Book Reviews for December 1995
FAITH OF A PHYSICIST: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker by John Polkinghorne.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994. 211 pages. Hardcover; $24.95.
As a young reader in mathematical physics at Cambridge, John Polkinghorne participated in the 1965 Oxford conference on a Christian philosophy of science, cosponsored by ASA and RSCF (now Christians in Science). He went on to become a Cambridge professor, a Fellow of the Royal Society, an Anglican priest, and is now president of Queen's College, Cambridge. He has written popular treatments of up-to-date physics (The Way the World Is, 1983; The Quantum World, 1984) and a series of helpful books on the relationship of science to Christian faith.
Perspectives readers acquainted with Polkinghorne's One World (1986), Science and Creation (1988), Science and Providence (1989), or Reason and Reality (1991), will be familiar with many lines of thought in The Faith of a Physicist. This work, the 1993-94 Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology," is a systematic theology following the pattern of the Nicene Creed. The first two chapters (Humanity; Knowledge) expand on the phrase "We believe"; the third (Divinity), on "One God the Father Almighty"; the fourth (Creation), on "Maker of heaven and earth"; and so on, with an added chapter (Alternatives) on the relationship of Christianity to other faiths.
Polkinghorne differs from a number of other writers on "theology in a scientific age" in "wanting to make much more detailed contact with the core of Christian belief." Having thus aligned himself with orthodox (some might say "evangelical") faith, he seems to enjoy the irony that the creed of a modern scientist could be based on a fourth-century document which finds a place also in ASA's Statement of Faith.
The author's theological approach, a "search for motivated understanding, so congenial to the scientific mind," is suggested in his subtitle: Reflections of a Bottom-Up Thinker. He starts from "the phenomena that give rise to the theories," aware that in science "evident general principles" may turn out to be less evident and less general than at first supposed. With so much theology done by "top-down" thinkers, he wants to keep asking, What is the evidence that makes you think this might be true?"
That empirical, bottom-up approach has great appeal to this reviewer, a confessed metaphysical minimalist" (in Science, Selves, and Stories," CTNS Bulletin, Spring 1991). Many Perspectives readers will be comfortable not only with Polkinghorne's theological method but also with most of his theological conclusions. He rejects the idea that a trinitarian and incarnational theology needs to be abandoned "in favour of a toned-down theology of Cosmic Mind and an inspired teacher" (p. 1). After all, "A scientist expects a fundamental theory to be tough, surprising and exciting." As to process theology, he finds in its picture of God no adequate ground of hope" (p. 65).
Grappling with historical criticism of the Gospels, Polkinghorne thinks that more can be known of Jesus than some agnostic scholars will allow (p. 93). The confession of Jesus' conception may be troublesome to some, yet he is persuaded that "the words `born of the Virgin Mary' can be a proper part of the creed of a bottom-up thinker" (p. 145). He takes a strong stand for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection (pp. 106-123).
The chapters on Divinity and Creation delve into God's relationship to the physical world, a perennial topic of discussion in ASA. Affirming both creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua, the author seeks a less radical way of fusing the Creator's immanence and transcendence than that of "panentheism." To assert that God's care for his creation is continuous is not to deny the possibility of Aoccasions when that care is exercised in specific ways" (p. 78). To believe in the open character of physical process is not the same as restricting God's activity to gaps in our knowledge. To Polkinghorne, theists who seem reluctant to acknowledge any actual divine activity reveal an implicit deism "only thinly covered by a garment of personalized metaphor" (p. 79).
With many of us, Polkinghorne finds Michael Polanyi's account of what scientists do to be "actually recognizable by a practicing scientist" (p. 47). Of Lewis Wolpert's claim that "Unlike science, religion is based on unquestioning certainties," Polkinghorne says that it betrays a "lack of acquaintance with the practice of religion" (p. 193). The Faith of a Physicist is full of other memorable passages and provocative statements.
Reviewed by Walter R. Hearn, Professor of Science and Christianity, New College Berkeley, 762 Arlington Ave., Berkeley, CA 94707.
DARWIN LEGEND by James Moore. Forward by Mark A Noll. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Books, 1994. 218 pages, bibliography, appendices. Paperback.
James Moore, who has published extensively on Darwin, religion, and belief, now offers us an intriguing piece of detective work investigating Darwin's alleged repudiation of his science linked with a religious conversion near the end of his life. After exposing every facet of the did-he-or-didn't-he options, Moore's sleuthing reveals a remarkable window of opportunity, leaving the reader to ponder the thought that perhaps Darwin, after all, did make his peace with Christian faith as he understood it.
But there is a deeper message running throughout Moore's portrayal of the tug of war between those who espouse Darwin as rejecting evolution in favor of a narrowly construed doctrinal type of Christianity and those who hijack Darwin for an atheistic rejection of religion in favor of a naturalistic-materialistic interpretation of the science of evolution. Moore pleads for a greater depth of appraisal than mere Aeither/or" alternatives; to accept Darwin on his own terms and to allow for a range of overarching alternatives without requiring conformity between public and private expression.
There seems to be no convincing evidence that Darwin renounced his theory of evolution. More to the point, there seems to have been no good reason, need, or advantage for him to have done so; for Darwin was "more complex than anyone imagined" (p. 110). Indeed, Darwin may well have sought out his publicly professed agnostic stance as a half-way house between what was to him the "damnable doctrine" of legalism masquerading as Christianity, and the godless rejection of religion altogether, for he explicitly refused to the very end to join the atheists.
Moore's Darwin was evidently breaking out of the confining frame of his day. If his theory undermined the Acreationist edifice" (p. 36) and fabric of Anglican orthodoxy, the Origin was also a "pious work" making a case for creation by natural law (p. 41) while deposing creationist tradition. Indeed, Darwin's work introduced a "grander theology" (p. 39) than creationism. At the time of his burial at Westminster Abbey, there were those who could appreciate this event as "a visible sign of the reconciliation between Faith and Science." If I have grasped the message which Moore wishes to convey, it would appear that Darwin would have felt no need to renounce the one in favor of the other, since he realized that his theory of evolution, if properly understood, could be reconciled with a truly Christian position concerning creation.
Among the issues that Moore declined to develop is the evident disjunction between Darwin's private views and the ultimate course and interpretation of evolution as a scientific theory. Clearly Darwin was not the only source of the idea(s), and as with scientific breakthroughs in general, these do not remain the scientist's intellectual property. So Darwin's personal renunciation of his views, as a matter of principle, would have had precious little relevance to the survival of the theory of evolution. Since scientific ideas take on a life of their own independent of their source, it remains puzzling how either creationist fundamentalists or atheistic anti-creationists could have hoped to gain any advantage by such specious argument from authority.
More important than the issue of intellectual property, though, is the tacit assumption by both sides that this is a zero-sum game; either evolution or Christian belief. It would have been helpful had Moore developed the integrated model he alludes to; an alternative that is quite prevalent and acceptable today regarding creation and evolution. If Darwin was indeed tacitly seeking out such a middle ground, then perhaps this pioneering work in science and religion should be recognized with appropriate accolades.
Moore has set his sights on sorting out the competing claims and refutations about the legend. As to the if-when-how aspects of Darwin's reputed renunciation of evolution in favor of Christianity, Moore has done a remarkable job leaving the reader to ponder this realistically. If I have understood Moore correctly, there is a story within this riveting story. The other story is about a Darwin whose capacity for reconciliation exceeded that of most of his contemporaries and many of our own day. It would appear that Darwin rejected neither in his heart, realizing intuitively that an enlightened Christianity would ultimately find his theory of evolution a valuable ally even theologically. Darwin was indeed complex. As Moore concludes his text, "Charles was determined to be his own man" (p. 111). "Perhaps the time has come to let him be."
And so, perhaps it is time to accept him on his own unconfined terms as the evolutionary breakout thinker that he was.
Reviewed by Thaddeus J. Trenn, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Victoria College (University of Toronto) Toronto, Ont. M5S 1K7, Canada
SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY by Murray Rae,
Hiliary Regan and John Stenhouse, Eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company,
1994. 251 pages, index, biographical notes. Paperback; $29.99.
This is another book addressing the relationship between science and religion. Many others have wrestled with the uneasy dialogue between science and theology. Some (usually unbelieving scientists) see no relationship at all between the two disciplines and would relegate theology to the realm of fiction or private opinion. Others (usually believers) affirm that all truth is divine truth; therefore science and religion are compatible. Most Christians have struggled with this issue. This helpful book may assist in this regard.
This is a difficult book to summarize because there are six major authors dealing with complex matters. Each of the six authors has written a chapter followed by two responses which serve as evaluations of the main chapters. The six chapters focus on: (1) natural theology; (2) arguments for the existence of God; (3) what theology can learn from science; (4) God and natural order; (5) relativity and theology; (6) creation and causality. The authors tackle such issues as the nature of scientism, God's involvement with the world, the problem of evil, freedom versus determinism, epistemology, postmodernism, foundationalism, quantum physics, and many other complex issues.
The authors, for the most part, speak from a Christian perspective. They affirm that science and theology are compatible. The authors are a mix of scientists and theologians who are clearly knowledgeable in their respective fields. The unifying theme running through the book is that God and science need not be antagonists. It is a theme most ASA members will appreciate since ASA also makes that same assumption.
The book is well written and helpful in stimulating thought on the general relationship between science and faith. My main criticism relates to an oversight. When speaking of epistemology and ultimate truth claims, it seems to me that consideration must be given to the pre-conditions of knowledge. For the most part, the book assumes that science and theology seek truth through rational-empirical inquiry. In order for "religion" to be acceptable in today's world, it must stand up under scientific scrutiny. Several authors pointed out the problem with this approach. The data making up our world is subject to various interpretations. Arguments for the existence of God are seldom compelling to an atheist. It seems to me that a book of this type must at least explore what I consider to be the most compelling arguments for the truth of a Christian world view, namely the transcendental (presuppositional) argument advanced by theologian Cornelius Van Til.
Van Til argued that before we can decide what is true and real we must establish the pre-conditions for knowing anything at all. Science, using its own tools, can never come to a knowledge of God. However, the scientist must ask this question How can I know anything at all? The first choice to be made in answering that question is to assume either the reality of God, or God's non-reality. If one assumes that reality is totally "natural"that everything can be explained without resorting to Godthere is no basis for explaining reality in a meaningful way. If God is out of the picture, then everything is happening by "accident" or by "chance." But no scientist can operate from that premise. He or she must "borrow" from the very world view which is denied, namely theism. Science depends on order, regularity, predictability, none of which would be present in our world if the universe evolved from a mindless eternity.
Once we assume the other alternative, Christian theism, we possess a world view which alone can satisfy our need for establishing the pre-conditions of knowledge. With God present "in the beginning" we have a basis for science and knowledge. Without God we have no basis for explaining anything since we cannot even explain how the scientific method works in an accidental, mindless universe.
However, let not these comments dissuade anyone from reading this outstanding book. Those who like to grapple with ultimate issues will find much food for thought in this book.
Reviewed by Richard M. Bowman, Director of Research and Publications, Disciple Renewal, P. O. Box 109, Lovington, IL 61937.
UNIVERSE: Is Christianity Compatible With Modern Science? by John Wright.
Crowborough: Monarch Publications, 1994.
Wright has had a long career as a researcher in physics and recently retired as Director of Health and Safety for Nuclear Electric in the U. K. A lay reader in the Anglican Church, he is responsible for the "Science and Faith" project at Luton Industrial College. The book has a few illustrations and several valuable appendices.
The purpose of the book is stated in the preface:
"We live in an age when it is customary to explain science in a popular way. This book is no exception. It covers a very wide range of science at a very basic level the real objective is to show how all this fits in with Christianity It is intended for the general reader, not professional theologians or philosophers."
It is Wright's opinion that we may have good scientific explanations for many of the phenomena of nature, but that doesn't mean that God is not active in the realm of nature. All that may be inferred from this, he says, is that God permits us to see something of himself through the medium of science. In the author's opinion, this is a key issue. Science illustrates how God acts as a designer.
The author sets forth the evidences for God as designer through a review of current science, as outlined in the following. (1) Cosmology. The Big Bang indicates the moment of creation. The anthropic cosmological principle is used to show that there is a purpose for the cosmos. If the physical constants of the cosmos were varied by an infinitesimal amount, the stars and galaxies would not have formed and carbon life would not have evolved. (2) Particle physics. The old philosophy of a deterministic universe (with no room for God) has been nullified by particle physics. Quantum theory, the theory of relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and chaos theory collaborate to reveal "the significance of random and chance elements which enable a universe of great subtlety and fruitfulness to have emerged." (3) Biology. Wright accepts the neo-Darwinian explanation of diversity in life forms. He asserts that "God's hand was on the evolutionary process, sifting the options, preparing the ground for his highest creation, humankind." He is emphatic that there is no evidence that life arose spontaneously from non-living chemicals. He insists that such an event is highly improbable. Wright may properly be classified as a theistic evolutionist.
