December 1997 Book Reviews
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE by Barry Barnes, David Bloor and John Henry. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996. 230 pages, index. Hardcover, $38.00; Paperback, $15.95.
The authors are well qualified to write a text on the sociology of science. Barnes is a professor of sociology at the University of Exeter, Bloor is a reader at the University of Edinburgh, and Henry is a senior lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. All have published in the field. This book was written as an introductory text for graduate students in sociology, and for those interested in the history or philosophy of science. It has seven chapters beginning with Observation and Experience and ending with Proof and Self-Evidence. The intent of the authors is to state precisely and clearly where and why sociological analysis is necessary in the understanding of scientific knowledge (p. 8).
The introduction is a helpful overview of the book, giving methodology and approach. The authors argue that they are not seeking to justify science because one cannot simultaneously adopt a scientific approach and celebrate it. Yet the presence of the book indicates a high value attached to science.
In chapter one, observation is viewed as both theory laden and modular, that is, only in a limited way influenced by the other components of cognition. This material must still be processed into scientific reports and this is where the sociologist comes in. In the second chapter, a case history (of Millikan's oil drop experiment) is used to illustrate this point. In the third chapter, we have an analysis of how words relate to the world; the conclusion is that classification is determined by experience and previous classification schemes. The authors also recognize that scientific classification deals with objects that are essentially identical to one another: (atoms, molecules, electrons). The next chapter argues that scientific theories are best thought of as evolving ideas, rather than fixed meanings. The fifth chapter reveals that scientific research is concerned with goals and interests. The final two chapters cover how scientists defend themselves and how even mathematics is subject to a sociological analysis.
The authors appreciate Thomas Kuhn and agree with him that the fundamental units of science are not theories, but solved problems, which become the exemplars or the tools of the scientists. It is argued that these exemplars are what the text books use to convey science to the next generation.The work has value to those who have never looked at science in its broader cultural setting but it was not written with the usual clarity that one has come to expect from British authors. This makes it less accessible to the beginner. The authors set out to prove the value of a sociological analysis in the understanding of scientific knowledge. In the sense that they demonstrated that knowledge is influenced by its social context, they did. But what knowledgeable person would contest this point?
The book also seems to belabor the obvious. Newton knew that he accomplished what he did because he stood on the shoulders of giants. Those of us in the field know that we are influenced in our topics and our research by our social environments. The social context funds us and, in so doing, determines the direction of our research. It also judges us, and rewards us.
The book does not index Christianity, or religion, and does not relate this topic to the development of science. Yet those of us in the ASA know of the deep Christian faith of many scientists, and the profound effect of Christianity on the rise of science. In this regard it reveals the agnostic context of the sociologists. It is of limited value to the members of our organization.
Reviewed by Fred Jappe, Professor of Chemistry, Mesa College, San Diego, CA 92111.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 269
THE SCOPES TRIAL by Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1997. 96 pages, bibliography, illustrations, index. Hardcover; $16.95.
Nardo has written over seventy books; his works include biographies of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, and H. G. Wells. The Scopes Trial gives the reader a glance at the overall trial and it includes annotated bibliographies, a thorough list of works consulted, and a comprehensive index. Moreover, the purpose of this book is to give the big picture of the trial and to provide sources for further research.
Even though The Scopes Trial is only 96 pages in length, it gives many of the little known details of the trial. For instance, the prosecution team included a local attorney named Sue Hicks (the original Boy named Sue of the Johnny Cash hit song) who had been named for his mother (p. 29). The trial was the first to be broadcast on radio, and Judge Raulston declared, My gavel will be heard around the world (p. 43). Loudspeakers were set up on the courthouse lawn Afor the crowds who were unable to squeeze into the courtroom (p. 46). Ironically, when the jurors were asked to step out of the courthouse, they still heard the testimony (p. 46). Just before William Jennings Bryan took the stand, cracks appeared in the ceiling of the courthouse; as a result, court reconvened on the front lawn (pp. 66-7).
After reading The Scopes Trial, I felt like I had actually been there in Dayton in 1925. This was due in part to Nardo's excellent choice of over 40 pictures and his discussion of the events of the trial. Nardo writes:
The Scopes Trial does have a weakness though. Nardo fails to mention that much of the evidence presented by the scientists at the trial was later proven faulty. Judge Raulston ruled that all testimony bearing on the meaning of evolution or its truth or falsity had nothing to do with whether John Scopes had broken the law and should therefore be excluded from the trial (p. 59). But the Judge did allow the defense to read some of the expert testimony into the record while the jury was excused (p. 66). Part of that testimony read into the record included the two popular biological arguments for evolution embryonic recapitulation and vestigial structures. Medical science has since disproved both of these views. Furthermore, the evolution of the horse was called conclusive and the Piltdown fossils were said to be supporting evidence for evolution. Needless to say, these two pieces of evolution are no longer presented by evolutionists. In fact, evidence surfaced recently that indicates who the Piltdown hoaxer was (Henry Gee, Box of Bones `Clinches' Identity of Piltdown Paleontology Hoaxer, Nature, 381 : 261-2).
