for high school students or college freshmen, or as a resource for a term paper. Its targeted readership is similar to that of Robert Fischer's God Did It, But How? and on a less technical level, of Thaxton and Pearcey's The Soul of Science.
The two-page Selected Biography can be somewhat useful. References include Aristotle, Bergson, Darwin, Eiseley, Gould, Huxley, Kuhn, Chardin, and Edward Wilson. In addition there are religious viewpoints from Chesterton, Behe, D. James Kennedy, and Cardinal Newman. One weakness of the book is a lack of footnotes. There are some good quotations that I have not seen elsewhere; exploring them in context would be much easier if citations were given. I also wonder about a $34 price for a 134-page book.
The closing paragraph contains one of the better descriptions of theistic evolution:
The religious believer, when looking over the past span of the history of the physical universe, of which organic evolution is a part, will be filled with that sense of wonder and awe that evolutionary writers like to refer to. However, they will proceed from there to look at the living God who is the creator and master-mind ÷ and perhaps update the analogy of God as the mathematician or geometer, to God as cosmic engineer, or heavenly computer programmer, or ultimate quantum observer. From Blake's portrait of the creator God using a pair of compasses to lay down the vast circumference of the universe, we have a new image; the creator God sits at a computer console typing in the "exec" file that will be used to create the universe, and which will call up all the vast assembly of sub-programs, including the algorithm that creates life-forms by means of evolution.
Reviewed by David Fisher, Editor of "Truth in the Test Tube," a Russian broadcast of Trans World Radio, Aurora, IL 60504.
SHOW ME GOD: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us about God by Fred Heeren. Wheeling, IL: Day Star Publications, 2000. 393 pages; index. Paperback; $14.95. ISBN: 1885849532.
This is a revised version of the first edition, which was published in 1995 and reviewed in PCSF (vol. 48, no. 1 [March 1996]: 56). The revisions include new scientific findings and additional interviews with scientists. The author of the book is a science writer who is composing a four-book series, of which this is the first volume. The title of the book and the photograph of Einstein on the cover conspire to give the appearance of somewhat sensationalist pseudoscience. However, this is one situation where you should not judge a book by its cover. This book is a tremendous resource for the Intelligent Design (ID) argument for God--the best of its kind that I have seen. It is readable and substantial at the same time. It is chock-full of interviews with world-class scientists (including Alan Guth, Robert Jastrow, Stephen Hawking, Robert Wilson, and several others). Although almost all of Heeren's interview subjects are atheists or agnostics, he uses their statements to support ID. The book is filled with references to scientific articles and books for those who want to dig deeper. There are also ninety-eight photographs of subjects ranging from planets and galaxies to portraits of famous scientists. In addition, the book is sprinkled with humorous conversations between the author and his imaginary book editor designed to bring the scientific discussion "down to earth."
The book is divided into four parts, which are further subdivided into twelve chapters. The first part deals with science's search for extraterrestrial life. Heeren discusses humanity's desperate desire to find extraterrestrial life, the scientific odds for and against its existence, and what its discovery or lack thereof might imply for theology. Heeren believes that the odds against the existence of extraterrestrial life are overwhelming, and that its discovery would only indicate that God created life on worlds other than Earth.
The second part of the book proposes that God is the best explanation for the existence of the universe. Heeren explores theories that indicate the universe is uncaused, including steady state cosmology, cyclic cosmology, and Stephen Hawking's proposal that time never had a beginning (even though there was a big bang). He concludes that the universe is an effect that must have been caused by something like the God of the Bible. Heeren also discusses the second law of thermodynamics and its implication for a beginning. He details many scientific evidences for the big bang theory and also discusses the history of its development, including scientists' initial opposition to it. He debunks young earth creationism (both scientifically and theologically) and explains its popularity in purely social and historical terms.
Part three delves into the ID argument. Heeren discusses nine evidences for fine-tuning in natural laws and cosmological characteristics that allow for the existence of the universe, the earth, and life. He shows that the large size of the universe and the immense time since creation are not wasteful but are necessary for the existence of life anywhere in the cosmos. Heeren discusses various forms of the anthropic principle, which are attempts to exclude God from the fine-tuning that we see in the universe. The last part of the book presents the Gospel as a logical conclusion to the preceding chapters. Heeren also shows how many of the biblical heroes of faith started out as great skeptics.
The book concludes with some "bonus sections," the first of which is a humorous, but poignant, short story about the search for extraterrestrial life. The story is aimed at those who claim that they would believe in God if only he gave them a clear and indisputable sign. Another bonus section shows how the Judeo-Christian world view was instrumental in the lives of many great scientists. Heeren briefly looks at the lives of fifty scientists (from Agassiz to Whewell) and how their faith influenced their science.
This book is primarily intended to cause skeptics to question their naturalistic assumptions, but I suspect that it will be more valuable to Christians who are looking for scientific apologetic material (for their own sakes or for others) or common ground between science and Christianity. This book is a great resource for any of these purposes and I wholeheartedly recommend it to PCSF readers.
Reviewed by Dan Simon, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, OH 44115.
OMPHALOS: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot by Phillip Henry Gosse. Woodbridge, CT: Ox Bow Press, 1998. 376 pages, index. Paperback; $34.95. ISBN: 188198710.
This is a reprint of a book originally published in London in 1857, two years before Darwin's Origin of Species. Long out of print, unavailable to students of origins issues, it has reappeared as a study text for historians who would like to see how one scientist struggled to reconcile what he understood of both science and the Scriptures.
References to Gosse's book appear often. Martin Gardner gives it a sympathetic treatment in Facts & Fallacies (1957). He wrote (in chapter 11): "Not the least of its remarkable virtues is that while it won not a single convert, it presented a theory so logically perfect, and so in accordance with geological facts that no amount of scientific evidence will ever be able to refute it." More recently, Chris Morgan and David Langford's Facts and Fallacies (1981) mentions it as an "ultimate invincible theory," overcoming "all conflict between evolution and the Bible." Gosse's son, Edmund, in his 1905 book, Father and Son, reported at length his father's bewilderment of the expressions of derision that came from believers and nonbelievers alike following the publication of Omphalos.
Phillip Henry Gosse was no pseudo-scientist, but a respected and admired naturalist of his time. Thomas Huxley called him "an honest hod carrier of science," by which term he paid respect to Gosse's powers of observation and writing. Gosse is associated with the development of salt water aquariums and published many books on water creatures of the English countryside. He was an admirer of the new scientists, as seen in this quote from his son:
Where was his place, then, as a sincere and accurate observer? Manifestly, it was with the pioneers of the new truth, it was with Darwin, Wallace and Hooker (Father and Son, p. 128).
But Gosse was also a biblical literalist. The Bible does not lie, and the facts of nature must take second place to the revealed word, a word which he was convinced he knew and knew well. When his wife died painfully of cancer in February of 1857, he turned his attention to a reconciliation of the issue.
Omphalos appeared in print that fall; within two years it had disappeared into history's rubbish heap. Twenty years ago, I found a second generation photocopy at Gordon-Conwell. For the past two decades, a photocopy of that photocopy has resided on my bookshelf.
Gosse's argument is simple. If you had been present in Eden twenty minutes after Adam's creation, you would have observed his navel, a scar left from a birth that never happened. In his digestive tract would have been the remains of a meal he had not eaten two hours before. His feet would have had calluses from walks he had never taken. A nearby tree, cut down, would have shown real rings of unreal years of growth. Gosse goes on and on with this argument, separating all time into historic time, what Gosse calls "diachronic" time, and un-historic time, unreal time, virtual time, what Gosse calls "prochronic" time. He argues two propositions: (1) All organic nature moves in a circle; and (2) Creation is a violent irruption into the circle of nature.
Gosse quotes the philosopher Chalmers, who wrote: "We have no experience in the creation of worlds ÷" From this statement, Gosse concludes, at least for the organic world (he disclaims any arguments for the inorganic), that any act of creation must involve the creation of a being with a history that never took place. He writes:
we cannot avoid the conclusion that each organism was from the first marked with the records of a previous being. But since creation and previous history are inconsistent with each other; as the very idea of the creation of an organism excludes the idea of pre-existence of that organism, or any part of it; it follows, that such records are false, so far as they testify to time; that the developments and processes thus recorded have been produced without time, or are what I call "prochronic" (p. 336).