Wright devotes considerable space to the issue of miracles and the problem of pain and suffering. He also discusses the problem of good. These topics are problems for naturalism as for theism. Wright believes that miracles have occurred, pointing out that such events are outside of scientific methodology. He accepts the resurrection of Christ as an historical fact.
Many scientists, according to the author, subscribe to "ontological reductionism," which he sees as the fallacy of reducing biological observations to "nothing but physics."
Wright has the gift of explaining complex scientific concepts in simple and understandable language. He succeeds in demonstrating that theism is a respectable and reasonable belief system in the light of current knowledge of science. I doubt if ASA members, or others well versed in both science and the Bible, will learn much from the book. For those Christians bothered with intellectual doubts about the relationship between science and Christianity, this book will be of help.
Wright does not specifically defend Christianity in this book. He makes occasional references to Christian beliefs. His main thrust is to defend theism as opposed to deism or atheism. Wright's theism could be affirmed by an orthodox Jew or a Muslim, so he is not addressing the Christian view of God as one might expect from the subtitle.
The God of the Bible is described as purposeful and efficient in his actions relative to man and nature. Wright neglects to deal with this biblical concept of God in his defense of theism. By endorsing Neo-Darwinism, he fails to address the problem of how God, "who guides the evolutionary process" (Wright's words, p. 129) does so by use of a haphazard and seemingly purposeless process as most neo-Darwinians believe.
Reviewed by O. C. Karkalits, Dean, College of Engineering and Technology, McNeese State University, Lake Charles, LA 70609.
APART: The Unholy War Between Religion and Science by Karl Giberson. Kansas City,
Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1993. 224 pages, index. Paperback.
The desire to help subsets of the Christian community to relate their faith to contemporary science continues to inspire efforts by writers from diverse disciplines. The contributions of Nazarene physicist Giberson and Episcopalian surgeon Bessinger come out of a desire to clarify the science-religion question, first for their church and then for a wider audience. My interest in this review deals with both the subject matter and the strategies used with faith communities who might be expected to have differing attitudes toward science and the Bible.
Curiously, each author finds himself a radical in his community. Giberson (according to the Forward) wants the freedom to follow the canons of science "without being restricted by scientifically untutored theologians" while Bessinger suggests that his approach may "raise some orthodox eyebrows." Bessinger's religious foil is the fundamentalist literalist while Giberson spends much of his book detailing the errors of "creation science" ways. He prefers to develop his presentation along historical lines while Bessinger, with less space available, dwells primarily on current themes.
Each author begins by defining the nature of the conflict. Bessinger finds that is stems from a clash of world views while Giberson sees the issue as a clash of authority, notions which are not all that far apart. It is interesting that there would be science-religion conflict in the typical Episcopalian church. Both authors argue the ancient notion that when Christian faith is properly understood there should be nothing but harmony with science. This may be a more eschatological vision than an existential one if history is to be believed. Bessinger finds no conflict between a religiously inspired quest for knowledge and the scientific method.
Bessinger describes world views in chronological fashion; the oldest is the ancient notion of myth, a sacred story (perhaps historically true) which carries profound psychological significance for human living. Then came the alchemical world view of the European middle ages which provided a transition leading to the scientific world view of today which has given vast knowledge of nature but has cut us off from the meaning and inspiration of the mythic world. Our challenge is to develop a new world view, a grand synthesis, which gives full expression to both reason and spirituality. Giberson discusses the elements involved in constructing a Christian world view along the lines of Art Holmes and Nick Wolterstoff in emphasizing the conflict inevitable when competing world views (lines of authority) clash.
Giberson follows his world view discussion with a careful historical analysis of science-religion discussion ranging from the Greek philosophers to contemporary Richard Dawkins's The Selfish Gene. He suggests that a contemporary world view should fall between the extremes of scientific materialism and biblical literalism a difficult line for those in denominations where theology dominates the scene.
Bessinger turns from world views to how to read scripture. Literal religionists and literal scientists are at a disadvantage. "There is more here than meets the literal eye. The unusual in scripture must be read with a mythic eye which offers a `deeper and eternally new meaning.'" Moses and the burning bush can teach us "to see God in any bush, or every bush, and perhaps even to hear a divine call." His point is that Moses' spiritual experience does not conflict with what we know about science. The Genesis creation story is viewed in documentary hypothesis terms as the Priestly and Yahwist stories. The Priestly account is seen as having more congruence with current scientific views. Discrepancies between texts or with science require us to look for sacred meanings behind the literal interpretations of the words. The strange physics of small particles, the very fine tuning of physical laws to allow the development of physical life, and the probability of a multi-dimensional universe and energy-matter interconversion help to frame a new picture which fits reasonable well with the Priestly account.
Cosmology for Bessinger has had a better relationship with the church than biology. He suggests that current science and the anthropic principle offer a far more complete picture than that found in the Genesis accounts on biological evolution and the interactions among all forms of life. If natural selection makes it difficult to identify design, it may be seen at the level of "life principles." Evolution "pulls" rather than "pushes" the development of life forms. He suggests that a mystical view of religion, more focused on relationships with the divine than on literalistic doctrine, can see the possibility of a triumphant convergence of all things into a divine unity for example, Teilhard de Chardin.
Giberson spends little time on evolution. He accepts the notion that it is the only game in town, yet recognizes that it has many deep problems. He warns his audience against settling for a theological explanation when a scientific explanation is incomplete. He too, is impressed with the anthropic principle seeing it as "but one example of a kind of fruitful dialogue that could exist between science and religion if both could treat their methods as plowshares capable of tilling the same soil." He appeals to the new ideas stemming from physics that force scientists into considering issues which previously were exclusively theological. Giberson adopts a complementarian approach which views the world from two perspectives, one dealing with detail, the other with purpose. One- dimensional approaches such as that of scientific materialism or creationism give only one part of the story.
Bessinger too argues that quantum mechanics is pointing to the existence of a reality beyond the reach of science. He interprets scripture as requiring an intuitive method for sensing the divine rather than a cognitive method of reason in examining the material world.
