March 1995 Book Reviews
MAKES NATURE TICK? by Roger G. Newton. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard
University Press, 1993. 257 pages, index. Hardcover, $27.95.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 55.
"Newton's book is, quite simply, a masterpiece." " I wish that I had written it." Sheldon Glashow, Nobel laureate, and author of another well-known book popularizing physics, splashes these words across the dust jacket. While Glashow's book, The Charm of Physics, was a notable addition to a plethora of recent work popularizing exotic and often speculative theories in particle physics and cosmology, Newton's book focuses almost entirely on well-established theories covering a much wider range of physics. The author, distinguished Professor of Physics at Indiana University, shows the comprehensive style that made his 1966 textbook, Scattering Theory of Waves and Particles, the classic it is. Unfortunately, this style is now his undoing. From bosons to tachyons, Brownian motion to EPR, ferromagnetism to CPT violation, and partial derivatives to Lie algebras, Newton discusses almost every topic covered in a well-rounded theoretical physicist's education. According to the preface, the book is Aintended to be comprehensible to readers who are scientifically uneducated and who know very little mathematics. With breathtaking speed, Newton plows through his material, a given page will typically introduce three or four new concepts, many with no more than a sentence devoted to them. To its target audience it will often seem a cacophony of terms rather than a comprehensive introduction to the main themes of physics.
This book is a typical example of "death by details"; it's as if the original manuscript was about ten times as long and then shortened to ten more or less self-contained chapters instead of ten books, but without leaving out any topics. For example, on p. 97, Newton introduces the terms "scalar"and "vector"potentials, without ever explaining what they are, why they're called "scalar" and "vector," or why we should even care. Hidden in the text are also a great many mathematical derivations almost certainly too difficult for readers who know little mathematics. On the other hand, Newton's pleasant prose, especially on those topics he takes enough time for, is a real joy to read. One can only imagine what the book would be like had he either drastically reduced the number of subtopics, or expanded it to the 750 odd pages of his textbook.
Coming back to Glashow's praise: "Is Newton's book a Amasterpiece"? No, it certainly is not. Although the author must be commended for his broad grasp of physics, the book falls short of its intended goals.
How about the second part of the dust jacket quote: "Should Glashow wish hehad written it?" Yes, he should. The last decade has seen an exponential growth in the number of books popularizing physics for a general audience. From Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time to Leon Lederman's The God Particle, many of these focus on recent and exciting developments in particle physics and cosmology, and often contain speculative applications to theological concepts such as the existence of God. Newton's book is refreshingly free of such pompous claims, and is one of the first to focus on more established ideas in theoretical physics. He hopes "the reader of this book will come away with an appreciation of the role beauty plays in the construction of scientific theories and the adoption of scientific concepts." Theoretical physics is a discipline of great intrinsic aesthetic appeal and internal consistency, and by his choice of topics Newton shows that there is no need to resort to exotic topics to demonstrate this. His down-to-earth style and emphasis on curiosity-driven research being the driving force behind great science (from whence the title) are typical of the community of physics practitioners he represents. From its pages can be gleaned some of the wonderful order of God's creation, and the sense of awe many of us feel as we slowly uncover its secrets. Newton's approach is commendable, and Glashow and his compatriots would serve us well with books along similar lines.
Despite its major flaw, covering far too many topics, I found it worth my while to read. This book is a good one for a physicist wanting a broad overview of his/her field. It should also be accessible to readers with a general scientific background. For its intended audience though, it will be confusing in many parts, although not really more so than many other popularizing books. Most of the chapters are self-contained, and with the help of the generous bibliography, the book could be used as a starting point for any topic one is interested in.
Reviewed by Ard A. Louis, graduate student in theoretical physics, Department of Physics, 117 Clark Hall, Cornell University 14853.
Neochristian Perspectives for the Modern World by John A. Creager. Lanham, MD:
University Press of America, 1994. 452 pages, index. Hardcover; $54.50.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 55. THEODYNAMICS: Neochristian Perspectives for the Modern World by John A. Creager. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994. 452 pages, index. Hardcover; $54.50.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 55.
Creager wants to modernize theology. The preface tells us that theodynamics is ... Aa conception of God consistent with the modern view of the world as an organic process. ... God is creatively immanent as an eternal presence, yet transcendent in the sense of being unidentifiable with any concrete individual entity or act." Creager's God and the Christian's God are different. The Christian's God is identifiable, not an unidentifiable presence. Creager challenges traditional religion and philosophical notions held by scientists.
Calvinists agree with Creager that Greek philosophy influences modern scholarship. They disagree, however, with the unchristian conclusions Creager draws. Unfortunately, Creager shows that he does not know Calvinism. On page 346, he draws a conclusion about Calvin's view on predestination without showing his source. G. C. Berkhouwer discusses the Calvinist view in Studies in Dogmatics, Divine Election (Grand Rapids, 1972, page 254-277). Berkhouwer shows, that both predestination and man's responsibility for sin are scriptural. On page 401, Creager denies the Trinity as it is stated by the Council of Nicea. He accepts the Greek dichotomy of soul and body. Gordon Spykman shows in Reformational Theology, a New Paradigm for doing Theology (Grand Rapids, 1992, pages 398-400) how the Council came to the confession that Jesus is true God and true man.