On the other hand, creationists too have been guilty Of mistakes. John George, the author of They Never Said It!, pointed out that many creationists have mistakenly attributed these words to Clarence Darrow: "For God's sake, let the children have their minds kept open! Close no doors to their knowledge; shut no door to them. Let them have both evolution and creation! The truth will win out in the end." Actually it was Darrow's co-counsel, Dudley Field Malone, who was the speaker. And what Malone said was rather different: "Make the distinction between theology and science. Let them both be taught." Nardo states, The speech was so eloquent and passionate that the audience, even including many of the fundamentalists who supported Bryan, gave Malone a long and respectful ovation (p. 63).
In sum, The Scopes Trial is well researched and well written. I highly recommend it to the readers of PSCF.
Reviewed by Everette Hatcher III, P.O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 269.
THE STORY OF CREATION: Its Origin and Its Interpretation in Philo and the Fourth Gospel by Calum M. Carmichael. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996. 136 + xii pages, Index of Sources, Subject Index. Hardcover; $24.95.
Carmichael, professor of Comparative Literature and Biblical Studies at Cornell University, wants to show how the exodus story was the foundation for the creation story as written in Genesis 1. Later, John used that creation story in his gospel to transform historical reporting about the life of Jesus into a cosmological scheme. For that reason the order in which John tells happenings is different from the order in the other gospels. Carmichael says that John used Philo's methods of interpretation to write about Jesus. In that way this book is an exercise in hermeneutics. It is true that John used Genesis 1 when he started writing the gospel story, but he did not necessarily use Philo's methods and ideas.
Philo was an Alexandrian Jewish philosopher who wanted to read Scripture using pagan Greek philosophy. Philo did not recognize that pagan Greek philosophy and biblical writings are irreconcilable as Raymond E. Brown shows in The Anchor Bible, The Gospel According to John, vol. I, appendix II. He discusses similarities between Philo and John. For example, he mentions that Philo used the word Logos more than twelve hundred times in his writings. Philo tried to combine Greek and Hebrew thinking about Logos. According to Brown, their common Jewish background can explain some similarities between John and Philo. He denies that Philo influenced John. Brown points to the use of the word dabar (word) in the Bible and Semitic Wisdom literature and points then to Prov. 6:23 and Ps. 119:105 where word is used in combination with light. Brown denies that the gospel has a Hellenistic background. The concept of Word is far closer to biblical and Jewish thought than it is to Hellenistic ideas, says Brown.
However, we should not reject out of hand the suggestion that the biblical writer had the exodus story in mind when he wrote Genesis 1. Moses had trouble keeping the people of Israel focused on the only true God. For example, read the story of Aaron and the golden calf, while Moses was with God on the mountain. In the story about the forty years' wandering the Israelites did not trust God. In those circumstances, Moses had to remind them that God was in charge.
Realizing that Jews wrote the Old Testament, we should try to listen to the Bible as the Old Testament Jews did. That is difficult. I mentioned the word Logos. Another word that indicates a different concept now than it did in Old Testament time is Truth. Leon Morris, in The New International Commentary on the Gospel According to John, writes that truth refers to faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, sureness, and the like (p. 293). It means that we cannot agree with all the premises of Carmichael's book. The basic difficulty is that for Carmichael it is a given that Philo influenced John because John lived after Philo. However, that fact does not automatically mean that John knew and agreed with Philo's work and thoughts. Since both were well versed in the books of the Old Testament, as Brown shows, they read Scriptures in a Jewish way. Philo wanted to combine it with Greek philosophy, so he introduced much Greek philosophy in his writings. If we accept with Carmichael that John followed Philo's ideas, we may read the Bible with pagan Greek glasses on.
Despite this major disagreement, I want to recommend this book for study. As with any book, we must read it critically. Some remarks Carmichael makes are farfetched. He sometimes gives the impression that he wants to press everything into the scheme which he sets up. If the reader keeps this in mind, the book may help in studying the first chapter of Genesis and the Gospel of John.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, M2R 2V7.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 270.
CREATION OF THE SACRED: Tracks of Biology in Early Religions by Walter Burkert. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996. 255 pages, index. Hardcover; $29.95.
Burkert is Professor of Classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He has also written The Orientalizing Revolution and Greek Religion. This book is an anthropological treatment of religious behavior, by which he seems to mean a behavior for which there is no other readily available term. His approach is strictly naturalistic; he views religious behavior as an entomologist might view a butterfly collection: interesting, perhaps beautiful, curious, but not to be taken seriously.
Considered from the perspective of the goal expressed in the subtitle, the book is, expectably, a failure. After the first chapter, which is supposed to establish the reasonableness of a biological, i.e. evolutionary, explanation of religion, there are only occasional and scattered references to Darwinism and sociobiology, just enough to remind the reader that he really hasn't forgotten his intention. Aside from these intrusions, the book is a treasure of folklore, myth, and strange cults.
There are chapters dealing with Escape and offerings, Hierarchy, Guilt and causality, and The validation of sign. I found particularly interesting the discussion of the quest tale. Following Vladimir Propp's Morphology of the Folktale in which the elements and sequence of events are astonishingly stable where and whenever found, the tale starts with some damage, lack, or desire; the hero is told to go somewhere; he meets some being which tests him; he receives some magical aid; final success, the hero is recognized and the imposter punished; and the hero marries and becomes king. Not all elements are always present but for those that are, the sequence is fixed. Burkert argues that the legends of Perseus and of the labors of Heracles, the story of the Argonauts, Gilgamesh and Huwawa, Ninurta and the Asakku, and the Descent of Inanna to the Netherworld all fit this schema well. (It may also of interest to Christians that it is a snake that robs Gilgamesh of the plant of life, the result of which is that man remains bound to death.) An anthropologist would consider diffusion from a common source as the explanation of this kind of similarity; the alternative is considered to be independent invention. This logic is strictly evolutionary; homologies are evidence of common ancestry. Burken does not deal with these issues. Considering that Propp's work was concerned with contemporary Russian folk tales the congruence is even more remarkable. The inability to establish diffusion should be taken as evidence for a common psyche of man, which generates Jungian and other archetypes. Since I am unable even to consider the number of different, sensible possibilities available, clearly this is an impressionistic statement. In the case of the Propp sequence, it is worth emphasizing that structure, not content, is the focus. Burken shows that, for example, finger amputation is also wide and deeply distributed. But a specific act such as this is not nearly so problematic as the structure of a literary product.
Burkert, and others, considers the ritual of shamanism to be the origin of storytelling and hence of literature. The Book of Daniel and the performance of the Passion Play at Oberammergau in Bavaria are both claimed to be shamanic in origin. In a state of altered consciousness, the shaman performs a quest of supernatural extent. In the Siberian and Eskimoan traditions, he retrieves the souls of the sick, or releases animals for the hunt. A shamanic performance is public and he keeps his audience, who already know what must happen, informed, by mimicry, symbolism, and speech, of the progress of his adventure. In other traditions there were stringent tests for fraud those convicted were killed with the inevitable result that the surviving shamans learned to give obscure and similar pronouncements.
This is an interesting book. It is too superficial for the expert, and for many topics he takes expert knowledge for granted. However, even with the shortcomings it is quite informative. While definitely not scientific or, for that matter, Christian, it contains a kind of background which is of concern to both.
Reviewed by Braxton M. Alfred, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 271.
THE ORIGIN OF HUMANKIND by Richard Leakey. New York: Basic Books, 1994. 171 pages, bibliography and index. Paperback; $10.00.
Leakey, world-renowned paleontologist and conservationist, has written several books on the subject of human origins, including The Making of Mankind, Origins and Origins Reconsidered (with Roger Lewin). His latest book (also with Roger Lewin) is The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind.
At 171 pages, the Origin of Humankind is necessarily a brief introduction to the field of paleoanthropology and to the issues and debates which surround the study of human origins. As part of a broader series of publications representing a variety of disciplinary areas (Basic Books' Science Masters Series), this is precisely what The Origin of Humankind is intended to be. It succeeds admirably.
Leakey has crafted an accessible yet challenging introduction to a broad and complex field of study. The Origin of Humankind is more than an introduction however; the book is impressively comprehensive in scope and offers a stimulating and sometimes provocative treatment of its subject matter. It informs and occasionally inflames, and does so in prose that is a pleasure to read. For these reasons the book should appeal to both specialists as well as to others who wish to learn more about the history and current state of anthropological knowledge on human evolution.
In The Origin of Humankind, Leakey addresses the whats, whens, and whys of human prehistory, focusing on four key evolutionary developments: the origin of the human family itself, the proliferation (or adaptive radiation) of bipedal species, the expansion in brain size, and the origin of modern humans (Homo sapiens or Aus in other words). Leakey addresses the major theories and controversies pertaining to these events, drawing upon the fossil, archeological and genetic evidence to explain and defendCand occasionally to refuteCthe variety of interpretive positions which exist. In the process, he advances several of his own opinions (particularly with regard to the emergence of language and the origin of modern humans), but is careful throughout to distinguish between what is known about the course of human evolution, what is probable or assumed, and what remains speculative pending new evidence and/or a new understanding of the evidence we currently possess. The Origin of Humankind is accessible but never condescending. Leakey invites the reader into the often arcane, sometimes Auntidy and confusing, but always fascinating world of paleoanthropology. His passion for Athe sheer magic of the enterprise is obvious throughout.
One of the major themes of the book concerns the nature of humankind's relationship with the rest of nature. The traditional approach within anthropology was to emphasize our uniqueness as a species, focusing on those capabilities and characteristics which set us apart from nature. The emphasis has shifted over the last few decades and now acknowledges our very intimate connection with the natural world. From the outset, it is clear that Leakey firmly embraces this latter view. While he does not dismiss the uniqueness of Homo sapiens pointing to spoken language as our most significant and distinguishing attribute, he affirms that those things which set us apart can be fully explained within a strictly biological context. Our ancestors did not embark on their evolutionary journey which eventually but not inevitably, led to us endowed with capacities which destined them in any way to become the dominant species. Whether we consider bipedalism or brain size, toolmaking ability, language or indeed, any other attribute we possess as contributing to our success as a species, Leakey maintains that each can be understood as a product of natural selection, subject to the same evolutionary forces and principles which determine adaptive success or failure in all species. The Origin of Humankind locates humans securely and inexorably within the natural world and admonishes us to rejoice at so wondrous a product of evolution.
