in Christian Perspective
THE AMERICAN SCIENTIFIC
- THE FIRST DECADE
F. Alton Everest
From: JASA 3 (September 1951): 33-38.
Part of an address given at the Sixth Annual Convention
New York City August
The ten-year period,
1941-1951 was a time of great significance to the
time a second world war was fought
silenced voices raised In optimistic hope for a peaceful world'. International
relations during this period were in a chaotic state. Sneak attacks, subversive
activities, the lack of honor in international relations, the dishonest practices
in high places within our
government, the deplorable flourishing of organized
crime, juvenile delinquency--all these things have brought a feeling of
and despair to our people and the people of the world.
1939 scarcely two years before the opening of this significant decade,
there was announced the hypothesis of nuclear fission and its experimental verification. By the end of 1941 an extensive review of the
entire uranium situation
was completed end full impetus was given military exploitation of the fission
effect. In 1942 the famous Manhattan District was
culminating In that
fateful birth of the atomic age in the gray dawn of the New Mexico desert on
July 16, 1945.
These striking events in the military and political world had, perhaps at
least some effect on the changing attitudes in the scientific world. The pendulum seemed to be swinging
away from the rigid materialism of the past. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle pointed out that strict determinism at
least did not
apply in the realm of the quanta. While the leap from so-called "free will" of
the electron to the freedom of the human spirit is too great a jump for man to
make, these new concepts were having their over-all , impact on modern scientific
The equivalence of mass and energy--a concept dramatically demonstrated on
that morning in the New Mexico desert--also seemed to pull some of the underpinnings from beneath materialistic philosophies.
Let us not be confused--a knowledge that all our material world is but a
manifestation of energy does not necessarily make a spiritual-minded religionist
of the physicist. Nor should we feel
revolution has taken place when
we see cosmologists put forth their hypotheses of a practically instantaneous
condensation of all the elements from a sort of hot cosmic stew end equate
event to the creation of Genesis 1:1. All these
things may have their cumulative
effect, but we still have to deal with scientists who, in the main, do not know
our Redeemer and yet who are somewhat more Inclined toward a consideration of
spiritual things. Today we find less
scientists to brush off
the claims of the Bible with a wave of the hand. This is illustrated by the
Professor of Zoology of a large Western university who each year shows all of
the Moody Science Films to his
large class--gospel message and all--as he puts it, "to present the other side of
the question in all fairness." Such instances
may be few and far between and the general trend away from rigid materialism may
appear to be all but swallowed up in the familiar glorification of human wisdom
but it seem incontrovertible that the trend is there.
This is a brief sketch
or conditions existing just prior to and Immediately
following the organization of the American Scientific Affiliation. There probably
never was a more significant period in h1story--the growth of science and the
opening of the atomic era--and a period that presents its own unique problems to
an effective witness and defense of the faith.
It would be unfair and distinctly untrue to leave the impression that, in
the midst of these great problems, the ASA was born In solitude. The ASA owes
much to other similar organizations some of which rose briefly only to fade,
others which are contemporarily functioning today.
The Victoria Institute of Great Britian was founded in
to treat the
between science and the Holy Scripture with the view of reconciling any apparent discrepancies. This organization has had a long and useful
life and is actively continuing its work today. It bas a total membership of
around 600 and its Journal of the Transactions-contains many valuable papers.
The Religion and Science Association was organized about 1928. Dr. L. Allen
Higley, then of Wheaton College, was one of the founders. Other name associated
In this early endeavor are Ben F. Allen, and Mr. Clarence Benson, and others. Its
activities were abandoned at least ten years ago.
The Kelvin Institute had Its origin in Toronto, Canada) about 1935. This
group was founded by Mr. Arthur C. Custance, formerly a member of ASA. Our own
Dr. John F Howitt was one of the early members. At its peak it had some 50 members in England, Scotland, Australia, USA, and Canada and produced a number
very interesting papers. However, its activities ceased during the early 1940's.
The Evolution Protest Movement, active in England for more than two decades,
did not find ready acceptance in the USA. Sensing this, Dr. Arthur Pierson Kelley
thought that an indigenous group patterned along the same lines would be better
received and proceeded to found The Creationist Society. This proved to be entirely abortive. For some
time. however, Dr. Kelley issued a series of papers
under the name The Landenberg Review which carried on the anti-evolution cause.
As far as it is known, this effort has been abandoned.
In addition to these there have been a number of local organizations devoted
to the study of the relation of science to Christianity. Typical of these was
the Nature and Scripture Study Club of Grand Rapids founded in
1935 by Dr. John
P. Van Hartsma. of Calvin College, one of the founder-members of the ASA. This
group disbanded prior to 1942, at least partially because of Dr. Van Haitsma's
About 1938, the Society For Study of Deluge Geology and Related Sciences was
formed. This group Published -The Bulletin of Deluge Geology,
1941 through 1945.
To an outsider, what then happened is somewhat obscure, but apparently reorganization resulted in the use of the names Natural History Research Group and also
The Society For the Study of Natural Science. A publication called The Forum came
out with one or two issues under the latter-named society. Man asso~cNat7e-dwith
these groups include Prof. George McCready Price well-known advocate of deluge
geology, Dr. Cyril B. Courville, Dr. Moulerus Couperus, Mr. Ben F Allen, and
others. Correspondence with members of this group and a perusal of its publications
leads one to conclude that it was founded principally to defend the so-called
deluge interpretation of the earth's stratigraphic history and to contend for a recent
formation of the earth. , As many of its leaders are also leaders in the Seventh Day
Adventist group which strongly promulgates these particular interpretations, it Is felt by many that the society, directly or indirectly, was Influenced by the teachings of this denomination.
There are no doubt many other groups not named here that were formed during
the 1930's and 1940's to correlate scriptural interpretation and now scientific
facts. All these groups had one thing in common. They were anxious to demonstrate
the harmony of God's Word end God's Work In nature. Some may have struck too
negative a note, some may have been unwise in their emphasis, some may have been
downright wrong in either their exegesis or their science--but their motives were
commendable, and we shall leave to the great Judge of all things the ultimate
of their labors.
I believe it was in the wise providence of our God that the men that founded
the ASA and who were responsible for its nurture during the early years were relatively ignorant of these other groups. For this reason their Influence on the ASA
was negligible and it is only in retrospect that we can see how fortunate this was
in the formation of the policy of the ASA which the testimony of ten years' growth
indicates as sound.
What is this policy? For what purpose does the ASA exist? The constitution
states that the object of the Affiliation is to "correlate the facts of science
and the Holy Scriptures." We are vitally interested in determining the proper
interpretation of the creation account, the flood of Noah, Joshua's long day,
but we consider it distinctly Improper for the ASA to become so enamoured by
particular interpretations of these accounts that we shift our efforts from study
to propaganda. Dr. Allan A. MacRae, prominent archaeologist and past
Vice-President and member of the Executive Council of the ASA has wisely put it this
"To my mind it would be unfortunate for the Affiliation to go
on record strongly in favor of any one of the various views. It seems
to me that its purpose should be rather to show that the Bible as correctly and carefully
interpreted, and without any twisting whatever, leaves room for every
scientific fact at present known, and does not
contradict any scientific fact as yet discovered, however much it may
be at variance with some particular theory built upon these facts."
Now this does not
that ASA members do not have some pretty strong personal convictions concerning these Interpretations--they do. Furthermore, there
Is a wide range of interpretations held
among the membership. This is only natural and It Is a very healthful situation--one that causes one to search
thoroughly before submitting himself to one of our justly famous discussion
periods. Thus in the Journal of the ASA you will find a paper supporting a
particular interpretation and a little later another one apparently demolishing
it. We consider our job well done if we can present a Bible-teacher, a pastor,
or a university student an adequate survey of the various views held on a given
problem and the historical
scientific data pertaining to it. The problem of
the church is principally, one of plain ignorance of the many and complicated factors entering Into a
wise interpretation of the Scriptural accounts.