Creager uses biblical language, but inappropriately. Sin and its resulting pain become a step in the evolution from passive unconscious participation with God to active conscious participation. Creager calls Christ's death for our sins Asavage symbolism" (page 281). He places the creation and fall-in-sin "myths" on apar with creation myths of pagan cultures (pages 271-274). This book attacks Christian faith. Studying it shows how Creager wants to see the relationship between faith, religion, and science.
It is not always easy to check Creager's sources. Often the writer does not mention his source, or if he names a book, the page number may be missing.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Box 168, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
THE WAKE OF CHAOS: Unpredictable Order in Dynamical Systems by Stephen H. Keller.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993. 190 pages. $19.95.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 56.
The broad goal of the author of this book is"to demonstrate that the relatively new field of chaos theory is rich with philosophical interest." This extremely thought-provoking and stimulating book does precisely that.
Chaos theory is taken to be the qualitative study of unstable aperiodic behavior in deterministic nonlinear dynamical systems. After pointing out that chaotic systems have a sensitive dependence on initial conditions small changes in initial values of parameters can result in large changes in final values, Kellert goes on to examine interesting questions that arise from this feature.
Much of science assumes that small errors will stay small, but chaotic systems challenge that assumption, forcing a consideration of what kind of limitations this imposes on our scientific knowledge. In general, while the exact behavior of chaotic systems cannot be predicted, it is often possible to determine general characteristics of system response (e.g., identifying an attractor, a shape in the phase space of the system to which specific behaviors will be drawn). Thus the kind of predictability striven for with dynamical systems is a more qualitative than quantitative one.
While chaotic systems are often said to be deterministic, this notion needs to be carefully considered when the behavior of the systems under discussion cannot in practice be predicted for any significant time into the future, based on a given accuracy of the initial values used to start the system. Kellert talks about an effective predictability limit associated with a system, and discusses how sensitive dependence on initial conditions leads to system behaviors that are unpredictable over desirable predictability windows with any achievable accuracy of the initial conditions, thus challenging the difference between "in theory" and "in practice" predictability. This challenge arises because chaotic systems require impossibly great resources for accomplishing useful predictions. In conjunction with quantum-mechanical considerations about inherent limitations on accuracy of initial conditions, this limitation raises doubts about the viability of the doctrine of determinism in modern physics. Kellert contends that we cannot speak of the world as deterministic. Chaotic dynamics will take the tiny inaccuracies of quantum-mechanical systems and stretch them into huge variations, dilating the smallest patch (representing uncertainty of quantum mechanical measurements) until, at some distant time in the future, almost anything is possible." So, "determinism is rendered meaningless."
Some of the mathematical tools available to explore chaotic systems have been available for much longer than they have been put to use. The final chapter of the book asks why these tools were not put to use earlier, and concludes that sociological reasons had a considerable impact scientists were taught to look for linear solutions and to ignore chaotic effects, and did so.
Chaos theory is thus an occasion for investigating the interaction between our methods for gaining knowledge about the world, our notions of what that knowledge should look like, and our conceptions of what kind of world we inhabit.
In addition to the matters which Kellert discusses directly, the considerations in this book raise interesting questions for readers of this journal. Kellert comments that "what makes some prediction tasks impossible is some fact about us in the sense of finite beings in this physical universe and not merely some fact about us in the sense of just us poor humans with our current historically limited resources." Further, "Chaos theory discloses a region of logical possibility closed to us neither by physical law nor by limited resources, but by the fact that we are finite beings."
The ASA has had a long-time interest in such matters. For example, Donald MacKay's work on predictability for an observer, as distinct from predictability for the participant, has been discussed in the pages of this journal on several occasions; that work represents one approach to resolving an apparent conflict between determinism, predictability, and responsibility. If Kellert's analysis stands, there should perhaps be other approaches to this problem pursued by members of this affiliation.
This book contains enough background on the scientific matters it discusses that readers of this journal should have no trouble following Kellert's arguments. It is well-documented with footnotes and references for those who want to read further. The presentation is clear and cogent. I highly recommend this book. It helped me to clarify my thinking about chaos and I believe it could do the same for most readers.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada K7L3NG.
BOHM'S WORLD: New Physics and New Religion by Kevin J. Sharpe. Lewisburg: Bucknell
University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1993. 168 pages,
bibliography and index. Hardcover; $32.50.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 57.
Kevin Sharpe has two doctorates, one in mathematics, and one in religious studies. His doctoral dissertation in 1987 dealt with Christian theology and the metaphysics and physics, as well as the mathematics of David Bohm. The first five chapters in the book under review deal with the views of David Bohm. In the last two chapters, Sharpe compares Bohm's theories with Christianity. He thinks that Bohm's theories may be valuable for Christianity in defining relationships between science and theology. I agree.
Sharpe uses the terms "religion" and "theology" interchangeably. Religion and theology deal with values according to some scholars. Our discussions would gain clarity if we would use the word "faith" on a personal level. "Faith" indicates what moves people at their deepest levels. "Religion" is the communal serving of God or an ideal (not necessarily Christian). "Theology" is then the scholarly pursuit of matters that relate to the service of God (or gods). I think that it is not possible to study "God" in a scholarly way. That is scholasticism. Scholars can study how we serve God (or gods). Not every church member who serves God, that is, a church member who has a religion, is able to study "theology."
