Book Reviews for March 1994
GUIDE TO SCIENCE AND BELIEF by
Michael Poole. Oxford, England; Batavia, Illinois: Lion Publishing Corporation, 1990.
128 pages. Paperback.
PSCF 46 (March 1994): 65.
This is a remarkable little book by Michael W. Poole, Lecturer in Science Education, King's College London. I cannot avoid a personal endorsement: how often does one pick up an eminently readable, attractive book on science and Christian faith with which one is in one hundred percent agreement? This book could be used as an extended description of the major positions of most of the members of the American Scientific Affiliation.
In an especially attractive style for the nonspecialist reader, the book combines a pithy but profound text, numerous quotations from thinkers and leaders, and outstanding graphic art work on every page. Thus the book appeals to both the mind and the eye simultaneously. The book touches on every major topic that characterizes the interaction between science and faith: understanding the insights that we obtain both from science and from theology based on the Bible, comparing the different kinds of inputs that we receive from these two insights, a popular but critical treatment of the nature of explanation and how it applies in the two disciplines, the relationship between faith and evidence, miracles, the importance of using the proper language, the Galileo affair, evolution and creation, and the relationship between design and chance. Don't let the brevity of this review put you off! Rush out immediately and give a copy of this book to all your children and grandchildren, to all the high school and college students that you know, and to your church library. Put it into use in your church high school, college and careers, and adult education programs. It's good.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
THE PRESENT: Science and the Soul of Modern Man by Bryan Appleyard. New York:
Doubleday, 1993. 269 pages, index. Hardcover; $23.50.
PSCF 46 (March 1994): 65.
This book, written by the science columnist for the Sunday Times, seeks to show how science has shaped the western world and extricated man's soul from his existence. The book has three basic sections; the historical development of science and the ensuing philosophies, modern science, and reclaiming the self. The index is supplemented with a helpful glossary that clarifies the authors use of some terms.
Appleyard's main thesis is that science has extricated the physical mechanism from the meaning of life. The author identifies many aspects of modern society that support his thesis and presents these ideas in a lucid and well-structured manner. This is an excellent book for those wanting a critique of the influence of science on society.
The first chapter examines the effectiveness and prestige of science and how this has led to the implicit claim that science alone can solve the worlds' problems. Sciences' power of explanation, and technological effectiveness is implicated in developing an uncritical faith in scientific conquest. This continual conquest is seen to make moral and spiritual convictions increasingly difficult to sustain. "Science-based liberal democracies, therefore, tend toward a unity of unbelief" (plo). Appleyard sees the resultant society as both liberal and pessimistic as evidenced in the modern art theme of man alone, lost, and searching.
Having set the argument the historical development of science is surveyed, emphasizing the expulsion of God from the scientific realm. Science's increasing determinism is said to leave man with a sense of solitude at "how lost we were, how small, how insignificant." To counter this perspective a ll humans are seen to have a religious dimension. Appleyard argues that science originated from a Christian society because only the Christian mindset was akin to that required for scientific analysis; a divine order, the study of parts, and Protestant's emphasis on reason rather than authority.
The next section introduces modern science and the ensuing technology. The scientific excesses fostered by an ivory tower mentality, the horrors of technological warfare, and pollution reveal science as an "uncontrollable extension of the human will to destruction" (p.lO8). Environmentalism is suggested to have risen in reaction to this, coupled with the finding that all of creation is intricately interconnected.
The combination of the destruction that science is capable of and the fall of classical science is claimed to have stripped science of the prowess previously ascribed by society. Society can no longer understand the new science since quantum theory and relativity both appear to oppose common sense. The author argues that the indeterminacy of quantum theory, relativity, and chaos theory have led to a variety of theories that attempt to graft meaning and significance on modern science.
Others have sought to humanize science by focusing on technological benefits. "We can cope with the cold otherness of science by humanizing it into products and opportunities" (p.l61). But many of these products cannot be understood by the layperson, which introduces an element of mystery in a culture desperate for an escape from the realm of scientific explanation. Appleyard offers the genre of science fiction as but one example of this manifestation in society.
The third section "The Assault on the Self" begins with the argument that a completely mechanistic psychoanalysis is intrinsically impossible. While science has provided bounteous explanations of creation, science has proven incapable of informing mankind of who we are. In fact science excludes the self from the very mechanistic picture that science develops. Appleyard posits the Christian doctrine of soul and body and the uniqueness of self-consciousness among the animal kingdom as arguments for the identity of the self. Appleyard goes on to argue that the soul has recently emerged battered trying to stabilize itself through self-cultivation, exercise fitness and other forms of individualism found in today's society.
The book concludes by restating that modern societies are science-based and that this science is an inadequate guide for human life. Appleyard examines the way in which society wrestles with moral issues and concludes that moral issues cannot be resolved in a liberal society and that all such issues will eventually favor a scientific world view. Appleyard examines some of the attitudes in current society that reflect liberal thinking - the lethargy of students (re Allan Bloom), political correctness - and concludes that liberal society is deteriorating. The book closes with a call to reclaim the soul and humble science to its proper place. The author surveys the current social malaise and provides examples to support his view that science is the culprit. The author often approaches topics in an insightful manner, implying, for example, that the Galileo controversy was strongly influenced by perceived threats to transubstantiation. The author makes a strong case for science duping society that ASA members will find lucid and thought provoking.
Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
THE SCIENCE AND
THEOLOGY OF INFORMATION, Christoph Wasserman, Richard Kirby and Bernard Rordorf
(eds.), Labor et Fides, Geneva (1992).
PSCF 46 (March 1994): 66.
Information has become an important concept in recent years as computers have led to an equating of information processing and intelligence, and thus to seeing humans as one instance of the genus "information processor." This book is the Proceedings of the Third European Conference on Science and Theology held in Geneva March 29 to April 1, 1990, which discussed information from a Christian perspective.
Most of the contributions are in English, with several in French and one in German. The material is organized, as was the conference, into a series of plenary lectures (Information and Creation, Sciences exactes et verite, Biological Information - Its Origin and Processing) and workshops with several participants each (Information and Hermeneutics; Models and Metaphors as Carriers of Information; The Evolution of Coding Systems and the* Interpretation, and Information in Biological Systems; Artificial Intelligence, Human Intelligence and the Intelligence of Faith; Information in the Emergence of Societies and Religions; The Constructive and Destructive Power of Information; Miscellaneous Topics).
As is frequently the case with such volumes, the contributions vary in style and significance. The material here clearly represents the results of a working meeting rather than final elaborately-articulated positions. For example, some of the various participants even have different working definitions of the term "information." In spite of this, the collection of material as a whole is stimulating to read and to think about but difficult to summarize here.
Perhaps more importantly for readers of this Journal, the conference reported in this volume was the first one organized by the newly created (in 1989) European Society for the Study of Science and Theology. A group with this name will doubtless address issues of interest to JASA if it continues to be active, and we might hope for continued reports like this one.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada.