Science in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews for September 2000
CHRISTIANITY AND ECOLOGY: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humansby Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether, eds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. 720 pages, index. Hardcover; $38.95; paperback; $26.95. ISBN: 0945454198.
Hessel is Director of the Program on Ecology, Justice and Faith; Ruether is Professor of Theology, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. This is the third volume in the series, Religions of the World and Ecology. The conferences, upon which this book is based, were held from 1996 through 1998 at the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions.
There are twenty-eight papers, many with responses, by Sallie McFague, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Thomas Berry, Daniel Cowdin, Calvin B. DeWitt, Daniel C. Maguire, Susan Power Bratton, John B. Cobb, Jr., and others. There is an attempt to include all the various points of view that exist among Christians today, such as ecofeminism, Taoism, and the science and religion discussion. There does not seem to be anything that qualifies as the Christian position on the environment.
The General Series editor, Lawrence Sullivan, asks in the foreword: "Have issues of personal salvation superseded all others? Have anthropocentric ethics been all consuming? Has the material world of nature been devalued by religion?" He goes on to recognize that Confucianism and Taoism are among the most life-affirming of world religions, but later Heup Young Kim observes that these religions exist in the most "ecologically disastrous areas of the world." In fact no religion has a good record on environmental issues. There is a gulf between rhetoric and performance in all religions.
While noting some exceptions, such as Process ontology, McFague observes that the problem in Christianity is due to the emphasis on the transcendence of God at the expense of his imminence. She notes that an ecological Christology requires the following: justice to the oppressed, including nature; the need to turn to the earth; the recognition that God is with us; the appreciation of the intrinsic worth of all life; and the acknowledgment that human salvation and natureís health are intrinsically connected. Further, ecological Christology defines insatiable greed as sin.
Berry argues that humansí alienation from nature occurred in three rather distinct steps. First was the meeting with Greek humanism as the basis of anthropocentrism, then the Black Death in the fourteenth century for which there was no explanation, and finally the emergence of the industrial non-renewing extractive economy. In asking for a way to recover a sense of the sacred universe, he quotes Saint Thomas: "That the whole universe together participates in the divine goodness more perfectly and manifests it better than any single creature whatsoever."
One of the serious problems with the development of an ecological ethic in Christianity is, of course, Gen. 1:26: "Let them have dominion Ö" There have been many attempts to translate "dominion" as stewardship, but Theodore Hiebert says it should be subjugation. He goes on to note that Genesis 2ñ3, due to the Yahwist author, requires that humans be the servants of the earth.
Cowdin asks: "Does otherkind Ö call forth from us a moral response?" He goes on to respond that the moral status of otherkind is tied into the entire theological meaning of creation. Cowdin rejects the claim by Aquinas that since animals are irrational, they have no moral status. He claims that the only right we have relative to animals is the right to serve them. "There is a Christian imperative for merciful and generous Ö action toward animals on the model of the higher serving the lower." He challenges us by noting that too much concern for the fine points of moral status is an academic indulgence in these times of looming crisis.
In his paper, "Population, Consumption, Ecology: The Triple Problematic," Maguire asserts that over-consumption by the elite is the primary source of ecological problems. As the wealthiest one-fifth of the world control more than 82% of the wealth, this seems indisputable. The major religions look moribund in comparison to globalized corporations and financial structure. "Religions who would be the moral heirs of the prophets should target these greedy dogs, wolves, snakes, and vipers."
It is impossible to do justice to such a comprehensive volume as this in the space allotted. It is an important contribution and should be consulted by all, especially by those who just wish the whole problem would go away.
Reviewed by Braxton M. Alfred, Emeritus professor of biological anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 2E9.
GODíS WORLD: A Theology of the Environmentby Ken Gnanakan. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1999. 229 pages, index. Paperback; $14.95. ISBN: 0281051380.
Gnanakan is a writer, evangelist, theological educator, and director of ACTS Institute in Bangalore, India. This book is the fifth in the International Study Guide series on applied theology published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. These study guides are designed for students and Bible study groups, as well as for multi-cultural classes and students for whom English is a second language. Study guides in this series are written from a worldwide, ecumenical perspective with an emphasis on the application of the material studied, drawing out its relevance for Christian faith and ministry.
The book begins with a brief summary of the present-day environmental crisis. This is followed by a presentation of three important reasons why Christians should be engaged in environmental action. One of the main reasons for involvement is because all Christians believe in a God who is first and foremost the Creator. Secondly, the Christian doctrine of creation has been attacked for being the root cause of the past and present degradation of the environment. It is therefore up to Christians to set the record straight by correctly interpreting and applying the biblical understanding of the concept of "dominion" as it is presented in the first chapters of Genesis. The third reason for action centers upon the biblical mandate for Christians to be good stewards of Godís creation. If we believe that God has entrusted the care of creation to us, we should respond by demonstrating a greater sense of responsibility toward the environment and its resources.
The authorís main thesis is that ecological and environmental concerns are very much central to the message of the Bible. In support of this thesis, seven of the fifteen chapters are devoted to the development of a biblical theology of the environment. A number of passages from both the Old and New Testaments are examined in these chapters and the theological implications of these passages are clearly explained. A separate chapter is devoted to a historical survey of the teachings of influential church leaders over the past centuries as they pertain to the biblical doctrines on creation and stewardship of the earth. In another chapter, the author argues that wrong relationships are primarily responsible for the present-day environmental crisis. After critiquing anthropocentric and biocentric relationships, Gnanakan presents a theocentric perspective:
Pure biocentrism tends to deify nature, while pure anthropocentrism will divinize humans. A relationship by itself with nature will either idolize or romanticize our dealings and not fulfill ultimate purposes that are intended. It is when we relate to a Creator God that all else will take its rightful place (p. 125).
