Science in Christian Perspective



Effect on the Literature [of The Christian View of Science and Scripture]
Russell Maatman
Department of Chemistry 
Dordt College Sioux Center, Iowa

From: JASA 31 (September 1979): 190-191.

Let me first explain what I did to give an admittedly superficial answer to that question. Then I shall discuss what I found.

I looked for "post-Ramm" books which dealt with his subject which also contained either a significant reference list or a bibliography. Sixty-six such books were found. I have no reason to doubt that these sixty-six books are representative of all such books. Next, I arbitrarily divided them into three groups. Group A books are those which are non-evangelical and evolutionistic; Group B, evangelical, either for or against theistic evolution, but anti-young earth; Group C, evangelical, anti-evolutionistic, and pro young earth. The numbers of books in Groups A, B, and C were 16, 25, and 25, respectively.

What was found with respect to Ramm's book? The numbers of reference or bibliography listings in Groups A, B, and C were 0, 10, and 6, respectively. One thing is obvious. Although any writer would be happy to produce a book which is cited in 24% (16 out of 66) of the books in the field in the following quarter of a century, there is little evidence that Ramm has had an impact on non-evangelicals. Surely this is no fault of Ramm: non-evangelicals are notorious for ignoring the work of evangelicals.

Furthermore, of the six books in Group C referring to Ramm, only one disagrees with him in a scholarly way. In the other twenty-four books of the group his arguments are either ignored, unfairly handled, or mentioned only in passing. (It would not contribute to the spirit of the discussion to identify these books.)

Ramm's book itself would be in Group B and it is in this group where he is mentioned frequently and favorably. One cannot decide, of course, if an author of a Group B book has been influenced by Ramm or if he cited Ramm because he already agreed with him. Perhaps the most important indication that Ramm's book has been influential is this: only since Ramm's book has appeared has Group B, particularly that part of the group in which his book would be placed, attained any size. Such evidence is only circumstantial, but most who have worked in this field believe that the relation between the appearance of Ramm's book and the growth of Group B is a cause-andeffect relation.
Counting references is always dangerous. Yet I am sure, although I cannot prove it, that authors of Group A books do indeed completely ignore authors like Ramm, that authors of Group B books generally appreciate him and others like him, and that authors of Group C books do not seriously interact with those who write as Ramm does. In
other words, I believe in this case that the reference count reflects the actual situation.

Is this good? Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1962) claimed that scientists work under the umbrella of a paradigm, a unifying set of ideas. According to Kuhn, the scientific community itself becomes a part of the paradigm. A new paradigm and therefore a new scientific community appear only after there has been a scientific revolution. In the pre-paradigm period there are competing ideas and groups and-note this-the members of a group tend to communicate only with each other. Kuhn's model was intended only for the physical sciences. But does it not apply to us? Do we not act as if we are in the pre-paradigm period whenever we discuss the Christian view of science and Scripture?

There is no need for us to live that way. The Christian community surely ought to be above the level at which competing groups of scholars function. It is one thing for physicists to achieve consensus after the give-and-take of centuries. But it is another thing for the Christian community to function so that its members become of one mind in the Lord. Ramm's book and our experience with his book have both taught us.