Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Disappointed with MacKay
John A. Cramer 
Hensel Apts. X3F College Station, Texas

From: JASA 27 (June 1975): 96.

The many kind words about D.M. MacKay's book "The Clockwork Image" encouraged me to order a copy from ASA headquarters. I was disappointed. Perhaps the reasons for this will be of some value to other ASA members.
The chief difficulty is that his central thesis is not a thesis but an assumption. He claims that even if it were shown that all of the universe in its parts and its entirety could be explained mechanistically, there still would be room for other explanations, e.g., Christianity. He says, ". . the 'nothing-buttery' assumption - that when you have verified a complete account in one set of terms you automatically debunk any others - is simply mistaken logic" (pg. 72). In support of this he makes two points: (a) one's ability to describe completely the workings of an electric sign leaves out the meaning of the sign and (b) scientific criteria cannot properly be applied to all areas of life. He apparently thinks the two points are the same since he illustrates the second by repeating the first (pg. 43).

The reply is that his claim is a bald-faced denial of the law of parsimony (Occam's razor). I suppose the choice is his privilege but then his thinking is useless to those who choose to retain the law. This eccentric choice is possible because he begs the question at a critical point. He assumes the existence of value and meaning. But, it is precisely that assumption that is under attack and in need of support. He seems totally unaware that modern men do not believe in values or God because they do not share his view of Occam's razor and because they do believe "the clockwork image".
There are other problems but enough is enough. In short, this book is, at best, an illegitimate tool with which to loosen the grip of "the clockwork image" on the minds of modern men.