The last chapters in the book deal with issues of equity and justice, concerns from the ecofeminist perspective, ethical guidelines for a proper relationship with the environment, and practical suggestions for the Christian church as a whole. Interspersed throughout the book are a variety of hymns, prayers, and liturgies from a variety of sources which provide direction for the Christian in the worship of the Creator. Also included are a number of documents which contain important environmental action statements. Statements included are the twenty-seven principles from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the ten affirmations drawn up at a World Convocation on Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation from Seoul, Korea, in 1990, the report of the WEF Theological Commission Study on Ethics and Society prepared in 1992, and the Assisi Declarations on Religion and Nature published in 1986. The Assisi Declarations include environmental action statements from Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian perspectives.
This book could easily be used as a text for a course in environmental studies that is taught from a Christian perspective. Each chapter is introduced with a study aim and most chapters conclude with a series of questions or exercises for further study. The book is suitable for courses taught in Bible schools, Christian colleges, and seminaries located in English-speaking countries around the world. Many previously published books on Christian theology and stewardship of the environment are cited. Unfortunately, the book does not include a listing of these resources in a separate bibliography. Though the book includes environmental action statements from other religions, the vast majority of the material is drawn from a biblical perspective. Central to the authorís approach is the premise that theological beliefs must lead to environmental action. This book challenges all Christians to become more concerned about the environment and to translate that concern into responsible action.
Reviewed by J. David Holland, Biology Instructor, Springfield College in Illinois, Springfield, IL 62702.
IS THERE A DUTY TO DIE? by James M. Humber and Robert F. Almeder, eds. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press, 2000. 221 pages. Hardcover; $49.50. ISBN: 0896037835.
In 1987, Margaret Battin posed this question to the academic world: "Are there circumstances in which there is a ëduty to dieí in order to make a cross-generational distribution of limited health care resources more equitable?" Rephrasing this, would any of us, assuming life is still worth living, consider it a duty to refuse medical treatments meant to extend our life span because of the costs these treatments would impose on others? This is a book of essays, twelve in all, written by respected academicians from eleven different institutions. Seven of the essays are sympathetic to Battinís claim, including one by her, and five are critical of it. The book is the seventeenth annual volume of Biomedical Ethics Reviews.
While the editors attempt to provide a balanced discussion across a wide range of opinions on the issues, they have failed to do so. Had this volume been developed one hundred years ago, it would, without doubt, have been filled with reasoned discussion of religious, e.g., Christian, concerns. I find it disconcerting to find no such discussion in any of the papers. Perhaps the arguments would have been much the same, but I wanted to see a contribution from one or more Christian ethicists to help put the others in perspective. I do not label all the contributors as "non-theists," of course; they simply write as if God did not exist. For me, this is not acceptable.
Battin, University of Utah, leads off with arguments related to "global equity." This means one might decide to forgo medical treatment because in doing so others, in Africa for instance, might benefit. She makes a good case for a moral obligation to work for better distribution of health care around the world (16% of the worldís population enjoys 89% of all health care expenditures), but does not, she admits, succeed in her primary argument. She thinks, however, that should redistribution ever develop, her argument would succeed.
Jan Narveson, University of Waterloo, argues that the duty to die is morally correct, as long as we primarily see it as part of our commitments to our loved ones and not as a duty entailing enforceable requirements. If it is my duty to die, that is my duty; it is not one which another can place upon me or attempt to enforce. This is one of the better papers in the collection.
Marilyn Bennett, College of St. Catherine, examines several hypothetical cases, concluding that the claim is morally defensible, at least under some circumstances. I found her arguments clear and easy to follow; she establishes the claim with strong arguments.
Robert Ehman, Vanderbilt University, argues for the claim on both teleological and contractarian grounds, finding the first to be more persuasive. He also spends some time examining the meaning of "duty to die," distinguishing it from other types of rights and duties. I found his arguments tough reading.
Michael Almeida, University of Texas at San Antonio, considers two arguments sometimes made that extend the claim to include a right to active euthanasia (the "off grandpa and spend our inheritance" position). He finds these arguments to be flawed. As a grandfather, I am rather glad of that.
Paul Menzel, Pacific Lutheran University, discusses certain implications of the claim. He contends that it is: (1) only a prima facie duty, one that can be outweighed by other moral forces; (2) it is better stated as "a duty to let death come relatively cheaply"; and (3) it is a personal duty, one that does not give others the right to enforce it. With those considerations, Menzel argues that it is a valid claim, a passive "let death come," not a more general duty to die. J. Angelo Corlett, San Diego State University, supports Menzel and extends the argument to cases of criminal justice, showing an inconsistency in Kantís argument against suicide. This paper, while interesting, is off topic.
Rosemary Tong, University of North Carolina, argues that the claim is not safe in our particular society. Her most persuasive points are that the claim should be restated as "the option to die" and that the claim should be described in the language of caring and choice rather than duty and obligation.
David Drebushenko, University of Southern Indiana, argues against the claim. He observes that the persons who are dying should decide how their assets will be distributed. Family members are free to disagree with such decisions. He agrees that in some circumstances it might be a "good thing to do," but it is not a duty. I suspect that much of his argument would collapse were he and his opponents to come to a common agreement on the meaning of terms.
Susan Anderson, University of Connecticut, examines six cases, starting with the now-famous (infamous?) "attached violinist" case, to ask the question "do we ever have a duty to die?" She concludes that finding such a case is "extremely difficult," but perhaps possible. She concludes that while the claim may not be justified, a weaker claim, "sometimes we do not have the right to something that may be necessary to sustain our life," can be defended.
Judith Kissell, Georgia College and State University, argues that the implications of the claim leave us in a "strange moral situation." She raises many questions, most of which do not appear to be solvable. It was perhaps in reading this paper that I felt the most need for a theistic perspective. Ryan Spellecy, University of Utah, concludes the book by arguing that, while the claim might be valid, implementation problems probably make it infeasible.