Members of ASA will undoubtedly find the last chapter, The Origin of Mind, to be the most provocative. Herein, Leakey ponders the origins and evolutionary significance of human consciousness the capacity for introspection, or reflective self-awareness that we possess. Here, also, he adopts the evolutionary point of view, maintaining that our sense of self as well as other, and our concern with mortality as well as morality are products of natural selection and confer adaptive advantages in the same way that bipedalism and large brains do. Apparently, an awareness or self and other is tremendously beneficial to a species as supremely social as Homo sapiens. Such intelligence has allowed us to out-wit, out-maneuver, and consequently out-adapt those species less endowed with such a decidedly Machiavellian ability. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.
Reviewed by Janice Drodge, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS, B1P 6L2.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 271.
Paul Bahn, with a Cambridge University doctorate in archaeology, shares his discipline with the world via writing, translating, and broadcasting. This short book has been hailed as Aquite brilliant and Aremarkably perceptive. For those who are not archaeologically informed but would like to be, this book, with its succinct writing and amusing cartoon illustrations, might just fit the bill.
Its ten short chapters can be read in one sitting. To help you locate information, there is a combined name and topic index, and to aid you in further exploration, there is a compact up-to-date bibliography. Bahn's purpose in writing is to whet the appetite so that the reader may be stimulated to delve more deeply. He approvingly refers to Gly Daniel's observation that archaeology is nothing if it is not about pleasure.
Bahn's English background is revealed by his quaint spelling of such words as artefact and his un-American punctuation. (By the way, the first artifact appeared in East Africa about two and a half million years ago.) In the preface, the author writes as though he is trying to enlist his readers to become archaeologists. He cautions that while the notoriety and pay will not be great, and while you may not be very good at it, you can just learn to enjoy doing it badly.
What do archaeologists do? They spend time nosing around in dead people's leftovers and trying to guess how they lived their lives. Somewhat startling is the fact people leave amazingly few leftovers to study: an infinitesimal portion has been recovered by archaeology, of which an even smaller part has been correctly construed.
We learn some basic information from Bahn. For instance, famous persons of the past who showed an interest in antiquities include Nabonidus, king of Babylon and the earliest known archaeologist, Julius Caesar, and Augustus. Archaeology became scientific in the nineteenth century. Archaeology has produced a huge collection of unstudied, unpublished and uncatalogued artifacts. Radiocarbon dates are only accurate for 50,000 years. Grave robbers have plundered all of Egypt's royal tombs.
While this is not a book on biblical archaeology (some archaeologists claim there is no such thing), some references occur to biblically related topics such as the Negev Desert (p. 27), the Roman period (p. 31), religion (p. 48), and Egypt (p. 79). I recommend this book. Find a comfortable chair and a good light, and allow this volume to transport you into the mysterious and fascinating past. It may provide a better grip on the trajectory of the future.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 273.
THE PREHISTORY OF THE MIND by Steven Mithen. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. 288 pages, index. Hardcover; $27.50.
For those Christians who believe in evolution, the question of the soul and its origin must merit some thoughtful consideration. The biblical description of the soul being imparted by God as a special gift is at odds with a gradual development of the soul. Mithen, an archaeologist at the University of Reading, U.K., and author of one previous book on ancient man (Thoughtful Foragers) has written an easy to read, well-illustrated book with a large bibliography. Mithen declares up front that his book will disprove the supernatural origin of the mind. Any book with such a claim deserves to be read and considered.
After a brief overview of the broad outlines of the hominid fossil record, Mithen delves into the cognitive structure of the modern mind. The mind is composed of a set of independent mental modules. The oldest, possessed by all animals, is general intelligence. It solves general problems faced by an animal. Each of the other modules control one area such as language, natural history, social relations, and technical abilities. Each module is content rich. This means that each module is not a tabula rasa but brings content to the problems it encounters. Grammar is wired into the structure of the brain in the linguistic module; the meaning of facial expressions is hardwired into the social module; and knowledge of the physical properties of objects are hardwired into the natural history module. In humans, there is a super-module which is able to access all of the other modules and create cognitive fluidity which one could loosely say is equivalent to the Christian soul.
