Book Reviews for December 1994
CREATION AND TIME by
Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994. 187 pages, notes with bibliography,
indexes. Paperback; $10.00.
Ross tackles the central issues of the age-of-the-universe debate in his latest book, Creation and Time. It departs from his two previous works, The Fingerprint of God and The Creator and the Cosmos, in that it is intended primarily for a general Christian audience rather than a secular one. He is more than qualified to discuss the theological and scientific evidences pertaining to this controversy. Ross, who has a Ph.D. in astronomy, worked as a post-doctoral fellow at CalTech for several years before creating the evangelical organization Reasons to Believe. He travels the country giving lectures mostly to scientists and participates in many debates with so-called "young earthers."
After reading through a concise historical summary of the age-of-the-universe debate going back 2000 years, we get to the meat of the book with the chapter entitled "Biblical Basis for Long Creation Days." Many of the arguments in this chapter are expanded versions of those in The Fingerprint of God, including the standard analyses of the word Yom, the events of the sixth day, and the uniqueness of the seventh day. Taken together, the nine arguments form a strong case for the old-universe interpretation of Scriptures. In the chapter describing the theological implications of long creation days, Ross attempts to respond to the many objections raised by young-earthers. He bases most of his theology on the dual revelation of Scriptures and Nature, citing 23 verses from the Bible supporting this view C five more than in The Fingerprint of God. Noteworthy is the amount of space devoted to a discussion of the issue of death and decay before Adam's sin. This is not surprising considering that this is one of the most significant points of contention between old- and young-earthers.
The other important chapter in the book is the one dealing with scientific evidences for an ancient universe. Not surprisingly, Ross's three strongest points all come from astronomy: the expansion of the universe, stellar burning rates, and abundances of the radioactive elements. He spends the remainder of this chapter and the next one refuting supposed young-universe evidences. Overall, his refutations are quite strong with the exception of Robert Gentry's work with 218Po haloes. While he does discuss the rarely cited work of geologist Jeffrey Wakefield, who showed that Gentry obtained his samples from young dikes rather than from Precambrian granites, he fails to offer an adequate alternate explanation of the formation of the 218Po haloes. He states "...since one of the three 'mysterious' classes of radio haloes has now been explained in terms of normal (old-earth), known physical processes, it is reasonable to conclude that the same will eventually be accomplished for the two remaining classes, including Gentry's polonium 218 haloes." This is nothing more than wishful thinking. He also fails to mention Gentry's work with polonium haloes in caliphate wood, which has a more direct bearing on the age-of-the-earth debate.
One of the most memorable passages in the book is the following:
"With odds as remote as 1 in 10100,000,000,000, the creation time-scale issue becomes irrelevant. Whether the earth has been around for ten seconds, ten thousand years, or ten billion years makes no difference. Nor does the size of the universe matter ... Given these numbers, how absurd for Christians to argue about a mere factor of 106 (the difference between a universe created ten thousand years ago compared to 10 billion years ago)!"
His point is simply that natural biological processes fail utterly to account for life in the universe, and that just because someone is an old-earther does not mean he is a biological evolutionist. This is an important point, since young-earthers frequently label old-earthers as evolutionists.
In summary, Ross presents a strong defense of the old-earth position, providing extensive notes and citing the recent scientific literature. Rather than increasing the conflict between old- and young-earthers, I hope this book will bring the two groups closer together. He ends the book with a "proposal for lasting peace" between the two factions in the age-of-the-universe debate. He proposes forming a council, similar to the first-century Jerusalem council, which would lead to a settlement of the disputes. I highly recommend Creation and Time to anyone even slightly interested in this topic.
Reviewed by Guillermo Gonzalez, Post-Doctoral Research Astronomer, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712.
LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR WHOM? The Recent Evangelical Debate over Capitalism by Craig
M. Gay. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991. 276 pages, index. Paperback; $19.95.
With Liberty and Justice for Whom? first took shape as a doctoral dissertation under Peter Berger. The book reflects that start with careful documentation and a sociological perspective. In a debate that is often acrimonious, Gay is scrupulously fair to each examined author. His purpose is "to get to the bottom of the evangelical debate over capitalism, an attempt to determine just how it is that evangelicals, who share a fairly broad range of theological commitments, can have arrived at such radically different assessments of one of the more central institutions in modern American society." After an extensive analysis of scholars under three major headings of left, right, and center, he concludes that evangelical scholars have to various degrees been co-opted by the class conflicts of wider society. For many, their perspectives have been shaped and polarized more by the secular discussion than by the Christian tradition.
