Science in Christian Perspective
To develop its great potentialities, the ASA should (1) initiate explorations into the possibility of a federations of associations which bring the Christian witness to intellectuals, (2) publish a popular magazine relating Christian faith to science, (3) develop a Christian philosophy of science which is in keeping with Biblical revelation, and (4) sponsor an International Congress on Science and Christianity.
The American Scientific Affiliation has obligations to the Christian community, to the scientific community, and to its own members. The first twenty-two years of the ASA have been largely characterized by family affairs--the gathering of a membership of qualified individuals and the tentative exploration of the vast and vital issues arising between science and the Christian faith. It would seem most desirable and tactically astute for the ASA to make definite plans toward developing greater outward look during the next five or ten years. A study of existing needs and opportunities has suggested four challenges which appear to be worthy of the consideration of members and officers of the ASA in developing this outward look.CHALLENGE I
As far as is known, the American Scientific Affiliation is the oldest organization on the North American Continent formed for the purpose of considering the interaction of science and the Christian faith. God has seen fit to preserve and prosper the ASA when such worthy organizations as The Religion and Science Association, The Kelvin Institute, The Creationist Society, The Society for Study of Deluge Geology, The Natural History Research Group, The Society for the Study of Natural Science and others have fallen into oblivion. On the other hand, a number of new organ-
*Slightly revised version of a paper presented at the 18th
annual convention of the ASA held at Westmont College,
Santa Barbara, Calif., Aug. 19-23, 1963.
** Dr. Everest is Director of Science and Production, Moody Institute of Science, Santa Monica, California. He is a charter member of the ASA and currently serves as Editor of ASA News.
The first challenge is simply this: that negotiations be initiated exploring the possibility of the banding together of these organizations into a loose federation that would present a united front for the greatest overall witness to the world. This larger organization might function along the lines of the American Association For the Advancement of Science. The idea would not be to usurp the authority of the disciplinary groups, but rather to augment and encourage them. Greater emphasis upon the several disciplines should better serve the specific needs and interests of the individual Christian man of science and thus lay a stronger foundation for a program of outreach.
The temptation to suggest that the ASA fulfill this function by swallowing up these other societies shall be pushed aside. Perhaps an entirely new organization is needed to carry out this larger task. It is true that the ASA has the broader interests as shown by the intense activity within the Psychology Commission, the Natural Science Commission, the Social Science Commission and the Philosophy of Science Commission. Such an organizational arrangement as proposed could be built up around this commission structure. Like Science, the organ of the AAAS, a journal dealing with inter-disciplinary matters would seem to be indicated to supplement the disciplinary publications.
Such a "shade-tree" type of organization would shelter the disciplinary groups beneath its branches. It would be controlled by representatives from all of the disciplines and would serve all, better rendering that most important service of broadening the viewpoint of the specialist. The shade-tree organization would present a more unified and effective testimony to intellectuals and would serve the Christian community with greater authority and effectiveness.CHALLENGE 11
It is suggested that the American Scientific Affiliation consider seriously the eventual publication of a popular magazine designed to help the Christian layman in relating matters of his faith to science. Youth workers, students, teachers and alert parents are eager for help in evaluating controversies that appear to arise between traditional Christian concepts and modern science. They need help in developing from first principles a world view embracing knowledge from revelation in Scripture and revelation in nature. Controversies would not be treated as ends in themselves but as opportunities to establish an intellectual climate in which such controversies could not arise or long survive.
The question arises, what would be the content? There could be articles on current issues and topics, reviews of significant books and articles appearing elsewhere, treatment of controversial issues on a pro-con basis and reprints of helpful articles from other sources. Picture interviews could communicate the vitality of the witness of Christians prominent on the current scientific scene. One of the great values of such a journal would be the assurance imparted by the general knowledge that there are many qualified, practicing scientists living fruitful lives of faith.