Giberson writes in an autobiographical fashion as one who has dealt with the issues from within the Nazarene community. Bessinger personalizes his experience in terms of his medical experience.
This reviewer came away from this study with a renewed appreciation for the diversity of ways in which the Christian can develop a world view which takes into account both God and nature. I suspect that Giberson's Worlds Apart will be more transferable to evangelicals. Bessinger's Confronting Science deals with Scripture in a way that is more acceptable to main-line church communities. Each of these inexpensive works can provide material for Sunday school classes and small group discussions for the lay community.
Reviewed by J. W. Haas, Jr., Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
DIVINE WILL AND
THE MECHANICAL PHILOSOPHY by Margaret J. Osler. New York, NY: Cambridge University
Press, 1994. 284 + xi pages, with bibliography, index. Hardcover.
The contributions of Galileo and Newton to the development of mechanics are known by those with even passing familiarity with physics. The present book, subtitled "Gassendi and Descartes on Contingency and Necessity in the Created World," is devoted to two other thinkers of the seventeenth century who were precursors of classical mechanics. Margaret Osler, of the University of Calgary, deals with their differing views on matter and scientific method. She especially emphasizes the ways in which they translated important ideas of Christian theology into their ideas about the nature of matter and about the roles of theory and observation in understanding the world.
The first chapter sets the basic theological background for God's action in the world. It presents the difference between rationalist theologies typified by Aquinas and voluntarist views typified by Ockham. Rationalism argues that God is in some way bound by necessary relations embodied in the natural laws which God has created. Voluntarism, on the other hand, stresses divine omnipotence to the extent that it denies that God's action in the world is bound by anything beyond the law of non-contradiction. The difference between these traditions can be related, Osler argues, to differing emphases on God's absolute and God's ordained power, a theme carried through the entire work.
In the seventeenth century, Gassendi and Descartes, both trained in the Roman Catholic tradition, took these different routes as they contributed to the newly developing mechanical philosophy. Gassendi's voluntarist approach took the form of rehabilitation, though with considerable modification, of the atomism of Epicurus. Osler titles Chapter 2, "Baptizing Epicurean philosophy," a baptism which Gassendi the priest required because of the common association of Epicurean philosophy with practical atheism and materialism. As far as the development of mechanics was concerned, an important implication of Epicureanism was the contingency of all that happens in the world. There are, Gassendi thought, no universal essences or natural laws which God is bound to obey. This means that we can know about natural phenomena only by observing them.
Descartes has also been characterized as a voluntarist by some modern philosophers, but Osler argues in Chapter 5 that this is a mistake arising from insufficient attention to his medieval theological background. Descartes, like all Christian thinkers, believed that God had freely created all things as he willed but, like Aquinas, thought that God had made the eternal truths and laws of the world to be necessary. God created our rational minds to be in accord with the rationality of the world. Thus, it is possible for us to have a priori knowledge of eternal truths and laws, though the variety of phenomena makes observation of the world a practical necessity if we are to understand it.
This study of the thought of Gassendi and Descartes, their differences, and further developments of their approaches will be of interest primarily to those concerned with the evolution of early modern science, and especially with ways in which Christian theology influenced that development. Relativity, quantum mechanics, and chaos theory have made us aware of the limitations of the "mechanical philosophy" in the narrow sense, but some concerns of the seventeenth century endure, though perhaps in transmuted form. When Einstein said in his essay, "On the Method of Theoretical Physics," that "pure thought" can, in a sense, "grasp reality" though experience is the final test of theory the connection with the Cartesian tradition was clear.
Osler's book is also of value for those involved in the science-theology interface today. Some of the fundamental questions in that dialogue have to do with the way in which God interacts with the world, and classical understandings of divine providence are certainly germane to the discussion. Of course, theology, like science, has evolved. Modern theologians will not, for example, simply take divine immutability for granted, so that Descartes' derivation of the necessity of the laws of nature from the unchangeableness of God is open to question.
Divine Will and the Mechanical Philosophy is well written, sustaining the reader's interest as the detailed theological and philosophical details are laid out. The number of small but annoying typographical errors is, however, disappointing for a publisher of Cambridge's reputation.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge OH 44278.
AND THE BIBLE: 30 Scientific Demonstrations Illustrating Scriptural Truths by Donald
B. De Young. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994. 110 pages. Softcover; $6.99.
This book is written to provide science activities that are analogous to scriptural truths. The title is clarified in the introduction where the author states that the "book contains thirty Bible and science activities." These activities are listed with a brief description and the appropriate Bible reference in a helpful table that follows the contents page. This book is the third in a series of similar books that address science, astronomy, weather, and the Bible.
Each experiment presents a theme, Bible verse and lesson, a description of the demonstration, and an explanation of the science involved. A good example concerns the theme of an empty heart (Luke 11:24). The "Bible Lesson" expands on the return of an evil spirit to the former abode and demonstrates the principle by dropping a burning paper into a wide mouthed jar. A shelled, hard-boiled egg of slightly larger diameter than the jar opening is then placed over the mouth of the jar causing the egg to vibrate as warm air is expelled, but upon cooling the egg is sucked back into the jar. The analogy being that the evil spirit, or egg, will be sucked back into the person.
All but two of these demonstrations could be classified as physics experiments that make use of gravity, air pressure, magnetism, or other natural phenomena. The demonstrations use props that are commonly found around the house and each is explained in enough detail to ensure that a nonscientist will feel competent conducting the demonstration and fielding questions.
Several "demonstrations" seem particularly mundane (a bucket of water is safely inverted by swinging it in a circle without losing any water, spinning on a swivel chair with weights at various distances from the center) while others are particularly novel (slicing a banana without removing the skin). Most of the object lessons are designed for children though one or two could be used by pastors, as described on the cover (tearing a newspaper against and with the grain as an analogy to God making our paths straight). In the opinion of this reviewer, there are enough good demonstrations in the book that it could serve as a resource for youth leaders and Sunday school teachers who want to present memorable analogies for scripture lessons.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
APOLOGETICS IN THE POSTMODERN WORLD by Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm,
Eds. Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995. 208 pages, index, bibliography.
Those who wish to function as Christian apologists in today's world must come to an understanding of a viewpoint usually referred to as"postmodernism." The various authors in this collection of essays provide much helpful information and guidance.