His analysis relies heavily on the sociology of knowledge. Gay writes that all knowledge is social knowledge, functioning within socially constructed constraints. Class interest does not explain the content of all held ideas, but it can help explain interest in particular concerns. People tend to focus on what addresses their needs and bolsters their case. In this discussion, one side speaks almost solely of personal liberty and the other almost exclusively of distributional justice. Compounding the lack of dialogue, neither side agrees on what justice or liberty actually is. According to Gay, this foundational conflict is a manifestation of the wider society's conflict between the new middle class and the old middle class. The "new class" thesis is that since the second world war the main class conflict in American society has been between the old middle class associated with business manufacturing and distribution, and the new middle class that owes its wealth and status to the dissemination of information, as in education and media. The New Class owes much of its power to the modern welfare state and so is interested in expanding it.
Gay believes many evangelical scholars have been unduly influenced by the new and old classes, reflecting more class concern than specifically Christian insights and commitment. Further, both left and right have granted too much importance to economic life. God's kingdom is not dependent on the triumph of capitalism or socialism. After such a ringing indictment, Gay does not leave the reader without any economic system. He recognizes that we do have to live within some economic structure. Subtly evaluating the predominant choices in the closing chapter, Gay concludes that with all its limitations, a basically market system of free exchange serves the goals of justice and liberty better than any alternative.
The book serves as an insightful summary of a wide spectrum of evangelical thought on economics, ending in a call to distinguish what is of the gospel from what is merely a reflection of group interest. It is highly recommended both as a detailed overview of the debate and for its gracious, yet incisive, discernment.
Reviewed by James C. Peterson, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Director of the Program in Religion, Ethics, and Technology, Wingate College, Wingate, N.C. 28174.
OUT OF THE
DARKNESS: Coping With Disability by Robert Lovering. Phoenix, AZ: Associated
Rehabilitation Counseling Specialists, Inc., 1993. 138 pages. Paperback; $7.95.
Lovering contracted polio in 1946 at the age of 18 and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. He graduated from Northwestern College and was ordained in 1957. Because of his disability he was drawn into counseling the severely disabled and those who have been diagnosed as having some potentially crippling disease such as multiple sclerosis. This counseling not only involves the disabled person but also the parents, spouse, children, friends, and relatives both at the time of the crisis and later, dealing with the ongoing problems that result from severe disability. His insights come not only from such counseling but especially from the problems he himself has faced as he has sought to live a reasonably normal life with a family and children while a paraplegic in a wheelchair.
The cover has a striking photograph of the author in a wheelchair, mounted on a battery powered lift with a trowel in hand laying bricks on a wall of his house. This indomitable spirit shows through in his writing but he warns friends and family not to insist that the disabled person can do anything if he\she tries hard enough. This can put an unneeded burden on the handicapped person.
The reviewer himself has experienced a traumatic disability by a head wound during World War II which left him paralyzed on one side. The insights that the author gives in dealing with the crisis and the ongoing disability ring true. This book should be helpful for persons who have had a crippling accident or have been diagnosed as having a potentially crippling disease. The author had earlier published another book on disability: Out of the Ordinary: A Digest on Disability, (1985).
Reviewed by Deryl Johnson, Professor of Biblical Studies, retired, Warner Southern College, Lake Wales, FL 33853.
NEW GENESIS: Theology and the Genetic Revolution by Ronald Cole-Turner.
Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. 127 pages, index. Paperback;
This is not the best, nor yet the worst book attempting the marriage of the topics indicated by the subtitle. If you haven't read such a work, you should, and this one would serve. There are no figures or diagrams. He gives an eight page list of references, (which mistitles Lynn White's famous article) and a three page list of recommended reading. Perspectives doesn't occur in either. (Zygon does.) What would strike most of the readers of Perspectives as a much more fundamental problem is illustrated by this quotation from the chapter "Redemption & Technology":
"In story after story, Jesus is portrayed as a compassionate healer. Yet is it [sic] precisely on this most obvious and unanimous point that modern theology has experienced great difficulty. Miracles are widely seen as impossible since they are thought to violate the laws of nature as understood by science. Since miraculous healings are impossible, modern theology largely agrees that they could not have happened as the Gospels claim." (p.80)
In spite of my own problems with Cole-Turner's view of scripture, I don't disagree much with what he says about the genetic revolution. He is advocating a responsible role, in the fear of God. The chapters include: "The Age of Genetic Engineering," an introduction to the techniques and their uses; "What Are We Doing?", an attempt to put genetic engineering in cultural context, where culture includes religion; "The Purpose of Genetic Engineering"; "Responding to the New Situation," a summary of the views of theologians, namely Rahner, Ransey, Brungs, Shinn, Nelson and Schwarz, and church bodies, namely the World and National Councils of Churches, and some other ecumenical and denominational groups; "Redemption and Technology;" and "Participation in the Creation." In these last two chapters, the author gives his own analysis of what religion says about technological intervention, from which I extract the final three sentences of the next-to-last chapter:
"Theology does not produce certainty or banish ambiguity. This fact, however, should not keep us from seeking to serve God's redemptive purposes through our technology. It should serve rather as a humbling reminder that redemption must always be taking place in us even as it takes place through us." (p. 97).
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Central Wesleyan College, Central, SC 29630-1020.
CHRISTIAN TODAY: An American Conversation by Richard John Neuhaus and George
Weigel, (Eds.). Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1992. 308 pages, 33 pages
of notes, index of names. Hardcover.
This book is based on the conference, "To Be Christian in America Today," which took place in Washington, D.C. in April 1991. About ninety individuals participated in the conference with representatives of evangelical Protestant, liberal Protestant, and Catholic thought. Evangelical participants included Os Guinness, Carl F. H. Henry, Mark A. Noll, Ronald J. Sider and James W. Skillen; of these only Mark Noll is a contributor to this book. The editors are Richard John Neuhaus, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York City and editor-in-chief of the monthly journal First Things, and George Weigel, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and frequent commentator from a Catholic perspective. Difficult questions are considered in the book, such as those related to abortion, individual liberty and the nature of the community, poverty and the crisis of urban poor, and America's world role after the Cold War.
The book consists of nine chapters on the following topics: "Catholicism and the American Future" (George Weigel), "Liberalism Revisited" (Max L. Stackhouse), "The Scandal Of Evangelical Political Reflection" (Mark A. Noll), "Protestants and Natural Law" (Carl E. Braaten), "The Spirit of Freedom" (Glenn Tinder), ""bortion" (Jean Bethke Elshtain), "The Lay Vocation" (Christa R. Klein), "Christians and The New World Disorders" (J. Bryan Hehir), and "The Democratic Capitalist Revolution" (Michael Novak). Each chapter is followed by a response by two other participants. The book concludes with an Afterword: "Can Atheists be Good Citizens?" by Richard John Neuhaus.
Any attempt to summarize in this review the large number of issues discussed in this book would be unsuccessful simply because of the variety involved. A review of the book printed on the back cover describes it as "a model of urban and incisive dialogue." If there were any criticism to be brought against the book as a whole, it would be that perhaps it is just a little too "urbane." Perhaps issues that really matter require a little more passion and a little less urbanity. Of particular interest to readers of this review might be the following contributions.
Mark Noll pinpoints four elements in the evangelical framework for political reflection and action in the twentieth century: "moral activism, populism, intuitionism, and biblicism." He proceeds with a perceptive analysis of five periods of political reflection among evangelicals: (1) 1896-1925, the age of Bryan; (2) 1925-1941, the age of Fundamentalism; (3) 1941-1973, the age of Beginnings; (4) 1973-1989, the age of the New Right; (5) 1989, the Post-New Right age. Particular handicaps to evangelicals for effective political reflection and action are said to be biblicisms like dispensational premillennialism, and "anti-intellectualism, the God-and-country reflex, and the denial of contemporary American pluralism."
In the Afterword, Richard John Neuhaus shows some passion in treating his topic, "Can Atheists Be Good Citizens?" Perhaps to the surprise of many, he concludes that the answer to this question is "No". On the way to this conclusion he treats early Christian "atheists," political atheism, the ersatz god, attempts to preclude "God talk," deconstruction and self-construction, debunking autonomous reason, and citizenship and a higher truth. He writes, "An older form of atheism pitted reason against the knowledge of God. The new atheism is the atheism of unreason."