Mithen then traces the evolution of the mental modules. The chimpanzee stands in place of the ancient common ancestor, which only possessed general and social modules and a limited natural history module. Chimpanzees, therefore, are unable to form hypotheses about food source locations unless they have actually seen them. They are only able to remember what they have seen. Homo habilis, about two million years ago, was engaged in behaviors which predicted the future location of food supplies and prepared for it. Mithen cites the inability of chimpanzees to make stone tools or speak as evidence that the common ancestor did not have technical or linguistic modules. Technical intelligence arose around 2.5 million years ago with the first stone tools and language arises, he says, at least by 250,000 years ago. But even with all the intelligence modules developed, Mithen argues that each module was unable to share knowledge with other modules until the super-module arose and provided humankind with cognitive fluidity between the independent modules. This module arose 60,000 years ago and for the first time allowed information flow among the various modules. Art, science, and religion could only arise after cognitive fluidity was complete. In Mithen's view, cognitive fluidity is what makes us human; it is our soul.
The biggest disappointment is that Mithen does not deal with or even cite evidence contrary to his thesis. He claims that the oldest representational art was the 33,000 year old lion-headed man from Germany. He does not mention the crude 300,000 year old Berekhat Ram figurine recently acknowledged as man-made by Alexander Marshack, a leading paleolithic art expert. He claims that Neanderthal never placed offerings in their graves and thus show no ritual, yet does not mention Le Moustier Cave where a young man, head resting on a pillow of flints, was sprinkled with red-ochre and surrounded with burned wild cattle bones. He says early man could not make multi-component tools, yet such tools were just found in 400,000 year old strata in Germany. He says early man was unable to work bone but does not mention the 400,000 year old bone spear points from Ambrona, Spain, or the 80,000 year old bone flute from Libya. Early man was not supposed to be able to build boats, yet H. erectus made wooden planks and crossed the ocean to Flores, Indonesia as early as 700,000 years ago. Many such examples could be cited.
While enjoyable, Mithen's book does not disprove the creation of the mind. The archeological data requires either an earlier advent of cognitive fluidity or an earlier supernatural creation of the mind than either Mithen or most Christians would advocate.
Reviewed by Glenn R. Morton, 16075 Longvista Dr., Dallas, TX 75248.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 273.
SOCIOLOGY THROUGH THE EYES OF FAITH by David A. Fraser and Tony Campolo. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992. 308 pages, indices. Paperback; $11.00.
In many ways the relationship between Christian faith and the science of sociology is one of the most difficult of the faith/science interactions to portray accurately. Both areas are heavily involved with personal interactions that add obvious elements of subjectivity to the pursuit of scientific descriptions. The science involved in understanding human society is a good deal more complex and difficult than the science involved in physics or biology. In the middle of the book, the authors say explicitly, AIt is not legitimate to group sociology with either the natural sciences or the humanities.
In the foreword Nicholas Wolterstorff of Yale sets the tone for the book by pointing out that the authors, both on the sociology faculty of Eastern College, not only look at sociology through the eyes of faith to tell us what they see, but also listen to sociology with the ears of faith to tell us what they have heard. Both authors, deeply involved personally in both sociology and Christian faith, carry on a dialogue between their two kinds of insights with integrity and clarity, emphasizing from the beginning that they are writing from within a Christian worldview. Their central concern is the setting forth of the gifts that sociology bears for humanity and Christianity, and the gifts that Christian faith bears for sociology. The book is divided into three main sections: five chapters discussing The Confrontation Between Christian Faith and Sociology, four chapters discussing The Varieties of Sociological Experience, and seven chapters discussing Faith Seeking Social Understanding.
The first section deals with the issues sometimes leading to hostile interactions between Christian faith and sociology, starting with a sociological analysis of how the secular biases of many sociologists affect their work. As with many of the other sciences, there is the curious mixture of a strong anti-Christian bias among many sociologists and at the same time the obvious evidence that it has been Christians who have often encouraged and developed sociology. Key phenomena in the modern world causing problems for traditional Christian thinking can be linked under the names of pluralization, privatization, and secularization. Suggesting that the growth of psychological counseling in the private realm naturally led to the need for sociological counsel in the public realm, the authors conclude that Sociology often has the uncomfortable job of revealing differences between what people want to believe is happening in society and what actually is going on. The final chapter in this section provides two basic definitions: Sociology is a set of explicit theories about society wedded to the modern, secular symbolic universe and organized by the professionalized standard of science, while Christian faith is both a set of explicit theories and a symbolic universe in its own right. As a consequence, Christians claim that the symbolic universe of Christian faith, along with its plausibility structure, includes science in a way that the symbolic universe of modernity, with which sociology frequently allies itself, does not include Christian faith. With these kinds of differences, developing a positive relationship between sociology and Christian faith requires a deeper understanding of both.
This is the subject of the second section of the book. Sociological thought must be understood in terms of the sociological paradigms that form the perspectives of sociological research. Three of these paradigms can be described by the terms order, conflict, and diversity. The paradigm of order stresses the concept that Asociety is an organic, collective, cohesive reality. In the paradigm of conflict, Astruggle, warfare, competition, battle, rivalry, and contest are emphasized as central aspects of the human experience. And in the paradigm of Amany definitions, many words, the diversity, heterogeneity and complexity of human social worlds are pictured. Sometimes it is necessary to realize the limitations of such paradigms, and to recognize how the ideology of the symbolic universe of modernity can influence what is seen and not seen.