In spite of my concerns expressed above, I recommend this book. It is well worth reading, possibly worth keeping. It has encouraged me to look for some of the past sixteen volumes in the series and to look forward expectantly to volume eighteen, Privacy and Health Care, due out in 2001.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Stephen Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Durango, CO 81301.
Faith & Science
GOD, HUMANITY, AND THE COSMOS: A Textbook in Science and Religion by Christopher Southgate, ed. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999. 449 pages, index. Paperback; $35.00. ISBN: 1563382881.
God, Humanity, and the Cosmosis an outstanding textbook for science and religion courses. The underlying premise of the book is that "it is both possible and fruitful to seek to bring the insights and concerns of these two perspectively distinct disciplines together in a mutually constructive interchange" (p. 90). The authors are primarily British (Deane-Drummond, Murray, Negus, Osborn, Poole, Stewart, Watts) with specialization in both science and theology. The chapters quickly progress from a general background of the science-religion dialog to an analysis of the most current issues. Each chapter is written as a self-contained section, ideal as reading assignments, with the book following a historical development of issues in science and religion. Sections of the book are currently available on the web at http://www.counterbalance.org/, featuring links to related topics, graphics, and a glossary.
The book begins with an introductory survey of the models for interaction between science and religion. With the "integration" method defined, the authors develop the topics in the following order; the history of science, modern physics (chap. 3), evolutionary biology (chap. 4), ecology (chap. 6), and the effect of technology (chaps. 10ñ11). The topic coverage is exceptional, ranging from the more traditional areas, listed above, to psychology and theology (chap. 5). The inclusion of psychology and theology is critical in understanding the relationship between science and religion in the social sciences, particularly with the profound theological issues arising from neuroscience research.
The beauty of God, Humanity, and the Cosmos is in providing a comprehensive treatment of a wide range of current science-religion issues. A fundamental understanding and familiarity of science and religion are assumed, but the result is an excellent guide that a teacher can lead students through. Numerous references pepper the text providing potential resources both to classics for the novice and recent releases for the expert, making the book a valuable entry to the most recent work at the science-religion interface (the references are current to 1998). The authors strive to fairly portray all sides of issues while providing an appreciation for the tensions involved. For example, "science has a particularly ambiguous role in the ecological crisisóhaving both (a) contributed to the technology responsible for much of the environmental abuse and (b) been the main source of our awareness of the extent of the crisis" (p. 204).
The authors of God, Humanity, and the Cosmos are to be commended for providing an excellent resource for teachers and students of science and religion. A scholarly emphasis is admirably achieved in a readable way that maintains an orthodoxy sometimes lacking in publications that desire to be at the forefront of the science and religion dialogue. Either as a textbook or as a reference, God, Humanity, and the Cosmos is an excellent book.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
THE CREATING CONSCIOUSNESS: Science as the Language of Godby Arne A. Wyller. Denver, CO: Divina, 1999. 270 pages, index. Paperback; $16.95. ISBN: 0965952169.
The author is an established astrophysicist who also has a doctorate in philosophy. He is a firm believer in evolution if it is understood as the thesis of descent with modification. In this book, he assumes the entire story of chemical and biological evolution as commonly told by the orthodox evolutionists. However, he is one of the growing number of scientists who speak out against neo-Darwinism. His major complaint is that the "Darwinists and neo-Darwinists have never been able to use hard mathematical calculations based on probability theory to uphold the assertion that chance could realistically be the creative agent" (p. 61). He thinks that calculations (e.g., those offered by Robert Shapiro and Fred Hoyle) show that it is quite absurd to believe that an innumerable number of ingenious biological designs on earth can be created merely by chance and natural selection. He also strengthens his case by recounting the history of evolution and notes every now and then that the time available for the evolution of many biological structures is simply not enough.
Although his critique of neo-Darwinism to some extent resembles those offered by the creationists, he is neither a creationist nor a traditional theist. His sympathy lies in the direction of pantheism or panentheism. He draws freely from the ideas of Plotinus, Spinoza, Bergson, Whitehead, de Chardin and so on. He also appeals to the development in contemporary physics, e.g., quantum mechanics, and the speculations of scientists like Roger Penrose to support the thesis that "mentality is a fundamental ingredient in the Universe apart from matter" (p. 230). This is to pave the way for his own solution to the problem of the cause of evolution: the existence of an invisible intelligence field embedded in our earth, the Planetary Mind Field, which continually manipulates the material energy field into evolving life forms (p. 238). The author clearly states that this Mind Field is not identical to the God of traditional religions. It is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, and it is restrained by physical laws. During the process of evolution, this playful intelligence is also evolving and slowly maturing to the point of creating humankind (p. 253). The author believes that the Mind Field can influence human persons by affecting their subconscious. It is guiding the evolution of our culture and religion toward a global community where the society is open and pluralistic and the community is based wholly on the principle of love in a new unstructured religion.
The book is clearly written and should be interesting to many ASA members. Although the authorís critique of neo-Darwinism is not very profound and the probabilistic argument against neo-Darwinism is by no means novel, he manages to point to many detailed examples of biological invention within the timetable of evolutionists, the cumulative force of which throws doubt on the sufficiency of chance as the driving force of evolution. For instance, the first cell with its staggering amount of information had to be created in 400 million years (p. 61), more than 200 million species must have been created over a period of only 700 million years (p. 73), around 200 different types of cells had to be created during only a few million years (p. 78), and the evolution of eyes and brains had to be created in relatively short time spans. The book is also instructive and provoking for Christian apologists who attack neo-Darwinism. It reminds us that the downfall of neo-Darwinism does not automatically mean the victory of traditional theism.
