Book Reviews for March 1998
BLAISE PASCAL: Reasons of the Heart by Marvin R. O'Connell. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997. 202 pages, index. Paperback; $16.00.
Written from the viewpoint of a Catholic theologian, this biography spends little time on Pascal's philosophical and scientific accomplishments, focusing instead on the factors which led him into his fervent Christian convictions. When Pascal's sister, Jacqueline, wrote in 1647, that he was Ano longer a mathematician, she meant by this that while Pascal might still pursue the sciences, those pursuits no longer defined him; he now found his primary identification as a Christian. Seven years later, on November 23, 1654, Pascal experienced a second conversion, a night of FIRE, and much of this excellent book centers around that experience.
Blaise Pascal wrote a testimony on that pivotal night in 1654; he later recopied it on parchment, and carried both copies with him to the day of his death. O'Connell writes, "The paper text written hurriedly, smudged crowded with excisions and insertions, scarcely legible in places was composed first, composed indeed at the very moment of illumination the words tumbled forth with a fiery intensity." Part of these words follow (O'Connell's book has the full text): "The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November...From about half-past ten in the evening until about half past midnight. FIRE. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
One of the most challenging of all Pascal's Pensees was le pari, the Wager, elements of which appear throughout his work. Many scholars, William James among them, have criticized this discourse. But, in the words of O'Connell: Pascal's retort was that the wager embodied a moral decision, not an intellectual demonstration or even an argument (p.188). Pensees 418 and 835 expand on this point.
Lives of great people are inspirational. Pascal's life is so uplifting that it is difficult to think of any other person within the last five hundred years with whom to compare him. This biography looks at his life from a narrow viewCyet a view which Pascal, himself, would certainly say was primary. Powerful stuff. I recommend the book highly. When you purchase a copy, you will, I believe make it a keeper in your personal library.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson, IBM Corporation (Retired), 6715 Colina Lane, Austin, TX 78759.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 60.
ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE? The X Files, Aliens, and God by David Wilkonson, Crowborough, England: Monarch Publications, 1997. 160 pages, index. Paperback; ,7.99.
Wilkinson, an astrophysicist and Methodist chaplain at Liverpool University, has written three other books on astrophysics and Christianity. They are: In the Beginning, God; God, the Big Bang and Stephen Hawking; and (with Bob Frost) Thinking Clearly About God and Science. The book under present review is his latest and was launched at the same time as he embarked on an 11-town speaking tour called 'The Truth about Science in England.'
Numerous books, reports, and articles have been written about extraterrestrial life and intelligence. Many of them are pure science fiction; yet some are serious scientific investigations. Alone in the Universe? provides an excellent summary review of them (but the United States Air Force's The Roswell Report: Case Closed was too late to be included in the book). The author critically examines various aspects of the search for and portraits of extraterrestrial life and intelligence throughout history in scientific studies, speculations, and even entertainment. The topics of his discussions cover, among others, unidentified flying objects, the television series The X Files and Star Trek, the crop circle hoax, alleged alien contacts and abductions, space exploration, the chemical origin of life, the definition of consciousness and intelligence, and, of course, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project.
What should make Alone in the Universe? appealing to Christians in general, and members of the American Scientific Affiliation in particular, is its emphasis on God's relationship with humans on this planet Earth. The author points out, however, that this relationship, though unique, may not be exclusive. That is, if there were intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, God would be in relationship with that life, also. Wilkinson goes on to comment on what that relationship may be and whether or not aliens sin. He thinks that extraterrestrial life, if and when found, should enhance and enrich our Christian faith in God. Therefore, Christians ought not to be afraid of aliens from outer space, but should be prepared to meet and welcome them.
Here we see once more that religion accommodates science (science does not go after religious teachings). When a scientific discovery or theory seemingly threatens the foundation of Christianity, Christians should re-examine the biblical passages and try to resolve the conflicts between science and Scripture. Christians have done that with Galileo Galilei's discovery of the heliocentric system and Charles Darwin's theory of biological evolution, neither of which had destroyed Christianity but, instead, made us appreciate God's creation better than ever before. Now, Wilkinson has shown us a way to do it again with extraterrestrial life, even ahead of its detection and verification. We will most likely accommodate abiogenesis into the Christian doctrines when it can be demonstrated. The latter two issues will challenge those who insist that we must be alone in the universe, as they believe that God's original creation of life on Earth was unique in space and time according to Genesis 1 and 2, and, therefore, is not or cannot be duplicated elsewhere or at other times.
