Science in Christian Perspective

Anatomy of a Confrontation*
(An interview with Vernon L.Grose)
Minister, Reformed Church in America


From: JASA 23 (December 1971): 146-149.

Early in the fall of 1969, the Board of Education of the State of California was considering the question of whether or not the theory of evolution should be presented as the only explanation for the origin of the universe in the study of science in the public school classroom. Members of the Board of Education were divided on the issue. Pressure was being exerted by various groups representing both sides, and the issue had become the subject of wide public concern.
In October an editorial appeared in the prestigious Los Angeles Times
which suggested that the State Board of Education had members on it who did not believe in the "accepted fact of evolution." Dr. Vernon L. Grose, vice president of the Tustin Institute of Technology in Santa Barbara, a physicist, a Christian and an ASA member, objected to this use of the word "fact."
"I reacted on the grounds- that the creation of the universe by a Supreme Being was altogether as logical as that of an evolutionary start of all things. To present evolution alone as an explanation for origins violated the very principles of science," he said.

Christian Life: What was your reaction when you read the Los Angeles Times editorial asserting that "evolution is a fact"?

Geese: There were several specific things in that editorial to which I objected as a scientist. The most significant one was the statement that evolution is a fact. This is not true. Evolution is hardly a hypothesis, let alone a theory. In addition, the editorial pointed out that the California Attorney General had ruled in 1963 that evolution could be taught in public schools provided the teacher did not indoctrinate. This was obviously a contradiction. For if you taught only one theory for origin you could hardly help but indoctrinate. So I suppose my cosmological perspective as a member of the kingdom ofGod played an important role in my reaction to the editorial.

Christian Life: You said evolution is not even a hypothesis. Will you explain what you mean?

Groser: I said it is "hardly" a hypothesis. Science is an organization of knowledge. This knowledge can be categorized several ways, based on how much faith we can put in it. Perhaps the loosest category is the hypothesis, defined as something assumed because it seems likely to be true explanation. Something a bit more certain could he called a theory which is explanation based on observation and reasoning. Only when we have removed all doubt do we dare call something a fact, because a fact is something known to he true or known to have really happened. I became disturbed when it appeared that evolution was being passed off as a fact.

Christian Life: Do you think evolution should be taught in public schools?

Grose: Certainly, evolution should be taught in the schools. Some of the scientific data, for example the regular absence of transitional forms, may he best explained by a creation theory while other data, for example variety within species, substantiate a process of evolution.

Christian Life: How did you express your objection to the editorial?

Grose: Well, I sat down and wrote a letter to the Las Angeles Times. I also sent this letter to each member of the California Board of Education. As a result, I was invited to appear before the Board and express my opinion.

Christian Life: What happened when you appeared before the Board?"

Cease: My reception before the Board was very good in the sense that they allowed me to speak for 25 minutes, and then I made a proposal that they adopt a modification into the Science Framework under consideration. And this they did.

Christian Life: Why did the press and TV give such wide coverage to the adoption of your work into the Science Framework?

Grose: Possibly because the Board's action in this ease will affect the teaching of science in public schools throughout the U.S. I have here a clipping from a news article which was distributed by United Press International, It reads: "The Science Framework (a 205-page rationale to govern the teaching of science in California public schools) is an essential element used by pub lishers in putting together science textbooks for California Since California buys 10 percent of the textbooks sold in the U.S., publishers are willing to tailor the textbooks to fit California guidelines. The text also will be sold throughout the rest of the U.S. Therefore, the changes made by the Board will have a nationwide effect on the teaching of science."

Christian Life; Do you feel that the press gave fair coverage to your confrontation?

Grose; I do not. As I indicated earlier, the Los Angeles Times editorial was inaccurate, After I had made my statement to the Board of Education, newsmen and TV reporters tried to identify my objections with a religious bias. When I was interviewed by a writer from Time magazine I made a special point of asking him to clarify the issue-that I was not interested in introducing religious teaching in the name of science in the science classroom. Quite apart from that, I was saving that there are scientists who are atheists who endorse creation.

Christian Life; Do you mean to say that creation is a scientific theory?

Grose; Yes I do. There are several creation theories that are prominent, the continuous creation theory for example. It is not enjoying as much repute today as it has in the past. Nevertheless, it has been postulated. In the textbook used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was published only last year, the word "creation" appears many times. Therefore, it was unscientific so fas as I was concerned, to continue to use the monolithic, bigoted and biased idea of evolution as the only explanation for origin. I wasn't so much a foe of evolution as I was a man crying out in the wilderness for liberty and objectivity in the teaching of science.

Christian Life; In other words, this was a sort of Scopes trial in reverse?

Grose; It was, because in the Scopes trial 44 years ago, in which Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan opposed one another, the issue was whether or not any theory besides that of creation could be taught. Today only one theory is taught. That is evolution.

Christian Life; You say there is almost a "religious" bigotry about evolution?

Grose; Yes, My field is physics, so I had to do little digging in the field of biology before I could make my presentation. As I got into it I discovered that evolution is more than a biological theory. It has ramifications in the field of sociology, ethics, polities and religion. It certainly played a role in the church of the 1920s and 1930s when we said man was getting better and better, evolving to a higher status, and that all men were coming to some sort of utopia. This was evolutionary thought. It also appeared in the theories of Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler.