The objections to Gosse's thesis are well known. The two objections most often cited are (1) that it is simply a variation of Russell's hypothesis, "last Thursdayism," the hypothesis that we were all created, complete with memories of unreal events, on Thursday morning of last week, and (2) that it must be rejected because "God can't lie" and a false history must be taken as evidence that he did lie. But Gosse's arguments go well beyond Russell's hypothesis, and he argues well that any fiat creation, even by God, must necessarily include unreal history. His arguments need to be taken seriously.
Gosse's thesis is not, of course, "scientific." While it may be true, it is not testable, nor does it suggest future research projects. It is a dead end. Gosse recognized this. Nevertheless, he urged his fellow scientists to continue as if unreal history were real and to construct their theories independent of his thesis.
For many years, I have asked my friends at the Institute for Creation Research for comments. To date, they have declined that opportunity. Holding, as they do, that fiat creation did happen, it seems that part of Omphalos ought to play a part in their theorizing. One thing seems certain. If one posits fiat creation of any kind, an appearance of age must be a part of that hypothesis. That fact makes scientific tests of the claim difficult, if not wholly impossible, leading to the observation that "Scientific Creationism" is simply an oxymoron.
I highly recommend this book to my ASA colleagues interested in origins issues. It is a good read. For the biblical literalist, one who has honestly and thoroughly confronted the scientific data, I see it as the only intellectually coherent position possible.
Thanks to Jack Haas, George Murphy, Emrys Tyler, Loren Haarsma, and Richard Ruble for help in improving this review.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Stephen Minister at First Presbyterian Church, Durango, CO 81301.
CREATION VS. EVOLUTION by Ralph O. Muncaster. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2000. 42 pages. Paperback; $3.99. ISBN: 0736903518.
This small book appears to be Muncaster's sixth book. Previous books include: Are There Hidden Codes in the Bible? and Can You Trust the Bible? This book is a typical anti-evolutionary tract which has so many factual errors that one certainly cannot mention them all in a mere seven-hundred-word review.
The book begins with the standard false dichotomy that life was created by God or by random chance. Random chance is viewed as being incompatible with a theistic view of the universe. This concept is standard fare among the anti-evolutionists and creates the theological problem that God is impotent in the face of chance.
The book then proceeds to erroneously claim that the most brilliant scientists alive today support creationism (p. 6) and then follows that claim with quotes from Isaac Newton, Lord Kelvin, and Werner von Braun--all long dead and buried (p. 7). These happen to be the only scientists quoted in the book. Despite this lack of quotes from modern scientists, the author boldly proclaims that "informed microbiologists now almost unanimously reject macroevolution" (p. 9). It would be nice, if once, such claims were documented.
Some other inaccuracies which will interest the serious scientists who might read this review is the erroneous claim that the electron microscope is what is used to reveal the molecular variations in DNA and RNA (p. 11). Muncaster falsely tells us that there is evidence for the existence of spiritual beings in dimensions higher than the four of space-time (p. 12). What this evidence is he does not say. He erroneously tells his readers that geology has proven that the creation account in the Bible is in the precise order of events outlined in Genesis 1 (p. 16). As a practicing geoscientist, I can assure the readers here that this simply is not so. Finally, he makes the false claim that physics has caused Stephen Hawking to reconsider the existence of God in the universe. I think this will be news to Hawking (p. 30).
The errors multiply in this book. Biologists will be amazed to learn, contrary to all known observations, that mutations are not inherited by offspring, except among a few bacteria (p. 24). To one who loves anthropology, this book makes its most egregious errors when it turns to that subject. Of Neanderthal man, the author claims that recent genetic DNA research indicates that the chromosomes do not match those of humans. They do match those of bipedal primates (apes). Considering that no one has sequenced a Neanderthal chromosome, this is an extraordinarily false claim. He claims that Neanderthals made "crude" tools without telling the reader that less than twenty people on earth today have been able to master Neanderthal flint-knapping techniques. He claims that there is no evidence that Neanderthals engaged in religion, ignoring lots of evidence for it (as outlined in the June 1999 PSCF). Finally, Muncaster claims that Peking Man, instead of being Homo erectus, was an ape whose brain was eaten by humans. Of course, he gives no reference for this astounding claim and cites no anthropologist. These claims betray a total lack of research on the human fossil record.
When touching on physics, the book descends to real silliness. The author states:
How can we conceive of no time? No matter? No space? It requires a perception of dimensions beyond time and space. Convincing a nonphysicist that this is true is often futile and depends on an individual's capacity to accept facts suggested by evidence of things beyond what we can perceive (p. 30).
Muncaster claims that life could not exist if there were a slower or faster rotation of the earth or if the atmospheric nitrogen/oxygen ratio was different from the present. This claim, of course, ignores the vast evidence for a faster rotation of the earth in the Devonian in the daily growth rings of coral, and it ignores the evidence indicating that the Cretaceous oxygen level was 30% rather than today's 21%.
This book is another example of the shambles into which conservative Christian apologetics has fallen, requiring the creation of a host of factually incorrect items in order to support Scripture. In this book, the facts related are wrong and contrary data is ignored. It is sad to see such books rated four and one-half stars on Amazon.com. If this is the best Christian apologetics has to offer, then we are truly in trouble.
Reviewed by Glenn R. Morton, Aberdeen Pouch, c/o Kerr McGee, 16666 Northchase, Houston, TX 77060.
SHATTERING THE MYTHS OF DARWINISM by Richard Milton. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1997. 308 pages. Hardcover; $24.95. Paperback; $16.95. ISBN: 0892818840.
In 1972, Theodosius Dobzhansky presented his famous paper, "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution," at a gathering of the National Association of Biology Teachers. Ever since, barely a year goes by without a prominent scientist, scientific organization, or philosopher of science repeating Dobzhansky's thesis that there is really no serious alternative to evolution, because the evidence for evolutionary theory is so overwhelming. Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr perhaps best illustrated this confidence when he concluded a recent Scientific American essay with the claim that "no educated person any longer questions the validity of the so-called theory of evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact"--a hyperbolic pronouncement belied by numerous national surveys.
But the criticisms of the neo-Darwinian synthesis keep coming, and as much as many people would like the origins debate to just go away, it does not. The scientific establishment dismisses almost all the anti-Darwinian treatises as creationist pseudoscience, but occasionally there are anti-evolutionary books written by noncreationists. This book is one of them. Ordinarily, anti-evolutionary tracts originate in North America (occasionally Australia), but this book was initially published in Britain in 1993 under the title, Facts of Life. And it generated a fire-storm of controversy.
Milton, a British science journalist who maintains an "alternative science" web page, contends that Dobzhansky and company have got it all wrong: Darwinism is "still a theory." He concedes that while it may well be the "most elegant and powerful model ever constructed in the life sciences," the neo-Darwinian synthesis is "no longer able to contain the data it seeks to explain." It lacks "the decisive and incontestable empirical evidence" that would end all debate and demonstrate its correctness. Milton attempts to substantiate this thesis with a lively examination of fairly standard anti-evolution arguments ranging from questions surrounding interpretation of radiocarbon dating, the geological column, and the fossil record to concerns about the validity of the mechanisms of evolution. He devotes considerable attention to what he sees as "the improbability of spontaneous genetic mutation leading to beneficial novelties." Mutations, he contends, are far more likely to cause genetic defects than improvements.
All of this got Milton quite a bit of press in Britain in the mid-1990s--much of it bad. The positive comment received was overshadowed by Richard Dawkins' scathing attack in the New Statesman. It would be hard to imagine anything more negative and angry. Calling the book "silly-season drivel," Dawkins likened Milton's work to the rubbish one would likely find in a flat-earth or perpetual motion manifesto. Dawkins refers to Milton as "an unqualified hack," who misunderstands just about all the science in a book that "betrays, on almost every page, complete and total pig-ignorance of the subject at hand." In the expanded American edition, Milton describes this rough treatment as "intellectual fascism." He is especially critical of the charge by Dawkins and others that he is a closet creationist. Since he insists that he does not hold to "any religious beliefs of any kind," Milton attributes the creationist label to "intellectual dishonesty."
