Book Reviews for March 1992
THREADS: Social Thought for Christians by Russell Heddendorf. Dallas: Word
Publishing (Probe Books), 1990, 277 pages, index. Paperback; $14.99.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 61.
The author of this work is past-president of the ASA and professor of sociology at Covenant College. Heddendorf's aim is to share the excitement he feels when he discovers a convergence between Athe objective truth God has provided in created social reality," which he claims is discernible through a careful understanding of scripture, and Athe subjective interpretation of this reality" offered by social theorists Ain their attempts to reconstruct that reality in society" (p. 251). The Ahidden threads," then, are conceptual frameworks or interpretative theories which can help to meaningfully tie together and hold in tension the claims of theology with the best insights available from the competing perspectives of social science.
Seven major chapters of this work offer the reader a clear presentation and "Christian critique" of as many social theories: functionalism, conflict theory, social action theory, exchange theory, symbolic interactionism, phenomenology and ethnomethodology, and the sociology of knowledge. Following Thomas Kuhn, Heddendorf treats these interpretative paradigms as determined as much by Ashared beliefs" and values ("faith" and ideology) as by objective examination of social structures and functions. Because of the present pluralistic state of social theory the author keeps these perspectives in tension while seeking the valid insights each provides into the complex character of social reality. His historical review and evaluation of these twentieth century positions should be helpful to any reader interested in understanding and working for change in the institutional structures of modern society.
The author is to be admired for being up front with his theological commitment while carrying forward his professional responsibilities as a sociologist. The task is complicated and challenging, as he would be the first to admit. There are "hidden threads" to be drawn from the Bible and from the social sciences, and it is no mean task to see how these both may point to the kind of society God intended. Here are a few hints as to Heddendorf's approach.
1) He suggests that since all humans are part of God's creational reality, the biblical moral principles (rules) have an "innate quality." They are present to the human conscience even though individuals in their sinfulness may reject those moral standards or have a confused understanding of them (pp. 93-4). The resulting institutionalized practices of injustice which constitute present social reality become the focus of study by conflict theory, social action theory and exchange theory (Chapters 6-8), though they themselves can offer no real solution. Heddendorf finds a "more powerful tool" in symbolic interactionism (Chapter 9),especially when we include the symbols of faith centering in "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" and creating a reconciling people at work in society (pp. 184-9).
2) Like the prominent Christian sociologists, Jacques Ellul and Peter Berger (pp. 236-247), Heddendorf encourages his readers to keep two factors in "dialectical tension" (p. 192): (a) the importance of being a dynamic community of people with a history, heritage, commission and hope, and (b) actually reckoning with the social and physical realities, the forces of darkness as well as of light in this present world. For the Christian, this includes taking one's stand both "within" and "outside" the church, the latter to provide a necessary critique of conformity, superficial thinking and divisions in the light of Christ, who is head of the church and the proclaimer of the new Kingdom (pp. 221-2).
This volume not only offers probing Social Thought for Christians,it should be read as issuing a renewed call to intelligent and concerned evangelical social action.
Reviewed by William W. Paul, Professor emeritus, Central College, Pella, IA 50219.
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES REVISITED
I by W. R. Bird. New York, NY: Philosophical Library, 1989. 551 pages, subject and
author indexes. Hardcover.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 61.
Bird is a graduate of Yale Law School and former editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has been active with the Ascientific creationists" since his major articles on freedom of religion and science instruction in schools were published in the 1978 Yale Law Journal and the 1979 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy.
The Origin of Species Revisited I is the first of a 2-volume work on the conflict between evolution and (Ascientific") creation, which Bird includes within the broader Theories of Abrupt Appearance. The book has two prefaces: the first by Gareth Nelson, a leader in Transformed Cladistics, (a nonevolutionary and antievolutionary approach to classification); and the second by Dean H. Kenyon, an evolutionist turned creationist. Extensive (over 2600) references to short quotes and notes make up about 145 pages of end-of-chapter notes. The Origin of Species Revisited I is the first of a 2-volume work on the conflict between evolution and (Ascientific") creation, which Bird includes within the broader Theories of Abrupt Appearance. The book has two prefaces: the first by Gareth Nelson, a leader in Transformed Cladistics, (a nonevolutionary and antievolutionary approach to classification); and the second by Dean H. Kenyon, an evolutionist turned creationist. Extensive (over 2600) references to short quotes and notes make up about 145 pages of end-of-chapter notes.
This book has eight chapters with many clearly defined subsections and frequent summaries. Bird defines the theories of abrupt appearance and evolution, and discusses their religious meanings in part I. Under the broad heading "Whether the theories of abrupt appearance and evolution are scientific," he then presents the main positive arguments for the theory of abrupt appearance (essentially "creation science") and the major criticisms of evolution concerning the appearance of living organisms (part II), the origin of life (part III), and the origin of the universe (part IV). The last chapter is a summary of the preceding 474 pages.