This book touches only indirectly on the interaction of science and Christian faith, since its main concern is in the political realm. It could well be used, however, both as an opportunity for personal understanding, and as the basis for a series of group discussions, giving the members of the group the opportunity to share their responses to these articles.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Matrerials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
CHAOS AND THE WORLD TO COME: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith by Norman Cohn.
New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1993. 271 pages, index. Hardcover: $30.00.
When you see the title of the book you may think of (mathematical) chaos theory research into the cosmos and its future. Or, maybe, you think that the writer will thoroughly treat the future of the cosmos as seen by some Christians. You will be wrong in both respects. Only the last thirty pages talk about Christian faith and the future Christians expect.
The main thesis of the book is that all religions in Asia and Europe derive from myths which originated on the steppes of Central Asia. Judaism took much from Baalism. The writer claims that Zoroaster influenced Christianity very much. Scientists may feel that the reasoning is very weak. The book is full of assumptions which will irritate scientists. It seems that the writer started out with an assumption and works toward that by further assuming the necessary hypotheses. Only if you are interested in myths will you enjoy the book, as I did in many parts of the beginning of the book.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Box 168, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
LONG ARGUMENT: Charles Darwin and The Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought by Ernst
Mayr. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991. 195 pages, index. Paperback;
As the title suggests, the subject of this book is Charles Darwin and his influence on the development of evolutionary thought. The author points out in the preface that this particular book was not intended for specialists in evolutionary biology, but rather for "students and lay people broadly interested in the role of Darwin's thought on the history of ideas." To this end, the author has accomplished his task.
From a very brief introduction to Darwin himself, the author moves quickly to the history of evolutionary thought from 1859 to the present. The main topics of discussion are speciation and natural selection, but other ideas of Darwin are also mentioned. Mayr explores the opposition to Darwin's theory as well as the effects which it had upon philosophy, ideology, theology, and the various branches of science.
One particularly interesting aspect of the book is Mayr's discussion of the personal development of these ideas within the mind of Darwin. Mayr describes in some detail, for example, Darwin's loss of his Christian faith and the replacement in his mind and his theories of design and the supernatural with nondirected natural processes.
Most of the discussion centers around the period immediately after 1859 until about 1900. The author discusses the effects which the theory had upon various areas of biology as well as other areas of science. Mayr also examines the "modern synthesis" and briefly mentions current ideas such as punctuated equilibria.
The book is fairly readable and more accessible than some more specialized books in this area. It contains a detailed glossary of the more technical terms and also an extensive list of references for those interested in further reading.
Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, OH 45674.
SCRIPTURE: Revelation, Inspiration and Interpretation by Donald G. Bloesch.
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994. 384 pages. Hardcover.
Donald Bloesch is professor of theology emeritus at Dubuque (Iowa) Theological Seminary. In Holy Scripture, the second volume in a projected seven-volume systematic theology, Bloesch attempts to present an evangelical understanding of the pivotal doctrines of biblical revelation, inspiration, and interpretation that avoids both "evangelical rationalism" on the right and "liberal experientialism" on the left. He argues for a view of biblical authority that sees scripture as the written Word of God and yet stresses that it becomes the living Word of God through the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit.
The author wishes to argue for a "sacramental" understanding of biblical truth and authority, in which that absoluteness of divine revelation is mediated through the relativities of the human witnesses. Our modern technological society tempts us to see truth in terms of accuracy and precision rather than wisdom and depth of insight (p. 291). In the ultimate sense truth, according to the author, is not so much a conforming of the mind to objective reality (correspondence theory of truth), but rather the "refocusing of the mind by the Spirit of God, who breaks into our reality from beyond" (p. 287). One might ask at this point, of course, whether one needs to choose between conforming the mind to objective reality and having the mind refocused by the Spirit. Can not both be experienced concurrently?
Bloesch prefers to speak of the "truthfulness or veracity of Scripture rather than of its inerrancy" (p. 116). There may be "innocent factual inaccuracies" (p. 117). Bloesch clearly does not wish to identify himself with the understanding of inerrancy represented by Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfied, J. I. Packer, Carl F. H. Henry and others, but his references to these writers do not exhibit a substantial interaction with their theological and exegetical arguments.