Probably Milton's most intriguing argument, in an otherwise standard critique of neo-Darwinism, is also one that will not endear him to many in either the creationist or neo-Darwinian camp. He hints that for all its recent successes at the molecular level, biology is still wedded to a mechanistic, reductionistic view of science. Biology, Milton asserts, needs a revolution akin to that of quantum physics--one that encompasses the "wholeness or hidden connectedness" of life at all levels. Milton is suggestive but frustratingly vague; I certainly would have liked a much more developed argument on this important point. Perhaps I will not have to wait long. On the day that I finished reading Milton's book, the New York Times Book Review contained generally favorable reviews of two books--both published by Harvard University Press-- suggesting that new forms of nonreductive holistic biological thought are needed to understand the mystery of life better. The neo-Darwinian synthesis might in fact be revised from within the ranks of evolutionary biology. If that occurs, it would indeed be ironic if Dawkins would be forced to admit that his fundamentally conservative defense of neo-Darwinism itself needed to evolve.
Shattering the Myths of Darwinism is unlikely to turn the minds of the readers of this journal. But as a document of the never-ending controversy over evolution, it is both significant and fascinating.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170; Assistant Director, The Historical Society, Boston, MA 02215.
THE ETERNAL TRAIL by
Martin Lockley. Reading, MA: Perseus Books, 1999. 334
pages. Hardcover; $26.00.
This is quite an impressive work by quite an impressive person. I met Lockley of the University of Colorado- Denver at the infamous Paluxy River dinosaur footprint site in the early 1990s. Sixty or so geologists gathered for an official field trip of the Geological Society of America. Lockley was wearing a T-shirt that introduced me to one of my favorite adages: "I never would have seen it, if I hadn't believed it." Reviewing his book has given a greater appreciation for his specialty and for his perspectives.
The book's subtitle, A Tracker Looks at Evolution, is a bit misleading. This is really a series of brief essays on natural history. The book is divided into chapters that roughly "evolve" from a philosophical introduction into a chronological progression beginning with chapter two, "Paleozoic Prelude," on through chapter ten, "The Signature of Humanity." Lockley reflects on the traces left behind by a full bestiary spectrum from slimy marine denizens without hard parts (at the onset of the Cambrian explosion), through trilobites, "monster myriapedes," amphibians, all manner of reptiles, birds, and the diversity of mammals from reptilian protomammals, mammoths, sloths, giant wombats, and even "Big Foot."
Lockley's descriptions and interpretations are like realistic versions of fictitious detective cases. Lockley works Sherlock Holmes magic with observations of trace fossils. Subtle pairs of parallel grooves in sandstone may be enough evidence to reconstruct the feeding and mating behavior of certain trilobites. The geometry of pterosaur tracks enables a modeling of its anatomy. The spacing of their tracks may also reveal the manner of pterosaur mobility before and after flight. In many of the cases cited, it is apparent that the skeletal remains themselves may tell us less about the animal than its tracks. Lockley has great appreciation for patterns in anatomy deduced from tracks. In particular, there is the linking of foot morphology with factors of symmetry and evolutionary sequence. He sees this pattern in four-legged creatures from amphibians, reptiles, "protomammals," dinosaurs, to large mammals and humanoids. His exact arguments are complex and confusing for the unfamiliar. However, his writing is not to blame. The presentation of evidence is generally well done. Based on the logic, I am convinced that the conclusions are plausible. It all reads like a mystery plot, pointing to a great conspiracy.
In chapter six, "With God on our Side," Lockley clearly chastises young-earth creationists for their abuse of science. In the same section, he accuses the cold rationality of naturalism of folly. Those who demand proof of God's existence tend to be those who have made science, rationality, and intellectual endeavor into a religion, and the main avenue through which they find meaning in life. Even as we gain an improved understanding of natural phenomena, so ever deeper, more complex, and more intriguing questions arise. Here we are reminded of Isaac Newton's opinion that "a limited amount of knowledge leads away from but that with increased knowledge one finds the way back."
When "experts" at the British Museum were sent pictures of a Yeti ("Abominable Snowman"), they asserted that these were obviously from a bear or monkey. Lockley says: "This attempt to discredit the evidence apparently backfired and insulted the intelligence of the British press and public. Sherpas and other trackers are far more capable of identifying the tracks of native species than office- bound, civil servant, zoologists in London" (p. 264). In contrast to this disdain for positivists, chapter four shows a great appreciation for "The First Dinosaur Tracker," evangelical Christian Edward Hitchcock (pp. 108-9).
Lockley mentions the more modern theo-cosmologies of Einstein and Paul Davies to indicate that metaphysical, religious thought is not antithetical to good science. He also adds that "÷ an argument can be made that the habit of separating science from theology is a bigger problem 'than mixing them' because it leads to fragmentation of thinking." Lockley himself is certainly no biblical creationist. The glimpses of theological reflection we see from him imply a vague unseen force behind the progress of evolution, mysterious design with purpose. If we must stick him with a label, then perhaps "post-modern scientist" is respectfully suggested.
I recommend The Eternal Trail to everyone. It is particularly appropriate for paleontologists, and natural history buffs, but anyone interested in the history of science and the relationship of the scientific enterprise to teleological questions should be quickened by the surprises therein.
Reviewed by Jeff Greenberg, Dept. of Geology and Environmental Science, Wheaton College, Wheaton IL 60187.
ARE SOULS REAL? by Jerome W. Elbert. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000. 398 pages, index. Hardcover; $28.00. ISBN: 1573927910.
Elbert, a physicist, answers the title question with a "no." The book has an exceptionally thorough index. This is the first book I have reviewed that has no pages with Roman numerals at the beginning, and no subtitle.
I agree with Elbert that quantum indeterminacy does not explain free will, but I disagree with most of what else he has to say. Elbert, who is nothing if not widely read, apparently accepts only scholarship that says that Jesus was not supernatural, and that a good portion of the Bible was invented by the authors. He does not believe that there is any such thing as free will. I will let Elbert speak for himself.
Here is his thesis:
I will argue that our traditions give us an archaic and misleading view of the world and our nature. Some of our ordinary ideas about the soul and what it is to be human appear to be mistaken. Recent results from many scholarly fields lead to ideas about human nature and our relation to the world that are radically different from the traditional views. These results will affect what we believe about such basic issues as the nature of our consciousness, our freedom to choose right and wrong, and even what Jesus actually taught his followers (p. 19. Because of the page numbering, this is the first page of the first chapter).
His view of Scripture is:
It appears that the Bible originated by entirely natural processes and that its supernatural events are fictitious. As a result, we have little reason to trust other ideas about supernatural events that are loosely linked to the Bible. So, we are prepared to investigate whether the soul exists, without worrying about the fact that it is assumed to exist in passages in the Bible (p. 109).
Even though the common belief in souls is probably mistaken, it is understandable that most people believe souls give people abilities that seem beyond the reach of material processes. People will probably change their opinions about souls in the not too distant future. The public will be better educated and most will not believe that the Bible is literally true. As the natural bases for our existence become better understood, people will lose faith in "explanations" based on supernaturalism. The idea of a future eternal life will seem cultlike and less likely. As confidence in immortality diminishes, people will seek fulfillment in their natural lives, as perhaps the majority already do (p. 360).
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Central, SC 29630.
LITERARY CONVERTS: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief by Joseph Pearce. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999. 452 pages. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 0898707900.
There are many fascinating aspects of the century just ended. One of them is the relationship public figures had to Christian faith. This book focuses on literary figures of the century who were Christians or who became Christians during their writing careers.
Among the many well-known figures included in the book are G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Hilaire Beloc, Graham Greene, Maurice Baring, Dorothy Sayers, and Malcolm Muggeridge. Many lesser-known writers are also mentioned. The book includes artistic figures like Alec Guiness and Robert Speaight. The author describes the interconnections among these various writers such as friendships, literary interactions, and spiritual contacts. The preface describes these people as linked in a network of minds.
The focus in the book is on the Catholic Church and on those who were or who became part of it. Those, like Lewis, who were in other communions, are described in such a way as to emphasize their closeness to Catholicism. For those who love the literature of the twentieth century, or who are interested in how Christians can provide mutual support in the sphere of their work, or who want to learn more about favorite authors, or perhaps who want to learn about authors not yet known to them but with whom they share a common world view, this book can be highly recommended. The material is fascinating and the presentation is engaging.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Regina, Regina, SK S4S 0A2.