Sociology is involved in the analysis of modernization, seeking answers to questions such as, What is going on here? Why is it happening? What is it like for actors living in it? and How good or bad is it for humans? Such analyses inevitably result in value judgments. Christian sociologists cannot avoid these questions, but add the larger plot of history, with particular reference to idolatry and injustice. Beyond all else is the general realization that Since Christians see human life as embedded in the cosmic drama of creation, fall, reconciliation, and redemption, the full complexity of human life cannot be fully accounted for simply by sociological (or psychological) explanations.
How to combine the best of sociology with the perspectives of Christian thought is the subject of the third section of the book. In many ways this is the most vital section of the book since it deals with practical issues that every thinking Christian must face. Two delicate tasks are involved in understanding the Bible: seeing how people who lived in those ancient worlds thought and experienced their world, in their own terms. Then one must create one's own systematic models of their world, in modern terms. But one must not confuse these two accounts. This is in many ways the basic approach of authentic hermeneutics in all biblical interpretation.
An examination of theological paradigms reveals that there is a diversity in them similar to the diversity in sociological paradigms, a fact that only accentuates the complexity of a conversation between Christian faith and modern sociology. Insofar as Christians become sociologists, they bring to their professional role the motivation of faith active in a love that seeks social justice. There is no necessity to create a distinctive Christian sociology. A key problem arises in spelling out how and why that which is genuinely Christian is to distinguish itself from the surrounding culture. Some fundamental Christian emphases are summed up in such terms as covenant, koinonia, neighborliness, and the Kingdom of God. The authors consider in particular the position of the Reformed tradition for which the basic doctrine is the Lordship of Christ, his right of rulership over all the affairs of the world he made. They enumerate some basic patterns governing relationships between sociology and faith, and conclude with a final strategy that thinks of the two as dialogue partners in a long-term conversation whose goal is to express the truth about social reality. This strategy can be seen, with appropriate modifications, to be similar to the best of the complementarity patterns advocated for setting forth the relationship between science and Christian faith in general. It involves the lifelong task of blending Aas much as one knows well in sociology with as much as one knows well in Christian faith.
This book presents extensive and perceptive insights into the issues relating sociology and Christian faith. It deserves wide recognition and use.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Emeritus Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 275.
BRAVE NEW FAMILIES: Biblical Ethics and Reproductive Technologies by Scott B. Rae. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996. 238 pages, index. Paperback; $16.90.
Rae, who teaches biblical studies and Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology, has put together a well-balanced coverage of the science and the ethics of reproductive technology. The book is designed particularly to assist pastors who must counsel couples that are considering using one or more of the many techniques available to supplement natural reproductive processes. While Rae has definite views on which techniques are or are not consistent with biblical teachings, the presentation of materials is thorough and fair. Thus, readers are in a position to make informed choices for themselves, confident that they have examined all of the possibilities.
The first two chapters of the book present an overview of the different options available to assist infertile couples, within the context of biblical teaching on the family and the Roman Catholic conception of natural law. While Rae concludes that the outright prohibition on reproductive assistance advocated by the Catholic church is too extreme, he argues that those techniques which involve third-parties, such as sperm or egg donation, are highly suspect.
The third and fourth chapters review the major legal cases around procreative liberty and present an interesting discussion on the moral status of fetuses and embryos. Rae argues that the legal right to employ reproductive technologies does not oblige society to make these technologies available, nor does it follow that legal right implies moral correctness. Further, Rae suggests that the unborn fetus is a person from the point of conception, and thus parents and society have a responsibility to protect the right to life that the fetus deserves.
Chapters five through seven are devoted to examining the specific techniques that are available. These include: artificial insemination by husband or donor, in vitro fertilization, gamete and zygote intrafallopian transfer, and various kinds of surrogate motherhood. Rae balances his presentation of the technical aspects of these options with case studies and thorough examinations of the ethical interpretations and implications of each.
Chapter eight on embryo cloning is particularly interesting in light of recent developments in reproductive science. Rae clearly distinguishes between the science of embryo cloning and the science fiction of cloning adult humans. While science is rapidly pushing forward in this area, Rae's comments help to contextualize the coverage that these issues are receiving in the media. He is particularly concerned with the moral problems around the products of cloning, especially leftover embryos that may be disposed of, frozen for future use, or sold for commercial use.
Chapters nine and ten deal with prenatal genetic testing and the potential maternal-fetal conflicts that may arise during pregnancy. While Rae is reluctant to condemn prenatal testing, he points out that it should be used as preparation for dealing with the child when it is born, and not for abortion. At the same time, he argues that the life of the mother, and hence of any future child, is more important than the life of an unborn child when there are medical complications.
The book concludes with pastoral advice for infertile couples, suggesting a series of decisions to be made as the different options are explored and evaluated. Rae raises a number of provocative issues throughout his text, and he is careful to supply a method for working through the challenges that these issues present.
I found this book to be an interesting and enjoyable read that provides a balanced view of the biological and ethical implications of reproductive technologies. This book would be of particular use to teachers of Christian ethics and pastors, but it should also appeal to anyone interested in or concerned about the future of the natural family.