The author is not altogether persuasive when presenting his positive proposal, and his Planetary Mind Field theory is vulnerable on many fronts. For the naturalists who reject creationism, the authorís theory will be just as far-fetched, if not more. Its explanatory power is also inferior to that of the cosmic designer hypothesis. While the latter can also explain the fine-tuning of the Big Bang and the physical laws, a Planetary Mind Field limited by natural laws can hardly do that. However, something can be further developed along the authorís line, and it will probably result in a position similar to process theology, which may prove to be less vulnerable and quite attractive to those who want to reject a mechanistic world view but are also reluctant to embrace traditional Christian theism. How to speak to these people is an issue well worth pondering, and a challenge the defenders of Christian theism need to face. This book does not articulate the position of panentheism as well as, say, David Ray Griffin does, but it will help us understand why some scientists are attracted to this position.
Reviewed by Kai-man Kwan, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Hong Kong Baptist University, 224 Waterloo Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
EINSTEIN AND RELIGION: Physics and Theologyby Max Jammer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999. 279 pages, footnotes, index. Paperback; $22.95. ISBN: 0691006997.
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," declared Albert Einstein in 1940 to the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion. This dictum summarizes Einsteinís belief about the relationship between science and religion, and is the subject of Jammerís investigation which proceeds in three steps. First, Jammer explores Einsteinís religiosity and private life. Second, he delves into biographies, addresses, and essays to extract Einsteinís philosophy of religion. Finally, Jammer concludes with an overview of modern physicsí impact on contemporary theology.
Professor of Physics Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Jammer has written books on the foundations of physics, books read in draft by Paul Dirac and Werner Heisenberg. Einstein wrote the preface to Jammerís book, Concepts in Space. Thus, Jammer is no small figure in the philosophy of physics. In the present work, he consulted sources from the Einstein Archive, National and University Library in Jerusalem, and the library of the Union Theological Seminary in New York to produce a thorough biographical analysis, unique in its focus on Einsteinís religious perspectives.
Because of the influence of Spinoza, the object of Einsteinís faith was both impersonal and transcendent. However, Einsteinís panentheistic convictions have been misconstrued by atheists and theists alike. Jammer proposes to set the record straight. Einstein once said, "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion" (p. 40). Jammerís task is somewhat less ambitious than penetrating "the secrets of nature." He merely tries to penetrate Einsteinís veneration.
Einstein was a determinist in the strict sense of the word. Despite his disbelief "in human freedom in the philosophical sense" (p. 73), he advocated morality and even religious instruction, provided such instruction avoided unnecessary theological dogma. In fact, Einsteinís religion had no room for theology at all. Belief in revelation was unacceptable, as was the notion of a God who would punish evildoers and reward for good. Contrary to the personal God of Christian theism, Einsteinís god was unknowable.
Jammerís final chapter is dense in places, but this reflects a high content to word ratio. Less Einsteinís thought, more Einsteinís impact on thought. Jammer notes that Einstein might actually have rejected the arguments this chapter contains. (Indeed, Einstein did reject the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, on which many theological arguments are based. Jammer conjectures this may be attributed to the Copenhagen denial of determinism.) Jammer presents synopses of the reflections of scientists, philosophers, and theologians on such issues as time, eternity, and process theology; Godís foreknowledge and the free will of human beings; indeterminism and local realism; and cosmology and cosmogony.
One of the finest writings on science and religion which I have read, Jammerís book is particularly notable for its scholarship and biographical content. His final chapter is also his weakest. However, his aim is biographical, not philosophical, and in this end he succeeds. Einstein and Religion is an excellent book, and most worthy of the effort required to peruse its contents.
Reviewed by John M. Drake, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.
History of Science
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY: The Evolution of a Scientistby Sherrie L. Lyons. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1999. 339 pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $54.95. ISBN: 1573927066.
Lyonsís biography of T. H. Huxley, self-designated "Darwinís Bulldog," substantially contributes to the growing body of historical literature portraying the intellectual milieu during the advent of Darwinian evolution. Lyons pursues her subject topically, describing and evaluating Huxleyís approach to science and culture: rigorous empiricism. She does not develop the social context for the development of Darwinian evolution; this has been done elsewhere. Lyonsís task is to elaborate the role of one man, Huxley, and his acceptance and endorsement of Darwinís hypothesis. She performs this task well.
Lyons presents the development of Huxleyís thinking and his disputes over natural selection, persistent types, and gradualism. Dissenting from the popular Naturphilosophen, Huxley nevertheless recognized morphological archetypes and consequent functioning of organisms. Contra Darwin, in Huxleyís point of view, form was not derived from function. In her final chapter, Lyons relates the interminable form versus function debate to current scholarship, submitting Brian Goodmanís concept of the morphogenetic field and the limits of function.
Most chapters follow Huxleyís course toward accepting the mechanisms of Darwinian evolution. Chapter two, perhaps Lyonsís most thorough exposition (and for those not interested in the subtleties of theory also the most dry), meticulously distinguishes among competing perspectives of "type" and depicts the surrounding controversy. Chapter three examines Charles Lyell and the concept of saltation. Darwinís reliance on the uniformitarianism in Lyellís Principles of Geology is well documented. Huxley, however, was not as quick to apply gradual processes to biological systems. In chapter five, Lyons concludes the issue tracing Huxley through the 1860s as he abandons his previous view and adopts gradualistic evolution.