Postmodernism is characterized by an epistemology which denies that humans can access absolute truth. A recent Barna poll reveals that 66% of Americans believe there is no such thing as absolute truth. Relativism is the philosophical orientation of not only the secular university but also the majority of American citizens. This book wrestles with the implications of postmodern thought for the church, especially in the realm of apologetics.
The authors help us understand how the modernism which grew out of the Enlightenment is passing away. Postmodernism focuses on the idea that humans create"reality" with words. There is no such thing as unchanging reality. Ideas of God are simply the result of the stories told in a particular culture. The notion that one story is somehow absolutely true is an oppressive idea which fails to affirm the value of other stories according to postmodern thought. Since orthodox Christianity testifies to an absolute God who has revealed himself definitively in Jesus Christ, the stage is set for an irreconcilable conflict between Christianity and postmodernism.
The only "truth" for the postmodernist is the culturally conditioned "truth" created by language. Once we grasp this aspect of postmodernism we can understand more clearly the dynamics of "politically correct" speech. Postmodernism demands that all perspectives and lifestyles be affirmed, except, of course, those which reflect the notion that truth is absolute and unchanging.
In one of the essays John Stackhouse helps us understand that the traditional apologetic approach of lining up rational arguments to prove the existence of God or the truth claims of the Christian faith simply do not work in a postmodern world. The postmodern person may simply say, "This is fine for you, and I affirm what you are saying. Christianity works for you, but I find meaning in a different story." The notion that one story has universal application is heresy in postmodern thought.
Other authors, particularly Phillip Kenneson, embrace some aspects of postmodernism. Kenneson agrees with the postmodernist that objective truth is unavailable. His solution is for the church to live in such a way as to compel unbelievers to acknowledge the Christian God. While this positive suggestion has merit seems to me he has yielded too much intellectual ground in embracing postmodern skepticism regarding objective truth. One need not choose between objective truth and a compelling church witness. Both are a part of the church's ministry to the world. Once the notion of objective truth is abandoned I find it hard to understand how a vibrant church community can compel faith in view of the fact that there are non-Christian communities which have commendable features. It seems to me that the absolute truth claims of Christianity cannot be abandoned without losing everything.
On the other hand, it was helpful for me to have some of the virtues of postmodern thought pointed out. We do have to be careful when we absolutize. Language does impact heavily on how we perceive reality. Still, the church must take great care in embracing any secular system of thought. As the editors point out in the Introduction, "Loss of cultural respectability and popularity should not concern a church that ought to be more worried about losing a soul than about gaining the whole world" (p. 23).
The book suffers from the inevitable unevenness present when essays by different authors are put under one cover. There is, however, a positive side to this diversity. The different authors approach postmodernism in diverse ways giving us a range of viewpoints rather than a single perspective.
I found the book to be very helpful in my own ministry in a denomination where postmodernist ideas thrive. For Christians who do not have a good grasp of postmodern ways of thinking, this book would be a good starting place. The bibliography will help the interested reader to locate other important books which address postmodern thought.
Reviewed by Richard M. Bowman, Director of Research and Publications, Disciple Renewal, Box 109, Lovington, lL 61937.
ENVIRONMENT AND GOD: Glasgow Centenary Gifford Lectures by Neil Spurway, Ed.
Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishers, 1993. 229 pages including index. Hardcover.
As we would expect, this edited collection of Gifford lectures is a distinguished work. However, environmentalists will find the name misleading since the book deals with the broad metaphysical environment rather than the ecological environment. Each of the seven contributors makes an outstanding contribution to the metaphysical implications of his field. Three contributors will suffice to characterize the book. John Barrow discusses the roles of law, concepts, and origins in cosmology and physics. Richard Dawkins speculates on how any organism, by interaction with its environment, reflects both its immediate context and its entire universe. John Roberts discusses "History as Environment," but with a clear emphasis upon the ideological environment of events. Philosophers, especially philosophers of science, will find this book to be very useful for understanding the broad philosophical and epistemological implications of several distinct areas of knowledge.
Reviewed by Andrew Bowling, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
TO DARWIN: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution by Michael Anthony Corey.
Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1994. 434 pages, index. Paperback.
In this book, which is a sequel to his God and the New Cosmology, Corey attempts to reconcile the conflicting ideas between natural evolution and intelligent creation of living organisms on earth. He presents a thesis of deistic evolution which argues that God created the universe from nothing and preprogrammed the conditions for, and the courses of, its evolution, including the evolution of life, for the sole purpose of developing humans and humanity. The author is wise to have declared that deistic evolutionism is not "a true science" but a philosophical interpretation of the known scientific evidence.
Corey asserts that Charles Darwin was a firm believer of God who created the universe, and that the neo-Darwinists deviate from Darwin's belief and have developed the view that Darwinism must be atheistic. He thinks that we must return to Darwin's belief of a Creator, hence the main title of this book. However, in my opinion, the subtitle of this book should properly be the main title and vice versa, because the majority of the book is about deistic evolutionism and not Darwin.
This book is well-organized and covers many areas of science, philosophy, and religion. The extensive bibliography therein shows how well-read the author is. At the end of each chapter, there are lengthy notes and comments which should best be incorporated into the main text because they are not negligible. The text is generally comprehensible, although there are terms that require definition or clarification, such as "pre-scientific humans" and "unconscious awareness" (p. 362). This book has not been adequately proofread, as shown by the many obvious typographical errors throughout the text.
In the later part of the book, Corey extends his discussion of deistic evolution to the field of human behavior (apparently his area of expertise) and anthropocentrism. On human behavior, he indicates a parallel between paranoid thinking and the presumed tendency of some non-theistic evolutionists, and further refers to the actions of these people as chronic reality-twisting. No specific evidence is given to support these allegations. One wonders if the author's behavior in writing these passages ought to be examined.
A few authors on the origin of life have ignored the following basic principle of statistics a truly random event with an extremely low frequency of occurrence can take place anytime, though we do not know when, but we need not and may not have to wait a long time for it to happen. Also, the probability of an event is not the same as the frequency of its occurrence. Corey, too, seems to have missed these points when discussing the likelihood of spontaneous generation of life on earth and of composing a meaningful sentence by random typing.
Corey insists that it is a profound mistake for scientists to conclude that supernaturalness does not exist simply because they cannot detect it. I believe that most scientists probably would not make that conclusion in that manner. Supernaturalness is outside the realm of experimental science. Whether or not one believes in supernaturalness depends on his or her own faith.