In the matter of scripture and tradition Bloesch places himself in the historic mainstream of Protestant teaching. "gainst those who would make scripture subservient to the authority of the church, he affirms with Karl Barth that "Scripture is in the hands but not in the power of the church" (p. 147). On the matter of the Apocrypha he makes the helpful observation that while these writings are not doctrinal norms for the church, they are of value insofar as they "provide an understanding of the spiritual climate into which Christ came" (p. 170). He interacts with a broad range of scholarly literature in this area, although the important work of the evangelical scholar Roger Bechwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church, seems to be omitted.
Issues of great interest to readers of Perspectives such as creation, human origins, and the extent of the Flood are treated only tangentially in Holy Scripture. Bloesch advocates a "hermeneutics of realism" in such matters, but he does not pursue these issues in any great depth, for he seems to have relatively little interest in matters of science and religion per se. He believes that the Bible is not to be treated as a source for paleontology or ethnography, though its affirmations "have important implications in all these areas" (p. 361, n. 81).
Pastors, seminarians, and graduate students who are looking for an informed discussion of biblical authority by an evangelical scholar who interacts with a broad range of theological scholarship can derive much insight from Bloeash's work. Those who are looking for more detailed discussions of biblical interpretation bearing directly on issues of science and religion would do better to consult the works of writers such as Wolfhart Pannenberg, T. F. Torrance, Henri Blocher, and Howard J. Van Till.
John Jefferson Davis, Professor of Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, So. Hamilton, MA 01982.
TOLERANCE IS NO VIRTUE: Political Correctness, Multiculturalism and the Future of Truth
and Justice by S. D. Gaede. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 119
pages. Paperback, $8.99.
What are the foundational premises of the political correctness and multiculturalism advocates, and how well do these premises lead to truth and justice in our society? Gaede (provost of Gordon College and author of many books and articles, including Belonging and For All Who Have Been Forsaken) systematically and succinctly examines this question and then issues a call to Christians to establish truly inclusive congregations that follow Jesus in the continuing search for truth and justice.
Our present situation is one in which everyone calls for tolerance but there is no agreement on the meaning of tolerance or the nature of truth and justice. Christians exhibit the same confusion as the secular world and are "mostly parroting the arguments of the day" (p. 15). Gaede devotes a chapter each to the tolerance and multiculturalism promoted by the political correctness movement and finds them seriously lacking. As means to the goals of truth and justice, tolerance and multiculturalism are necessary and good. Unfortunately, modern science has made them ends in themselves and therefore perverted them. The heart of political correctness is the conviction that no one ought to say or do anything that is offensive to anyone else. However, the breakdown of community with its unquestioned traditions combined with the rise of a very pluralistic society has produced a situation where everyone selects personal values from a smorgasbord of wildly divergent norms. Since people choose their own values according to their personal judgment and taste, they feel free to change these values at any time. This results in a "privatization of conviction," with no commonly recognized authority. Since each group decides what is offensive to itself, truth and justice have become a matter of brute power.
Gaede promises no easy panacea. Although he argues from American history to demonstrate that truth and tolerance can co-exist with reasonable harmony, he leaves it at that. Christians must become a community that is socially, economically, and ethically a cross section of the total society and they mush follow the examples and teaching of Jesus to support truth and justice (and toleration!), because this is the right thing to do in our pluralistic society.
A substantial portion of the book consists of two appendixes. One presents a more formal overview of the process by which society has lost truth and made tolerance the ultimate virtue, and the other argues that the nineteenth century was a time in the United States' history when, in spite of the problems and inconsistencies, truth and tolerance did successfully coexist.
This is a small but powerful book with a compelling argument and a refreshing call to arms. It is accessible to any educated person yet profound enough to instruct and stimulate the academic. The structure and shortness of the main body lessens the negative impact of the lack of an index. The provision of even a one page bibliographic essay would have been quite valuable, but the end notes to the two appendixes do provide the intellectually curious a start into the literature for most of his ideas. Everyone will grow spiritually and socially by reading and interacting with this book.