An interesting error I found in this book is in the Foreword by Sir Robert Boyd: The Universe is perhaps 15,000 billion years old (p. 11). The British (and German) definition of billion is a million millions, and the American (and French) definition of billion is a thousand millions. Either definition in Boyd's statement makes the age of the universe way too old.
Reviewed by James Wing, 15107 Interlachen Drive, Unit 1014, Silver Spring, MD 20906-5635.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 61.
FULL HOUSE: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin by Stephen Jay Gould. New York: Harmony Books, 1996. 244 pages, index. Hardcover; $25.00.
Gould may be the most widely read scientist of our time. He has written a column in Natural History for many years. A one-sentence summary of that column is that it is about the history of paleontology, but that summary is far too simple. Many of Gould's books are compilations of these columns. This one definitely is not. Full House is an argument that there is no general trend toward complexity in evolution.
In an ideal world, no one would use the word evolution without defining it carefully. In the world in which we live, Gould assumes that all organisms living or dead have arisen solely by natural selection operating on chance variations, and that the definition is scientific fact, or very close to it. In an ideal world, he would acknowledge that the evidence that new classes and phyla/divisions have arisen from pre-existing common ancestors is not nearly as strong as the evidence that new varieties and species have arisen. In an ideal world, he would acknowledge that there might have been a Designer. He does neither, although you may have missed this statement from his column of March 1997:
Gould does know Scripture as literature, and the very first sentence mentions Jesus respectfully, but this book does not examine questions at the interface of science and Christianity. Nonetheless, this should become an important book. This book says something that all of us, and all those who think about origins, should read and digest. I believe that although Gould's thesis (the last sentence in the first paragraph above) is contrary to prevailing cultural belief, it is so sensible, and presented well enough, that readers will be forced to agree partly or wholly with Gould, and, eventually, Gould's ideas will influence textbooks.
Before going on, I must state that the book has over fifty pages on the question of why major league baseball players no longer have .400 batting averages. This could have been left out, but it is present for two reasons. First, Gould loves baseball. Second, it illustrates his main idea, which is that it is necessary to consider the Afull house of variation, not just the extremes. He claims that fielding and pitching have improved so much that being able to hit .400 has become less likely than it was decades ago. Hitting ability has not declined, he says.
Gould's thesis says the following. Life had to begin simply. It began at the Aleft wall of the range of variationCas simply as possible. Bacteria are still simple, and are the mode of living things. Most biomass is bacteria. Random variation moves some organisms away from the left wall. This would be expected, if random variation exists. AI do not challenge the statement that the most complex creature has tended to increase in elaboration through time, but I fervently deny that this limited fact can provide an argument for general progress as a defining thrust of life's history (p. 169). Study of a few groups is presented. Combining these groups does not reveal any overall trend toward complexity or increase in size. Some exceptional organisms do show these, but this would be expected, if organisms started at the left wall of variation and changed randomly.
As would be expected of Gould, the book is well written. It has appropriate illustrations and an adequate index. What does Gould's idea, namely that complexity is not an innate trend in living things, have to do with a Christian view of origins? I see no reason why Christians cannot accept his thesis, as applied to groups of organisms. However, if we can accept his thesis, we cannot accept his worldview. There was a Designer. Perhaps he used random processes, but he had a design. Humans are unique, and that uniqueness is not just the result of a random walk away from the left wall of bacterial simplicity.
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Central, SC 29630.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 62.
BEYOND THE COSMOS by Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1996. 235 pages, index. Hardcover; $20.00.
Hugh Ross holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics and has done research on quasars and galaxies as a postdoctorate fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He is presently the director of Reasons to Believe, a nonprofit organization providing research and teaching on the harmony of God's revelation in the words of the Bible and in the facts of nature. His previous books include The Creator and the Cosmos and Creation and Time.
In this, his latest book, Ross proposes an approach to addressing some of the toughest paradoxes in Christian theology by assuming that God has access to more dimensions than our spacetime reality. This is an idea that certainly could be traced back to Edwin A. Abbott's nineteenth century novel, Flatland, though Ross should certainly be credited with making it a working thesis. Ross does not make this assumption without support, for he begins the book by taking us through a brief, but fascinating, tour into some of the most recent and interesting discoveries in theoretical physics, which indicate that at least 11 dimensions are involved in our physical reality. Ross then demonstrates that this perspective is further bolstered theologically by examining many supporting passages in the Bible.
