Science in Christian Perspective



Karl Turekian

From: JASA 5 (September 1953): 16.

The history of geological progress bears in bold print the names of many Christian geologists. Though, it often seems, men have derided the Scriptures as obscurantist in its perspective yet the evidence shows that the Bible has provided motivation and purpose to countless scientists. To these Christian scientists it became an imperative of God to discover and delight in the mysteries of nature.

This is seen graphically in the life of James Dwight Dana who, is perhaps best known in the field of mineralogy at present but whose influence during his life time covered a wider fiteld. On graduating from Yale College in 1830 he began his life of discovering God's creation. The late part of the 19th century was to see him as an influential teacher at his old ahm mater and also the editor of the American Journal of Science.

His work ranged from zoological treatises on corals to his famed mineralogical system. He found time in his busy life for investigating volcanos, elaborating his theory of cephalization and other widely varying problems.

Dana was often accosted with that familiar contemporary problem-the relation of Genesis and geology. For these inquiries he formulated his ideas and included them in his Manual of Geology (first published in 1862).

He was perhaps one of the first to emphasize the varied meanings of the Hebrew and translated "day" in Genesis 1. He considered the word to mean the equivalent of "stage" and then listed the creation in

Genesis in terms of what was then known regarding our planet. In doing so Dana found no contradiction between Genesis and geological history.

Though at first he rejected any form of evolution, believing in the direct creation of each species, in later life he altered his stand and affirmed that the pageant of life came " . . . through the derivation of species from species . . . intervention."

He wrote to one clergyman concerned with, the problem: "While admitting the derivation of man from an inferior species, I believe that there was a Divine creative act at the origin of man; that the event was as truly a creation as if it had been from earth or inorganic matter to man. I find nothing in the belief to impair or disturb my religious faith."

Whether Dana was right or not in his stand will be difficult Perhaps to ascertain in this life. It is interesting though that men of both a devout faith and outstanding scientific ability are numbered among the great in the hails of geology.

On considering this question one is forced to be less dogmatic on any particular interpretation of Scripture when several alternatives are possible. Indeed it is probably most in keeping with the attitude of the Scriptures to welcome new facts and sack our old theories and interpretations when rapprochement is not found between the two. In such honesty, certainly neither the Bible nor our Christian faith need suffer.