We would also gain by a better common understanding of the word science." I always have to try to understand what a particular writer means when he uses the word. For some it is just the "natural" sciences, some include mathematics, some do not, while others mean scholarship in general. Is it scholarship dealing with facts? Most of the time Sharpe means the natural sciences, or even more specifically physics.
Sharpe notes levels of interaction in reality. On some of these levels, religion and science interact. Sharpe propagates a ladder model of relationships between theology and science. The ground on which the ladder stands is the real world. The two vertical poles of the ladder exemplify theology and science. Rungs depict the levels on which both science and theology have knowledge and assumptions. It made me think a bit of the philosophy of the cosmonic idea.
The point I enjoyed most in this book was that Sharpe and Bohm stress the unity of the cosmos. They say that we cannot understand reality unless we consider the fact that the cosmos is a unity. What happens at a particular place and time in creation may influence all of the creation. Bohm uses the term holomovement; he thinks it is not God. Sharpe wants to use Bohm's idea of God to build a Christian theology. He says that the idea has a long history in the Reformed tradition (Barth). Though I am standing in the Reformed tradition, I do not recognize my thinking in it, except for the fact that the creation is a unity. I do not think that we may, or even can, build a Christian theology or philosophy in that way. We must start from the fact that God created, that man fell in sin, and that Christ redeemed the creation (see Rom. 8:1-21).
The book has an extensive bibliography. I miss in it, however, books written in the Reformed tradition as represented by the Philosophy of the Cosmonic Idea. As an introduction to that philosophy, one does not have to start with the four volume work of Dooyeweerd with the same title. The first chapter of physicist Marinus Dirk Stafleu's book, Time and Again (Bloemfontein, S. A. and Toronto, Can., 1980), gives an easy-to-read overview of that philosophy. He then deals with relativity and quantum physics.
Despite these critical remarks I heartily recommend Sharpe's book. It is written by a mathematician-theologian about a physicist who wrote a book about quantum physics. Keep in mind, though, that Bohm was not a Christian. He grew up in a Jewish family, and was very much influenced by Eastern religions.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Box 168, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
TOWARD A THEOLOGY OF NATURE: Essays on Science and Faith by Wolfhard Pannenberg. Edited by Ted Peters. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993. 166 pages, index. Paperback; $19.99. PSCF 47 (March 1995): 57.
In this book Wolfhart Pennenberg, the distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Munich, discourses in a philosophical vein on many of the themes common to science and theology. The jacket carries a quote from R. J. Russell, describing one of the activities of the book as "reformulating theology in light of science," and also the complementary statement by the editor that "Pennenberg ... challenges scientists to incorporate the idea of God into their picture of nature." In his Introduction, Peters says, "This is the world setting within which Wolfhart Pannenberg asks how theology might become more scientific and how science might become more theological." This is a tricky area and great care is needed to avoid losing the integrity of science and/or the integrity of theology.
The book consists of seven chapters on the general themes, "Theological Questions to Scientists," " The Doctrine of Creation and Modern Science," "God and Nature," "Contingency and Nature Law," "The Doctrine of the Spirit and the Task of a Theology of Nature," " Spirit and Energy," and "Spirit and Mind."
As an example of the treatment given in the book, consider the fundamental "theological questions" that the author raises for scientists. (1) Is it conceivable, in view of the importance of contingency in natural processes to revise the principal of inertia or at least its interpretation? (2) Is the reality of nature to be understood as contingent, and are natural processes to be understood as irreversible? (3) Is there any equivalent in modern biology of the biblical notion of the divine spirit as the origin of life that transcends the limits of the organism? (4) Is there any positive relation conceivable of the concept of eternity to the spatiotemporal structure of the physical universe? (5) Is the Christian affirmation of an imminent end of this world that in some way invades the present somehow reconcilable with scientific extrapolations of the continuing existence of the universe for at least several billions of years ahead?
The author finds issues in unusual places. For example, he mentions in several places that "inertia"is a major theological problem. In several places the author is attracted to the possibility of drawing a connection between "field theories"in science and theological statements about "spirit." He delves deeply into philosophical history to develop themes across the centuries. He dismisses process theology: 'The philosophical theology of Whitehead seems to me to be subject to considerable misgivings, from the points of view both of theology and of philosophy of nature."
He invokes the concept of the Trinity in an unusual way, 'Today's Christian Theology of creation will use, in distinction from Newton, the possibilities of the doctrine of the Trinity in order to describe the relationship of God's transcendence and immanence in creation and in the history of salvation. Perhaps a renewed doctrine of the Trinity would combine the Logos doctrine of the ancient church with contemporary information theory and recognize the activity of the divine spirit in the self-transcendence of life and its evolution."
He makes provocative statements that sometimes leave the reader wondering. It seems clear when he says, 'The theological doctrine of creation is not bound to this or that individual scientific hypothesis." But then he follows this with, 'It can claim different scientific models, although there are conceivable scientific hypotheses which if they can be verified would exclude the idea of creation." In describing the doctrine of the Spirit, and the Spirit and energy, the author makes frequent reference to the ideas of Tillich and Teilhard.