Corey states that animals lack self-consciousness and, as a result, are unable to conceptualize pain and suffering. I will let the readers decide if that statement is acceptable or not.
In conclusion, I think members of the American Scientific Affiliation will find this book a great reference on deistic evolutionism. However, be prepared to ponder some of the author's arguments.
Reviewed by James Wing, 16212 Red Clover Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20853.
THE EARTH, HUMANITY AND GOD by
Colin A. Russell. Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis, (London: UCL Press Limited) 1994.
157 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Paperback; $18.95.
This book is based on five Templeton Lectures given at Cambridge University in 1993 by Colin A. Russell, Visiting Research Professor of History of Science and Technology at the Open University. His stated intention summarizes the thrust of the work: "to offer a Christian perspective on environmental problems that takes very seriously both the scientific and theological issues." The book is directed toward "general readers" who are basically interested in the perspective on environmental issues provided by a Christian world view.
The book consists of ten chapters dealing with an "Introduction," "the Earth in space," "the Earth in time," "Fragile planet," "`Hurt not the Earth'," "Foes of the Earth," "`Mother Earth?'," "Gaia," "Surveying the prospects," and "Hope for the Earth." Three considerations have shaped the author's perspective: a commitment to the scientific enterprise, a commitment to the Judeo-Christian view of God, and a commitment to the value of scholarly historical inquiry. The author concludes that neither the conventional scientific view in which science is seen as the only solution to all problems, nor the "postmodernist" view in which conventional science is viewed with disdain in favor of a more New-Age oriented perspective, are acceptable frameworks for discussion. The author argues for a third perspective based on the concepts of biblical stewardship.
The author finds the mechanistic world view to be both an enemy and an ally to the Christian faith. Such a world view holds five different ideas: design, materialism, self-sufficiency, determinism, and expendability. He argues for the importance of a mechanical world view for Christianity, and points out that it is significant "that in our own era, when a living Earth has become a central theme of postmodernism, New Age movements and so on, that era can be simultaneously described as post-Christian and post-scientific."
Russell considers the various "perils for the planet" due to flooding, volcanoes, earthquakes, comets, meteorites, radiation, solar heating, and then inquires as to the kind of response that is appropriate. In a technological sense, one choice is fatalism, with the only viable alternative to be found in "a determined, but limited, application of technology." In a theological sense, following the example of Jesus when the tower of Siloam fell and killed 18 persons, and the account given in Job 40-42, Russell argues that there is "no direct connection between a natural disaster and individual human wickedness," and that natural disasters are to be viewed in terms of nature acting according to the properties with which it has been endowed by the Creator.
But natural disasters do not account for anywhere near the number of actual and potential disasters that arise from human actions: massive destruction of trees and grass, wholesale destruction of marine life, wholesale pollution of rivers and the atmosphere, and devastating warfare. In some sense, the critics of science and technology have a point, since it is modern technology that has provided the processes that pollute, and by successes in decreased mortality rates, contributed to an immense population explosion; still science and technology have led to a major increase in public awareness of the issues. After discussing the problems of nuclear energy technology, Russell is disconcertingly optimistic when he cites Peter Hodgson and his conclusion "that the huge energy needs of the Two-Thirds World in the future can be met only by harnessing the energy of the atom."
There are several dimensions to the human failure to face up to and attempt to resolve the challenges posed by the need to preserve the Earth as the home of the human race: "human ignorance, human greed, human aggression and human arrogance." Ignorance calls for education and more and better science. Greed, aggression, and arrogance call for a "Christian ethic which enjoins love to one's neighbor and respect for God's world." Arrogance calls for a clearly expounded theology of nature, which rejects that attitude which "ascribes to man an absolute right to dominion over all the Earth," and a church "which will proclaim it in intelligible terms as part of its larger proclamation of the Gospel."
Russell goes on to consider the "return to myth" and the invocation of Gaia as a living Earth-entity, as attempts to deal with environmental issues. Confusion concerning the use of the term "Gaia" arises from the fact that it is used often without discrimination in three quite different ways: (1) the weak form, "a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and soil;" (2) the strong form, Athe Gaia hypothesis supposes the Earth to be alive;" and (3) the final form, "Life on earth was able to actively regulate the global environment so as to maintain conditions comfortable for life." The weak form is seen as having considerable predictive power and as having generated much unquestioned scientific activity. The strong form is judged as being without scientific basis, and the final form "may be deemed scientific but only if the teleology is immanent." When the strong and final forms are seen as equivalent to mythological Earth Motherism, they pose "a serious threat to all that we know of science." They become "an aberration of theology and an abandonment of science."
Finally Russell considers six propositions which offer hope for the Earth: (1) The earth is valued by God; (2) God himself is active in creation/restoration; (3) human beings have an instrumental function in Earth's recovery; (4) Earth's destiny is part of God's purpose; (5) the Earth will welcome its Creator; and (6) there will be a new creation.
This challenging and thoughtful book concludes, after citing Revelation 21:1-7, with the following words that deserve to be quoted.
"Here indeed is hope for the Earth; hope for suffering, captive, longing humanity! And here, meanwhile, is challenge enough for all who can embrace this hope and can open mind and heart to the gracious purposes of God for his creation. By demonstrating genuine environmental concern as part of its ministry the Church may yet fulfill the age-old prophetic word to "prepare the Way of the Lord."
No steward ever worked harder than when he knew his master was on his way. But inseparable from such labor goes the task of proclamation:
"Tidings of a new creation to an old and weary Earth. for at the very heart of Christianity lies that ringing message of imperishable hope."
Reviewed by Richard H.Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
by Calvin B. DeWitt. Grand Rapids, MI: CRC Publications, 1994. 86 pages. Paperback;
The message of Genesis 1 is the starting point for Calvin B. DeWitt's book Earth-wise. DeWitt believes that God is the creator of all that we see around us. He believes that we have dominion over all of creation. He then argues that such dominion forces upon us an obligation to treat creation with respect and do what we can to preserve and rejuvenate the creation.
Oft times, environmentalists try to convince through guilt. DeWitt claims in his introduction that the book "will not pile on the guilt." He does a commendable job in living up to that claim. The arguments he puts forth are generally encouraging and constructive. He does not condemn man nor does he brand most modern technology as tools of destruction of the environment.
DeWitt's concern for the environment grew from his childhood fascination with God's creation. In that creation, according to DeWitt, God made seven provisions for the sustaining of the creation. These are (1) energy exchange, (2) soil building, (3) cycling, (4) water purification, (5) creative fruitfulness (e.g., species with adaptive capabilities), (6) global circulation of water and air, and (7) human ability to learn from creation.