Christian Life: How can you say that Hitler endorsed the theory of evolution?

Grose; When I visited Daehau concentration camp just outside of Munich last year, it occurred to me that Hitler stood firmly on the theory of evolution because he endorsed the cornerstone of evolution-the survival of the fittest. He considered the Germanic race to be the fittest and thereby rationalized their right to murder all those who could not stand up against the fittest. Further he felt justified in persecuting them and using them in horrible experiments. But how anyone can

I was not interested in introducing religious teaching in the name of science in the science classroom.
speak of the dignity of man and still hold to the theory of evolution is a bit beyond me.

Christian Life; But didn't you say that you thought scientific data verifies evolution?

Grose; Yes I did. Without getting too technical let me say that there are two aspects of evolution. The first is what is commonly known in scientific circles as the special theory of evolution. This describes the variety that we see within species (for example, that all men do not look alike) and is variation due to natural selection and survival of the fittest in that sense. On the other hand, what the lay public recognizes as evolution and what I was referring to concerning Adolf Hitler is the idea that everything we see in the universe has come originally from one speck of matter. This is the general theory of evolution and is the one I object to.

Christian Life; How did you present this to the members of the Board of Education?

Grose; Well, I asked them if they could imagine the impact on the logic required for justice in our courts if we were forced to amend the Declaration of Independence to read. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men arose as equals from a soup of amino acid-like molecules, and that they by virtue of this common, molecular ancestry are endowed with certain inalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Christian Life; You said earlier that the press and TV tied religious overtones to your confrontation or presentation. How did you reply to them?

Grose; I said it was just as appropriate to ask my religious belief as it was to ask my political persuasion or my sex behavior. As far as I was concerned all three were equally relevant. And if the press were that much interested, why weren't they asking the proponents of the monolithic idea of evolution as to what their religious views were. Actually, I maintained a strict neutrality on the subject of religion because I saw no reason to introduce the religious aspect. The problem was purely scientific. We were talking about the origin of the universe, matter, life and man himself.

Christian Life; Yet you do have Christian convictions, do you not?

Crase; Yes. When I was 17 years old I gave my life to Jesus Christ, and have endeavored since that time to serve Him as my Lord and Savior. I certainly won't deny that.

Christian Life; What role did your belief inGod play in your presentation?

Grose; I believe that Paul was writing in the book of II Corinthians about the fact that even though we live a normal Christian life, we should also view things as having a perspective larger than this. This is evident to me when I remember Stephen's stoning. He was able to look beyond those who were doing their best to destroy him. That is when he saw God I think of dual citizenship. I certainly am a citizen of the United States. I'm interested in the defense of my country, for instance, as an Air Force Reserve Officer. But on the other hand, my citizenship really is in heaven. And even though I wasn't trained in biology, when I got
into the issue I believe I must have felt something like Jesus did when He overthrew the tables and the moneychangers in the temple.

Christian Life: So it was in righteous indignation that you wrote to the Los Angeles Times and to the members of the Board of Education.

Grose: Yes, I suppose you could say that.

Christian Life: How did the Board respond to your suggestions?

Grose: They were very courteous to me. But of course the issue had become a heated one by that time. Dr. Ralph Gerard of the University of California, who had worked with 15 others for four and one-half years on the 205-page Science Framework for the Board, was incensed. lIe claimed that my proposal was equivalent to telling children that babies are brought by the stork.

Christian Life: Then the Board of Education actually amended the Science Framework submitted by Dr. Gerard's curriculum committee by including in it your recommendation?

Grose: Yes. I had written more, but they inserted two paragraphs. These paragraphs now are a part of the Science Framework which will affect the teaching of science in most schools in the U.S. These paragraphs read: "All scientific evidence to date concerning the origin of life implies at least a dualism or the necessity to use several theories to fully explain the relationships between established data points. This dualism is not unique to this field of study, but is also appropriate in other scientific disciplines such as the physics of light. While the Bible and other philosophical treatises also mention creation, science has independently postulated the various theories of creation. Therefore creation in scientific terms is not a religious or philosophical belief. Also note that creation and evolutionary theories are not necessarily mutual exclusives. Some of the scientific data, for example the regular absence of transitional forms, may be best explained by a creation theory, while other data, for example transmutation of species, substantiate a process of evolution."

Christian Life: How do you view the time and effort you spent on this project? Do you believe it was worthwhile?

Grose: So far as I am concerned, I am amaed at some of the things God has done. The odds were extremely high against success. Yet I believe because my trust was in the Lord and because the issue was a significant one, that He honored the effort.

Christian Life: Would you encourage other Christians to speak out on issues in which they may be concerned?

Grose: Definitely. I see this as only a single issue, but I believe many more issues will be raised which will call for concerned action on the part of Christians. And here I don't mean Christians brought together in churches or denominations-but Christians acting as individuals. In fact, I am rather tired of the resolutions passed at annual church conventions and conferences. I think the time has come to make our impact and force felt as individual human beings. I believe as Christians we should be speaking out about music, art, politics and other disciplines as well as science.