Eugene O. Bowser. Reference Librarian at James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639
THE EVOLUTIONARY TALES by Ronald L. Ecker. Palatka, FL: North Bridge Books, 1993. 212 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback.
This book, patterned after Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, presents "evolutionary theory and the pseudoscientific nature of 'creation science'" in rhymed iambic pentameter verse. The setting is a company of ten travellers (Astronomer, Biochemist, Biologist, Cosmologist, Geologist, Paleoanthropologist, Paleontologist, Philosopher, Physicist, and Scholar) on a field trip to a creationist seminar in Dayton, Tennessee, home of the Scopes "monkey" trial. After a general prologue, each traveller tells a tale in verse essay of "evidence for evolution and the fallacies of creationist claims." The bibliography has over 350 books and articles dating mostly in the 1980's with some as recent as 1992.
Ronald Ecker, who also wrote Dictionary of Science and Creationism, believes that God created life, which then evolved. He also considers science and religion to be separate realms and states that evolution, "for which there is overwhelming scientific evidence, is not incompatible with religion or the concept of a Creator." The last two verses in the book read: "Creation, evolution: both are true. I'll have my cake, by gum, and eat it too." In the Astronomer's tale, Ecker writes:
"I'll read the Bible for its moral view
In the last chapter, the Scholar's tale, he considers the creation accounts in Genesis to be myths adapted from the Babylonians and their neighbors rather than a literal account revealed by God. Ecker strongly objects to the mixture called "creation science," which he considers a pseudoscience, being promoted to a scientifically illiterate public and taught in the public school as science.
Although Ecker does briefly mention other versions of origins such as apparent-age creation and punctuated equilibrium, the main focus is on Darwinian gradualism versus young-earth "creation science." He briefly mentions early in the book that microevolution is factual and that macroevolutionary theory is inferred but makes little or no distinction thereafter. Ecker repeatedly criticizes the "creation science" of Henry Morris, Duane Gish, and the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) severely.
In spite of some oversimplifications and lack of precision in using terms such as evolution and creationist, this book is generally accurate, moderately technical, and thorough for its size. The Evolutionary Tales should have special appeal to anti-"creation science" evolutionists who would enjoy 155 pages of iambic pentameter.L. Duane Thurman, Professor of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK 74171
BIBLICAL CREATIONISM by Henry M. Morris. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1993. 276 pages. Hardcover.PSCF 46 (December 1994): 280.
Morris, with degrees in civil engineering and geology, has written extensively on subjects such as creationism and flood geology. His book, The Genesis Flood, with coauthor Dr. John C. Whitcomb, an Old Testament scholar, has challenged many to think again about such subjects.
Biblical Creationism is obviously the result of much study of the Scriptures by a man with a deep respect for God's Word. As the title suggests, it considers only Biblical, and not scientific, data relating to creation. Most of the book is spent discussing all Bible passages relating to events of Genesis 1-11. Passages are dealt with in chronological order of revelation, then the final chapter systematizes and summarizes the findings. Appendices deal with "Creation in Extra-Biblical Writings" such as the Apocrypha, a variety of "Special Studies in Biblical Creationism," and a description of the author's related works. There are two pages of end notes, and no index. The book is written in a popular, rather than a scholarly, style.
Morris stresses the fundamental importance of the doctrine of creation. He spends much time on passages that show God's great power through creation. This is an area that would not be controversial to any orthodox Christian. On the contrary, we need to be reminded of the power of the Creator.
However, the book is not primarily devotional. Describing his motivation for writing, Morris says,
"When I was a young Christian engineer, struggling with the dogma of evolution versus biblical revelation, I kept trying to find some means of harmonizing the creation account with the day-age theory ... then the gap theory ... or some other theory, but finally concluded that "none of these compromise systems seemed to work for either science or Scripture," and "that the Bible taught clearly and explicitly that all things were made by God in a six-day week of natural days" (p. 13).
I found that discussion of passages said to prove that creation took place in six 24-hour days disappointing. Grammatical and literary arguments in favor of six-day creation are presented, but in little detail and without supporting references. The argument the reviewer found most persuasive is the idea that there should be no death or decay in the world before the fall (pp. 27, 165).