A fair treatment of our responsibility to God's creation must point out those areas where people have done damage and DeWitt lists seven "abuses of creation." Included among these are land conversion, habitat destruction, and global toxification.
Throughout the course of the book, DeWitt cites various scriptures to support his positions. The difficulty in this effort is a lack of any verse saying "Thou shalt not destroy the environment" followed by specific examples of such destruction. God's edict giving dominion also involves responsibility to future generations. However, some passages cited by DeWitt seem to be stretched to cover environmentalism. For example, Jeremiah 2:7 speaks of defilement of the land but the context seems to indicate a spiritual meaning rather than an agricultural one. Neither is it clear to the reviewer that Romans 8:18-21 is relevant to man's environmental responsibilities.
Earth-wise is written at a level that can be understood by junior high students but it is not so elementary that an adult would find it tedious. At the end of each chapter, the author gives discussion topics, activities, and scriptures for study.
Many people, non-Christian and Christian alike, cross the line between concern for creation and worship of creation. In general, DeWitt does a good job of staying away from that line. One of his suggestions for a church environmental project may get too close to the line, though, when he suggests planting a "new church whose mission statement would direct that all members practice stewardship and promote and honor the Lord of creation in every respect." While environmental consciousness is important, such a step seems to this reviewer to be dangerously close to exalting the creation at the expense of the Creator.
The majority of DeWitt's suggestions are good. Many, such as turning off lights when they are not in use, ought to be adopted even by those with no consideration for the environment.
Earth-wise is not likely to win over anyone who is not already at least mildly concerned about the environment. However, for those who want to do more to protect and preserve the environment, it can be a great help.
Reviewed by Fred Worth, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Henderson State University, Arkadelphia, AR 71999-0001.
UPSIDE-DOWN PYRAMID: How Science Refutes Fundamentalism by Lee Tiffin. Amherst,
New York: Prometheus Books, 1994. 229 pages, index. Hardcover; $23.95.
When J. C. Whitcomb's book, The Genesis Flood, appeared in 1961, it sparked a debate about geology and Noah's flood that has, more than thirty years later, still not subsided. Author Lee Tiffin continues the debate with an analysis of these arguments as they have appeared in the writings extending to his most recent book, The Early Earth, as well as in ICR publications. The author's credentials include a master's degree from the University of Maryland and a career as a pastor in a number of Christian churches (unidentified). The analysis is primarily on scientific grounds; those familiar with Whitcomb will remember that his books dwelt also on biblical evidences.
The first section of the book deals with "Issues and Challenges;" Tiffin takes on the creationist's assumptions and methodologies, developing a set of very strong arguments opposing them. A second section, more technical than the first, contrasts AScience versus Creationism;" it is here that Tiffin develops his argument that Ascientific creationism" is not scientific. He closes with an all-too-brief section (17 pages) on public concerns and responsibilities. There are good footnotes, primarily referencing the creationist works by title and page, no bibliography (the footnotes serve that purpose well), and a short names index.
Whitcomb and Tiffin do agree that if one takes the Genesis account as literal, the only assumption that fits is "miracle." What Tiffin argues is that geological evidence does not show such a miracle, and that the flood geologists have argued incorrectly that it has.
I like Tiffin's suggestion (to the flood geologists) for a program (p. 33) involving the subjection of a variety of plant species to various saline solutions at varying depths for a year's time to see which ones, if any, might survive. He is quite critical of them for doing so much speculation and so little empirical testing.
The arguments I found most interesting involve the creationist assumption that the ark held 35,000 larger animals and upwards of 1,000,000 insects, all of whom entered in one day (Gen. 7:11-13). That's efficient dock-loading! Two or three seconds per animal for the big guys (camels, elephants, turtles, sloths, etc.) and (through the same door?) twelve insects every second. All of which had to be directed to their proper place in the ark for their year-long journey by a staff of eight people.
This is a good book. While it brings little new to the debate, it is an excellent summary of the arguments which most seriously refute the flood geology thesis. It is done respectfully; the author does not use pejoratives against the creationists, only against their ideas. For anyone taking flood geology seriously, this book is the place to begin. It is a book which ASA members might consider owning, as it is an excellent first answer to those colleagues and students who might want to study the creationist thesis.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, 6715 Colina Ln., Austin, TX 78759.
AND GOD: Spiritual Pathways to Mental Health in Midlife and Later Years by Harold G.
Koenig. The Haworth Pastoral Press, an imprint of the Haworth Press, 1994. 544 pages.
Harold Koenig is a geriatric psychologist at the Duke University Medical Center. This thoroughly researched study of the relationship between religion and mental health for those in the later stages of life builds on two major projects. The premise of the book is "that successful aging is possible for every older person, even in the midst of circumstances that on the surface would appear dismal and hopeless." Successful aging is defined as having a purpose in life that sustains one through times of crisis, possible physical and mental deterioration, and so on.
The book comprises six parts. The first deals with religion and the mental sciences, giving a summary of how the mental health profession thinks about and deals with religion and religious expressions on the part of patients. The second part addresses theoretical issues of human development in general and the development of religious faith in particular. A review of advances in research, especially the author's own work but also that of other researchers, on how patients especially older patients find resources in their faith during periods of illness and suffering comprises the third part. The fourth part addresses clinical applications, suggesting ways that religious needs and beliefs can be integrated into overall patterns of care. In the fifth part on special concerns in later life, there are discussions of problems (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) faced by elderly patients and their families. The last part deals with issues surrounding death and how to cope with it.
The book is intended to be useful both as a textbook for educators in the health sciences, social sciences, and religion, and also for policy makers who must cope with the mental health needs of older adults. Since well-known demographic trends make it clear that the number of older adults and the cost of providing care for them will significantly increase in the next two decades, this book is timely and practical.
It can be of particular interest to readers of this journal who work in the fields it addresses because the author presents religious faith as an important element in the experience of individuals as they age, and of North American society as a corporate entity.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard; Department of Computing and Information Science, Queen's University, Kingston.
OF THE MIND: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness by Roger Penrose.
Oxford, New York, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1994. 457 and xvi pages,
bibliography, index. Hardcover; $25.00.