Another member of the ASA, Dr. Barley Barnes, a geologist, stated the following views six or seven years ago which I believe to be a fair expression of the
prevailing attitude of the majority of the present Associates and Follows of the
"The essence of my attitude towards evolution and the Bible as a
Christian geologist is that Christians should be non-evolutionary because
the Bible does not give unequivocal grounds for being anti-evolutionary. Few, if any,
Christians who, are scientists now would say that the Flood
of Noah produced all fossils or that the earth is only 6000 years old;
yet there was a time
holding contrary opinions were generally
labelled modernists. The Bible said the same thing then as now but our
interpretation has changed because discoveries have narrowed the field of
interpretation possible to rational men of faith, We are faced then, with
the realization that the Bible allows numerous interpretations of the creation
account, but our choice of 'the' interpretation has been limited
to those which do not conflict with accumulated scientific observations.
The viewpoint of scientists changes continually as additional data fills
In the picture, shifting the perspective. Let us not repeat the mistake
of earlier Christians by forcing the Bible to speak in the language of
current or recently current theory.
"The devout 'Fundamentalist' persecutors of Galileo and Copernicus helped discredit the Bible to many thinking persons because they
were morally certain it specifically taught the Ptolemaic astronomy.'
After accumulated data overwhelmed these pious but bigoted spirits, a new
crop of second guessers come forth with the 'obvious fact' that the Bible
had agreed with the former heretics (Galileo and Co.) right along, so
that 15 years ago I was impressed by the quotation of verses 'proving'
that the earth was round. And if science should find sufficient information that the earth after all really has the shape of a dodecahedron,
someone would find a verse in the Bible which had said so all the time!
"The Bible does not pretend to give a technical description of
these matters. What it does say is accurate
but generalized; some passages are figurative,
are not always able to determine which ones-Isaiah 40:22 or Revelation 7:1. Let us not tie the Bible to any mode=
(or Victorian) scientific theory. If it can be interpreted more then one
way, let us admit it and when all the pertinent facts are known rejoice
in the Wisdom which bad been revealed but until that time not understood.
Perhaps the Bible suffers less from too little literal interpretation
than from too much literal interpolation."
1940, while the writer was on the faculty of Oregon State College, a message was received from
Irvin A. Moon who was holding his famed
Sermons From Science demonstrations in nearby Salem, Oregon. A meeting was arranged In Salem during which Mr. Moon told of the great need he had encountered
among young people for an organization of reputable man of science who were also
Christians. The young people flocked to him with their questions, eager for reassurance that modern scientific knowledge does not rule out faith. That afternoon Mr. Moon named several qualified men of science whom he believed would be
interested in forming such a society.
Several months passed during -which Mr. Moon was-in constant touch with Dr.
Will H. Houghton, the late President of-the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, concerning ways and means of bringing this group into existence. Early in 1941 at
the request of Mr. Moon, the writer examined the constitutions Of Many existing
scientific societies and drafted one
considered suitable for such a
society of Christian men of science as was proposed. Considerable attention was
also given to a fitting name for the society.
In June, 1941, Dr. Houghton addressed a comprehensive letter to a number of men who
had shown their
the formation of a group for the correlation
Of science and
the Bible. In the
recent biography of Dr. Houghton, A Watchman
on the Wall*, Dr. Wilbur M. Smith entitles a chapter "Through Science
to the Souls of Men" in which Dr. Houghton's letter Is quoted in Its entirety.
states that this letter might "be called the birth certificate of the American
Scientific Affiliation." Dr. Smith further say "The letter itself, I think, will
prove in days to come a significant document-" In this letter the man to
It was addressed were invited to meet In Chicago, September 2 to 5, 1941, to "canvass the possibilities of a larger conference"
and eventually, perhaps, to organize
a new society. Dr. Wilbur
Smith writes, "Out of this letter has come a strong.
vigorous organization which today is undertaking a number of projects which the
Lord willing, in the days to come will be the means of great help to those who
are troubled about the complicated relationships of contemporary science with the
Word of God."
Five man journeyed to Chicago as a result of Dr. Houghton's invitation.