Bird addresses origins by comparing two families of theories: The Theory of Abrupt Appearance and the Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Abrupt Appearance includes more than "Scientific Creationism," which is found in the subcategory of theories of creation (nomothetic or miraculous. The theory of discontinuity (natural group systematics, typology, etc.), theory of abrupt appearance, theories of panspermia and directed panspermia, and theories of nontheistic forces (vitalism, creative intelligence, great origins thesis, etc.) are also included. His Theory of Evolution includes theories of Darwinian (and neo-Darwinian) evolution, theories on non-Darwinian evolution (saltations, macromutations, structuralism, some transformed cladists, neo-Lamarkian, etc.), and theories of theistic evolution. Origins are discussed on the cosmic, biochemical, and biological levels.
Bird tries to distance himself from some mistakes of previous "Scientific Creationist" writings by stating, "These lines of evidence are affirmative in the sense that, if true, they support the theory of abrupt appearance. They are not negative in the sense of merely identifying weaknesses of evolution," and presenting evidence...in the words of evolutionists with the data that they recognize, rather than by reliance on any creationist scientists." Asterisks after the names of most evolutionists cited in the text are explained by this footnote at the beginning of each chapter: "Scientists cited in this book, unless otherwise indicated, are not proponents of, and their quoted statements are not intended as endorsements of, either the theory of abrupt appearance or the theory of creation. However, their quoted statements are acknowledging data that some nonevolutionary scientists interpret as supporting the theory of abrupt appearance better than the theory of evolution or as undermining the theory of evolution or significant aspects."
Despite the disclaimers, most of the book is still primarily a discourse on the weakness of neo-Darwinian evolution, and the strengths of the scientific theory of abrupt appearance, Bird's term for "scientific creation" or "creation," which he uses infrequently. A broad background in systematics is recommended for the understanding of the other theories which are given relatively brief mention. Many of the numerous short quotes and citations of references (830 in the 159-page chapter on Biological Evolution (Macroevolution) of Living Organisms) are repeated several times throughout the book. If some of the frequent repetition of the same strengths of abrupt appearance and weaknesses of evolution could be replaced by more discussion of the other theories, which were only briefly mentioned, this would be a fantastic reference book on origins in general.
The Origins of the Species Revisited I has a broader perspective, clearer definitions, and more balance than other AScientific Creationist" books. It is probably the most extensive source of evolutionist criticism of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian macroevolutionary theory in print. The frequent summaries, systematic organization, and appropriate use of the terms microevolution and macroevolution help clarity and readability. The Origins of the Species Revisited I has a broader perspective, clearer definitions, and more balance than other AScientific Creationist" books. It is probably the most extensive source of evolutionist criticism of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian macroevolutionary theory in print. The frequent summaries, systematic organization, and appropriate use of the terms microevolution and macroevolution help clarity and readability.
This book is recommended for scientifically literate persons who want a well documented defense of young-earth creation in more precise language and a broader context than usual for this interpretation of creation.
Reviewed by L. Duane Thurman, Department of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK 74171.
THE CHURCH AND
CONTEMPORARY COSMOLOGY by James B. Miller and Kenneth E. McCall (eds.).
Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990. 400 pages. Paperback.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 62.
In 1983 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA, formed the Task Force on Theology and Cosmology. It was charged to develop a process to initiate a study of cosmology in the Bible and in traditional church formulations; changes in cosmology as a result of modern science; the theological significance of contemporary concepts for traditional theological affirmation.
Papers by nineteen scholars were initially presented at a consultation of Presbyterians representing a variety of constituencies: scientists, engineers, other church members, local ministers, theologians, church-related college faculty and campus ministers. After lively and energizing discussion the papers have now been published.
The chapters cover a wide range of relevant issues: ancient Israelite cosmology and the New Testament concept of heaven; modern scientific developments in astronomy, physics, biology and ecology; current interactions between theology and science. The chapters vary widely in length,from 8 to 80 pages with an average of 15 to 20, and in technical detail. Although scholarly, they are intelligible to a reader reasonably well acquainted with the basic issues. Most of the chapters conclude with a brief summary of the main points.
Of special interest to ASA members are the authors who define and interrelate the basic disciplines of science, philosophy and theology. Langdon Gilkey (pp. 149-182) notes that all three are "hermeneutical" in the sense that each searches in its own way for the meaning of the experiences in which it originates. They are distinct in that they search significantly different ways and for different sorts or levels of meaning; and they are mutually interdependent and mutually corrective." Gilkey shows that the three differ in the kinds of data appealed to; the kinds of intelligibility sought; the sorts of authority recognized; and the sorts of symbols found significant and useful.
In a preliminary study of selected modern cosmologies (the writings of Sagan, Dawkins and Pagels, for example), Gilkey notes that they assume a "naive realism," unaware of its philosophical presuppositions and the epistemological problems that hover in the background of their entire work. All these books manifest an Aunyielding dogmatism" on basic issues relevant to theology and metaphysics. These scientists, like some theologians, become rigid and dogmatic on subjects outside their field, claiming for their views the authority of science, in fact much more authority than real science ever claims.