Reviewed by Robert A. Campbell, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS, B1P 6L2.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 276.
IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH? The Latest Evidence Analyzed by Robert Kastenbaum. North Pomfret, VT: Prion, 1995. 288 pages, index. Paperback; $13.95.
Kastenbaum is a distinguished clinical psychologist who has published several books in this area. This book is a revision of an earlier one published in 1984. It is intended for a general audience, and attempts to answer the question, Is there life after death? not from a religious perspective, but by investigating the principal data. The author sets out a most difficult agenda, which he calls Aexperimental belief in which he tries to argue and critique all positions. So, throughout the book, evidence and arguments for and then evidence and arguments against each position are presented. A summary chapter at the end gives his position, which is that death may not end life, provided you are content with some cosmic flow view of continued existence.
The following will illustrate this approach. In the first chapter, Kastenbaum deals with the most popular topic of the day in this field, near death experiences (NDE). After presenting a strong list of examples, and explaining how this experience changed lives in a very positive way, Kastenbaum, the critic, responds by saying none of these people really died. Neurological research is presented to suggest that a NDE is the brain's response to oxygen starvation. We have read this explanation before, but the question remains: How did natural selection do this? This topic is not raised. (So many of these experiences have occurred that there is now a periodical called The Journal of Near Death Experiences.)
The second chapter deals with the angels that escort the dead to the worlds beyond. Following his standard approach, seemingly foolproof angel escort stories are presented, collaborated by attending people, only to be sarcastically attacked by the critic who claims them to be wish-fulfilling fantasy. The third, fourth and fifth chapters deal with the departed coming back and making contact with the living. Again, the depth of the material is extensive and selected with care to avoid the possibility of fakery. There are surprises here. For example, we find that Sir William Crooks photographed these apparitions, often with multiple cameras. Crooks was convinced of the reality of spirits. The critic is unmoved. The data is either too old, or the collection process flawed, etc. It is still just the mind playing tricks on us. But, now, Kastenbaum is getting more concerned, and starts talking about ESP and psi research, even arguing for psychokinesis rather than poltergeists. By now, I think, most readers are more swayed by the positive evidence than the negative. And I would surmise that this is the author's intent.
Chapter Six deals with mediums and their new age counter part, channelers. Consistent with his approach, Kastenbaum presents some remarkable case histories, including his own experience in this field. Edgar Casey falls in this group, and here the philosophy of this phenomena is presented. It is the idea that mind is not the exclusive property of an individual, and that the universal mind remembers everything. The subconscious mind is in contact with all other minds in a non-analytic way. We are all channelers; that's what our intuition is. Some, however, are more sensitive to this cosmic mind than others. Here, Kastenbaum, in his critic mode, explains these events as telepathic psi experiences, coupled with great insight on the medium's part into the individual's body language, etc. The book finishes with a chapter on the cryogenic storage of bodies as a way to avoid death.
What is a Christian to make of all this? First, we should note that the author goes from pure skeptic in the denial portion to the invoking of ESP and a cosmic consciousness. The progression occurs simply because the data is so strong. My experience in Africa, and the experience of others who have traveled extensively, indicates that people all over the world share the phenomena of communicating with the dead. It is how we interpret these events that matters. For example, Richard Feinman in one of his books tells the experience of his beloved first wife coming back to him while he slept, telling him everything was all right. Feinman sees this not as a message from the other side, but as a message from his brain. In the first chapter, Kastenbaum criticizes the NDE as a proof that there is life after death, reasoning that none of these people really died. The implication is that proof for life after death would require at least one person who had really died to come back from the dead (p. 21).
As Christians, we believe we have that in Jesus. The other biblical example that comes to mind is that of Saul and the witch at Endor. Here the Bible suggests that the spirits of the dead, on certain occasions, can be called up, or at least demonic spirits can simulate them. As Christians, we are not to indulge in such experiences, because our faith would then be in the voice of a spirit rather than in the voice of the living God.
If you are interested in a volume that gives a lot of data that the scientific community tends to overlook, this is a good source.
Review by Fred Jappe, Professor of Chemistry, Mesa College, San Diego, CA 91911.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 277.
DIGNITY AND DYING: A Christian Appraisal by John F. Kilner, Arlene B. Miller and Edmund B. Pellegrino, Eds. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. 256 + x pages, index. Paperback; $19.00.
This book is one of a series, Horizons in Bioethics, by the Center for Bioethics and Human dignity in Bannockburn, Illinois. Kilner is director of this organization. There are twenty chapters, each by a different author, including one each by the editors. There is no biographical information, other than the affiliation of each author. Pellegrino is a well-known bioethicist. I had not read about any of the others. The authors include various types of academics, nurses, physicians, and pastors. Two of the authors, one writing about the Oregon Death with Dignity act, are from Europe.