A DARWINIAN LEFT: Politics, Evolution and Cooperation by Peter Singer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. 70 pages. Hardcover; $9.95. ISBN: 0300083238.
Ethicist Singer has been described as "perhaps the world's most controversial ethicist" (New York Times) and a "dangerous philosopher" (The New Yorker). Yet he is also seen as "the most effective philosopher alive" (Brian Appleyard), "certainly among the most influential" (Michael Specter). A utilitarian, Singer is well known for bold and often outrageous views in support of euthanasia, infanticide, and animal rights. His recent appointment to the Ira W. DeCamp Chair of Bioethics at Princeton University created an uproar that found its way to the front pages of the New York Times.
In this slim volume, part of the Darwinism Today series, Singer attempts to effect a rapprochement between Darwinism and the political left, one that establishes the role of evolutionary psychology in both ethics and politics. With Marxism in disarray, Singer believes that the left needs a new paradigm based upon a scientific understanding of human nature. The left, he argues, "must take seriously the fact that we are evolved animals." While Marxists have certainly found Darwinian materialism congenial, Marxist theories of history have not meshed well with a biological view of human nature. A cherished leftist notion is that human nature is malleable. This has been the basis for the left's hope in the creation of a different kind of human society in the future. Darwinism, on the other hand, has preached that human nature is fixed by competitive evolutionary forces.
Singer holds out Darwinism to the left because he believes that sociobiology and evolutionary psychology have supplemented survival of the fittest competition with more sophisticated understandings of cooperative behavior. Focusing only on the competitive side was the mistake of the right and Social Darwinism, but sociobiology seems to show how selective forces can encourage behavior that either appears or may actually be altruistic in its motivation, "even though in specific circumstances it brings benefit to the apparently altruistic individual." A crude example would be the recent television ad for cell phones that shows a man becoming aware that he might win the admiration and presumably future affection of attractive young women by publicly donating to a charity. Of course, Singer does not use this example, but it does humorously illustrate his point. Altruism, according to this evolutionary approach, does not focus on the disinterested motivation of an individual, but on the impact of the action on reproductive fitness.
Singer ends his brief essay with a sketch of how a Darwinian left would be less utopian and more realistic than the traditional left of the last two hundred years. A Darwinian left would not deny that there is a human nature, nor would it insist that human nature is inherently good or infinitely malleable. It would not hold out the vision that human conflict and strife would someday cease, nor would it automatically ascribe all human inequalities to prejudice and oppression. A Darwinian left would, on the other hand, attempt to ground politics in the best evidence of what human beings "actually are like." Significantly, it would reject any inference "from what is natural to what is right." It would promote structures that foster cooperation rather than competition, as well as accord a higher moral status for "nonhuman animals" and "a less anthropocentric view of human dominance over nature"-- all the while standing by "the traditional values of the left by being on the side of the weak, poor and oppressed."
While some might welcome aspects of this more modest conception of the political left, Singer's attempt to anchor it in sociobiology is not convincing. Apart from the problematic nature of the reductionistic project of sociobiology, even on its own terms sociobiology does not provide the warrant Singer needs for his argument. As Peter Berkowitz has already noted in a withering review essay, the altruism of sociobiology is a "kin altruism" that "discourages sacrifice on behalf of total strangers, because such sacrifice reduces the time, energy, and wealth we can devote to family and kin group, who alone share some of our genes." Beyond that, one wonders how the inter- species altruism that Singer holds so dear can be explained in terms of selfish genes. Nevertheless, this is an important book because it illustrates the difficulties encountered when one adopts a thoroughgoing, reductionistic evolutionary framework as the primary basis for understanding complex human activities like politics. And it challenges those like myself, who object to such reliance on sociobiological explanations, to give more attention to the scientific origins of complex social activities without yielding to the temptation, in this case, to reduce all politics to behavior.
Reviewed by Donald A. Yerxa, Professor of History, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy, MA 02170.
WHO ARE WE? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities by Jean Bethke Elshtain. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 178 pages. Paperback; $20.00. ISBN: 0080283888.
The Christian view that we lose ourselves only to truly find ourselves is not in keeping with the spirit of the age. Drawing on the works of Deitrich Bonhoeffer and Pope John Paul II, Elshtain reinforces the view that we are human insofar as we are in relationship with and for the other. This is not easy to understand because "we no longer understand the meaning of the donative gift, of putting ourselves at the disposal of another."
Two problems get in the way of a view of our common humanity that is in the Christian tradition. The first is pride. Elshtain defines false pride as the assumption that we are the sole and only ground of our own being. Once this assumption is made, other things are entailed. We easily become comfortable with the assumption that everything can be marketed, and we only exempt some aspects of our lives from this assumption. We value scientific- reductionist, mechanistic, utilitarian evaluation rather than the broader approaches used by the humanities (and, many of us would say, by a fully informed science). "Thus core distinctions marked by Augustine--frui and uti--are occluded. Frui means to enjoy and to cling with love to something for its own sake; uti, by contrast, is a form of use, employing something in order to obtain that which we love, provided it is worthy of love."
The second obstacle to a rich view of humanity is sloth. This is described as not simply inactivity but acquiescence in the conventions of the day, and a refusal to take up the burden of self-criticism. This results in forgetting that we are made to "serve God wittily, in the tangle of our minds" (words put in the mouth of Sir Thomas More by Bolt in his play, A Man For All Seasons). "Sloth has clung to us and we cannot exalt the Lord any longer; instead, we worship at the altar of our own projects."
So what can the future hold for us when these problems confront us? Elshtain says that optimism is not warranted. However, "hope, that great theological virtue, urges us to a different stance, one aware of human sin and shortcoming but aware also of our capacities for stewardship and decency and our openness to grace." She proposes several responses that we can make in hope. We must name things we see accurately and appropriately. We must be prepared to offer a reasoned defense of our positions while insisting that there is truth to be found. We must combat meaninglessness by displaying what incarnational being-in-the-world is all about. And we must make sure that our churches play a critical role as interpreters of the culture to the culture.
This is one of the most stimulating books I have read in a long time. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Regina, Regina, SK S4S 0A2.
Theology & Philosophy
SCIENCE AND ITS LIMITS: The Natural Sciences in Christian Perspective by Del Ratzsch. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000 191 pages. Paperback; $12.99. ISBN: 0830815805.
Science and Its Limits is the second edition of an earlier work, Philosophy of Science, by the same author. This excellent book provides insight into what science can and cannot say about the world and a creator. Ratzsch, professor of philosophy at Calvin College, has crafted a winsome analysis of science's influence in the twentieth century and posits ways Christians can respond.
The beauty of Science and Its Limits is in succinctly delineating between philosophical and scientific interpretations of science. Ratzsch deftly identifies how philosophical presuppositions infuse all aspects of science, and uses extrapolations to show the full ramifications of seemingly innocuous presuppositions. Ratzsch exposes various dichotomies to show the benefits and deficiencies of several philosophies of science and then finishes the book by showing how Christianity provides a uniquely holistic understanding of science.
The book falls roughly into three parts: a survey of the philosophy of science culminating in Kuhn's influence (chaps. 1-3); a contemporary analysis (chaps. 4-6); and the intersection of science and Christianity (chaps. 7-10). The first two chapters are pithy analyses of the traditional scientific method progressing through to positivism, falsification, paradigms, and postmodernism. Ratzsch then moves on to sketch contemporary philosophy of science concluding that an overly optimistic emphasis on either empirical or philosophical theories causes significant difficulties.
The last four chapters mark a distinct change in tone as the focus moves to an integrated understanding of science from a Christian perspective. Chapter 7 addresses four "Scientific Challenges to Religious Belief," providing a grounding for an integrated understanding. On this framework, Ratzcsh then surveys intelligent design (chap. 8) before moving on to the more difficult, and controversial, issue of how, where, and "to what extent Christianity bears on the specific content and internal workings of science" (p. 141).