Harold Nebelsick (pp. 231-245) offers a fascinating account of the earliest stages of the modern dialogue between theology and natural science. Scientists have belatedly recognized that science does have a history that inevitably influences its present practice. In 1938 two German scientists, Howe and von Weizsacker, were convinced that it was time to start conversations between physicists and theologians. That year the atom was split in a Berlin laboratory; World War II was soon to come. From 1949 to 1963 such conversations took place in Gottingen on an annual basis. Although they were not highly successful, Nebelsick notes several significant concepts. For example, from the outset the group recognized that "analogies between theology and natural science are relational in nature rather than ontological," although the way we know God is related to the way we know the world.
Nebelsick then clearly and concisely points out some procedures of quantum physics that may be applicable to theological thinking. He finally shows how some of the epistemological procedures used in natural science may be applicable to our talk about God. In both science and theology we must recognize "the theory-laden aspect of all factuality and the reality-constrained aspect of all theory." In other words, we do not come into the laboratory or library completely objective, but rather with a theory (hypothesis or doctrine) that determines what we look for and the way we see it. On the other hand, it is not true that any theory will do; theories used to explain reality must fall within the realm of possibility and be tested by interacting with the data.
Ian Barbour's Consultation Summation (pp. 297-312) is a response to the addresses and discussion during the consultation rather than a paper prepared in advance. He sets forth four major ways of relating science and religion: Conflict (scientific materialism; biblical literalism); Independence (contrasting methods; differing languages); Dialogue (boundary questions; methodological parallels); Integration (doctrinal reformulation; systematic synthesis).
The Dialogue alternative deals with methodology and can be combined with either Independence or Integration. Barbour categorizes the various authors, recognizing that several do not neatly fit into a major category. The chapter concludes with brief comments on three main scientific and theological periods: Medieval, Newtonian and 20th Century. Both models,the four ways and three periods, provide helpful classifications of the plethora of information and issues covered by the consultation.
This book is recommended as a gold mine of information, both technical and popular, for a better understanding of the nature of science and theology and ways in which they are being related today.
Reviewed by Charles E. Hummel, former director of InterVarsity faculty ministries, Grafton, MA 01519.
by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe. New York, NY: Paragon House, 1990. 151
pages, index. Hardcover; $16.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 63.
Sir Fred Hoyle, a distinguished astronomer, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has coauthored a series of books and papers on the theory of cosmic origin of life with Chandra Wickramasinghe, Professor of Applied Mathematics and Astronomy at University College, Cardiff, Wales. This book is their latest. Among the other books in the series are Lifecloud, Diseases from Space, Living Comets, and Evolution from Space.
Cosmic Life-Force is the "final synthesis" summarizing the authors' general thesis of cosmic life which goes briefly as follows: Living organisms in the form of freeze-dried bacteria and viruses exist in vast quantities everywhere in the universe. These cosmic microorganisms, while residing in comets, arrived and continue to arrive on Earth through cometary injections, and started life on Earth. The continual arrivals of cosmic bacteria and viruses on Earth also caused biological evolution as well as occasional outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as influenza. Cosmic Life-Force is the "final synthesis" summarizing the authors' general thesis of cosmic life which goes briefly as follows: Living organisms in the form of freeze-dried bacteria and viruses exist in vast quantities everywhere in the universe. These cosmic microorganisms, while residing in comets, arrived and continue to arrive on Earth through cometary injections, and started life on Earth. The continual arrivals of cosmic bacteria and viruses on Earth also caused biological evolution as well as occasional outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as influenza.
There is no doubt that this cosmic life theory is considered provocative and controversial by many. However, this review is mainly an evaluation of the book as written and is not really a critique of the theory itself.
The authors did a fairly good job in presenting their thesis by citing a combination of direct scientific measurements, indirect observations, circumstantial evidences, inferences, correlations, and speculations. They also provided an extensive bibliography on various topics of their arguments. The book is written at the level of comprehension of high school graduates who have taken courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.
The book consists of 10 short chapters, 13 black-and-white photographs, and 25 line drawings and graphs. Some of the illustrations lack clear explanations. For example, the two pictures that were deciphered from the binary-coded messages written for transmission to prospective extraterrestrial intelligences, are supposed to depict important information about us on Earth. The authors did not bother to relate specifically the drawings in the pictures to that information.
Chapter 8, Fabric of the World, is a brief description of the physical makeup of the universe and a general discussion of cosmology, including, of course, the steady state theory which is a trade mark of Fred Hoyle. A substantial portion of this chapter, especially the part on fundamental particles, bears no direct relation to the cosmic life theory, the main theme of this book. Chapter 9, the Control of Galaxies, reminds me of James E. Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis that the Earth is self-regulated by the living systems thereon. The authors postulated that cosmic bacteria may be controlling our galaxy and even other galactic systems, thus the title of this book. The last chapter, the Concept of a Creator, describes the authors' deliberations leading to their vision of an omniscient cosmic intelligence as the Creator of Life. This chapter should be most interesting to members of the American Scientific Affiliation.
For those who love to hear provocative ideas and investigate controversies (don't we all?), this book should provide plenty of food for thought and material for debates. Please note that some of the arguments in the book may significantly raise your blood pressure.
Reviewed by James Wing, Chemist, 15212 Red Clover Drive, Rockville, MD 20853.