With this perspective in place, Ross proceeds to tackle such theological paradoxes as free will versus predestination, God's ability to address a multitude of prayers at once, the triune nature of God, and the problem of evil. For example, to tackle the problem of how God can hear a million prayers at once, Ross's suggested extra-dimensional solution is that God has access to at least two dimensions of time. Thus God can address all these prayers simultaneously by following a timeline perpendicular to our own. This perspective is not new. Stephen Hawking, in A Brief History of Time, speculated that the existence of extra time dimensions is involved in some version of the grand unified field theories. Hawking concludes, though, that God is irrelevant to creation as our universe would have no beginning in complex time.
Beyond the Cosmos has 18 chapters, a bibliography, and several illustrative charts. The first four chapters deal with recent scientific discoveries that point toward the existence of higher spatial dimensions. The next three chapters handle how God accesses these extra dimensions and the biblical support for this perspective. The remaining chapters show how this ability by God to access these dimensions assists in solving several complex paradoxes in Christian theology.
This book is both focused and easy to read. His description of how the recent scientific results strongly support the existence of extra spatial dimensions involved in our physical reality effectively conveyed the excitement that is occurring in this area of research (it certainly is exciting to much of the mathematics community, as this reviewer can personally attest). His use of Scripture to support his claims is quite extensive and, at times, the extradimensional perspective does help remove some of the conundrums that occur in several passages of the Bible. The solutions that are offered to the various theological paradoxes should all be taken very seriously. Some of them may be found a little wanting, though, such as the explanation for the problem of evil. Also, in some places, his use of extra dimensions to solve one paradox seemed to leave openings for other paradoxes to occur. Overall, though, Ross presents a compelling perspective on how God interacts with the universe that is consistent with both the Bible and science. His closing chapters on the promised new creation were particularly inspiring.
As with Ross's other books, this one should appeal to Christians who hold to the integrity of science and seek to understand how science can integrate with their faith. It should also appeal to any scientist who is seeking to determine the validity of the Christian faith.
Reviewed by James M. Turner, Research Instructor in Mathematics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903.
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DEFEATING DARWINISM BY OPENING MINDS by Phillip E. Johnson. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997. 132 pages. Hardcover; $15.99. Paperback; $9.99.
Johnson is one of the most audible/visible members of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. He is a lawyer, a member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, and the author of Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance. Johnson speaks and writes often, usually on origins. He is a frequent contributor to Books and Culture, sister publication to Christianity Today. The ID movement does not claim that the earth is of recent origin, or that there have been no changes in living things. Its main claim is that the prevailing scientific paradigm, which Johnson calls naturalism, rules out (by definition, not because of evidence) the possibility that life is here because of an Intelligent Designer. The ID movement also claims that those thinking within the naturalistic paradigm take microevolution, which the ID movement accepts, as proof that macroevolution, which the ID movement does not accept, has happened. (Microevolution, if it really occurred, results in new races and species, macroevolution in new phyla or divisions.)
Besides the two Johnson books mentioned above, the most important ID book is Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box. It argues that the biochemistry of living things is so complex and interrelated that it could not have arisen a little at a time by chance but must have appeared basically all at once. Christianity Today named it book of the year.
Perhaps you are wondering, What is new and different about this book? My answer: the intended audience. The intended audience is high school students. The intended goal is to arm students against naturalist arguments. How does Johnson arm his readers? In a sentence, by pointing out, in many ways, that naturalists' belief in macroevolution by chance is a species of faith, and not based on sufficient evidence. He also describes some case studies of students or teachers who were supernaturalists and have been attacked by naturalists.
The first chapter deals with three common mistakes made about differences on origins: (1) that such differences are only about time, when actually the question of whether there is or is not an intelligent designer is more at issue; (2) that such differences are about whether God started things, when actually the question of whether God is still involved in his creation is important; and (3) the belief that science is all about facts, and not about belief, whereas religion is all about belief, and not about facts.
The second chapter, Inherit the Wind, uses that play and movie as an illustration of how biased the media are on the issue of origins. Johnson tries to show that the fundamentalists in Dayton, Tennessee, where the Scopes trial was held, were no more closeminded than naturalists in New Haven, Connecticut are today. The third chapter attempts to expose Abaloney (Johnson's word) in the thinking of prominent naturalists, such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. It is also an introduction to some of the technicalities of arguing.
The fourth chapter exposes some of the problems of naturalists, and also of supernaturalists. The fifth chapter explains and gives evidence for ID. The sixth chapter requests Johnson's readers to forsake accommodation with naturalists, and to stand up for supernaturalism, individually, in classes, and in schools. The seventh is entitled Modernism: The Established Religion of the West. The eighth is a retelling of the sixth, using the background of the seventh. There are 12 pages of notes, and no index or illustrations. Probably none were needed.
