Science in Christian Perspective



LETTER  [on Bernatowicz paper]

From: JASA 11 (September 1959): 16.

I am so appreciative of the notice in the 6 April 1959 issue of the ASA Newsletter of the storm created by Dr. A. J. Bernatowicz of Hawaii concerning teleological expressions and anthropomorphic modes of thought. I will confine my remarks here to a few words, since this sort of thing could generate a thesis.

Personally, I am amused at Bernatowicz' paper and take it rather lightly, but did not do so at first reading. I do not know Bernatowicz personally but have had pleasant correspondence with him, as his specialty is also mine. I believe that his ability to generate a controversy was faithfully implanted during his predoctoral days. We both studied at the same institution and under the same man, and I know what the tftining was like. It was certainly "rigorous", to say the least.

The article was very well taken as far as his thesis was concerned, however, I thought I detected a vindictiveness in his tone that belied a mere passing interest or concern in the usage of "evil" terms by scientists. Could Bernatowicz have been using the article to attack any Divine explanation of origin that any scientist might hold in his mind,

For a Christian who is also a scientist the use of teleology, whether this be in the usage of expressions or as the motivation for a line of reasoning, should certainly be eliminated in his research program for if used it could definitely cloud and render inoperative the desired mechanistic causes and effects which a good basic research program should reveal. However, in contrast to many secular colleagues of mine, I hold that a man is not a scientist in the laboratory and then a theologian in the church, the two natures being widely separated. A man is a whole and to separate him would be to create a mutant sport. Therefore, it would be nothing short of impossible to completely separate teleological thinking from man's basic inner drives and motivations . According to the Bible man was created in the image of God, both regenerate and unregenerate man, and to attempt to make ourselves comipletely mechanistic would be to utterly frustrate our inner innate motivations, whose tendencies would be to recognize our complete helplessness in "pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps". This is no excuse to place our scientific language and research programs under a teleological approach, but as Bernatowicz expressed, a more rigorous examination of our scientific attitudes is necessary.

I want to add, however, that I doubt that Dr. Bernatowicz would enter a classroom to teach a course just full of facts and hard meat, unless he first outlined a purposeful design and plan to hang the fact on. His course would then proceed in an orderly and "teleological" manner. To do otherwise would be complete f olly.

Finally, I am surprised that Science would devote space in their publication to this type of article. It seems to me that an article of research value of comparable space would be of more value, even if such article were to have a few inadvertent "slips of evil". It is just as evil, in my way of thinking, to harbor intolerance for one's fellow worker's nonrigorous shortcomings as it is for a very nonrigorous fellow to remain careless in the "evil" of nonrigorous sins. Who becomes the greater offender? It is well that science has good watchdogs, but perhaps the attitude becomes one similar to that of the late John L. Lewis, "I'll give the world 24 hours to get out".

Thank you very much.

Ronald C. Phillips