This book provides an excellent introduction to the philosophy of science, summarizing the main issues in a succinct, readable, and current form. The book is an asset to all involved in the science-religion dialogue, and deserves consideration as a textbook. Ratzsch is to be commended for giving "Christians an initial understanding of what natural science is, what it can do, how and why it works, and what it cannot do."
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
THE END OF THE WORLD AND THE ENDS OF GOD: Science and Theology on Eschatology by John Polkinghorne and Michael Welker, eds. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000. 290 pages. Paperback; $27.00. ISBN: 1563383128.
This book arose from a three-year multidisciplinary consultation on eschatology that included natural scientists, social scientists, systematic theologians, ethicists, and biblical scholars. It was held in Princeton and Heidelberg. Each chapter is the contribution of a member of the group, which creates a certain unevenness of style. Nevertheless, common stances emerge. For instance, hope in the future is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus, and it involves the discontinuity of death and continuity of the person.
The book is organized into four parts. Part I addresses the contributions of the natural sciences. I most like the opening two chapters. William Stoeger, a Jesuit astrophysicist, describes the possible ways natural events can, and most certainly will, bring about the destruction of the world we know. Against such a pessimistic backdrop Polkinghorne, former professor of physics and now an Anglican priest, presents the discontinuity/continuity of the Christian resurrection hope. Although the future world will have to operate by different laws (discontinuity), persons in the New World retain their personhood (the continuity).
Part II addresses cultural and ethical aspects. The meaning of hope, secular descriptions of the future, the role of the church, and cultural aspects of time are the basis of the discussion. I was particularly impressed by Larry Bouchard's critique of the writings on the future of Tipler and Sagan and of Christoph SchwĖbel's affirmation that the church is the place where the promised discontinuity/continuity is already being experienced every time a sinner becomes a new creation.
Part III addresses selected biblical texts relating to end times. One of the Old Testament scholars, Patrick Miller, gives an exposition on Isa. 24-27. Throughout this prophecy of coming judgment erupt psalms of joy. So it is with the Christian hope: judgment must come but in the end creation will be restored to the primeval joy it experienced when the morning stars sang together. Hans Weder, a New Testament scholar, examines the parable of the seed. Like the farmer who awaits the harvest, we have no proof for the coming Kingdom, but we have much evidence including the existence of growth.
Part IV attempts to present a realistic future. All the authors are theologians. Gerhard Sauter points out that we "hope against hope"; the Christian hope is not amenable to the Western mood of "life goes on." Kathryn Tanner contrasts the concept of being dead while living with living while being dead--separation from Christ is a kind of death; eternal life can be experienced even in the suffering and death of this life.
Jurgen Moltmann is concerned with what happens when we die. Reincarnation is not possible as that would break the continuity, but some form of purgation may be a part of the way God completes the work he has begun in each of us. (The reformers rejected the concept of penance, not the idea that the history of God's relationship with each human continues after death.) He also speaks of the importance of appropriately remembering the dead: without a "culture of remembrance" that tries to do justice to the dead, there will be no "culture of hope" that will open up a future for our children.
Miroslav Volf describes the new creation: (1) no one will suffer want; (2) evil will be exposed and judged and the evil-doers transformed by God's grace; (3) there will be nothing in the past to resent and nothing in the future to avoid; and (4) all creation, along with human beings, will be in a state of eternal peace and joy in the communion of the triune God.
Welker summarizes what we know from the Bible about Jesus' resurrection body. He points out that Jesus was not immediately recognized. When he was, the response was not "Good to have you back, Jesus." Although it was the same Jesus, it was a new presence. If you want definite answers to questions like how the world will end, this book will disappoint you. However, if you have sometimes thought you were the only person asking questions such as what it means to be raised a spiritual body or how fallible humans can be made like Christ, you will find much in this book to assist you. I recommend this provocative collection of essays with enthusiasm.
Reviewed by Elizabeth M. Hairfield, Professor of Chemistry, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton, VA 24401.
EMBRACING THE POWER OF HUMANISM by Paul Kurtz. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000. 227 pages. Hardcover; $24.95. ISBN: 0847699668.
Secular humanism is a philosophy of virtue and values without religion. There is perhaps no better person to learn about it from than Kurtz, the "Father of Secular Humanism." The author of over thirty books, Kurtz describes a nontheistic, meaningful, and moral way of life based on rationality, courage, moral empathy with no belief in the supernatural. In this volume, his essays are divided into five sections: the exuberant life, independence, altruism, humanism, and ethical truth.
Kurtz believes "that the world would be a better place if the religious, transcendental, and paranormal myths that have dominated human history could be overcome ÷" (p. 215). He is skeptical of the doctrine of "original sin," believes that humans are capable of good and evil, thinks that moral decencies are widespread in human civilization, and argues that science and technology can produce enrichment and happiness.
Perhaps the most telling part of this book is the Afterthought entitled "Surviving Bypass and Enjoying the Exuberant Life." In it Kurtz writes, "My bypass surgery jolted me into the realization that I am not superman, nor am I eternal" (p. 214). He continues, "As a freethinker, I have no illusion about the immortality or the afterlife. It is only this life that counts" (p. 214). The distilled essence of secular humanism is this: Since this life is all that counts and you only live once, claim all the happiness you can. That pretty well summarizes the viewpoint of secular humanism, and it also points to its inadequacies from the Christian's perspective.
The shortcomings of secular humanism are legion. It does not provide: (1) a final accounting, the rewarding of good and the punishment of evil; (2) a hope beyond the grave; (3) a faith which enables people to endure suffering with other-worldly meaning; and (4) an unfilled void in the human heart apart from Christ. Of course, all of this follows from a rejection of biblical theism. So if you want to know more about secular humanism than you have read in this review and to test the rationality of your faith against a secular thinker, this book is a good place to start. Kurtz, according to Brandon M. Stickney, is "today's superhumanist, who, with unmatched energy, courage, and compassion, brings the words of reason to the millions so lost in today's New Age and paranormal-spiritual obsessions" (p. xvii). On the other hand, if you want to strengthen your faith in the reality of Christian humanism, you know what Book to read.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
THE BIBLE ON CULTURE by Lucien Legrand. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000. 190 pages, index, footnotes. Paperback; $25.00. ISBN: 157075330X.
Legrand is a member of the Paris Foreign Mission Society and teaches New Testament at St. Peter's Institute of Theology in Bangalore, India. His experience living in India has given him a world view and set of experiences that make this book particularly effective.
The Bible on Culture is the sixteenth book in the Faith and Culture Series published by Orbis. It is divided into three parts: (1) Israel and the Nations (the Old Testament); (2) The Cultural World of Jesus; and (3) Paul and Beyond. In this book, Legrand introduces the concept of "inculturation" in which the revelation of God's Word, the incarnation of Christ, and Christian faith are all seen to enter into a given cultural environment. He argues that through the entire Bible, God's revelation is intermingled with the various vicissitudes of people's lives. He sees the Bible as the outcome of an ongoing process of cultural exchange with the nations among whom the biblical writers lived. Legrand's basic thesis is that the writers were able to communicate God's message in ways appropriate to their culture at that time. The modern reader should understand that cultural background as a way of better understanding the relevance of the text for today.
Legrand argues that Israel came from the very Canaanite culture which it grew to oppose. He contends that Canaan stands as a symbol of what Israel rejected and at the same time is the milieu that nurtured its growth. He suggests that Israel's kings were sympathetic to the values and ideas of the surrounding nations, but this sympathy was counterbalanced by the prophets, who continually challenged Israel to remain uncontaminated by pagan influences and to remain true to their holy calling.
Legrand discusses at length the cultural and religious environments in which Jesus and Paul were raised and how these influences shaped their thinking. He considers Jesus to be a typical Jewish child. The adults who influenced him while he was growing up were probably the village Pharisees. Consequently, Jesus is comfortable in the Jewish environment and is able to critique the Jewish leaders as an insider. Legrand suggests that Jesus' critique is in the manner of the Old Testament prophets. For example, Jesus' attitude toward the temple resembled the criticism of Amos or Jeremiah. Another significant influence in Jesus' upbringing was his rural environment. Thus most of Jesus' teachings reflect agricultural ideas such as seeds and soils. Ultimately, Jesus was at home among the poor peasantry.