The book also occasionally betrays a lack of expertise in biblical languages and theology. From Duet. 33:15 ("And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills") and 33:27 ("The Eternal God [is thy] refuge, and underneath [are] the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy [them].") Morris sees a contrast between the mountains, which are ancient, and God, who is eternal, and between the hills, which are lasting, and God's arms, which are everlasting (p. 61). However, both ancient and eternal translate the Hebrew gedem, which refers to an idyllic antiquity, the time of creation.1 Both lasting and everlasting translate the Hebrew olam, which refers to a distant time.2 Both God and the mountains have existed from a distant time. Thus, the contrast Morris sees arose in the process of translation and is not present in the original text.
On the positive side, Morris shows the importance of the doctrine of creation in the theological reasoning of Christ (p. 148) and Paul (pp. 164-169).
He also discusses the importance of the doctrine of creation in evangelistic preaching, giving examples from Paul and John. Paul's sermon at the Areopagus introduces God as the Creator (p. 154). However, this sermon does not seem to require a recent, six-day creation. Paul could preach in the same way if God made the world by means of the big bang.
Finally, the book can act as a stimulus to examine the scriptures and see whether one's ideas of origins really are consistent with the whole biblical record.
1R. L. Harris et al. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 785.
2Op. Cit. p. 672.
Reviewed by David C. Hitchcock, Chemistry Department, Loyola University, Chicago, IL 60616.
B. F. SKINNER: A
Life by Daniel W. Bjork. New York: Basic Books, 1993. 298 pages, index, notes.
The behavioral sciences have existed for about 100 years. Some of the key figures who have shaped psychology and the wider culture include the prominent twentieth century theorists Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, and B. F. (Burus Frederick) Skinner. Their contributions included descriptions of their ideas about human nature. Each of these men held different beliefs about the make up and the potential of mankind.
Bjork, Professor of History at St. Mary's University in Texas, has written the first major biography of B. F. Skinner. Bjork, author of two books about the eminent psychologist William James, was able to interview Skinner and his family and to have access to Skinner's collection of diary-like personal notes. He also reviewed the extensive Skinner archives at Harvard, the university which granted Skinner's Ph.D., and where Skinner concluded his academic career with retirement in 1974.
This biography paints a picture of a brilliant man who was irascible, relatively unsuccessful in personal relationships, an insightful inventor of experimental apparatus and one of the key apologists for the position of environmental determinism.
Skinner's story begins in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town of Susquehanna in 1904 and ends in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1990, as a result of leukemia. From the beginning of the book, "Fred" is described by his biographer as having an antipathy for members of his family; this circle of people he dislikes grows to include many others (especially people with conventional societal values), eventually extending to his professors and then professional colleagues. Skinner is presented as something of a paradox. He often seems cold and detached, for example, even while observing the death of a younger brother and of his grandfather. And yet, he is also hot-blooded and passionate, as in his love for literature, and in his dedication to music. He wanted to be a writer, and received encouragement from Robert Frost to pursue a career as an author. His favorite composer was Wagner. He was active sexually before he left high school. He visited prostitutes while in college, and lived with a woman in Greenwich Village before he entered graduate school. He admits to affairs while a professor in the midwest after he had married.
Skinner's primary contribution to psychology and to the scientific enterprise is described as being his experimental work which illustrated the power of reinforcement to shape behavior. Although he gained his fame as an animal psychologist, his work is responsible for such developments as teaching machines, programmed instruction, treatment programs for special populations (such as juvenile delinquents, the mentally retarded, the autistic, and substance abusers), marketing techniques, and training procedures for athletes.
In 1945, his novel Walden Two was published. This is a story about a small utopian community where the techniques of behaviorism are applied to design an ideal environment. Property is held in common, competition is discouraged, children are raised by caregivers and belong to the whole community. There is little government and no religion. The economy is largely based upon agriculture. People are programmed to behave in ways which serve the common good. Skinner's distrust of the primary social institutions, ie, the family, religion, education, the economy, and the government, comes through Aloud and clear" in this work.
In 1971, Skinner was featured on the cover of Time in connection with his newly published book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. He argues that nobody is truly free, and that the concept of freedom itself is a dangerous illusion. He said society would be better served if effort were directed toward designing an environment which would reinforce desirable behavior. Many interpreted him to be saying that human beings lack the capacity to be free agents and that they could best be described as pawns subject to a grand manipulation.