Chapter four continues to address types, now in the context of geology and paleontology. A significant portion of this chapter recounts Huxleyís objection to the argument from design as propounded by leading scientists such as Buckland, Agassiz, Sedgwick, and Owen. This discussion sets a historical context for the current work of intelligent design proponents. Chapter six memorably portrays the hippocampus debate between Richard Owen and Huxley. Owen contended that certain anatomic features were unique to the human species, thus preserving humanityís dignity. Among these features was the hippocampus minor. Huxley, the victor in the debate, also maintained the dignity of humanity, but did not find the grounds for this in either physical or psychical distinction from the animals. The outfall of this debacle reached far. Punch published a satirical poem (reprinted in the text) of the event, purportedly authored by a gorilla. A Sad Case, an anonymous pamphlet humorously depicting the controversy, was published soon after.
Natural selection is the key hypothesis presented in Darwinís Origin of Species. A mechanistic explanation of evolution, it boasts much explanatory power. Huxley, however, challenged Darwin to empirically verify his hypothesis, contending that it was impossible to do so. Chronicling Huxleyís dispute with Darwin, chapter seven describes each manís evidence, as well as their philosophical differences pertaining to the necessary qualifications for scientific evidence. Furthermore, Huxley adamantly separated science and theology. The first he considered positive knowledge, the second an abominable morass of unverifiable and inconsistent dogma. In order to describe himself, Huxley coined the term "agnostic," which is not to say that Huxley was indifferent to theology. He certainly was not. Rather, he was indignant of the dogmatic claims of theology and responded hostilely. This agenda is reiterated throughout and brought to life via anecdotes of personal confrontation and contention. Chapter eight "Evolution and Huxleyís Worldview," narrates Huxleyís antitheological stance. However, Huxley became defensive when labeled a materialist. He "asserted that metaphysics and physics were complementary, not antagonistic, and claimed that ëthought will never be completely fruitful until the one unites with the other.í" Nevertheless, Lyons concludes that if he believed that science provided the only method for establishing knowledge, he should not have been astonished to be called a materialist. I concur.
Lyonsís book thoroughly analyzes the one man who simultaneously played roles of scientist, philosopher, and propagandist during the advent of Darwinian evolution. If she is a bit insensitive to the subtleties of current evolutionary theory, she is very aware of the controversy during the second half of the nineteenth century. Lyons simultaneously provides a story of science as it happens and contributes significantly to understanding the history of evolutionary theory. Thomas Henry Huxley is recommended as a worthy book in the history of biology.
Reviewed by John M. Drake, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556.
THE LAST WORD: Questions and Answers from the Popular Column on Everyday Scienceby Mick OíHare, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 229 pages. Paperback; $12.95. ISBN: 0192861999.
This book leaves the big questions ("What is the meaning of life?") to philosophers and addresses the small wonders of daily life. These little questions, or "nagging inconsequentials," include such curiosities as "Why does slicing onions cause tears?" "Why donít birds fall off branches when they sleep?" "Why does lightning fork?" "Why do people close their eyes when they sneeze?" "Why doesnít super glue stick to the inside of the tube?" and "Why is it colder on the top of a mountain if heat rises?"
The Last Wordanswers these and many other questions. The title of the book is the same as the title of the column which appears on the last page of New Scientist, a London-based weekly magazine. The column, where these questions first appeared, is New Scientistís most popular feature. Readers are encouraged to submit questions via e-mail: email@example.com.
Throughout the book, black-and-white line illustrations illuminate and amuse. A table of contents categorizes the questions into such areas as "plants and animals," "mysteries and illusions," "gadgets and inventions," and "bubbles, liquids, and ice." An extensive index helps in locating specific topics.
Who might be interested in the book? Budding, young, curious scientific minds. Inquisitive, ever-learning, adult searchers. Trivia collectors of all ages. Professional scientists who specialize in narrow fields. The Last Word provides entertainment and information. After all, who doesnít want to know "why men have nipples," "why the sky is blue," "why tea should be made with never-boiled water," and "whether fish fart."
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
XENO: The Promise of Transplanting Animal Organs into Humansby David Cooper and Robert P. Lanza. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 274 pages, index. Hardcover; $30.00. ISBN: 0195128338.
Cooper is an immunologist at the Transplantation Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School. Lanza is senior director of tissue engineering and transplant medicine at Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.
The authors are indisputably competent to write the book, and it is a good survey of the issuesótechnical, ethical, economic and socialóthat arise. They admit, e.g., that the dangers of viral contamination have not been satisfactorily resolved yet; nor has a "humanized" pig, the targeted animal, been created yet. Thus, they are not ready to go to clinical trials. A theme that runs throughout the book is that "demand [for organs] far outstrips supply," and that people "would rather be alive than dead," to quote Sir Peter Medawar. These people are on a crusade to keep patients with failing hearts, lungs, and livers alive, which I suppose is what one would want of a medical doctor. They are interested in having an unlimited supply of these organs, hence the goal of a "humanized" pig that can be slaughtered for its organs without attracting much objection. To arouse sympathy for their goal, they often refer to individual cases of patients they have cared for, most dead, who could have benefited from a transplant. It is never suggested that we owe God a death.
The chapter on ethical concerns got my attention. The possibility that animals have rights is dismissed with the observations that attitudes toward animals have not been constant over time, and that millions of unwanted pets are "euthanized" annually in the U.S. (Normally they shy away from euphemismsóusually they call it killing.) They offer that the animals will die while anesthetized and that this is certainly more humane than what goes on in uncounted abattoirs in the Western world. (It is worth noting that there are also diverse opinions among Christians on the matter of animal rights. Peter Singer, in his definitive book on the subject, suggests a test: if you would not use a defective human, whose intelligence may be lower than that of the animal, in a procedure, you should not use the animal either.)
They do, however, recognize that a "humanized" pig may present some novel questions. For example, "How many human genes does an animal have to have to gain human rights?" It should be noted that only a small fraction of human DNA produces an observable effect; genetic command and control and phenotypic design integrity is specified somewhere else. They also consider cloning humans (with "reduced mental capacity") for their organs but then they reject the idea because of existing legislation forbidding it and the expectation of more legislation. (Recall that Aquinas stated that because animals are not rational, they have no moral status. It would seem that the authors are ready to extend this to humans.) In the context of discussing the possible threat to society from a "xenozoonosis," they argue that if there is a great benefit to individuals, they have an obligation to proceed as long as they minimize the risk to society.