Their expenses were borne by a donor unnamed at the time but who has since been
identified an the saintly "Breakfast Table Autocrat" and intimate friend or
Dr. Houghton, Henry Parsons Crowell. Those who attended were:
Dr. Irving A. Cowperthwaite,
Prof. Russell D. Sturgis,
Prof. Peter W. Stoner,
Prof. John P. Van Haitsma,
Prof. F. Alton Everest,
Dr. Houghton, Mr. Moon, and Mr. H. Coleman Crowell, the son of Henry P. Crowell and
Vice-President of Moody Bible Institute conferred with the group from time
to time but Dr. Houghton's statement In his letter of Invitation was faithfully
carried out when he said "some
or us are initiating this, but
we haven't any desire to control it, and certainly It would be limited if It were known to be
sponsored by any one educational Institution--. We want you to be very sure the
group will be entirely free to make Its own plans."
The American Scientific Affiliation
was organized at this time although its
constitution and new were not officially adopted until A few months later. The
precious time together was spent in considering future programs, membership qualifications and prospects, constitution, aim and
purposes, spiritual standards,
and many other vital topics. Dr. Cowperthwaite was
and Prof. Everest Chairman and the group adjourned.
The next few months were filled with intensive correspondence and the
of plans for a large national meeting in 1942. Three months after the Chicago
meeting, on December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor
and such grandiose
plans as a convention were eliminated by travel restrictions.
* 1951. Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Looking back an it, the Lord's overruling hand in interfering with our plans
by the war was probably the best thing that could have happened to the embryonic
group. We were forced to work and study independently during the 1941-1945 period
and were given practically no opportunity to arouse each others ire in heated
debate at close range. Rather, this time served to clarify the issues, streamline the
organization, bring In new members and to begin work on the book later
entitled, Modern Science and Christian Faith which is now in its second edition.
Articles of incorporation for the ABA as a
non-profit Organization were
While war-time travel restrictions practically eliminated civilian
the chairman was not only able but was forced to do considerable travelling over
the United States in the interests of his wartime work. This provided opportunities for dozens
of conferences and contacts which increased the effectiveness of
the work greatly over complete reliance on correspondence.
filed with the Secretary of State of California In August. 1943. Also, during
we began voting in new members after cautious consideration of their qualifications. By the close of the
war, the membership was about 50, and by the end
of 1950 about 130. The adoption of the new constitution with the new membership
classifications has naturally resulted in a sudden spurt over the average rate of
approximately 20 now members per year. At the time of this 1951 convention in
New York the membership is about 220. The growth has been steady--we have never
had ambitions for a large organization or we would have had lower standards for
membership, After all, there are just so many scientists, and a very small percentage are interested in Christian things,. but the conservative policies
are rapidly gaining the confidence of these qualified persons.
It seems entirely proper that the greatest strides of the ASA be taken during
the tenth anniversary year. Without doubt, the adoption of the new constitution
with no dissenting voices (one man expressed disagreement with one portion) was a
remarkable expression of the members' confidence in the leadership of the Council.
This in especially true when It Is realized that, for those members not qualified
for Fellow grade, It meant virtual disenfranchisement. This new constitution's
distinguishing feature is Its placing in the hands of the Fellows the voting
privileges and the policy responsibilities, yet opening the Associate grade for
those whose interest in and enthusiasm for the work of the ASA is in no way
measured by their lack of advanced scientific degrees. Thus, maximum protection is coupled with maximum
protection for the high spiritual and scholastic
standards of the group.
Another great stride was Dr. Mixter's selection for the presidency after nine
years of service In this capacity by the writer. Sudden upsurge in all activities
or the ASA is evidence cited to uphold this statement. One of the greatest experiences in the life of the writer has been the thrill of working side by side
with man of the ASA--men whose faith has been tried in the crucible of spiritually
sterile scientific criticism, men who have devoted their lives to the study of
God's handiwork in nature and who see there the infinite resources of the One,
'Whom we live and move and have our being. It is our priceless privilege to join
together in proclaiming the salvation which He has offered to a lost world.