I agree with Johnson on many things, especially his main claim. For instance, during the time I was reading his book, I was also reading David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo, one of the most fascinating biology books I have ever read, and one which will probably have considerable influence. It is about biogeography, not origins, but of course there is much about how island species came to be. Quammen seems to assume that naturalism is true, and he presents plenty of information that supports the notion that new species have arisenCwho doubts it? But he presents no evidence for macroevolution. My guess is that he would be amazed if anybody doubted naturalistic macroevolution. Most biologists also would be. They shouldn't.
However, I have two concerns. Johnson does not include a serious weakness of the ID movement in his fourth chapter that there is basically no positive evidence for ID. There is evidence which casts grave doubt on the notion that phylogeny was naturalistic, and that complex biochemical mechanisms arose as a result of nonguided chance processes. If Thomas Kuhn was right about scientists and how they act, the naturalist paradigm will not be abandoned until there is somewhere else to go, and shooting holes in that paradigm doesn't automatically produce another one. Also, Johnson is a lawyer, apparently a very good one. Not everyone is as equipped by training or nature as he is to take up ID, or any other cause, and argue it publicly, however right the cause, and however strongly one believes in that cause.
Reviewed by Martin LaBar, Professor of Science, Southern Wesleyan University, Box 1020, Central, SC 29630.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 63.
LIFE BEFORE MAN by Zdenek V. Spinar. New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1996. 256 pages, index, glossary, diagrams, and color plates. Paperback; $16.95.
This is another lavish picture book by Thames & Hudson. Spinar, professor of Zoopaleontology at Charles University in Prague, has provided the basic commentary to a sumptuous array of 233 illustrations, including drawings, diagrams, and color reconstructions of plants, animals, landscapes, and seascapes. The original 1972 edition has been thoroughly revised to introduce the reader to the incredible and fascinating panorama of life on Earth as it has unfolded from its earliest beginnings more than 3000 million years ago to the arrival of Homo sapiens and the introduction of settled farming, a mere 5000 years ago (p. 6). This purpose, broader in scope than indicated by the title, is achieved in an admirable manner.
The graphic material is clear, sharp, and well designed. The 180 color plates are beautiful and clear. The full AClassification of Living Things puts things in proper perspective, with one problem: Superkingdom Eukaryota is listed under Kingdom Prokaryota on an equal footing with two subkingdoms, instead of over the kingdoms of Protoctista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia. That is not the only place where editing was less than admirable. Contrary to the chronological table on page 9, the Precambrian stops with the Cambrian, not with the present day as indicated! Also, on page 159, the pictures of two Mesozoic dinosaurs are mixed in with Cenozoic life. Perhaps the statement on p. 12, Molecules with the high degree of complexity needed to form living matter took a long time to develop some 4600 million years, the age of the Earth itself, arose as the author's ideas were being transferred into English, but it will be misleading to the intended neophyte audience of this book. One might quibble that more terms should have been added to the useful three-page glossary, but those admitted are well defined.
While books covering broad sweeps of time and immense quantities of subject matter primarily for untrained readers are, of necessity, oversimplified, one has to wince at such mistakes as declaring that Australopithecus contains the oldest human (instead of hominoid) fossil. I would have liked to have seen a warning to the uninitiated regarding the amount of analogical reasoning and downright imagination that is inevitably involved in artistic reconstructions of most long extinct forms of life. A prime example would be the Triconodon, completely reconstructed in living color on page 132 from nothing but fossil teeth and jaws. The reviewer is delighted to have the reconstruction, but he also understands the kinds of supporting evidence and their limitations.
This book will be welcomed by anyone wanting a lot of artistic reconstructions of what paleontologists think the fossilized remains looked like when alive in their natural habitat. In spite of the sloppy editing, it is a good buy at a very modest price.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80639.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 64.
DESTINATION: Creation by Hugh Ross and Rick Bundschuh. Reasons to Believe, P.O. Box 5978, Pasadena, CA 91117. 34 pages. Paperback.
This book is subtitled AA Scientist Looks Back At How The Universe Began, and because it is intended for children, it is presented in comic book format. The book's science information comes from Hugh Ross while Rich Bundschuh has produced the story and art. Material on creation, evolution, UFO's, and extraterrestrials is presented in an elementary and authoritative way. Also included are some simple paper and pencil games, short explanations for hefty words (a lexicon of scientific terms), brainstorming questions from kids, a biographical introduction to Hugh Ross and a list of some of the products offered by the publisher (including Hugh Ross's The Creator and the Cosmos). This book provides an inexpensive, entertaining, and informative way to introduce children (and young people) to some of the current issues in science.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 65
THE GREENING OF FAITH: God, the Environment, and the Good Life by John E. Carroll, Paul Brockman, and Mary Westfall, Eds. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997. 225 pages. Paperback.
This book is a collection of essays by religious people from a variety of persuasions. The authors include Catholics, a rabbi, an evangelical Protestant, a Presbyterian minister, a Native American religious person, an ecofeminist, an ecopsychologist, a Buddhist, and numerous Ph.D.s who teach this topic at colleges and universities. All of the authors are well qualified to write on this topic.
The book is divided into four sections, each varying from three to four chapters in length. The book does not have an index, which affects its usefulness; but it does have excellent section introductions. In the first section, A Call To Awaken, the thrust is on the environment as a religious question. The authors suggest that scientists and others are joining with those of religious persuasion in the necessity of seeing that there is more to life than the accumulation of wealth and material goods. The next section, Old Paths, New Ground, asserts that western religions need to rediscover what their traditions have always taught, namely that the good life is both environmentally responsive and worshipful of God the Creator. In the third section, In a Different Voice, we are challenged by the Buddhist, the ecofeminist, and the Native American to reclaim the interdependence that characterizes all life. In the last section, Broadening The Scope, we are called to go beyond earth, to see the magnificence of all creation and therefore to love the Creator and the creation more fully.
The book's main strength is that it illustrates that the solution to the world's environmental problems is a religious one to which all the major religions and even some of the minor ones speak with a common voice. More is not better and God wants us to take care of this planet. It is also useful as a reference for the variety of religious views expressed on the environment. After all, where else could one go to find all these different views expressed?
The book's weakness is that it has no consistent approach to any other issues. If you're not a pan-en-theist, you'll disagree with S. C. Rockefeller. If you think that technology will provide some of the answers, you'll not like the ecofeminist view. As an indication as to how fuzzy it can get, on page 205 we are told that traditional western religions are dying, in opposition to statistical trends. Then we are told that AAlcoholics Anonymous is the most significant spiritual movement in the world today (p. 206). While the editors tried to group the material around themes, there is not much you can do if you have all spiritual viewpoints expressed and see them all as having validity.
This book illustrates some of the problems of post modernism. It is nice to respect all traditions, but it is next to impossible to get simple action policy statements out of them. Readers of this journal are much better served in this area by knowledgeable Christian authors, such as Al Gore in his book, Earth in the Balance.
Reviewed by Fred Jappe, Professor of Chemistry and New Testament, Mesa College, San Diego, CA 91911.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 66.
RELIGION & MEDICAL ETHICS: Looking Back, Looking Forward by Allen Verhey, Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996. 160 pages. Paperback; $18.00.
The Institute of Religion (Houston, Texas) sponsored a conference in 1993 to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of the first Houston Conference on Medicine and Technology. This book contains the papers of seven eminent moral theologians working in the field of bioethics today: James M. Gustafson, Stanley Hauerwas, Stephen E. Lammers, Karen Lebacqz, Warren T. Reich, David H. Smith and Allen Verhey. The editor, Allen Verhey, is Professor of Religion at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
In the first chapter, David H. Smith, Indiana University, surveys the bioethics revival. He shows that theologians were important to that revival, and he proposes a dialogue between religious and secular perspectives in the future. Stephen E. Lammers, Lafayette College, discusses the marginalization of religious voices in the past (the lack of a public voice for persons with religious convictions), but looks forward to renewed engagement between theology and medical ethics in the future. He advocates the three activities of humility, listening, and patience as the place to begin to have influence in the clinic.
Two papers look back at particular theologians who took part in the 1968 conference: Helmut Thielicke, as discussed by Karen Lebacqz, Pacific School of Religion, and Paul Ramsey as discussed by Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University. James M. Gustafson, Emory University, describes the relationship between religious ethics and other sources of moral insight. He sketches three ideal-types: the autonomy of religious ethics, the intelligibility of religious ethics, and the dialectic of religious ethics. These provide a pattern for comparing religious traditions in conversation with others about medical ethics. In the final main chapter, Warren T. Reich, Georgetown University, describes A New Era for Bioethics: The Search for Meaning in Moral Experience, and argues for the importance of a sustained search for meaning in the context of ethics.