Christian Life: Do you see this as a New Testament pattern?

Grose: Without question. I also see it as the "wave of the future." I see a triumphant church, even in these last days, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. I am inclined to think that too often we consider the church as a cowering, intimidated remnant that's barely hanging on. Even now there are some who appear to be hoping that Jesus Christ will return before they run out of gas. I don't see that type of church in the future. In fact, I really see the forces of evil being met in these last days with an aggressive, explosive reaction of men who are led and filled by the Spirit of God.

Christian Life: You mentioned carer that your discipline is physics rather than biology. Yet you felt so strongly about the issue that you were willing to expose yourself. Were you afraid of the consequences?

Grose: When I received the invitation from Sacramento to appear before the Board of Education I felt quite inadequate. As I mentioned, my discipline is physics while the subject involved biology. So I requested the elders of the church which I attended to set me apart for this task, just as in apostolic times men were set apart by the church for a specific ministry. You will remember this is recorded in the 13th chapter of Acts as happening in the church at Antioch. I was disturbed if educators were so insecure regarding the validity of the evolutionary theory that they were afraid to allow any other theory to be taught or to be compared with what they may have already decided to he a "fact."

Christian Life: Are you saying then that Christians today should view encounters or confrontations in the area of politics, the military or science as opportunities for God to work through them, and that they must be empowered by the Holy Spirit to meet them?

Grose: Yes. I see the need for Christians to rise to the cause. The world is talking about violence. Ralph Nader talks about the violence of pollution, the violence of auto safety. Yet as Christians we often appear to be reciting nursery rhymes. I think that what we need to do is to consider that we are in a warfare, as Ephesians 6 indicates. And when we see a confrontation coming even though it might not be as consequential as the one I got involved in here, I believe we must ask God to give us an anointing of the Holy Spirit to confront the forces of evil . . . . Not simply to withstand their attack, but to attack them. And if I sound excited, I guess I am.

Christian Life: Will this change the nature or program of the church as we know it today?

Grose: I believe the time has come for both individual Christians and the church to step out from the comfortable role of acceptance by American society. We should move out into the mainstream of life in the dynamic, powerful and unquenchable fire of the Spirit of God. The day of effectiveness of the staid, comfortable church has passed. We are in the midst of conflict today. And this conflict is like the separation process through which metals go to be purified. I believe we as believers will be tested and tried, but as we allow ourselves to be filled by the Holy Spirit, as believers were in the book of Acts, God will enable us to do things that will even surprise us. Remember, David was alone when he met Goliath. Gideon started out with big numbers, but God cut him down to a few. It was less than a dozen men whom Jesus chose who rocked the world with their testimony. God appears to deal with individuals or at least small groups of individuals. He is after quality rather than quantity.

Christian Life: Earlier in this interview you alluded to your own experience as a sort of "Scopes trial in reverse." In other words, you used the same argument against evolution, as the attorney Clarence Darrow did against creation 44 years ago. Do you think it's probable that Christians today can employ this same tactic, much as Jesus did when He defeated Satan in the wilderness at the time of His temptation? In other words, when Satan quoted Scripture inaccurately to Him, lie retorted with correct Scripture which undercut Satan's argument altogether.

Grose: That's an interesting observation. Last year I visited 15 countries in Europe while I was teaching there. On the surface, it appeared wherever I went that the visible church was declining. Yet invariably in the countries where the church appeared to be the weakest on the surface, there I met small groups of believers who operated on sheer faith and were seeing astonishing miracles of God performed. In other words, those who are really in intimate contact with Jesus Christ are on the ups\ving. They are coming on, and I believe there is going to be a dramatic demonstration of the power of God in these last days. It is being felt right now by the rediscovery and widespread renewal of gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. There is an analogy in jujitsu, wherein the Japanese take the strength and weight of the op ponent and use it against him in the principle of leverage. I believe God is going to allow us to use all of Satan's weaponry right hack against him.

Christian Life: Can you think of an example of how you used this technique in your presentation to the Board of Education?

Grose: Possibly. I said I was disturbed if educators were so insecure regarding the validity of the evolutionary theory that they were afraid to allow any other theory to be taught or to be compared with what they may have already decided to he a "fact,"

Christian Life: There may be a scriptural parallel for this in the experience of Haman who was hanged on the very gallows he had erected for Mordeeai. Or as the Psalmist says, "In the snare that he has set for another is his own foot taken." is this what you mean?

Grose: Yes. As C. S. Lewis has put it, we who believe in Jesus Christ are little Christs. Just as Jesus "directly interfered in the affairs of men" by His coming to earth, so we believers today must continue to interfere with Satan's well-laid plans. (An effective example of carrying the offensive to the enemy is Pat Boone's new album, "Crisis America.") For two decades Billy Graham has been saying that "Christ is the answer." There may be all kinds of problems-war, poverty, pollution, prejudice, narcotics, over-population, etc-but simmer them all down, and if each individual person involved in these problems would commit himself wholly to Jesus Christ, the larger problem would be completely solved.