The form and the intellectual challenge of the book can be seen by considering a specific sentence (characteristic of the style of the whole book) on the final page. In discussing 'evil spirits," the author writes, 'However, if its self-centeredness dominates its self-transcendent activity in such a way that it can no longer become a member of more comprehensive spiritual integrations, the drive toward self-transcendent integration itself becomes disruptive and divisive."
This erudite book by a recognized theological scholar can bring puzzles, challenge, and insight to the patient and discerning reader.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
FOR A SCIENTIFIC AGE: Being and Becoming Natural Divine, and Human by Arthur Peacocke
(Enlarged Edition.). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. 416 pages, notes, index. Paper;
$21.00. Includes the author's 1993 Gifford Lectures.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 58. THEOLOGY FOR A SCIENTIFIC AGE: Being and Becoming Natural Divine, and Human by Arthur Peacocke (Enlarged Edition.). Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993. 416 pages, notes, index. Paper; $21.00. Includes the author's 1993 Gifford Lectures.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 58.
I must admit I have grown suspicious of titles like this. Too often we find just another attempt to domesticate Christianity, to make theology inoffensive to polite company. But in the hands of Arthur Peacocke, biochemist, Warden Emeritus of England's Society of Ordained Scientists, Dean of Clare College, Cambridge, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre, Oxford, and by any measure a leading scholar in the field, Theology for A Scientific Age is not at all meant as a dilution of Christianity. Peacocke is in fact developing a theology, one based on an exploration of how science affects our understanding of the world, ourselves, and God. But it might better reveal the spirit of the work to say he is taking advantage of science to help us understand how God works in creation. It is clearly an exercise in faith seeking understanding.
The introduction, a summary and orientation to the program, provides an interesting perspective on the themes to follow. If I ever act on my plan to compile a science and theology reader for undergraduates, this little piece will be high on my list. In Part I, "Natural Being and Becoming," Peacocke describes the relevant science, introduces some important concepts (irreducible levels of organization and top-down causation) and considers the wholeness of human personhood. Part II, 'Divine Being and Becoming," concerns God's interaction with the world, making use of the previous discussion. Finally, Part III, "Human Being and Becoming," addresses in more detail what it is to be human, and makes use of the previously developed perspectives to consider God's self-revelation (both its nature and content, with an emphasis on Jesus, God's ultimate self-revelation) and its implications for human becoming. We recognize our unfitness, our alienation. But the message from science on where we should be going, what humanity ought to be, is ambiguous, making God's revelation all the more important. Parts I and II (a little over half the book), comprise a reprint of the first edition, while Part III is an expansion of Peacocke's Gifford lectures, delivered at Saint Andrews University in 1993.
This outline hardly reveals the range of Peacocke's themes. The analogy between God's creation and creativity in the arts offers one illustration of his approach. He observes, for example, that while artists may freely choose their media, they then face some constraints in order to effectively work in that medium. Or, concerning the theater, while a play may develop broadly in the way the playwright always intended, drama is always "both the playwright and the actors" (p. l72). And, in a more extended analogy, he notes: AIntroduction of improvisation into this model of God as composer incorporates that element of open adaptability which any model of God's relation to a partly non-deterministic world should ... represent" (p. l75).
Peacocke here uses his well-known concepts of irreducible levels of organization, top-down causality, and human agency as a model for understanding God's work and to provide insights into providence. Reducing humanity to chemical activity ignores our experience of agency, and it may well be that our intentions affect what goes on chemically in, say, muscle action. Similarly, if God's interactions are seen as top-down causality, God would genuinely affect what is going on, yet no more violate the laws we observe at each lower level than my intention to raise my hand violates the laws of biochemistry. We cannot claim a full understanding of my movement based on a study of chemicals in my muscle cells, however well that serves as an explanation within its own level. In the same way, we cannot grasp the full meaning of events in creation without reference to God's purpose and intentions.
One of Peacocke's great concerns is avoiding an "interventionist" model of God's interaction, a view in which God is perceived as working against the causal mechanisms of the world. In his model, "events could occur in the world and be what they are because God intends them to be so, without at any point any contravention of the laws of physics, biology, psychology, sociology, or whatever is the pertinent science for the level of description in question" (p. 159). I should note that his concern is not simply to square with science but to have a consistent theology. Thus, for example, if God made the causal network to bring about his purposes, wouldn't actions which contravene it signal inconsistency?
This is important, of course, but even so I am not as bothered as Peacocke by the idea that God might work in other ways than through the existing causal network of the world as we happen to understand it at the moment. And this model is not without its price, for its implications seem to include, at least as Peacocke develops them, a need to subsume miracles under general providence, to make them rather like any other event. For many people this is no objection at all, in fact a major advantage of the model, and I should note that for Peacocke it is not a matter of naturalizing miracles. On the contrary, his overall thrust is to recognize a more active and important place for God in the basic workings and specific events of the world than many Christians embrace (except, perhaps, in the most abstract way). But I question whether his admittedly very powerful and appealing model, along with his objection to interventionism should be given priority when they lead us to reject certain Gospel passages.