Two additional chapters report the conclusions of two working groups: (1) different contexts for medical ethics: the academy, the medical center, the religious community, and the law or public policy; and (2) particular issues: abortion, genetics, assisted suicide, and access to health care. Concluding the book is the text of a worship service at the conference led by Allen Verhey.
The general emphasis of the book is strongly theoretical with discussions in general terms. In the final paragraph of his chapter on Paul Ramsey, Stanley Hauerwas writes: "Where has all this gotten us?" Not very far, I'm afraid. It is only in the second report of one of the working groups that the specific issues mentioned above appear for discussion. But even there it is more a case of talking about the issue than coming to grips with defensible resolutions.
An exception is the chapter by Karen Lebacqz, summarizing the impact and significance of Thielicke's concept of alien dignity, a phrase used by Thielicke to emphasize the worth that human beings have because they are created in the image of God, rather than for some utilitarian reason. The author shows how this concept of alien dignity, rightly understood, plays a key role in protecting people, equalizing people, requiring personal response, requiring structural response, and emphasizing the importance of relational living.
This book will probably be of most interest to those for whom the issues of religion and medical ethics are intellectual and philosophical areas of concern, but of less interest for those desiring informed theological input to deal with specific issues in medical ethics which confront us more and more each day.
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
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RELIGION AND THE CLINICAL PRACTICE OF PSYCHOLOGY by Edward Shafranske, Ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1996. 640 pages. Hardcover; $59.95.
The four parts of this volume are divided into 21 chapters written by 26 authors. Some of the authors are associated with religiously oriented schools. The editor is professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and serves on the faculty at Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute. He is also active in the American Psychological Association (APA), the world's largest organization of professional psychologists. Extensively published in the psychology of religion, Shafranske focuses on the relationship between religious affiliation and clinical psychology.
In this book, religion is considered as a variable in the fields of mental health and psychotherapy. The authors consider religion from several perspectives including its cultural context and operational definitions, its relationship to clinical psychology and mental health, its history, and its parameters as shown by research. A concluding chapter is written by the editor and H. Newton Malony of Fuller Theological Seminary.
The preface, written by the editor, sets the context for the articles: This book is an attempt to address the chasm between religion and the seeming lack of focused attention given to religion within most graduate education and clinical training programs. The editor believes that psychotherapy cannot be values neutral because values are inherent in the therapeutic process. The fact that this volume is published by the APA indicates that the historic antagonism between science and religion need not preclude dialogue. This book shows that religion is increasingly being viewed as an important force in human adjustment.
A 1992 Gallup poll demonstrates the extent to which a religious orientation prevails among Americans. Ninety-five percent say they believe in the existence of God, seventy-seven percent in the divinity of Jesus, and seventy-five percent in an afterlife. Seventy-one percent are members of a church or synagogue. Contrast this with the orientation of psychologists, about half of whom have no religious affiliation. Nevertheless, most psychologists hold some religious beliefs and think religion is important in human affairs.
After surveying the evidence, the editor concludes that religion, with its many varieties of beliefs and practices, should be included in the clinical practice of psychology. This, he adds, requires a commitment within the profession. For those interested in the interface between religion, mental health, and psychotherapy, this volume provides valuable and current perspectives and information. Readers can gain insights on the problems as well as the potential associated with integration and synthesis between religion and psychology.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
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CONNECTED KNOWLEDGE: Science, Philosophy, and Education by Alan Cromer. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. 221 and xii pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $25.00.
Anyone who has taught first year courses in natural sciences or mathematics in a college lately has noticed the low level of knowledge of incoming students. Cromer, Professor of Physics at Northeastern University, was part of several attempts to improve the system. He mentions project SEED (Science Education through Experiments and Demonstrations) and project RE-SEED (Retirees Enhancing Science Education through Experiments and Demonstrations.) In the Preface, Cromer writes: "science education in the United States fails to develop in students the unique habits of mind that constitute scientific thinking." On page 169, he writes: "Optimism begins by recognizing the enormous inefficiency of the U.S. educational system." Indeed the word `system' is an unfortunate euphemism that disguises the disarray and incoherence of instruction from middle school through college. By comparison to education in other western countries, education in America is simply shameful. Near the end of the book Cromer describes the modern Greek system as an example of an educational system that works better than the United States' system.