Legrand considers Paul to be truly Jewish, but comfortable within the Hellenistic world. Like Jesus, Paul also was able to criticize the Jewish leaders as an insider. But having been raised also in the Gentile world of Tarsus, Paul was able to comfortably move out into ministry to the Gentiles. As a way of applying his basic thesis, Legrand specifically analyzes in some detail selected texts such as Paul's sermon in the Areopagus in Acts 17. This proves effective. Legrand convincingly defends his thesis that the biblical writers were influenced by their cultural background and surrounding environment, and that understanding these influences sharpens our ability to interpret Scripture correctly.
Legrand also argues that the reason for the decline of Christianity in Europe can be seen as a failure to inculturate the Christian message in changing social and cultural circumstances. In this regard, the book is useful for North Americans who face the challenge of a society which increasingly views the Bible and the church as irrelevant. Legrand's approach is sound and could be helpful for all American Christians concerned about how to bring the Gospel to a pluralistic society.
Legrand's approach is compatible with a conservative view of revelation. Having studied at a conservative seminary myself, I would have found this book extremely helpful as a background text to all my courses on the Bible. Although Legrand is a Roman Catholic, The Bible on Culture is written for a Protestant audience as much as for a Catholic one. It is written at a Bible college or seminary level, but it is very readable for lay people as well. This book would be appreciated by missionaries, Bible scholars, and those who teach the Bible to adults.
Reviewed by Mark A. Strand, Medical Team Director, Shanxi Evergreen Service, 3330 Benton Street, Wheat Ridge, CO 80212.
JESUS OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT by Robert E. Van Voorst. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000. 248 pages. Paperback; $22.00. ISBN: 0802843689.
Van Voorst, professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary, is the author of Anthology of World Scriptures, The Ascents of James, and Building Your New Testament Greek Vocabulary. In this present volume, he addresses the question of whether Jesus' existence can be verified based on evidence outside the New Testament. Is there extra-canonical evidence? Van Voorst puts forth writers from Roman, Jewish, pre-Christian, and post- Christian sources that mention Jesus. Using fresh translations of these relevant documents, Van Voorst extracts information from them to aid in reconstructing the historical Jesus.
This volume is one in a series published by Eerdmans entitled "Studying the Historical Jesus." The idea that Jesus was a myth and not a historical figure has pretty much been invalidated by scholarship over the past several decades. This has come about due to intensive study of archaeology, ancient Judaism, Hellenistic literature, and extra-biblical documents. The historical Jesus attracts interest not only as an important historical figure, but, more importantly, as the pivotal figure in Christian theology.
Van Voorst's evidence for Jesus' existence is divided into five sections: (1) outside the New Testament; (2) in classical writings; (3) in Jewish writings; (4) in the sources of the canonical Gospels; and (5) in Christian writings after the New Testament. His indices (of names, subjects, and Scriptures) and bibliography are valuable aids. After examining his material, Van Voorst concludes: "The non- Christian evidence uniformly treats Jesus as a historical person." After looking at the evidence, however, he says: "We are left for both the main lines and the details about Jesus' life and teaching with the New Testament. Our study of Jesus outside the New Testament points at the end of the day to Jesus inside the New Testament." To examine the extra-biblical evidence for yourself, buy this book.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
LABYRINTH: A Search for the Hidden Meaning of Science by Peter Pesic. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000. 186 pages. Hardcover; $21.95. ISBN: 0262161907.
Pesic has tried to write a book about "the hidden quest of science and its human meaning" (p. 1). As a musician, Pesic promises to breathe new insight into the pursuit of science, as one who considers himself "something of [an] 'outsider' as well as [an] 'insider'" (p. 7). Pesic is a tutor and Musician-in-Residence at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Pesic waxes eloquently in his effort to follow the "labyrinth" and wrest great secrets from nature. "In musical terms, this book is a triple fugue, an interweaving of three distinct but finally interrelated themes concerning the character of the scientific enterprise and the deep effects it has on human character" (p. 3). Despite Pesic's undisputed excellence in prose, the book is fundamentally lacking in content. Pesic toys with images to try and illustrate how Bacon, Kepler, Newton, and Einstein have mentally wrestled with ideas that have led to their respective revolutionary theories. Newton's "self description as 'a boy playing on the sea shore' [shows that] Newton recognizes some crucial respect in which his discoveries seem to him shells from the depths, not the great ocean itself. His failure to plunge in was not ignorance, though the image of the boy suggests a kind of innocent disregard" (p. 128). And so the text continues, full of metaphors that say nothing.
Labyrinth confirms that a gulf exists between the academic realms of science and the humanities. Reclaiming some remnant of the renaissance ideal of a well-rounded intellect is a necessary element for integrating scholarship and Christianity. Pesic's desire to contribute to this ideal is laudable, although the several excellent books available are, in this reviewers' opinion, more profitable than following this "Labyrinth."
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
Creation Sequence of Birds and Humans
McIntyre is to be commended for his discussion of the introduction of Scripture into scientific controversy, "Repeating the Catholic's Galileo Error" (PSCF 52 [December 2000]: 255-9). This letter is to comment on the appendix to his article, "Resolution on Creation," items 1 and 3, pertaining to the question of historical accuracy and consistency of the Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 creation accounts.
In the Genesis 1 account, birds are created in the fifth day (1:20-22) and human beings, both genders, are created on the sixth day (1:26-27). In the Genesis 2 account, the creation sequence of birds and Adam is reversed. Adam is created first (2:7), then birds (2:9), and later Eve (2:22).
Several attempts have been made by apologists for biblical inerrancy and literalist interpretation to account for this apparent discrepancy. Geisler and Howe state that Genesis 1 is in "chronological order" and Genesis 2 is in "topical order," which they explain with regard to land animals.1 Since land animals and humans were created during the same Genesis 1 day (the sixth), this explanation may work for the animals but is nonresponsive regarding birds. Archer states that Genesis 2 presupposes that the events of Genesis 1 had already happened, and is merely fleshing out the details of the creation of human beings.2 Archer ignores the fact that birds, according to Genesis 1, were created the day before humans.
Ross acknowledges that there is an apparent problem here.3 His explanation is that the verb tense of "formed" in the original Hebrew (2:19) is nonspecific with regard to the relative creation sequence and indicates only that the events described had occurred at some time in the past. He dismisses the contradiction as being an artifact of "faulty scholarship." The verb tense may be nonspecific, but there are other factors that indicate that the Adam-bird-Eve sequence was intended in Genesis 2. First, a temporal sequence is implicit in the order in which the events are listed, i.e., Adam, then birds, then Eve. Second, 2:18 and 2:20 both explicitly state that one of the reasons for creating animals and birds was to address Adam's need for a helper or partner.
Seely has convincingly argued that "flying creatures" in 1:20 could include flying insects but could not be construed as excluding birds.4 However, I have yet to see an adequate reconciliation of the bird-Adam creation sequence with a literal Genesis interpretation.
1Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992), 35.
2Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 68-9.
3Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998), 73-4.
4Paul Seeley, "Genesis Revisted or Revised?" PSCF 52, no. 2 (June 2000): 77-8.
Owen D. Buck, M.D., M.S.
P.O. Box 2008
Lewiston, ME 04241
Noah, From Whence Art Thou?
While my views can be validly criticized on several grounds, they can not be criticized for the reasons listed by Carol Hill's article, "A Time and Place for Noah" (PSCF 53 [March 2001]: 24-40). On page 38, the article claims my hypothesis cannot be true by saying, "Not even hominids existed in the Late Miocene (~10-6 million years ago), let alone a man who had the technology to build a boat the size of the ark." My views are based on the observation that the hominids (modern humans are also hominids) behaved in a very characteristically human manner several million years ago, and I hypothesize that Adam, Eve, and the flood were that long ago. This would mean that the anthropological record was the repopulation of the earth after the flood's devastation. So, if Hill's claim that hominids did not exist is true, then obviously that would be detrimental to these views. But Hill's claim is factually false on several grounds.
First, since the mid 1980s the genetic data has clearly shown that apes and hominids split between five and seven million years ago.1 Secondly, the fossil evidence has shown that hominids existed that long ago. The 1965 find of a hominid mandible at Lothagam has been dated to between five and six million years ago.2 Finally, in a discovery that Hill could not have been aware of at the time of writing, a new hominid called Millennium Ancestor but scientifically named Orrorin tugenensis, has been discovered.3 This creature is six million years old, is morphologically closer to us than any of the younger australopithecines, and has a more humanlike body size than that of an australopithecine. Thus, the claims that hominids did not exist simply is not true.