This is a well-done book by two who are clearly at the center of the action. If you have been touched by xenotransplantation, or if you want to know the state-of-the-art, you should read it. I am personally chilled by the casual instrumentalism of the authors. I am sure that they are not special cases in this regard. There is no consideration of what society would be like if an unlimited supply of spare parts becomes available. As Huxley predicted, death has become disgraceful, not the sort of thing that is mentioned in polite company. I do think that the modern version of soma is also available.
Reviewed by Braxton M. Alfred, Emeritus professor of biological anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 2E9.
ATLAS OF EARTHby Alexa Stace. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1999. 96 pages. Hardcover; $29.27. ISBN: 0836825055.
For those who still have lingering doubts about whether the earth is really flat, this book should settle the matter. There are numerous photographs from space showing the curvature of the earth. In addition, there are many photographs showing in more detail different geographical areas of the earth.
The book is divided into four parts: the living planet, earth in action, unseen forces, and snapshots of our world. Topics discussed and pictorially illustrated in the four sections include everything having to do with the earth. These include the air, mountains, bodies of water, ice regions, deserts, forests, and fertile land. To assist and educate the reader, there are a glossary, index, and bibliography (including videos and web sites).
This book does not have many pages, but the pages are large, measuring 10 by 14 inches. Given the reasonable price, the large pages, and the extensive color photographs and diagrams, this volume is a good value.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
EARLY HUMANS: The Story of Scienceby Roy A. Gallant. Tarrytown, NY: Benchmark Books, 2000. 80 pages. Hardcover. ISBN 0761409602.
Gallant starts his investigation with the chapter "Where Did We Come From?" and believes that religion provides no answer because of its multitude of conflicting opinions. He writes that the history of humansí search for beginnings has passed from myth to philosophy to science. The empirical approach may have started with Xenophanes in the sixth century BC. His study of fossils led him to the conclusion that much habitable land had once been covered with water. During the Dark Ages, many people believed that fossils were the devilís unsuccessfully attempts to create animals.
Gallant gives the following history. Baron Georges Jean-Leopold-Nicolas-Frederic Cuvier was the first to relate fossil animal structure to their then living relatives, and thereby became the founder of paleontology. While he refused to accept an old idea, i.e., that plants and animals change over time, Charles Darwinís 1859 Origin of Species advanced that position, thereby shaking the world of science and religion. Darwinís "survival of the fittest" principle explained why 99 percent of all the species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. Nearly 100 years before Darwin, George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon had declared that the Earth had existed for millions of years, contradicting Bishop Ussherís biblical date of creation as 4004 BC. "Today virtually every biologist the world over accepts the idea of evolution as solid fact" although there is disagreement "about the ways evolution works" (p. 13).
Fossil human bones, never shown to the public, are kept in a few museums around the world. Most are about the size of a silver dollar. Eugene Dubois discovered the Java Man, some form of early human, dated at 700,000 years of age. In 1868 in France, railroad workers discovered Cro-Magnon, a skull perhaps 20,000 years old. Fossils of Paleo-Indians, ancestors of Native Americans, are perhaps 33,000 years old. Human fossils found in Israel are perhaps 92,000 years old. In South Africa, human fossils are perhaps 120,000 years old. It is believed that by 50,000 years ago, humans populated virtually every part of earth.
In his summary chapter entitled "How Far Back Do We Go?" Gallant thinks the oldest direct ancestry of humans dates back 33 million years. This creature is nicknamed "Dawn Ape," its scientific name being Aegyptopithecus (meaning "Egypt ape"). "Sometime between 5 and 7 million years ago, the hominids took one evolutionary path, and the apes took another" (p. 66), says Gallant. People like those living today can be traced back to perhaps 200,000 years. Since that time, "our species has shown little change in anatomy" (p. 68).
Gallant concludes his investigation of the search for early humans: "It is hard to deny that human beings have evolved from earlier hominid groups, which in turn evolved from common ancestors going back more than 30 million years" (p. 72).
This is an interestingly written, though somewhat elementary, story of evolution. It is graced with photographs, drawings, and diagrams. Its conciseness makes it appealing, because, metaphorically speaking, the trees do not obscure the forest. It provides a succinct account of paleontology, the science upon which those who adhere to evolution base many of their conclusions.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
CRADLE OF LIFE: The Discovery of Earthís Earliest Fossilsby J. William Schopf. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999. 355 pages, index. Hardcover; $29.95. ISBN: 0691002304.
Schopf is an internationally renowned paleobiologist/geologist whose work has been recognized by medals from the National Science Board, National Academy of Sciences, International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Prize, and two Guggenheim fellowships. He is generally regarded as the "father" of modern paleobiology. He has also achieved notoriety for his outspoken criticisms of both young earth creationism and NASA claims for life on Mars. Readers of this book will better understand why all of the above statements are true.
The author sets out to teach the nonspecialist enough about his subject to understand the basic geology, biology, and chemistry involved in the study of the early Earth, the reasons why such study is tentative and still full of gaps, and how competing claims advanced by scientists and others can be evaluated in scientific terms. This work covers the first 85% of the Earthís history, if current estimates are correct. Most of the narrative is in the first person. As the author points out in the prologue:
For a science book, this is unusual Ö I am not objective about this subjectóitís my life, I care about it, and it would be false for me to pretend otherwise. Moreover, it seems to me a lot more fun to read about how science is actually done, and by whom and why, rather than plow through a stuffy accounting of theories and facts. "Fun" is the operative word here. To me, science is enormously good fun! Thereís hardly anything better than learning something brand new or having a novel idea and then following that notion and finding that it makes sense.