Noting the bad results of pre-university teaching in the natural sciences, Cromer criticizes the American system of education. Language is over emphasized (p. 102). He is especially critical of science textbooks in secondary schools which act as if language can express everything. As an example, he mentions a textbook which introduces the concept of energy by asking students for examples of things that have energy. How can they? Only after that exercise the students come to a definition of energy. To suggest improvements, Cromer studied the education system, its goals, its methods, and the background of its educational theories. Assuming that these theories were founded on social situations and theories, he studied the background of social sciences. Cromer claims that many social scientists are leading the postmodernist attack on the natural scientists (p. 57). He then asks: "Can we call these disciplines really sciences?" According to Cromer, the characteristics of real sciences are repeatable phenomena and strong inferential theories, because science is the struggle for a universal consensus. He goes on to explain what repeatable means as he wants to make sure that sciences include the historical sciences.
After Cromer has established that the historical sciences are sciences, he looks for a pure case of human development. To find a pure case of human development of which all real scenarios are modifications, Cromer looked at members of a New Guinea tribe. Leahy and Dwyer discovered this tribe in 1930. It had had no contact with other human beings for at least 9,000 years. Cromer assumes that their way of life was closest to the way original man lived. This part of the book clearly shows the necessity of having a basic philosophy of life. Because Cromer is not a believing Christian, he does not believe in the fall and its disastrous consequences for humankind. The fall had consequences for the study of scholarly subjects too. It makes Cromer's treatment of the history of education suspect.
At the Free University in Amsterdam, a Calvinist Christian university, students in all disciplines have to take a course in Christian philosophy. It may help them in recognizing backgrounds of theories they will encounter. If it works properly, the result will be a true university where all disciplines can work together. As it is now, in most universities each discipline is on its own. I believe that the disagreements about the background of scientific theories among Christians are the result of not knowing philosophic backgrounds. The book under review reenforced my belief that having such a course is necessary, even for natural scientists.
Any teacher from kindergarten to university can benefit from critically studying this book. Several of his practical suggestions are worth applying.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, Canada M2R 2V7.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 68.
THE EDUCATED MIND: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding by Kieran Egan. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1997. 299 and x pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $24.95.
Egan is Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. I recommend his book for critical study by teachers from kindergarten to university. Egan is not a Christian and it shows. My reason for recommending it is that, according to Egan, we have difficulties teaching in our schools because we have only three educational ideas. Unfortunately they are incompatible. These three ideas are: (1) We must shape the young to the current norms and conventions of adult society; (2) We must teach them the knowledge that will ensure that their thinking conforms to what is real and true about the world; and (3) We must encourage the development of each student's individual potential. Egan claims that with so few ideas terminal staleness will set in.
The first idea Egan calls socialization. Children need to learn how to become members of the adult society. Since he talks about his first communion in his distant Catholic past (p. 70), I concluded that he is not a Catholic. I found no other reference to his religion. That explains why he suggests that teachers tell fairy tales in the elementary grades. In those stories, we usually find a strong division between good and bad behavior. My experience in a Christian elementary school was that Bible stories accomplish what Egan wants to accomplish with myths. I believe that religion is all important. It influences all parts of our life. Therefore, if we want our children to be Christians, we need Christian schools. Bible stories are a real part of the large story of God's redemption of man. I must immediately add that later in the book (p. 213) Egan, following Northrop Frye, recommends that Bible stories and the central stories of Greek and Roman literature be part of the elementary curriculum. All these stories form our social milieu.
To be good citizens in society children must obtain knowledge, said Rousseau. Egan wants to replace the word knowledge with kind of understanding (p. 23). Then he divides understanding into five parts, starting and ending with somatic understanding. The other four understandings are: mythic, romantic, philosophic, and ironic understanding. Egan spends a chapter on each in Part One of the book. In Part Two he talks about implications for curriculum and teaching.
The book glorifies the invention of the alphabet by the Greeks. It led to a conceptual revolution in ancient Greece and generated the philosophic, scientific, historical, descriptive, legal, and moral forms of discourse that make up what we call the modern mind (p. 75). My question is: Is that really true? Did the Mesopotamians, Hebrews, and Egyptians have no great influence on the modern mind? Some claim a Christian influence on certain forms of modern thinking. Even Egan uses biblical quotations without acknowledging the source. He does not want to give Christian religious influences more than passing attention. On p. 80 we read: "What was dramatic was the eradication of magic and gods as explanatory devices and the new focus on an autonomous reality; what has received much less attention is the persistence of myth as a subterranean, or, at what we might today call a structural level." It is no wonder that we read (p. 102) that schooling stimulates a sense of autonomous reality.