1Bernard G. Campbell and James D. Loy, Humankind Emerging (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 165.
2Andrew Hill, et al., "Anatomy and Age of the Lothagam Mandible," Journal of Human Evolution 22 (1992): 439-51; Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar, From Lucy to Language (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 39-40.
3Claire Ainsworth, "The Oldest Strider in Town," New Scientist (Dec. 16, 2000): 5.
105 Malcolm Road
Peterculter AB14 0XB Scotland
A Response to Morton's Critical Review of Creation,
Evolution, and Modern Science
Glenn Morton offered a review of the book, Creation, Evolution, and Modern Science (PSCF 53 [March 2001]: 63-4), which I edited and wrote most of the chapters. Even a cursory reading of the book itself will allow most to realize that Morton's negative and hostile review fails to reflect accurately the book's intent, content, and audience. I offer a few rebuttals and will let the reader decide how to interpret Morton's other comments. It seems clear to me that Morton expects any book dealing with scientific issues to be written on a scientific scholarly level. My experience has been that this approach turns the scientific novice away, therefore defeating the purpose of education. First, I will address Morton's factual charges and then answer his concern of the level of scholarship.
Morton chides me for not quoting from Cambrian explosion authority Simon Conway Morris's 1998 book, The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals (Oxford University Press), in the chapter on the Cambrian explosion. Morton leaves the impression that if I had, I would not have represented the Cambrian as exhibiting the first example of all but one animal phylum. Morton says: "Nowhere does Bohlin acknowledge the fact that five phyla are now found in the pre-Cambrian including sponges, molluscs, worms, jellyfish, and arthropods." The reason I did not acknowledge this "fact" is that it is not a fact but an opinion, and a controversial one at that. Let's let Conway Morris speak for himself.
Referring to the resemblance of the Ediacaran fauna to jellyfish (cnidarians) and worms, Conway Morris says:
For many years paleontologists have been busy comparing Ediacaran fossils to supposed modern- day equivalents, such as jelly-fish or worms. A more careful scrutiny reveals, however, some significant problems. Certainly there are similarities, but they are worryingly imprecise" (The Crucible of Creation, p. 28).
Later, Conway Morris admits that it is his opinion that many of the Ediacaran fossils are cnidarians. He says: "In my opinion not only are the frond-like Ediacaran fossils cnidarians, but so too are many of the other fossils. What appears to be an intriguing absence from the Ediacaran faunas, however, are the sponges."
Conway Morris goes on to cite a recent find of sponges (porifera) in the Ediacaran of Australia by Gehling and Rigby. But even the UC Berkeley website, usually more up-to-date than print media, lists this find as a "probable" sponge (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/porifera/poriferafr. html) and still lists sponges as first appearing in the Cambrian (www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/phlya/metazoafr.html). What emerges is that sponges are found unequivocally in the Cambrian, and their presence earlier in the fossil record is controversial. This hardly qualifies as fact.
In turning his attention away from sponges and cnidarians, Conway Morris curiously remarks that they are primitive and can be considered evolutionary dead-ends. In a note, he states:
Sponges and cnidarians are so different that it is difficult to imagine how the transitions between them, or between cnidarians and the platyhelminthes were achieved. Most probably this is because the intermediate forms are now extinct, leaving only speculation. The bulk of evidence certainly suggests that metazoans are monophyletic; but the possibility that the sponges and cnidarians had independent origins from separate protistan an alternative, albeit unpopular, possibility (The Crucible of Creation, pp. 35-6).
So, even if scientific opinion unites behind the presence of sponges and cnidarians appearing in the Precambrian, that may not help resolve the riddle of the Cambrian explosion.
Next Conway Morris addresses possible precursors of annelids and arthropods in the Precambrian, which Morton also labels as firmly established.
What about the more advanced groups that must have given rise to the bulk of the Cambrian faunas? Can they be identified amongst the Ediacaran fossils? There are some candidates. These fossils, which show a variety of forms, have clear bilateral symmetry, often with a well-defined anterior end. In addition, some types may show transverse segmentation. These fossils are probably on the route leading to groups such as arthropods and annelids. Their exact place in the scheme of metazoan phylogeny is nevertheless still controversial.
In a figure legend on page 27, Conway Morris admits that the relationships of Dickinsonia costata to known groups are uncertain and that its segmentation only "suggests that Dickinsonia costata may be related to groups such as the annelids." Use of such terms as "candidates," "probably," "controversial," "uncertain," and "suggest" do not constitute a fact in anyone's lexicon.
And regarding the fifth taxon in which I am accused of getting my facts wrong, the molluscs, a recent news article in Science (Vol. 291 [23 March 2001]: 2292), shows I am at least in good company. Writing for Science, Erik Stokstad reports on the first example of an aplacophoran (shell-less molluscs inhabiting today's sea-floor that are thought to resemble the first molluscs). He states: "Yet none had been found in the fossil record of mollusks, which stretches back more than 500 million years to the early Cambrian--until now." The "until now" refers to a specimen found not in the Precambrian, but the Silurian from Herefordshire, England.
Morton also chastises me for claiming the Cambrian only lasted for 5-10 million years. I did not. The five to ten million-year time frame referred only to the Cambrian explosion, not the Cambrian period in its entirety. I corrected Morton on this, but he apparently did not believe me. Morton is confused here too, since he states in his abstract from his article on page 42 of the same PSCF issue that "evidence arises indicating that the Cambrian explosion was not very explosive. In contradiction to many apologetical claims, it occupied a period of nearly 100 million years." Yet according to Morton's acknowledged authority, Conway Morris says:
The term "explosion" should not be taken too literally, but in terms of evolution it is still very dramatic. What it means is the rapid diversification of animal life. "Rapid" in this case means a few million years, rather than the tens or even hundreds of millions of years that are more typical when we consider evolution in the fossil record (Crucible of Creation, pp. 31-2).
Now I know that Morton did not mean to say that the Cambrian explosion lasted nearly 100 million years, but that is what he appears to have said.
Also, Morton says there are at least thirteen phyla that make their appearance after the Cambrian. While Morton does not list them in the review, he does in his article (PSCF 53, no. 1 [March 2001]: 44). Morton knows these are nearly all plant phyla because I corrected him on this too. Some are not even phyla, but sub-phyla and classes. Plants are never considered part of the Cambrian explosion and I explicitly state animal phyla in the book. The one from Morton's list of thirteen that is not a plant taxon, the Bryozoa, is the one I mention as an exception in the book. Why this charge remains in his review I can only guess.
From what I have been able to glean, it is Morton who has his facts wrong. However, one may rightly ask the reason why all of this detail is not found in Creation, Evolution, and Modern Science. It is that I am not writing in Science, Nature, or the Journal of Paleontology. Creation, Evolution, and Modern Science is not written to the scientific community. I made this point to Morton when he graciously allowed me a preview of his review. Obviously Morton was not impressed. I believe my statements regarding the Cambrian are accurate though perhaps not as precise as Morton would prefer. It is a longstanding tension in writing on science for the public.
While I found much to disagree with Carl Sagan's world view, I admired his gift of communication. Yet, many of his colleagues in science felt he simplified to such an extent as to be inaccurate. Sagan was frequently imprecise, but usually accurate. Science writing for the general public is a difficult task, constantly balancing accuracy and comprehension. I have been guilty in the past of being so accurate and precise in lectures and articles for the public that people become impressed, but come away having learned nothing. Obviously Morton believes I have sacrificed accuracy for readability. I disagree.
This also explains why I did not use more references from the scientific literature, which Morton also declares unscholarly. Specifically he derides my extensive use of a cover story from Time (December 4, 1995) on the Cambrian explosion. Like it or not, science is rapidly becoming second only to law as a somewhat disreputable profession in the general public. They unfortunately have no interest or inclination to read Science, Nature, or any other scientific publication. Scholarly precision that leaves the eyes glazed over only exacerbates the problem. I used the Time article precisely because people were likely to actually have read it or at least have access to it if they had not. The Time piece also committed many of the errors of communicating about evolution to the public that I wanted to discuss and it quoted many scientists more candidly than scientific literature ordinarily does.