In 1989 Penrose published The Emperor's New Mind. That book evoked much discussion. The first half of the present book tries to answer objections against and questions raised about The Emperors New Mind. Penrose considers four different viewpoints: (1) all thinking is computation; (2) awareness is a feature of the brain's physical action; whereas we may simulate any physical action computationally, computational action cannot by itself evoke awareness; (3) appropriate physical action of the brain evokes awareness, but we cannot even properly simulate this physical action computationally; (4) awareness cannot be explained by physical, computational, or any other scientific terms (p. 12).
Penrose rejects the idea that awareness cannot be explained, which according to him negates the physicalist position altogether. That is the viewpoint of the mystic, and seems to be involved in the acceptance of religious doctrine. Penrose thinks appropriate physical action of the brain evokes awareness. He bases his conclusions on Godel's incompleteness theorem and Turing machines. Part I of the book explains his reasoning.
The title of part II is "What New Physics We Need to Understand the Mind: The Quest for a Non-Computational Physics of Mind." Penrose starts this part by saying that we, our bodies and minds, are part of a universe that obeys mathematical laws. I agree, but obeying mathematical laws does not mean that everything is based on mathematics. Penrose starts at the wrong end. Starting with mathematics, he wants to build our understanding of the physical world. Only after we solve the problem of quantum measurement, says he, may we expect to make headway with the issue of consciousness in terms of physical action. He claims that we must solve that problem in entirely physical terms. Only then can we move to the question of consciousness (p. 331). That problem of mind is much more difficult than the measurement problem.
Philosophers of science and mathematics may find the book interesting. I do think, however, that the road Penrose takes leads to a dead end. He sees some difficulties when he talks about human responsibility and asks about the missing ingredient from our present-day physical understandings (p. 36). At the end of the book, he asks for our patience, since he believes that in the mysterious developments of quantum mechanics the concepts of mentality are a little closer to our understandings of the physical universe than they had been before (p. 420). As a Christian I disagree with him, although I agree that science has a long way to go yet.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, Box 168, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S lJ4, Canada.
GRACE: John Wesley's Practical Theology by Randy L. Maddox. Nashville: Kingswood
Books division of Abingdon Press, 1994. 416 pages, notes, indexes. Paperback.
Most church historians and writers on the theology of major church figures have demonstrated little interest in the ways that these leaders interacted with the scientific culture of their day. The many hundreds of books, dissertations, and articles lavished on John Wesley in the two hundred years since his death seldom give more than passing reference to his life-long interest in scientific questions and the ways that science was integrated into his ministry. Indeed, the Wesleyan legacy has been traditionally viewed as anti-science.
Thus, it is refreshing to see one of the new breed of Wesley scholars including a treatment of the encounter of Methodism's founder with science in a work dealing with his theological activity. If Wesley touched on every major area of Christian doctrine, it is equally true that he sought to bring the eighteenth century picture of nature to bear on his theological reflections and their practical outworking. However, his affirmation of science was tempered by vigorous dissent when it was placed in the service of his enemies, the deists and atheists, or twisted by his Calvinist adversaries.
Wesley's empirical epistemology embraced the notion that God provided humans with spiritual senses to perceive spiritual realities and physical senses to gain direct knowledge of the physical world (p. 27). He actively opposed all forms of Deism (pp. 31, 51), embraced a moderate natural theology (pp. 34-5), and wrote a popular multi-volume work on science (p. 49) and a survey of electricity (extolling the potential for electrotherapy). Wesley affirmed conventional eighteenth century views on the role of God as an active creator and sustainer and the "ultimate agent" for all that occurred in the material world. The laws of nature are the expression of God's normal action (pp. 58-9). Wesley worked hard to understand the relationship of the soul to the body avoiding "both a materialist reduction of the relationship and Malebranch's opposite reduction of all creaturely action to God's immediate causation" human freedom and responsibility must be maintained (pp. 70-1).
One feature of Wesley's writings was his willingness to speculate on the state of nature during the various stages of salvation history. His biological and geological notions may bring a smile to our readers but these ideas still resonate with a segment of American Christendom. He argued strongly for a "renewed physical creation" as part of his postmillennial synthesis (pp. 235-239).
The fact that my review has focused on Wesley's scientific concerns should not obscure the major purpose of Maddox's very readable examination of John Wesley's views on the many dimensions of responsible grace. Those of Wesleyan convictions should not be without this balanced and thorough work. The rest of us would benefit from a better understanding of the thought of this pioneering evangelical who appropriated the science of his day to serve the cause of Christ.
Reviewed by J. W. Haas, Jr., Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
BIBLICAL FLOOD: A Case Study of the Church's Response to Extrabiblical Evidence by
Davis A. Young. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing, 1995. 327 pages.
The second rule of science, after "methodological naturalism," was coined (I am told) by the Epicureans as "Consider all the evidence." Young, professor of geology at Calvin College, writes about the use and abuse of this rule through the many centuries of scientific and theological investigations of the Genesis flood. He has produced a jewel, a book which deserves a place on the shelves of every person who takes both Christianity and the study of science seriously. It is difficult to praise this work enough, or to recommend it too highly to PSCF readers. The target audience is the non-geologist scientist, the Bible teacher, the preacher, and any person clergy or laity, who sincerely struggles with the problems of the relationship between science and Christianity.
This is a "fun" book to read. Technical terminology is kept to a minimum, commensurate with telling the fascinating story, chronologically, of the attempts of thinkers through the ages to deal with both the Genesis record and scientific data. Of particular interest is chapter 4, "The Impact of the Exploration of the New World." Young is perhaps too kind to Calvin and Luther, who wrote after data from those explorations was available, yet, curiously, ignored nearly all of it. In the final chapter, the modern-day flood theories of Whitcomb and Morris are analyzed. Young is critical of many current evangelical writers for their "departure from a familiarity with and an appreciation of mainstream science " (p. 301), suggesting that writers of a century ago occupied "higher intellectual ground."
The book's usefulness is enhanced by generous footnotes, an adequate index, and the author's pattern of concluding each chapter with a short "Analysis and Application." Young argues that debates on the flood have been confused by appeals to obsolete data and discredited theories; often appeals have been made, uncritically, to "yet another miracle" to bridge a difficulty. If Christians are to witness effectively to today's scientifically literate civilization, he asserts, they must necessarily include today's knowledge of geology, paleontology, and other scientific disciplines. This book is a first-class overview of this knowledge. Get it.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, IBM Market Research (retired), 6715 Colins Lane, Austin, TX 79759.