The book is a veritable tour de force about scientific methods, their limitations, and the sometimes well-intended but nonscientific extensions often made in this arena. Its explanation of much basic science related to paleobiology is outstanding for its clarity. Many science students at the undergraduate level as well as the interested public will benefit from its clear treatment of a variety of topics.
The first three chapters contain fascinating portraits of some early works in paleobiology and some key problems that must be solved. The middle seven chapters discuss how life begins in the standard evolutionary framework, some cellular innovations and the evidence for their appearance (including stromatolites and cyanobacteria), and the advent of eukaryotic cells. The concluding two chapters discuss foibles, frauds, and the hunt for life on Mars by NASA, politicians, and the press. While clearly committed to certain fundamental positions, Schopf is reasonably careful to distinguish between the facts and interpretation of these facts. He is also quite candid about current gaps in our knowledge of both fossils and fundamental biological, chemical, and geological processes and their interactions.
The writing is clear and reflects the ability of a true expert to take complex topics and make them understandable to a well-educated but novice reader. Many of the explanatory devices used are wonderful examples for science teachers to adapt for their respective audiences. Well-chosen and well-labeled drawings, diagrams, charts, and photographs grace this volume, and a very extensive glossary helps the reader to understand terms clearly. A series of eight color plates in the middle of the book also awaits the delighted reader. Select secondary and primary literature are suggested for each chapter for those who wish to go deeper; several of these sources are also good illustrations of clear scientific exposition.
There is a very clear sense in which this book can be best appreciated as a book about the very nature of science. The ways in which evidence accumulates, the meanings made of the evidence, and the limitations that adhere among differing forms of evidence are engagingly portrayed in this story. The authorís metaphysical commitments and his great love for science both come across strongly within these pages. Anyone suggesting alternatives to Schopfís lifework and its meanings would do well to begin here to gain a clear sense of the task involved and its complexities. This is a magisterial summary of the state of paleobiology as we enter the new millennium.
Reviewed by Dennis Cheek, Director of Information Services & Research, RI Department of Education and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education, University of RI, 255 Westminster St., Providence, RI 02903-3400.
Philosophy & Theology
MUSTARD SEED VERSUS MCWORLD: Reinventing Life and Faith for the Futureby Tom Sine. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999. 240 pages; endnotes. Paperback; $14.99. ISBN: 080109088.
Sine is director of Mustard Seed Associates, a futures research consulting firm. He holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Washington and has been a faculty member of the University of Washington, Seattle Pacific University, and Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written a previous book entitled The Mustard Seed Conspiracy.
Mustard Seed versus McWorldis organized into three main parts: (1) A Crisis of Foresight: Learning to Take the Future Seriously; (2) A Crisis of Vision: Learning to Take the Future of God Seriously; and (3) A Crisis of Creativity: Learning to Take Imagination Seriously. An Introduction sets the stage for Sineís discussion of the three crises he sees in the Church. It describes the growing "McWorld" of globalization and its effects on the Church. Sine draws sharp distinctions between what McWorld is and what the "Mustard Seed" of Godís Kingdom is. They hold radically different fundamental values and visions of the future. For example, McWorld defines the ultimate in terms of economic growth and efficiency while the Mustard Seed defines it in terms of spiritual and societal transformation. The formerís primary values are individualism, consumerism, and materialism, while the latterís are community, spirituality, and celebration of Godís new order.
Icons quickly identify action points and questions for further discussion and thought. This is very helpful and gives the book a Web-page feel. The book is clearly intended as a reference for Christian leaders to stimulate thought and discussion.
Part One mainly focuses on how the Church has become compromised by the globalization, which has occurred over the past decade. In many cases, a globalized lifestyle has been accepted without looking at its inherent assumptions, or "worldview" as Francis Schaeffer has taught. Sine follows secular futurists in the definition of globalization as the acceptance of free market capitalism worldwide. He spends this entire portion of the book showing how truly awful globalization can be spiritually, culturally, and environmentally. I found Part One burdensome, but at times interesting. I had recently finished Tom Freidmanís The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, a more positive view of globalization. It was good to see a Christian critique, but I thought Part One was too long.
This book really heats up in Part Two. At this point, I grabbed my chair because Sine had grabbed my attention. He addresses a topic I think is extremely relevant to all ASA members. He confronts the dualism in the American Church head-on. Do we profess the values of Christ, but live the values of McWorld? Do we tack Jesus on as an afterthought to our lives? I think he makes an excellent case that we have done just that. Christian faith demands radical thinking about what we do, as well as how we do it.
No one can argue with the fact that we need to recognize Godís hand in all we do, but I am not sure our occupation automatically becomes our calling. Many of those first disciples quit their jobs to advance Godís purposes Ö Undoubtedly there are Christians who are helping to construct cruise missiles at Boeing, but I am not persuaded that this is a Christian calling, even if they do it with the right attitude.
He then goes on to propose how we can overcome this dualism in practical ways.
Part Three was as exciting to read as Part Two. Sine showed why the Church needs to be imaginative not only to thrive in McWorld, but also to simply survive! He does this by providing numerous examples of what Christians are doing around the world in ways such as food cooperatives, community living, and local agriculture. Each of the examples addresses the homogenizing influence of globalization and substitutes Mustard Seed community. Sine is convinced that people will be hungry for community and this will draw them to the Church. He also believes that this community is the only way Christians can prevent their spiritual lives from being crowded out by the all-consuming stimulation of McWorld. This section is packed with practical advice for Christian leaders to consider for implementation in local churches.
This book is highly recommended to all ASA members, especially young scientists and engineers. It will give that practical advice and provoke the imaginative thought, which young ASAers say they need. I have passed the book to my pastor and lay leaders of my church because it is so relevant to the life we live here in Lake Ridge McWorld, Virginia.