In an extended and most interesting study of Jesus's miracles (in Part III), Peacocke embraces the healing miracles, but the nature miracles he considers highly improbable for they cannot, as far as he can tell, be explained by top-down causation within naturalistic workings of the world. His discussion of the doctrine of the virgin birth is perhaps the most important for understanding this model of God's action in the world. Peacocke is led to reject this as history, but for some very interesting reasons such as how could we say Jesus was truly and fully human if he had no human father? His discussion of the resurrection is also important because he fully accepts this central doctrine of Christianity, yet observes that accepting Jesus's appearances following his crucifixion does not require us to accept the Gospel accounts of an empty tomb. The distinction is important, for if the resurrection was not a reanimation of the physical body, it would not be part of the natural world, and so not an interventionist miracle.
Theologians may well find other matters in this wide-ranging work that must be considered with care. Polkinghome's earlier objection to Peacocke's dependence on process theology is probably just as applicable to this work, and despite Peacocke's effort to defuse concerns, mere mention of the word panentheism will set some on edge. But this is also a book with much wisdom, with much to say that is worth thinking about, and I believe it will be of interest to many scholars. It should also work nicely as a text. Peacocke explains well all of the science, and if he assumes too much of a general reader, it is in the area of Christian theology. This is the work of a Christian exploring what the world and God are like, and while he addresses issues relevant to apologetics, Peacocke seems to have fellow Christians in mind as a primary audience.
Reviewed by Paul K. Wason, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine 04246.
WHO BELIEVE: The Spiritual Journeys of Eleven Leading Thinkers by Kelly James Clark,
Ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 284 pages. Hardcover; $24.99.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 59.
Does your attitude toward philosophy need rejuvenating? This collection of the spiritual and philosophical journeys of intellectuals with international reputations and "robust Christian faith" is the book to do it. Clark, a successful Christian philosopher, has persuaded eleven of his friends and colleagues to contribute essays on the development of their Christian belief. Although a "substantial number of women" were invited to contribute, only one did. Each philosopher has been given the latitude to tell the story in his or her own way; some have provided a very personal statement, whereas others have concentrated more on the development of their philosophy within the context of their lives. This variety in approaches enhances interest and strengthens the intended message of the book: there are many philosophers of genuine intellectual stature, who are also warm human beings with a strong vibrant faith. Some of the contributors were raised in the church and either came back or never saw any need to leave. Others came to their Christian faith after long philosophical study or even after becoming established in a distinguished career. One, Mortimer Adler, came to Christian faith from Judaism. The confessional stance of the group varies from conservative Protestant to Roman Catholic and one or two who consider themselves faithful Catholic but don't believe much of the doctrine.
This is an excellent introduction to Christian philosophers; most readers will be stimulated to delve more deeply into some of the books listed at the beginning of each essay and the sources given in the numerous notes.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian at James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.
VIRUSES, ARTIFICIAL LIFE AND EVOLUTION: The Little Black Book of Computer Viruses Volume
II by Mark A. Ludwig. American Eagle Publications, 1993. 373 pages. $22.95.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 60.
When I began reading this book I was put off by the conversational style which slid into sloppy and incorrect usage of English too frequently for my taste, as well as by the numerous mistakes that should have been caught by normal editing (footnotes with text at the bottom of the page also repeated in-line in the body of the page, spelling errors, punctuation errors, and so on). However, having been asked to review it, I stuck with it to the end. (I infer from the correspondence included with the book that the publishing house is a private venture of Mr. Ludwig's; if so, he could use some help from independent readers or editors.) Reading Mr. Ludwig's text was for me like getting to know a new acquaintance who is very different in style and mode of expression, after a while the things that were initially irritating become part of the persona one expects, and one puts up with it. While it might be less true to his face-to-face persona, some tempering of this mode of expression in his writing might gain Mr. Ludwig more readers.
This book evidently grows out of the author's interest in computer viruses and is a follow-up to a previous book he has written on this subject. The starting point for this one is a consideration of whether computer viruses can be considered to be "alive," which in turn leads to a consideration of what is meant when something is said to be alive. These questions are pursued at some length in a discursive, eclectic style that includes considerations from many different fields. Mr. Ludwig reads widely. Some bits of required background for some of the ideas are included as appendices to the text.
Another important theme of the book is a consideration of what a "theory of evolution" would mean. The author contends that Darwinian evolution is not a theory because it cannot be used to predict anything, and thus is not falsifiable, it simply explains how one life form, A, could evolve to another, B, and the arguments it supports are so weak (according to Mr. Ludwig) that they could easily be reversed to show how B could evolve to A. It is claimed that the study of computer viruses in their "natural habitat" can give a way of considering a theory of evolution independent of the world in which we live, and the theories, philosophies and religious views we all bring to discussions of evolution in that setting. Mr. Ludwig is not a Christian, but he does believe in some reality that transcends the physical world that apparently limits us. This transcendent reality may be inserting "information" into the world we observe, and thus directing its evolution, since evolution seems to be (in his words) reactive to external stimuli, rather than creative.