Finally, what left me most perplexed about Morton's review was the last sentence. "Unfortunately, as Bohlin told me, a bad review here may help his sales, I fear he is correct." Morton implies I am more interested in sales than in truth. I want to assure the readers of PSCF that while I did make the comment to Morton, it was fully intended as a joke. That Morton would represent this good-natured statement as a serious reflection of my attitude was extremely disappointing, as was the entire review.
1900 Firman Dr., #100
Richardson, TX 75081
On Natural Explanations
In Arthur Hill's denunciation of theistic evolution and its proponents (PSCF 53 [March 2001]: 5-6), he criticizes Christians who, when publishing in secular contexts, discuss evolution in terms of natural (Darwinian) mechanisms that make no reference to God. It is instructive to consider the absurdity that results if this view is taken to its logical end. I know several Christian atmospheric scientists. Are they lacking "Christian integrity" when they describe rain in purely natural terms, despite Scripture's teaching (Matt. 5:45) that rain is God's doing? Since God created the stars (Gen. 1:16), shall we disown astronomers who explain star formation in terms of the godless processes of gravity and nuclear physics?
On the issues of rain and star formation, even many opponents of evolution appreciate God's sovereignty over nature and recognize that "natural" scientific descriptions do not entail the absence of God. Yet, when the issue is the development of life, this healthy theology is often discarded and replaced by a semi-deism (what I call the Dawkins/Johnson view) that considers God to be absent unless some gaps are found in which to insert him. This results in misguided efforts to oppose science in order to find room for God. Hill thinks those who work at reconciling science and Christian theology do a poor job of advocating the claims of Christ. While we all could do better in that regard, he should appreciate that many will not even consider the Gospel as long as key stumbling blocks (such as those created by the "God of the Gaps" theology that lurks beneath most Christian antievolutionism) remain in the way.
Allan H. Harvey
1575 Bradley Drive
Boulder, CO 80305
Response to Lahti's Critique of an Inverted Retina
In reference to David Lahti's comments on my retina paper (PSCF 52 [March 2000]: 18-30), I cited only a few of the many reasons why the inverted retina is a superior design compared to the verted retina. Many other examples exist, which space limitations prohibited discussing. Furthermore, the literature clearly shows that Lahti's argument that the existing retina is not the optimal design is incorrect from a theoretical standpoint; in fact, it is the optimal design, both in theory and in fact, given the needs of humans.
To prove that humans do not have an intelligent creator, prominent scientists like Dawkins, Williams, and Diamond use a reverse theological design argument to argue that the verted eye is an excellent example of poor design. Dawkins1 states that "evidence of telling imperfections" (p. 91) in design is important evidence that no designer (God) exists. His examples include the inverted retina and others such as the flatfish. He concludes that "no sensible designer would have conceived [them]" and that "Octopus eyes are ÷ more 'sensibly' designed" (pp. 92, 95). Intelligent design theorists use examples of excellent design to prove a designer. Theorists, such as Dawkins, use what they consider poor design to suggest that there could not be an intelligent designer.
The neurologists, ophthalmology researchers, and others that I consulted all mentioned that they thought that the arguments used by Dawkins, Williams, et al. were based on an appalling lack of knowledge about how the human eye functions. I was not able to locate a single qualified retina neurologist who agreed with the claims of poor design--all such statements were made only by evolutionary biologists in an effort to defend their "blind watchmaker" argument.
Lahti's argument that "no one has postulated that eye functionality would improve" if the human eye was verted is not true. Claims made by evolutionary biologists on this matter are not ambiguous. Dawkins et al. have postulated that the inverted retina is inferior, and if it were verted, it would be superior because the putative problems that he has elucidated would not exist. In contrast, it is clear from what is known now that if we had evolved a verted eye, our vision would not be more efficient but less so, as is apparent when the literature on pigment epithelium is reviewed.
As to Lahti's claim that Darwinists "claim that the natural world was designed," design in the common use refers to intelligent design. Of course, Darwinists believe the Earth was "designed" by natural selection, selecting the mutations and genetic variety that maximize survival and reproduction success. Actually, to use the expression natural selection "designed" is like calling the wind blowing around paint an "artist." The phrase "the world was designed by mutations (copying errors )" includes a number of contradictory ideas. Also, contrary to Lahti's statement, biologists have said much about both the purpose and the agent of this design in a metaphysical sense.
I have located hundreds of quotes by prominent evolutionists that make it quite clear that they believe evolution has proved that the Universe has no ultimate purpose, is pointless, and were evolution to occur a thousand times again, it likely never would produce anything like humans or dinosaurs. Furthermore, the agent of this "design" is clearly mutations coupled with natural selection, proving that an intelligent designer does not exist. In my thirty years of reading thousands of books and articles by various evolutionists, I have found that their beliefs and conclusions vary widely, but many, and especially the most prominent evolutionists, quite clearly teach that life has no ultimate purpose except survival and reproduction success.
Although, as Lahti notes, Darwinists generally believe that the extant organisms are the tips of long branches and that no morphological structure on one tip is inherited from that of another, transitional forms would be expected to connect the organisms located on the lower parts of the tree. Furthermore, the primary information we have of what these transition forms might be like comes from extant organisms. As Lahti correctly notes, we have no evidence that the inverted retina evolved from the verted retina, but we also have no evidence that the retina evolved from any other type of eye or pre-eye structure. In spite of this fact, the many types of eyes that now exist--from the eye spot to the human eye--are lined up hierarchically to support some hypothetical eye evolution (such as that proposed by Dawkins).
Relative to Lahti's claim that the eye evolved numerous times, it often is suggested by evolutionists that the eye evolved approximately thirty separate times--an idea which, although widely held, has faced serious problems as a result of the discovery that the genes coding for the structures that allegedly evolved separately often have an extremely high level of homology, thus creating in the minds of some researchers problems with the idea of convergent evolution of the eye and its various structures.
Lahti's statement that "there is absolutely no disagreement in evolutionary biology about these particulars" is quickly shown to be false under the weight of extensive reading. There exists enormous disagreement over most of the central ideas in Darwinism. It is therefore difficult to make statements about what "evolutionists believe," because so much disagreement exists among them over even the basic ideas of Darwinism.2
1Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York: Norton, 1986).
2Kim Sterelny, Dawkins vs. Gould: Survival of the Fittest (New York: Totem Books, 2001).
Northwest State College
22-600 State Route 34
Archbold, OH 43502-9542
Relooking at Soul
I would like to thank David Siemens for his remarks (PSCF 53 [March 2001]: 69) on my paper "The Salvation of Your Souls" (PSCF 52 [December 2000]: 242-54). I agree that when referring to the soul, I should have used the noun psuche rather than the verb psucho. I note the error is pervasive and I regret it. Nevertheless, it seems plain enough from Siemens' own remarks that psucho as to breathe and psuche as breath are related, and he himself suggests in the fourth paragraph of his letter that psuche derives from psucho. In fact, by making that point, he seems to be making mine. Therefore, I fail to see how the detail he raises, important though it is, alters my argument in the least.
Secondly, I do not disagree with Siemens' discussion of Aristotle, but most of what Siemens says is not germane to the argument I construct. Thus I am a bit baffled by his claim that the situation with Aristotle is not quite as I present it. As to whether or not Aristotle said what I claim he said, the passage is peppered with footnotes that interested readers are welcomed to consult.
Thirdly, Siemens argues Aquinas did not originate the notion that there is only one soul in a person, instead he got it from Aristotle. I never claimed that the idea originated with Aquinas. Instead I pointed out in several places that Aquinas borrowed heavily from Augustine (Aquinas is very explicit about this) and that both men viewed the soul as a single thing. As for Aristotle's view of the soul's unity, I do not deny that. When discussing Aristotle's concept of the soul, I use the singular exclusively. However, Aristotle need not be interpreted that way, and many Scholastics imagined the forms of the soul as though they were independent powers.
Again, I thank Siemens for his comments. They were informative, and I think that I and other PSCF readers learned something from them.
Ben M. Carter
Marbletree Apartments, #2030
4077 North Beltline
Irving, Texas 75038