LOST: Images of Man In The Mirror of Science by John L. Casti. New York: William
Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. 450 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 64.
From time to time many of us ask "Why are we here? How did we come to be?" Author Casti takes the serious questioner into deep paths of thought-provoking reading in this volume. We need not agree with his conclusions, or even his arguments, to benefit from his keen insight into six key problems of human existence as he presents evidences and contentions as "science in a court of law."
Casti begins by phrasing the question "Is there anything special,or unique,about human beings?", exploring answers only in the light of science. His answer to this is a qualified "yes," but it is the exploration of the issues, not the author's conclusions, which he urges upon us.
The book has seven chapters, any of which stands alone as a unit. Chapter 1 is an "instruction manual" on science; the author suggests that the reader begins, however, wherever their interest lies! Each of the "Great Problems" are examined in the form of a jury trial, with presentation of evidence and argumentation, summarization, and a verdict. Casti suggests that anyone who shows no interest in the questions may be seriously uninformed about their nature and beauty. Francis Crick goes further, suggesting that such a person may be "truly uneducated!"
Chapter 2 begins with the first claim to be tested: "Life arose out of natural processes taking place here on earth." Certainly the most controversial of the six questions, the author does an excellent job in presenting the several (more than two!) alternatives. Committed evolutionists as well as their creationist counterparts will appreciate this chapter.
The claim that "Human behavior patterns are dictated primarily by the genes" is explored next. This issue can hit home, as some of us observe the behavior of offspring! How much does a childhood environment (read,a warm, loving home) count in determining adult behavior? Casti finds this problem to be the most perplexing of all those considered and, in announcing his verdict, wonders why so many participants in the struggle cling so strongly to one position to the complete exclusion of the other.
Next is the proposition that "Human language capacity stems from a unique, innate property of the brain." The arguments of Chomsky and Fodor are matched against those of Skinner, Piaget and others who argue strongly that language is just another learning activity, and is not unique.
The fourth claim comes close to this reviewer's professional field. "Digital computers can, in principle, literally think." I had my own ideas (prejudices) on this one and it was refreshing to have them challenged in a professional manner. Casti argues in the "verdict" section that the debate is one between philosophers, masquerading as scientists. Those interested in the AI question may well want to dispute him!
"There are intelligent beings in our galaxy with whom we can communicate" is the assertion tested in Chapter 6. The Fermi paradox (Fermi, in the summer of 1950, asked the common-sense question AIf there are, then where are they?") began a whole series of experiments which have, so far, found no evidence of intelligence beyond this earth, at least none that is generally accepted. The SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) projects are described in fascinating layman's terms.
Chapter 7 was the most frustrating, for it was the most profound. The claim is made that AThere exists no objective reality independent of an observer." Common sense tells one immediately that this claim is nonsense. Common sense, however, is sometimes wrong. I am still wrestling with this chapter, not because it is hard to read or understand, but because it drives my own thought patterns so far into unfamiliar territory.
In the end, three of the six claims won in Casti's court, one was a draw and two lost. But the cases are ongoing. Those who want to dig deeper will appreciate the 54 pages of footnotes and recommended reading. Alas, one has but a single lifetime! I strongly recommend spending a few hours of your life reading this treasure. Your mind will surely be stretched! You will be the richer for the experience.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Senior Staff, Market Research, IBM Corporation 101 Skyline Rd., Georgetown, Texas 78628.
FOR CERTAINTY: What Scientists Can Know About The Future, by John L. Casti. New
York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990. 496 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 65.
Casti, a faculty member at the Technical University of Vienna, Austria, has followed his splendid book, Paradigms Lost, with one of equal merit, deserving of serious study. My chief concern in writing this review is that I will not be sufficiently persuasive to induce its readers to share with me the enjoyment of science presented at its best.
Casti begins by discussing the differences between explanation and prediction in science, and in non-science, as he deals with the three C's: Correlations, Causes and Chance. He devotes most of the book, however, to analyses of weather changes, climate predictions, physical changes in living organisms, the stock market, the outbreak of war and, in a brilliant conclusion, the true statements of arithmetic.
For people in a hurry, read just the summary, five short pages. There may be some who will read no more. There may also be some people who can nibble just one peanut at a baseball game!
Casti writes with both clarity and humor. Even the chapter headings ("Proof or Consequences" introduces his chapter on "True" Arithmetic) and section headings ("Looking for a Beta Way" is a topic in the chapter on stock prices) are carefully chosen both to illuminate the topic and to remind the reader that science can be fun!
In discussing the problems, Casti rates "science" in two ways: first, how well the problem can be explained; second, how well future events within it can be predicted. Celestial mechanics is the measure of the others, rating a grade of "A" on both counts. Mathematics, interestingly enough, rates only a "B+" and "B." Quantum mechanics rates "D" in explanation, but "A" in prediction. Evolutionary Biology, as one might expect, moves in the reverse direction, rating "B+" in explanation and "D" in prediction. At the low end of the scale is Economics, rating a flat "D" in both categories. It is part of the uniqueness of this book that the author is able to analyze these matters and show, very convincingly, why these grades are to be expected, what they mean, and what improvements are likely in the future.