Bjork's biography of Skinner does an excellent job capturing the essence of the man. The information provided in biographical studies is helpful in interpreting theorists and social critics.
Craig Seaton, Associate Professor of Sociology & Psychology, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC V3A 6H4
HEARTS OF THE COSMOS: The Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe by Dennis
Overbye. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991. 430 pages, index. Hardcover;
Author Dennis Overbye, science essayist for Time Magazine, has written a fascinating book which will appeal to the educated public and professionals in all fields of scientific endeavor. Overbye has written many essays and, in 1980, won the Science Writing Award presented by the American Institute of Physics. The book has no bibliography but does have 16 pages of photographs inserted between pages 216 and 217. It has a prologue, an epilogue, and is written in four parts, the titles of which provide no hint to the contents.
The author's purpose is to tell the story of the changing concepts put forth by cosmologists attempting to understand the cosmos and its ultimate destiny. Overbye wants the reader to understand how cosmologists work and talk, so he has included scientific language (sans mathematics). He is frank in presenting the pride, prejudices, feuds, antagonism, bitterness, genius, and perseverance of rivals who hold different views of the cosmos. At the end of the 20th century we can say, as Arthur Eddington did near its beginning, "the universe is mysterious."
A great deal of space is devoted to the work and ideas of Allan Sandage, who presided over the 200-inch telescope atop Mt. Polomar. Sandage inherited the mantle of his mentor, Edwin Hubble, who died in 1953. Hubble was the first to promulgate the concept of an expanding universe and invented Hubble's Law, which states that a galaxy's distance from Earth is proportional to its red shift velocity. One needs to multiply the red shift value by the "Hubble Constant, H0", to get the distance. (H0 is measured as kilometers per second per megaparsec). The value of H0 has changed with time, being 530 in 1930, then 180 in 1956, 100 in 1963 and 50 in 1972. A Frenchman, Gerard De Vaucouleurs, challenged Sandage's value of 50 for H0, accusing him of improper techniques and computational errors. This type of feud is seen frequently in Overbye's story. De Vaucouleurs said the H0 value was closer to 100 than 50, and that the cosmos is only 10 billion years old, not 20 billion as Sandage claimed.
The subtitle of the book is "The Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe." In the quest, cosmologists have struggled to find answers to the following questions: Will the universe expand forever, or finally collapse on itself? Did the universe begin with a big bang, or is it in a steady-state condition (continuous creation of matter)? Why should luminosity be a necessary property for matter? Who is it that observes the entire universe and where does he stand? Could the universe end for some observers and not for others? What is the value of the Hubble constant? What do we use for a "standard candle" to measure the luminosity of stellar objects? Can gravity be quantized? Why is the universe so relatively uniform? Why is Omega so close to one? (Omega is the ratio of mass density to energy density). Is the universe closed, open, or flat? (The answer to the last question depends on the value of q0 defined as the "deceleration parameter." If q0 = 0.5, you have a "flat" universe, one that coasts to a stop at infinity. If q0 << 0.5, you have an open universe that would never stop expanding. If q0 > >> 0.5, the universe is closed and would eventually end since the galaxies do not have sufficient energy to "get away"). After 60 years of work, there is no general agreement as to the answers.
Overbye has spiced his story with numerous anecdotes. Here are some examples to whet your appetite to read the book for yourself. Someone asked Hawking what went on before the big bang. That, said Hawking, is like asking what is a mile further north than the North Pole - it wasn't any place or time. Neils Bohr once remarked that a person who wasn't outraged on first hearing about quantum theory didn't understand what was said. Overbye once asked John Wheeler of Princeton, "Why bother trying to quantize gravity?" Wheeler replied, "Which would you give up, quantum theory or gravitational theory?" A Hawking quote: "... the universe is regular and lawful everywhere and everywhen; there is no place for God to poke his nose in."
I believe the author has succeeded in developing his purpose for writing the book. He has an imaginative and captivating writing style. He portrays the main characters as real people, "warts and all," and explains their theories in a lucid way. ASA members can share the cosmologist's concern about the fate of the universe. Does the universe have meaning? Biblically informed ASA members have an answer, but it is not derived from human observation and thought, but by divine revelation. All of us are indebted to Dennis Overbye for this valuable historical review of 20th century cosmology.
Dr. O. C. Karkalits, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA 70609