Science in Christian Perspective
The East Wind of Authority
WILLIAM J. TINKLE*
Christians were criticized by Thomas Huxley for accepting ideas on the basis of authority. Many people accept evolution as truth on the basis of what renowned scientists have said. They, too, are bowing to an authority, but at a different shrine.
Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) the tireless preacher of good ethics and implacable foe of untenable theology, stated that his motive was "to learn what is true in order to do what is right." This, he tells us (1), "is the summing up of the whole duty of man, for all who are not able to satisfy their mental hunger with he east wind of authority."
This scriptural allusion is based upon Genesis
in which the king of Egypt tells his dream of stalks of corn which were made barren by wind from the east.
Blowing over the deserts of Arabia, such winds became
hot, dry, and parching to vegetation. Allusions to the
Bible were used a great deal in the nineteenth century
but now are understood only in religious circles, if even
there. And it must be admitted that Huxley and his followers, by casting doubt upon the veracity of the Bible,
have contributed to this ignorance.
Huxley had great faith in the ethical power of truth, There is indeed some correlation between truth and good conduct, but not many men have been thrust out as preachers of righteousness by learning new facts. One has to wonder if there is not another explanation of Hal Huxley's moral zeal, the fact that he attended church as a boy (2, p. 10).
In England in the middle of the nineteenth century, there probably was some justification for considering authority a withering force. Kerkut explains that education was controlled by the Church, with the aim of making the college student either a priest or a person useful to priests. Students learned to quote authorities without understanding them. Intelligent understanding was not required at all, but the student must not contradict nor even doubt the wording of time-honored masters. But Kerkut goes on to say that his students still quote authorities whom they do not understand; the difference is that now the infallible ones are the high priests of evolution (3, p. 3).
There still are many people, in this country and abroad, who accept a world view which they have not evaluated but have taken uncritically on the statement of people in high places. I do not make this observa tion about biologists and geologists; they found their conclusions on facts, but in my humble opinion they dis regard some facts, especially newly discovered ones. Philosophers and theologians, however, seeing that these scientists employ evolution as a basic truth, do not have the courage to contradict them. In the minds of many people, accepting evolution is simply agreeing with science. This is nothing less than bowing to authority, which Huxley deplored. The same bow is
*Dr. Tinkle is a retired geneticist who formerly taught in Anderson College, Anderson, Ind.
made but at another shrine.
At the same time, these people who cannot feel intellectually respectable if they say "No" to a scientist are turning their backs to a group of the best science teachers in the nation; men who teach that creation is correct and evolution is wrong. Their teaching is approved in that their students go on to graduate school and do well.
Yarnold comes out boldly for evolution and cites some evidence, natural selection and mutation, but if he gave a full account of genes and chromosomes along with mutation the conclusion would be otherwise. The following quotation leads one to think that his decision was made by following the majority: "The claim that the early chapters of Genesis give a literal account of creation was consequently called in question and has now been abandoned by all reputable theologians." (6, p. 48, italics mine). Thus the evolutionists justify themselves and browbeat their opponents. Several times the statement has been made that all biologists accept the theory except the ones who are uninformed or prejudiced (4; 5, p. 59). Many people can not stand against this show of intellectual authority.
In a class in the university the professor said, "The facts of nature are the authority in this course." As one
would expect from such a principle, the course was good. Yet facts alone do not guarantee that correct conclusions will be reached. After one has gone out and gathered all the facts he can find, one is just ready to
begin the important task, which is to interpret them. Since the facts of nature are myriad, of many types, and
have only a circumstantial bearing on some of our problems, it follows that any one of several interpretations
It is here that the solution proposed by some great man comes to our aid. But if we agree with his solution, perhaps we are not deciding according to all the facts but only a part of them; he has ruled that some of
them do not apply. If some facts make problems they may be laid aside, awaiting a further investigation. He
makes his theory or law on the basis of the facts which he likes, and we take the easy course of agreement.
Science is supposed to be the impartial interpretation of facts which have been gathered without prejudice.
Do we always live up to this high ideal?
In Christianity we have revelation in addition to observed evidence. That revelation is preserved in a
unique Book which, unlike the Medieval Church, doesnot set up unnecessary cosmological systems. Its authority is not like the dreaded east wind but rather the southwind, bringing sunshine and rain.
Let me quote again from Kerkut, whom all ASA members should read: "From time to time one must stop and attempt to think out for oneself instead of just accepting the most widely quoted viewpoint" (3, p. vii)
Huxley, T. H.,
Science and Education, D.
2. Irvine, William, Apes, Angels, and Victorians, McGraw- Hill, 1955.
3. Kerkut, G. A., Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, 1960.
4. Lerner, 1. M., Proc. Am. Philosophical Soc., Vol. 103. No. 2.
5. Newman, H. H., Readings in Evolution, Genetics, and Eugenics, 1922.
6. Yarnold, G. D., Spiritual Crisis of the Scientific Age, Allen & Unwin, 1959.