"... that it's in those areas of the natural sciences least susceptible to human influence that we have the best Aprograms" for prediction and explanation. As we move away from hard physics and astronomy and into the Jello-like realm of biology, our capabilities for prediction and explanation begin to deteriorate. And by the time we reach the almost totally gaseous state of economics and the other social sciences, there's far more Asocial" than Ascience" in our capacity to say what's next and why."
As in Paradigms Lost, Casti includes a "To Dig Deeper" section to conclude the work. There are 55 pages of notes, indicating that the author has done his homework well!
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, Senior Staff, Market Research, IBM Corporation 101 Skyline Rd., Georgetown, Texas 78628
MINDS, BRAINS AND MACHINES by
Geoffrey Brown. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989. xi. 163 pages. Hardcover; $24.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 66.
The central theme of this book, analyzed in the context of the modern philosophy of mind, is the problem of whether machines can think. The problem is very important in the context of the Christian faith, since a positive answer would require a substantial reevaluation of Christian theology. If machines can think, do they do that in the same way humans do? What would be their spiritual life as compared to that of humans? Could machines be held responsible for their actions, if they think? Such problems would have to be seriously analyzed if machines could be included in the category of rational beings.
The first problem Brown poses is the meaning of thinking: do computers "really think"? But what does it mean to "really think"? It must involve something beyond storing and handling data, which machines can do; a possible candidate is creativity defined as the ability of generating new solutions and acting in an independent way. And machines cannot do that. But is consciousness associated with thinking and intelligence? Yes, the author says, but this also gives rise to the problem of solipsism, and this problem is dealt with from different angles throughout the entire book. Although it seems to be obvious to say who is conscious, it is not trivial to reveal the nature of consciousness.
First, there is a problem of other minds. It may be said after Rorty that the problem of mind is a pseudo-problem, after Dennett that consciousness is a status ascribed to people, not their property, or after Thomas Nagel that it is simply something "that it is like to be a creature." And the latter position seems to the author the most plausible. But it raises a problem of analogy, since subjective facts become a subject of "objective ascription ... only to someone sufficiently similar" (p.33). Brown discusses arguments of Russell and Ayer in favor of argument from analogy and indicates that the solipsist can refute them.
But a problem can be discussed from a different angle: the solipsist has to assume the idea of a private language. Following Wittgenstein, Brown shows that it is highly improbable: the use of language is a collective and social phenomenon. For a solipsist there would be no difference between following a rule and thinking that a rule is followed.
Brown also analyses the mind-body problem. He discusses several positions in this matter, such as dualism, occasionalism, epiphenomenalism, etc., but he himself takes the side of monism. He is aware of the fact that it is a multi-faceted position: it can spring up from rationalism, or materialism. However, a certain version of functionalism, by identifying mental states with functional states, does not decide what is the nature of these states.
Brown advocates a theory that allows rejecting a choice between mind and matter. Such a choice should be secondary and, for instance, Strawson chooses the concept of person as primary introducing the mind-body division only later. But Kant, the author's favorite philosopher, replaces the mind-body pair by a subject-object pair, that is, the division line is of epistemological nature, and not ontological. Thus "the problem of what is real, what is secondary" is not, in fact avoided, but replaced by the problem what can be known (phenomena) and what cannot (noumena).
Like Piaget, Brown says that "learning depends very much upon doing"; doing implies following rules, following rules implies the concept of correctness. But to possess it one has to be capable of having purposes. The author concludes that it is possible to construct a machine generating its own purposes; but "such artifacts would be hardly anything like the things which pass for 'intelligent machines' at the present time" (p.153).
This conclusion is surprising in the light of his previous discussion: (1) he analyses language as one symptom of consciousness and admits that computers are missing the crucial point, namely meaning; (2) after comparing computers with the brain, Brown concludes that differences between them are much more substantial than similarities; (3) because thinking is thinking about something, and because of the nature of learning, feelings and sensations are necessary for thought, for they form our link with the outside world, and thus, "anything capable of actual thought is at least going to be an organism" (p.135).
Thus, a genuinely thinking artifact can be constructed, in the author's opinion. A philosophical journey he made through a garden of a thousand paths and the paths chosen deliberately led to this conclusion, since some philosophical positions were discarded on the spot as unfashionable and irrelevant. A fashionable way is to be close to a materialist position pretending that this is not quite the case; therefore, a recourse to functionalism. It is, in fact, what Kant himself tried to do: he started with metaphysics and wanted to built a new one, and ended up refuting it, or rather with refuting traditional ontological arguments. The noumenal world remained as an unrefutable foundation; also metaphysics was in the background of his discussion of practical reason, and thus, of ethics.
To sum up, the journey Brown makes is interesting and kept accessible to the uninitiated, but his conclusion is at least unconvincing and, in fact, the reader has a feeling that the author did not even convince himself about the prospect of thinking artifacts. But because the possibility of such a machine is projected very far into the future, the author's conjecture is quite safe.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Professor of Computer Science, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
EARTH: Preserving The World God Created by William B. Badke. Portland, Oregon:
Multnomah Press, 1991. 166 pages, appendix and indexes. Paperback.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 67.