The book is divided into a three-chapter introduction, and four parts: Guiding Vision, Pressing Challenges, Particular Settings and Constructive Alternatives. As these titles aren't self-explanatory, I list the topics in these parts: Introduction experiences of a physician, a nurse, and a pastor; Part I. autonomy, a theology of death (by an MD), suffering, faithfulness to the dying; Part II. forgoing treatment, medical futility, definition of death, euthanasia and assisted suicide; Part Ill. Nazi Germany, Oregon, North America, The Netherlands; Part IV. hospice, long-term care, advocacy, parish nursing, and congregational ministry.
I wish to discuss a few of the chapters. John Dunlop's Death and Dying, is the only treatment of the theology of death that I can remember reading. (Dunlop has almost no references. Most of the other chapters have quite a few.) Certainly this is an important subject. Dunlop doesn't say anything surprising, but it is good to read an essay on the subject, liberally studded with Scripture. The Bible teaches, says Dunlop, that death is an enemy, but a defeated enemy. Since it is hanging over us, we will, he says, be aware that our time on earth is limited, and anticipate heaven. Dunlop not only reviews Scripture, but states several principles which should guide the medical community in dealing with patients who are threatened with death.
Every citizen should probably become informed about the initiatives in Oregon and the Netherlands, and the chapters in this book would be one place to start. Oregon's Death With Dignity Act is so new that it wasn't possible for Jerome Wernow to evaluate its effect, so he analyzes the Act itself, and the moral issues surrounding it. Henk Jochemsen's chapter on the Netherlands confirms what the opponents of active euthanasia have been saying, namely that other questionable practices will follow. Both of these authors clearly oppose active euthanasia, so readers should not expect an unbiased treatment. This is not a criticism; there are few, if any, authors who don't feel strongly about this issue, one way or another, and they do present both sides.
James R. Thobaben's article Long-Term Care argues that the church, as a whole, has abdicated her responsibility for healthcare, and should get back into the business in a big way. Norma Small's Parish Nursing, is a proposal that nurses join church staffs and minister to the health needs of parishioners.
The chapters discussed in this review were the most thought-provoking to me. All chapters were well written and the book was almost devoid of errors. The authors seem to take a high view of Scripture, and most of them use some Scripture in their chapter.
The book might be of use as a supplementary text in a medical ethics class. It does present information which I wasn't aware of, from a Christian viewpoint. Presumably it would be of interest to pastors, nurses, physicians, and academics. It certainly covers topics which are central to the interests of the ASA. There are no illustrations, save for a table or two. There is an adequate index.
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Central, SC 29630.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 278.
THE SCATTERED VOICE: Christians at Odds in the Public Square by James W. Skillen. Edmonton, AB: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology and Public Policy, Inc., First Canadian edition, 1996. 252 pages. Paperback.
Skillen points to a sinful weakness of Christians on the political scene. Christians attack each other in politics; instead they should stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ. He describes seven different attitudes of Christians and writes a chapter on each: Pro-American conservatives, Cautious and critical conservatives, Sophisticated neo-conservatives, Traditional and reflective liberals, Civil right reformers, Pro-justice activists, and Theonomic reconstructionists. Chapter 1 discusses the roots of the conflicts while chapter 9 urges better communication. The last chapter asks: Is there hope for the future? The description of the different ways of political involvement is based on U.S. politics. In Canada there are no Republicans and Democrats but rather Conservatives (includes Reform Party) and Liberals. The attitudes are the same, however. Skillen's remarks are valid in both countries. He says: "They then draw the lines of opposition between good conservatives who identify with a better, earlier, and more Christian America, on the one side, and bad liberals who are progressive, modern and secularistic, on the other side" (p. 191). Indeed, such an approach draws a false antithesis and hides Christian norms. It tends to ignore many economic, racial, or international issues. When international issues are not ignored, they are often framed in a way which pits an isolated American society against the interdependent, international society.
Skillen is not alone in noticing the extreme inward look of U.S. citizens. In an article in Themelios (January 1997), an international magazine for theological and religious studies, Vinoth Ramachandra writes: But if democracy means the right to participate in decision-making that affects my life and my community, then the conditions of late modernity seem to make democracy an impossible goal. American domestic issues, like taxation, subsidies for farmers, interest rates, and military spending have major repercussions on the economies of other nations. However, nobody in the U.S. thinks of consulting other countries on those issues. Some Christians may even go to those countries to assist locally, without realizing that some countries are in bad situations because of domestic policies of Western nations. U.S. and Canadian Christians are definitely not the only blind ones in this respect.
The writer notes that science and technology have not produced heaven on earth. He quotes Charles Colson: "modern governments have devised nothing to cure the unbridled passions of man" (p. 222). It is easy for scientists to think that politics is not for them. Politics often has a dirty name. As nations, Canada and the United States have high standards of living. Are they entitled to that? Do Christian consciences speak in political matters? Or is economic well-being the most important thing in our politics? It is often obtained at the cost of poverty for others.
James Skillen wrote the book originally in 1990 as Executive Director of the Association for Public Justice and the Center of Public Justice, a Christian organization that pursues policy research in areas such as abortion, military defense, economic justice, and European economic integration. All Christians, including scientists, should listen to him and try to define what Christian politics means for them.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, M2R 2V7.
From PSCF 49 (December 1997): 280.