The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is a scholarly publication. The proposed magazine would supplement the Journal. In fact, the existence of a vital Journal would be a necessary foundation for such a magazine. Apart from the ASA, there is no other backlog of talent in our hemisphere upon which such a magazine could be operated on a continuing basis. This means that the ASA has a special responsibility in this regard.
Such a periodical was considered seriously by the Editorial Board and the Executive Council in 1962. It would take considerable money to launch such a magazine and it was judged unwise to proceed in this direction until certain other editorial projects of a more urgent nature were cared for. But this is something the entire membership of the ASA should ponder, for all are involved. Who knows? Perhaps some in ember of the ASA has the money such a project requires or knows someone else who has!CHALLENGE III
Beside the individual and collective responsibility of effectively communicating the Christian message to the scientific community, there is the broader task of developing a philosophy of science in keeping with Biblical revelation, and the two are related. It is characteristic of our time that great minds interpret the universe mechanistically. ASA members generally feel that science needs the orientation of Biblical theism. In fact, science and theology are in need of each other if we are to avoid the evils of compartmentalization. Christian thinkers of all ages have applied themselves to aspects of this problem but only recently have appreciable attempts been made to formulate such a philosophy. The American Scientific Affiliation has had a part in this; with the Evangelical Theological Society, the ASA has a responsibility to the world to carry on this work with increased diligence. As the problems of the time shift and as God's revelation in nature unfolds, a neat static philosophy cannot be expected, but rather one which is temporal and continuing in nature. An evangelical philosophy of science, then, would be a consistent amalgamation of the data of revelation and the data of empirical science.
This is an area in which neither the Christian nor the non-Christian can prove that his view is right. Christians see God in nature because of their vantage point of faith. Faith does not come as a result of seeing God in nature. The Christian man of science must not expect to force his position on others through "irresistible intellectual argument." Developing and applying such a Christian philosophy of science would, however, be an invaluable exercise for all and would provide a satisfaction to the intellectual aspect of the Christian life.
Thousands and thousands of scientists are immersed in research in their narrow specialties, giving little thought to anything but the immediate empirical aspects of their work. A few self-appointed scientist-philosophers, arising out of this great sea of researchers, account f or much of the philosophical enunciation in science. Among them are very few men of Christian persuasion. What is enunciated is shaped by the personal philosophy of the individual. In this way the scientific edifice has been erected on philosophical foundations of atheistic materialism.
In the rebellion against religion among intellectuals, something has been lost to science. For one thing, scientists have been inclined to forget the limited sphere of science and the source of the orderliness of the universe which makes scientific investigation possible.
We should not expect wholesale acceptance of any Christian philosophy of science, but we have a right to hope that it might become an intellectually respectable alternative. It is suggested that the ASA has a definite responsibility to the scientific community in devel6ping a Christian philosophy of science and that such activity should be officially encouraged. During the last ten years six major papers on this subject have appeared in the Journal of the ASA. This is a small, but valuable beginning.CHALLENGE IV
While the success of the annual national conventions of the ASA is being questioned, it may seem foolhardy to propose a heroic dose of the same thing as a palliative or as a cure. But with the desire to inject a new dimension into the mission and work of the ASA, such a heroic measure is hereby proposed. The new dimension is one of dramatizing to the scientific community and to the world the complete relevance of Christian faith to this modem age and demonstrating to the Christian community that science is truly an ally of faith. The proposal is that ASA officials consider the possibility of planning, organizing and sponsoring an International Congress on Science and Christianity to take place about 1969 or 1970.
To be effective, a tremendous amount of planning, hard work, and expense would be involved. The pro gram might well be built around the several commission areas. Cross-pollination between Christian men of science of many countries would permeate each of the subject areas. Such a congress would yield publishable material and attract the attention of prominent publishing houses, extending the influence of the congress even further.
Here, then, are four of many possible challenges which are placed before the ASA. May these and other such challenges provide purpose, motivation and justification f or this society in the years to come.