Reviewed by David Condron, Aerospace Engineer, Lake Ridge, VA 22192.
KNOWING WITH THE HEART: Religious Experience and Belief in Godby Roy Clouser. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999. 204 pages, notes, index. Paperback; $12.99. ISBN: 0830815074.
In the Introduction, Clouser asks: Can we really know God? Yes, he says. He wrote the book with two kinds of audiences in mind: (1) those who doubt their intellectual right to believe in God, and (2) those who do not believe in God but are willing to inquire if there is more to belief than just blind faith. Of course, this book can profit other curious minds as well. Clouser wrote the book as a dialogue in which the nonbeliever (or seeker) is asking questions and voicing objections and the writer responds. Although the book is easy to read, the discussion is not superficial.
Clouser asks: "What is religious experience?" He begins his answer by pointing out that many people think that the findings of science are superior to those of other disciplines. Opposing that view, Clouser argues that the basis for all life and scholarship is faith in some philosophy. He does not limit "faith" to his own Christian faith. Some experiences in life are basic, e.g., "one plus one equals two" or "God exists." These basic experiences cannot be proven; we just know them. Christians know from "experience" that God exists. The statement needs no proof.
Clouser opposes the idea that not going to church makes one nonreligious. Just as believers, so atheists have a basis in life, a religion. He insists that "materialism" is a religion as well. Just like theistic religions, materialism has implications for thinking about the world. If there is no more to life than what we experience now, humansí ultimate destiny is the grave.
Chapter three is a reprint of an essay Clouser wrote for students titled "Self-evident Knowledge." Though this essay may be read separately, it is needed for understanding the remainder of the book. Here Clouser discusses the basis for self-evident truths, truths that do not need supporting statements. For example, "one plus one equals two" is a self-evident statement. Clouser discusses three theories of self-evidency and shows the insufficiency of these theories. His conclusion: "The upshot of all this is that our intuitions of self-evidency attach to more kinds of beliefs and are thus the ground of more of what we ordinarily think we know than has generally been recognized in traditional theories of knowledge" (p. 93).
Chapter four is about belief in God and the axiom of equals. That axiom states that if two things are equal to a third they are equal to each other. Axioms cannot be proved. They are experienced. Clouser points out that many people question the self-evidency of belief in God, but they accept the axioms of math and logic without questioning.
Clouser points out that for Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Pascal "belief" is a sure knowledge. Added to this list could be Reformed Christians who adhere to the Heidelberg Catechism, which defines "Faith" as "a sure knowledge." No "proof" for the existence of God is necessary, nor possible. It is known "from the heart." The knowledge Christians have about God the Creator who offers forgiveness in Jesus Christ is as sure as the axiom of equals. He argues that to "fairly" reject faith in God, one should join a Christian community for a while and observe. True, one would observe many behaviors which do not agree with a belief in God. Still, only by seeing a Christian community can one claim an empirical trial.
Chapter five deals with objections to belief in God. The first objection mentioned is: "How do we know God speaks to us in the Bible when many denominations exist, each having its own explanation of certain texts?" Clouser writes that 98.5% of Christians agree with the basic tenets of Christianity; the differences are relatively small. Another objection is: "How do Christians know that God speaks to them?" They know, says Clouser, without a doubt. It is "self-evident" that God is speaking to them, especially in the Bible. It does not mean, he says, that every fact described in the Bible happened as described. It does mean, though, that what the Bible says about God is true. He says that objections usually raised against the Genesis account miss the religious focus of it and assume that Genesis attempts to do science. Clouser calls this "the encyclopedic assumption," when the Bible is treated as an information source on virtually every subject. Clouser talks about the days of creation, the story of Adam and Eve, and the evolutionary process and how it all fits with the story as told in the Bible. Other objections are raised and answered, e.g., about Job. Clouser concludes: "Do not try to fit God in our human way of thinking."
In the last chapter the author cleans up some "loose ends." Clouser, a member of the American Scientific Affiliation who teaches philosophy, is well aware of the different backgrounds and philosophies that guide the teaching at modern universities. He rejects "proofs" for the existence of God, since we "experience" God. He shows that the idea many have of rationality in our world derives from Greek philosophy rather than from a Christian way of thinking. Read the book for yourself. I recommend it to teachers and students. The book would be appropriate for use in discussion groups.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, M2R 2V7 Canada.
REASON TO BELIEVEby Maurice Wiles. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 1999. 131 pages. Paperback; $14.00. ISBN: 1563383055.
This book is a concise introduction to some Christian doctrines and problems that perplex believers and unbelievers. Wiles, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University, gives his opinion in answering fifteen questions. The following three questions he addresses provide an idea of the scope of this book: (1) Did the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and the resurrection really happen? (2) Is the Christian story true? and (3) If Christianity is true, are all other religions false?
Wilesí answers to these questions, as well as the others he discusses, take on a more liberal than evangelical flavor. A quote will illustrate his disbelief in verbal inerrancy of Scripture: "We cannot be sure that the particular words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels are words that he himself actually spoke" (p. 53). Of the virgin birth, he writes: "it seems more natural to take it as the common core of a characteristic tale Ö" (p. 31). In other words, the virgin birth never really happened.
The contents are easy to read since they are written in nontechnical language. The absence of footnotes abets the progression of thought. An index and bibliography are useful for further pursuit and study. For those convinced the contents of the Bible are to be taken literally, this book may supply more doubts than reasons to believe. To those who want to explore a nonliteral approach to Christian faith, this book is an appropriate introduction.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
INVISIBLE WALLS: Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet Ö and Ourselves by Peter Seidel. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1998. 334 pages, index. Hardcover; $32.95. ISBN: 157392217X.