Project Earth offers a direct challenge to the conspicuous silence of evangelical Christianity toward the globe's looming environmental problems. This book contests conventional evangelical thinking and practice by linking today's environmental crisis to fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. The challenge might be interpreted as another swipe from theological liberalism except that the author himself carries evangelical credentials. William Badke is associate professor of Bible and theology at Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Project Earth offers a direct challenge to the conspicuous silence of evangelical Christianity toward the globe's looming environmental problems. This book contests conventional evangelical thinking and practice by linking today's environmental crisis to fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. The challenge might be interpreted as another swipe from theological liberalism except that the author himself carries evangelical credentials. William Badke is associate professor of Bible and theology at Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
The author chides evangelicals for narrowly focusing the central truths of Scripture, and their proclamation, to only the spiritual dimension (i.e., humanity's sinfulness and redemption) with insufficient regard for Scriptural teachings regarding the divine mandate to care for the earth. Evangelicals indifferent to the Earth's plight are guilty, not of the sin of commission (as historian Lynn White suggests), but of omission. With this opening critique, supplemented with a brief non-technical survey of current environmental problems (toxic waste, acid rain, ozone depletion, global warming, loss of rain forests and agricultural land), the book proceeds to its main task of convincing evangelical Christians that caring for the earth is a biblically mandated responsibility.
The book's premise is that creation bears witness to God. Aspects of this premise are used to structure five of the nine chapters. Two chapters succinctly review four ways in which creation's witness is evident: l) nature's testimony to the Creator's glory, 2) God's nuture or providence for all life, 3) penalty (death for all creatures), and 4) precariousness (life's insecurity after the fall). These revelatory and dark witnesses of creation are seemingly in tension, but they are all part of God's plan to call human beings back to himself, the former as blessings accompanying faithfulness and the latter as judgement for not responding to his call. Environmental problems are viewed as a reflection of human rebellion against God.
The next two chapters elaborate on this theme by confronting evangelical arguments which point to God's curse on creation and the apocalyptic vision of a destroyed earth as reasons for not participating in the restoration of an environmentally hurting world. An intervening chapter then poses three options for consideration: indifference, damaging exploitation, and active support. The latter is obviously the author's option of choice and this leads to a culminating chapter describing the fifth witness: reclamation. The creation bears this witness when Christians, renewed in the image of God, actively proclaim and participate in the earth's healing. In the next chapter, an attempt is made to offer pragmatic suggestions which manifest the witness of reclamation. Most are of the Abe informed and get involved" variety, except for the author's suggestion for believers to re-examine their consumptive lifestyles, which is probably the most effective but also the most sacrificial.
The book concludes with 15 Propositions for a Christian Ecology which essentially summarize its theological argument. An appendix lists 39 environmental tips for households and 11 for churches, all familiar to the ardent environmentalist.
This is a short, readable book oriented mainly to evangelical leaders and laypersons unfamiliar with biblical perspectives on the environment. Those familiar with theological discourse on creation will find it rudimentary, although occasional criticism of contemporary Christian writers (e.g., Wesley Granberg-Michaelson) provides alternative viewpoints. Personal anecdotes at chapter introductions illustrate major points but they sometimes fall short in their analogy. Chapter footnotes refer to a mix of academic and popular references.
Project Earth recognizes that the environmental crisis is ultimately reflective of a spiritual problem. It challenges evangelical Christians to search the Scriptures, repent, renew their hearts and minds, and act as the Creator's envoys in reclaiming all creation. It is a welcome addition from the evangelical camp to the meager array of Christian writings on the environment. Project Earth recognizes that the environmental crisis is ultimately reflective of a spiritual problem. It challenges evangelical Christians to search the Scriptures, repent, renew their hearts and minds, and act as the Creator's envoys in reclaiming all creation. It is a welcome addition from the evangelical camp to the meager array of Christian writings on the environment.
Reviewed by Harry Spaling, Land Evaluation Group and Department of Geography, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
PROBLEMS: A Christian Understanding and Response by Jack O. Balswick and J.
Kenneth Morland. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990. 357 pages, index. Paper; $22.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 68.
Balswick and Morland, both evangelical sociologists, have written a book that attempts to help Christians (many of them frustrated) understand the causes which underlie some current social problems. In addition, they tackle questions regarding how a Christian, using a biblically based framework, should respond to help solve these problems. The extent of the entrenchment of some of the social problems discussed (poverty, discrimination, substance abuse) makes the task of finding causes and determining appropriate responses (Christian or otherwise) is a difficult one. The authors are qualified to take a crack at this task. They have been teaching, writing and actively involved with social issues for a combined total of 65 years.
The book is divided into three parts. Part I gives the reader a brief introduction to sociology, how sociologists come to define what a social problem is, and how a social problem differs from a social issue. Social problems are defined as "any situation which the members of a group consider to be undesirable and which they think should be remedied by cooperative action" (p. 16). Balswick and Morland add that the problems should be identified using both Ageneral American values and Christian ideology" (p. 18). At this point a four-fold sociological analysis is described, which the authors use to discuss eleven different social problems introduced in Part II. This analysis explores the following areas: the nature of the concern (violation of a national value); the dimensions of the problem; explanations of the problem, and proposed solutions. Each analysis ends with suggestions for an appropriate Christian response,exhortations for an individual or the church at large. Part III is comprised of a short chapter on paths to Christian social involvement.