The author takes a more positive view of the writing of computer viruses than I can take (these things are essentially interesting bits of technology from which we can learn a great deal, and efforts to curtail their creation and dissemination are ill-considered). I wonder if the attitude he has on this point is a justification of his own interests, or a position a responsible "scientist," as he styles himself, would otherwise come to. And in the end, there is no definitive answer to the questions he raises; they are left as provocations to further thought. In this the author is successful, if one persists to the end, one cannot but have been stimulated by this discussion.
Reviewed by David T. Barnard, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada K7L3NG.
THE MORAL SENSE by James Q. Wilson. New
York: The Free Press, 1993. 313 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.95.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 62. THE MORAL SENSE by James Q. Wilson. New York: The Free Press, 1993. 313 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.95.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 62.
Behavioral scientists who work in a college setting often begin their courses with a consideration of the age-old nature versus nurture dispute. Why does mankind behave as he does? What is most influential in directing the human experience? James Q. Wilson's The Moral Sense attempts to define the essence of human nature as he discusses the issue of morality. In the process he provides a panoramic review of the literature of psychology, sociology, philosophy, and the history of Western Civilization. Quite a daunting task!
Wilson is James Collins Professor of Management and Public Policy at UCLA. He has also written Bureaucracy, Crime and Human Nature and On Character. This book is divided into three parts which the author labels Sentiments, Sources, and Character. Wilson has provided a brief notes section with virtually no annotation, and a very extensive bibliography. There is also a comprehensive index of terms and names.
Wilson begins by acknowledging that contemporary readers raise their guard when a writer discusses virtue or character. However, he points out that we all regularly evaluate people in terms which clearly imply a standard that could be referred to as relating to character. AThe fact that you discuss morality with practically anyone suggests to me that the word `ought' has an intuitively obvious meaning and that people are, in the great majority of instances, equipped with some moral sense" (xii).
The author indicates that he does not believe people have direct intuitive knowledge of certain moral rules, but rather a more general, imprecise sense of good, bad, right and wrong. He gives examples of such a moral sense which he says includes the Asentiments" of sympathy, fairness, self-control, and duty. Wilson identifies the sources for these moral sentiments as being human nature, family, experiences, gender, and culture.
The author is clear that human beings have within them great potential for good, and yet at the same time a strong bent toward self-centeredness. People have a nature characterized by polarities. He points out that even when human beings pursue their own ends ruthlessly they seem bound to provide a justification for their behavior. This is, he believes, a strong indication that people have a moral sense.
The greatest portion of the book is Wilson's review of a diverse literature that he believes is supportive of his ideas. The range of disciplines he examines and the historical comprehensiveness of his effort is quite impressive.
At the heart of the discussion of moral sentiments and of their sources is Wilson's belief in the supreme importance of the social nature of human beings. Our need for and our attraction and personal commitment to other people is definitive of the human experience.
The primary value of this book, in my view, is in its ability to raise significant questions, and to relate them to a diverse literature. Wilson expends great effort in discussing Darwin's evolutionary theory, and the Enlightenment. He does not give religion the same level of attention. This is paradoxical since much of what he argues fits with the historic Christian understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God.
This book would be stimulating reading for all those who are interested in non-theological arguments for morality or who want to consider a range of ideas about human nature. I believe that this work would be particularly useful for psychologists, who often lack an appreciation for the significance of the wider social context.
Reviewed by Craig Seaton, Associated Professor of Psychology and Sociology, Trinity Western University, Langley, BC V3A 6H4 Canada
A CHANCE: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology by R. C. Sproul.
Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994. 224 pages, 2 indices. Paperback; $15.99.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 63. NOT A CHANCE: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science and Cosmology by R. C. Sproul. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994. 224 pages, 2 indices. Paperback; $15.99.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 63.
As described by its author, "This book is an effort to explore and critique the role chance has been given in recent cosmology." It may be viewed as a diatribe against chance.
Sproul's central thesis is that scientist are committing a logical fallacy when they claim that chance acts as an instrumental causal power. Chance has no power because it is not really an entity; "...it has no being in nature." Sproul is especially critical of the role chance plays in contemporary cosmology and quantum mechanics, two sciences which seem to invoke chance as an ultimate explanation of phenomena.
In this 200 page work, Sproul presents an overview of some of the issues at stake, issues such as the law of noncontradiction, the law of causality, and the rationality and integrity of science. Using his philosophical and theological expertise, he argues against the notion of a self-existent universe but for the notion of a self-existent God.
Sproul interacts with the thinking in the literature. He cites various philosophers and theologians in a historical study as well as contemporary popularizers of science such as Isaac Asimov, Timothy Ferris, and Carl Sagan. Several times he quotes with approval Stanley Jaki.
As a college physics teacher with no pretensions of having much philosophical acumen, I found Sproul's philosophical arguments generally convincing. Trained philosophers, such as those mentioned by Sproul might think otherwise. I found particularly interesting Sproul's theological discussion of paradoxes in Christianity and God's self-existence.
Scientists, philosophers, and general readers should find this book helpful, but not technical.
Reviewed by Dale Pleticha, Professor of Physics, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
IN SCIENCE & THEOLOGY 1994: Origins, Time and Complexity (Part II) by George V.