Overall, the book is well organized and well written. Other than occasionally using statistics that are somewhat dated, the research used for indicating the dimensions of each problem was complete and convincing. For the most part, I was pleased with the social problems the authors chose to address: crime and juvenile delinquency, discrimination and prejudice, family instability, alcoholism and problem drinking, drugs, poverty and world hunger. I was surprised to find the inclusion of "redefinition of gender roles" and "alienation and the crises of modernity;" especially because the problems of AIDS, homosexuality, abortion, and mental illness (particularly depression) received merely a passing reference or no mention at all.
One strength of this book is its readability, particularly for the general Christian lay audience who want to learn more about social problems from a sociological perspective (rather than from a psychological perspective.) Another strength lies with the authors' ability to argue that social problems cannot be solved by changing the individual apart from making significant changes within the social structures that helped create the problem in the first place. Although each social problem discussed in Part II is well researched and presented, I felt too many subtopics were introduced. One danger inherent in writing a book which serves as an introduction or overview to a particular area is to include so many secondary themes that the overall product is weakened by the brevity of the coverage. Due to the brief discussion of each subtopic, I thought it was difficult to come to a complete or thorough understanding of any one of them. Once a specific social problem is selected, the chapter subheadings must be judiciously chosen. In this instance too many were superficially covered. For example, the chapter on racial discrimination and prejudice includes a discussion on the "physiological," "psychological," and "sociocultural" approaches to this topic. This is all dealt with in five pages. The book would have been strengthened if a number of subtopics had been removed, providing the space was used to further elaborate on some of the more salient aspects.
Social Problems: A Christian Understanding and Response is a versatile book. ASA members wanting an introduction to this topic should be pleased. Professors could use it as a supplementary reader in a course on social issues. It could even be used within the church for a topical based Sunday school program. Social Problems: A Christian Understanding and Response is a versatile book. ASA members wanting an introduction to this topic should be pleased. Professors could use it as a supplementary reader in a course on social issues. It could even be used within the church for a topical based Sunday school program.
Reviewed by Bryan C. Auday, Associate Professor of Psychology, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
THEORY AND PRACTICE IN
MEDICAL ETHICS by Glenn C. Graber and David C. Thomasma. New York: Continuum
Publishing Co.,1989. 216 pages,index. Cloth; $24.95.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 69.
Medical ethics has become a very complicated subject, and probably will increase in complexity in the years ahead. A systematic exposition of ethical theories, the purpose of this book, can also be a complicated undertaking. Graber is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee, and Clinical Associate in Medical Ethics at the same University's Medical Center. Thomasma is Professor and Chairman of Medical Humanities at Loyola University, Stritch School of Medicine, Chicago. The book was motivated by the authors' teaching to medical and philosophy students on medical ethics.
The presentation follows the form of a more or less formal treatment of ethical issues, without attempting to base the values underlying them within a Christian or theological foundation. There is, therefore, almost no discussion of whether a particular ethical position can be justified or validated by biblical exegesis. Implicit in much of the discussion, and occasionally explicit as well, is the assumption that ethical principles are the product of social consensus.
In successive chapters the authors consider six models of theory-practice relation: the application model, the mediation model, the validation model, the determination model, the origination model, and the virtue model. The strengths and weaknesses of each of these models is discussed, together with illustrations of them in practice. Finally, the book concludes with a proposed treatment of the interaction of theory and practice that avoids the weaknesses and incorporates as many of the strengths as possible.
The book is thoroughly scholarly in style. Each chapter ends with the citation of at least 50 references. Appendix A provides an index to almost 300 substantive issues discussed at some point in the book. Appendix B summarizes the strengths and weaknesses of each of the models, as previously discussed in the various chapters themselves. In the body of the book there are about 800 citations from the writings of some 200 ethical analysts, also summarized at the end of the book in an index.
A little feeling for the flavor of the book can be obtained by quoting the authors' summary of their own "Unitary Theory,",proposed after considering the other options.
"Certain conditions (C) are present in this case such that the probability (x) exists that Value (V) A will be judged more important than B by (I) interpreters because the Principle (P) p' will more likely apply to the case than p" (p. 194).
There is much that is helpful in this book in guiding ethical decisions, and anyone seeking to play a major role in this field would do well to be familiar with the various possibilities and emphases that are assumed and put into practice by different ethicists. It emphasizes the intricate feedback interaction between theory and practice in medical ethics. Still, what the book cries out for is an analysis of its contents by a medical ethicist who believes that at some point medical theory and practice should be held up for evaluation in the light of the biblical revelation.
Reviewed by Richard Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
PSYCHOTHERAPIES: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal by Stanton L. Jones and
Richard E. Butman. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991. 417 pages. Hardcover.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 69.