Cogyne, Karl Schmitz-Moorman, Christoph Wassermann, Eds. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor Et
Fides, S. A., 1994. 318 pages, index. Paperback.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 63. STUDIES IN SCIENCE & THEOLOGY 1994: Origins, Time and Complexity (Part II) by George V. Cogyne, Karl Schmitz-Moorman, Christoph Wassermann, Eds. Geneva, Switzerland: Labor Et Fides, S. A., 1994. 318 pages, index. Paperback.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 63.
The Fourth European Conference on Science and Theology was held near Rome on March 23-29, 1992, under the auspices of the Vatican Observatory, Vatican City State. To this observer, the setting for the meeting, the chance to visit the Vatican Observatory and meet people from many of the European nations plus a sprinkling from North America and Africa provided a memorable experience. The work of the conference was carried out in seven sections related to the themes of origins, time, and complexity. The official language for the meeting was English (with the exception of French speakers) and this approach was followed in publishing the papers. The 46 papers defy a simple description. They constitute a mÈlange of offerings from individuals trained in a wide diversity of disciplines in the humanities and sciences seasoned by a spectrum of theologies and traditions in treating science/religion themes.
This book will discourage readers who look for unity. Rather, it effectively serves as an international window on ways that those who follow some expression of Christianity come to grips with modern scientific culture. Patient readers will be rewarded with fresh insights on old problems.
Reviewed by J. W. Haas, Jr., Professor of Chemistry, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984.
GOD AND GOLD: Protestant Evangelicalism and the Industrial Resolution, 1820-1914 by
Robert A. Wauzzinski. Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 64. BETWEEN GOD AND GOLD: Protestant Evangelicalism and the Industrial Resolution, 1820-1914 by Robert A. Wauzzinski. Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993. ISBN:0-8386-3481-8.
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 64.
This ambitious book seeks to explore the "fusion of Evangelicalism and Industrialism" using an interdisciplinary (Atheology, economics, church and world history, and philosophy") approach. The author's own theological-philosophical perspective is that of "the Amsterdam school of Christian philosophy" which is given a clear, articulate, if not thoroughly persuasive presentation. There is much talk in Christian liberal arts circles about the need to engage in interdisciplinary studies, and Wauzzinski deserves praise for his efforts in this regard. Unfortunately, in my view, the final product is less praiseworthy than the effort.
The main thesis of this book is that Evangelicalism and what the author calls "Industrialism" have, from the time of the Industrial Revolution, become allied through a common "religious commitment" to the idea of progress and to individualism. Evangelicals have often failed, says Wauzzinski, to recognize, much less respond to, the structural, systemic injustice wrought by Industrialism, being content to treat the results of injustice and preach the salvation of individual souls. Thus a form of dualism, or "compartmentalization of religion," which consigned Christianity to the realm of the spirit but not the flesh, emerged with Evangelicalism.
Evangelicalism, indeed the Church in general, surely goes wrong in adopting this truncated view of the proper domain of Christian thought and action. It also errs in aligning itself too closely with any secular ideology or "ism," be it capitalism, socialism, or "Industrialism" (a concept which I found rather difficult to pin down). Wauzzinski has performed a useful service in exposing the historical and theological roots of this dualism and unwarranted attachment of some evangelicals to capitalism. Yet clearly he has more in mind that making a point of purely historical interest. There is still a bond or so he contends between Evangelicalism and capitalism, and evangelicals may well be reaping the fruits of this bond. "Perhaps Evangelicals might want to consider the possibility that their fall from public grace, increasingly occurring during this century, maybe as much a result of God's judgment for their siding with capitalism as it is the result of the increasing realization of secular America that Evangelicalism has no unique socioeconomic insight to offer American identity." (213)
Putting aside the matters of whether Evangelicalism, as a movement, has "fallen from public grace," and the propriety of inferring God's judgment on this basis, there still remains the important question of whether "Evangelicalism had [any] unique socioeconomic insights to offer American identity." If Wauzzinski is seeking some comprehensive socioeconomic critique and alternative program, widely endorsed by Evangelical leaders, accepted by the rank and fie, and grounded in a distinctively evangelical theology, then he is bound to be disappointed. The decentralized character of the evangelical movement is enough to forestall such uniformity. Yet he seems totally unaware, or so it would seem by scanning his references of the growing body of literature produced by Christian economists, to which evangelicals have been major contributors, which stands opposed both to the dualism and the close ideological attachment of which he is rightly critical. This omission calls into question his rather sweeping indictment of Evangelicalism. [I refer the interested reader to With Liberty and Justice for Whom? by Craig Gay, Eerdmans, 1991.]