Jones and Butman say their intended audience is students, pastors, mental-health professionals and informed lay persons. To these I would add "teachers." Effectively integrating the Christian faith with an academic discipline often can add more study hours than most instructors have to give. For the teacher of psychology, Jones and Butman offer a wealth of material. Viewing the field of therapies, they examine, from a Christian perspective, representative therapies from the psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic and family approaches.
Though proffering material for the Christian, the authors seldom refer to the integration of psychology and theology because they say "this implies that the goal is the fusing together of what are and should properly be two distinct conceptual disciplines" (p. 19). They reject any integration that is attempting to create a new academic discipline which might be called "psychotheology" or "theopsychology."
Thus, if one is looking for a scripture verse to substantiate every conclusion or opinion, it will not be found. Scripture, writings of Christian scholars, and biblical principles are the bases of their analysis. Though the book "has been directed at showing the inadequacies in all the approaches" (p. 382), there are contiguous suggestions as to how the Christian faith can interact with secular theories and where, with caution, these theories can be effective resources.
Jones and Butman's summations of the therapies obviously are condensed, which might cause some proponents of a favored therapy to react to areas not fully covered to their liking. The authors' evaluations of each therapy are well defined but not dogmatically asserted.
The first two chapters lay an excellent foundation for understanding the background for the authors' reasoning and their basic philosophies, both theological and psychological. Their approach to each therapy incorporates a descriptive survey followed by models of health, of abnormality, of psychotherapy and of personality. Their "Christian critique" incorporates the same models.
While supporting the eclectic approach, "None of the theories can be rejected out of hand, but none can be wholeheartedly endorsed by the Christian counselor" (p. 380),they are careful to define eclectic as something more than "anything goes." The final chapter includes what the authors say is "a skeletal and nonexhaustive outline toward a comprehensive Christian counseling approach" (p. 97). Jones and Butman do not believe such an approach exists, but hope to be involved in its development in the future.
Jones and Butman have produced a work useful to Christian and non-Christian. It is comprehensive, scholarly and unapologetically evangelical. The first two chapters and the last two chapters, in my opinion, are worth the price of the book. They should foster considerable thought and comment, and perhaps rebuttal.
Reviewed by Ida Adolphson, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
MARKET CAPITALISM &
CHRISTIANITY by Jim Halteman. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989. 176 pages.
PSCF 44 (March 1992): 70.
This is a thought-provoking little book, certainly the strongest I've read in the genre of "Christianity and Economics." Unlike most such authors, Halteman has no ideological axe to grind and is both cognizant with the formal field of economics and explicit on his theological stance. Indeed, the book's strength is its reflection of the author's personal struggle as a Christian with the functioning of our economy and his role in it.
Halteman's book is really comprised of two loosely integrated pieces. One part seeks to interpret biblical teachings on wealth and possessions in the light of the biblical economic context. The author applies his understanding of these teachings, including in his own choices in areas such as housing. Halteman first argues in effect that much of biblical teaching on "economics" is not relevant today. He interprets the ancient mideast as a static world, so that economic issues devolve into how a fixed pie is to be divided. One family, in other words, can be well-off only if others are commensurately poorer. Those with possessions then face three options: to consume (with income flowing to others), to horde, or to engage in charity. But, Halteman insists, we no longer live in a "premodern" world because there is another alternative: productive investment. In the long run this can do something that charity cannot. (Even with the combined wealth of the U.S., Europe and Japan, charity cannot make more than a small dent in world poverty.) The distinctive biblical injunctions to engage in charity and avoid hoarding are thus no longer apropos.
This argument, however, is at odds with research in development economics and economic history, which stress the importance of accumulated investment,land improvements, inventories, housing,even in "primitive" societies. Indeed, the parable of the talents and of the good steward both revolve around explicit investment, and the concept of investment was well known in the classical world. (Documents survive outlining the implicit rate of return for investing in an agricultural estate.) Furthermore, the author confuses savings,consuming less today so that we can consume more tomorrow,with investment in productive resources. I believe the biblical injunctions are far more relevant that Halteman admits, and that the moral problem of how much of God's gifts we use for ourselves remains.
How does his analysis affect his own decisions? Here he traces his own personal struggles with this issue, reflecting his "nabaptist focus on community. For him the Church is a discipling body of believers, and this,and ministry to the larger community of non-Christians,is contingent upon effective social ties. Failure to keep up with the Joneses then becomes a source of alienation that sunders the body Christian and prevents effective witness to his peers. I am uncomfortable with this vision of the Church. To my eyes, the poor are always present in the biblical portrayal of both synagogue (temple) and church. (That, surely, was what set the early Church apart from Greco-Roman society!) Indeed, I am struck by how contorted the argument must become to justify our own monocultural suburban (and inner-city and ethnic) churches.
In the end, Halteman is fairly comfortable with his behavior, but I am now increasingly unsettled by my own. (I have architect's drawings in hand, but should I sink a large sum of money into an addition to my house?) Furthermore, he did this gently, by making me reflect in an orderly manner upon my own beliefs and presuppositions. That surely made this a book worth reading for me, and, I suspect, for most of you.
Reviewed by Michael Smitka, Associate Professor of Economics, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450.