Along with this failure to acknowledge, much less interact with the writings of Christian economists, I found equally troubling his limited and generally biased sources on matters of economic history. Knowingly or unknowingly, the author close to rely on the views of a very limited range or writer, often dated, and many of whom who are ideologically committed to an anti-market, anti-capitalist perspective. This led him to make some rather bold generalizations which are either misleading or, in some cases, flatly wrong. For example, he cites with approval the description of England during the Industrial Revolution given by J. L. and Barbara Hammond ("The towns had their profitable dirt, their profitable smoke, their profitable slums, their profitable disorder, their profitable ignorance, their profitable despair. The curse of Midas was on this society ..."), as if this were, in a sense, a summary, or at least a representative sample, of scholarly opinion of the subject. Given the abundance of recent, published work on the Industrial Revolution it is difficult to explain Wauzzinski's use of this source, though it was popular and influential in its time (early to mid-twentieth century). The question of what happened to living standards during the Industrial Revolution is still hotly debated by economic historians, yet the works of J. L. and Barbara Hammond scarcely figure in this debate. Open to similar criticisms are his references to Arnold Toynbee and John A. Hobson. Other examples of questionable claims include the assertion that the Industrial Revolution "widened the gap between the rich and poor" (117) and the claim that "modern Industrialism centers more upon industrial growth than it does on profit." (86)
It is perhaps owing to his use of questionable sources that Wauzzinski can make the following statement: "When poverty did not disappear, charities attempted to correct what the market had helped to cause" (121). This we find in the context of his criticism of early 19th century evangelicals for their failure to attack the roots of poverty (industrialization) and their insufficient response to a structural problem (charity). The statement leaves the impression that poverty in the sense of people lacking sufficient income to live a life with human dignity was an aberration in human history brought on by the market (or by capitalism, or by industrialization; these distinctions are often blurred in the book). But this has it exactly backwards. Taking the long view of human history, poverty was the norm, not the exception. And it was not until the Industrial Revolution that the common working person could look forward to anything but a marginal existence at best. What is needed is not so much an explanation of poverty as an explanation of why some nations have been able to overcome what historically has been the almost universal state of human existence.
The book concludes with a discussion of proposed "reforms" to modern capitalism which build on the concept of "codetermination" (where decision-making authority is shared by labor and management) at the level of the individual firm. At the national level, economic policy would be formulated by "representatives of employers, unions, government, consumers, environmentalists, the disenfranchised, banking and the Federal Reserve System." Implicit here are two unsupported assumptions: that democratization will necessarily produce a more just economy; and, that democratic planning will produce tolerable economic results. Far too many questions remain unanswered. Would this system broaden or limit employment opportunities? Would government mandate the restructuring of corporate boards to include union members and consumer advocates (206)? What incentive (or coercion) would insure that "economic growth projects ... have a variety of social needs in mind at the moment of their initiation, not as a charitable afterthought? And how will government arbitrate disputes about "God-given callings"? ("...when power or opportunity reduces intercommunal or interindividual relationships, government must step into give all parties room to pursue their God-given callings" (207). Why should owner-managers "broaden their definitions of cost"? This list contains only a sample of the unanswered, and indeed unexplored questions that come to my mind.
Interdisciplinary scholarship is always risky since one faces potential criticism on several fronts. It is possible that a church historian or theologian would have given this book a more positive review. As an economist I am unable to do so.
Reviewed by Bruce G. Webb, Professor of Economics, Gordon College, Wenham, MA 01984
TRUTH: A Course in Science and Religion by Peter J. Brancazio. Am. J. Phys.
62, 893-899 (October 1994).
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 65. WHAT IS TRUTH: A Course in Science and Religion by Peter J. Brancazio. Am. J. Phys. 62, 893-899 (October 1994).
PSCF 47 (March 1995): 65.
The author is a professor of physics at Brooklyn College, CUNY. This article describes a special topics course he taught in the Program in Studies in Religion, with the goal of clarifying the philosophical and historical differences between science and religion, and providing a framework for discussion of important issues and areas of conflict. With students drawn from a very wide range of religious and nonreligious backgrounds, the subject was approached from the "objective and nonjudgmental" viewpoint of an "alien sociologist."
It was concluded that fundamental conflicts lie between science and theology, not science and religion. The underlying metaphysical assumption of science is that of materialism, in contrast with most religions which believe in a supernatural world whose beings can interact with the material world. But, the class agreed that a scientist could also believe in a supernatural realm. Science and theology also differ in their sources of knowledge or truth: scientific data for science, sacred texts for theology. In considering the nature of truth, it is argued that the correspondence theory is most useful in science, while the coherence theory is more widely used in theology.
Thomas Kuhn's approach to the history of science, as a series of revolutions linked to paradigm shifts, was also applied to the history of religion. The author states, AIt is noteworthy that while scientific revolutions are resolved largely by the testing of hypotheses, the weight of evidence, and community consensus, theological revolutions often seem to lead to censorship, repression, or even bloodshed."
As the class considered the question of why science and religion have often appeared to be in conflict, some helpful perspectives emerged: science cannot answer basic questions of morality, ethics, or ultimate purpose; the big bang model does not give a scientific explanation of the origin of the universe, but rather of what took place after it began; one cannot use science to prove or disprove the existence of a Supreme Being. But some conclusions are likely to be challenged by thoughtful Christians, e.g., "Science has ... shown that humans are not the focal point of creation."
The author came away from this course "with a far more tolerant attitude toward religion [and] a greater respect for the limitations of science ..." This reviewer found the well-written article informative as a wide-ranging survey of contrasts and some similarities between science and religion, by a thoughtful observer who writes from outside of a commitment to Christian theism. It stimulated reflection on my own perspective on some issues, and helped me to understand some thought patterns of students and others with whom we want to engage in dialogue.
Reviewed by Donald E. DeGraaf, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, MI 48502.