As a Christian, I believe that talking about an autonomous reality is dangerous and wrong. God made the natural laws. If students learn that reality is autonomous, we will hear more often that what we believe as Christians is not really true, and we can dismiss it. We know that in the end times not many will be found believing in Jesus Christ as the real ruler on earth. When Egan talks about philosophic understanding and the school's influence on students, he mentions how this leads to a closer comprehension of the self. He quotes from the French Encyclopedie: Reason is to the philosopher what grace is to the Christian. Students will find the truth about themselves. Egan notices a decay in a promised true account of reality (p. 139). He is very pessimistic about our ability to describe truth after Nietzsche's announcement of the death of God. I believe that when the school excludes our Christian beliefs, true reality, which describes creation as reality created and ruled by God, will not be taught. Teaching wants only to show how life really is and how we should see the world around us. I am thankful for Christian schools and colleges which counter this type of thinking. We want our children to view reality as the Bible sees it.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, 20 Crispin Crescent, Willowdale, ON, Canada M2R 2V7.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 68
NO NEUTRAL GROUND: Standing by the Values We Prize in Higher Education by Robert B. Young. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1997. 231 pages. Hardcover; $31.95.
Young, professor of education at Ohio University, believes higher education must emphasize core values in order for it to impact American society. The core values (service, truth, freedom, equality, individuation, justice, and community) are the key ingredients administrators, faculty, and trustees must incorporate in their recipe if they are to positively impact students and the larger community.
The academy is facing increased pressure to conform and follow rather than transform and lead. Higher education's core values run the risk of coming into conflict with society, free enterprise, and religion. Young examines the seven core values at length and shows that to be successful institutions of higher education must nourish and apply them.
Young divides his discussion into three parts: values we prize; challenges to our values; and advancing the values we prize. Educators and students alike will agree with about everything Young says. He presents his viewpoints with some illuminative illustrations and creates a few good quotes in the process. The value of the good life has become more important than the value of a life of good. Serving the public makes the academy moral instead of just material. When all of society's heretics are quieted, the academy is no longer free.
Everyone interested in education will applaud Young for calling the academy to recognize the reasons for its existence. In an age of relativity, a book which stresses that there are foundational values is a breath of fresh air. And Young includes in his discussion the importance of intellectual and scientific values. He writes: Science Ais the starting point in the discovery and transmission of truth. He acknowledges the value of both pure and applied science. He believes that science and technology have made people collectively powerful but individually weak.
Young is to be commended for including a chapter on Spirituality: The Challenges of Ultimate Meaning. He thinks the modern, secular university has moved away from seeking to foster good character. Any spirituality which the student picks up is a by-product rather than an espoused goal. When they look up to the stars, students (in public institutions) will not have heaven pointed out to them. Young praises colleges of character, small religiously oriented liberal arts institutions which offer an alternative to large universities. He believes these are the kind of eccentric institutions America needs, but that they are disappearing.
This book is highly recommended, not only for those who work in the academy, but also for those who are eager that the academy stand by and exalt the values prized in higher education.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 68.
CHRISTIANITY IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE: Law, Gospel & Public Policy by C. E. B. Cranfield, David Kilgour, and John Warwick Montgomery. Edmonton: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology & Public Policy, 1996. 320 pages, appendix, index. Paperback; $17.50.
This book is a collection of essays compiled from a variety of sources including Christianity Today and the Christian Legal Journal by historian, theologian, and legal scholar John Warwick Montgomery. The essays span a period of thirty years during which Montgomery held academic posts in Canada, the United States, and England. This prolific author is dedicated to integrating law and theology with public policy.
Twenty essays are gathered in a section called The Larger Perspective. They address a variety of issues, from the career of Adolf Hitler to the relationship between law and justice. In one essay, the author comes out against school prayer not only on the basis of First Amendment considerations, but because AEvangelism thrives on true freedom and is crushed by social conformity (p. 83).
Three smaller sections, containing four essays each, address bioethical issues, the truth of Christianity, and the relevance of Scripture in today's world. In all cases, the author blends biblical, historical, legal, and political evidence in a readable way to support his contention that our understanding of public issues and our behavior as citizens must take place within the light of God's revelation.
Two essays are added to the collection. The first, by David Kilgour, a member of parliament in Canada, talks about the desperate need for Christian politicians in the 1990s, as we face moral decline and increased uncertainty. A closing essay by C. E. B. Cranfield, a New Testament scholar, presents an examination of the biblical evidence that calls for the acceptance of political responsibility on the part of every Christian.
This book would appeal to all those interested in the relationship between Christian faith and political life, and who advocate a more active public role for all believers. It also provides Christians with an excellent source from which to set out exploring a variety of social issues.
Reviewed by Robert A. Campbell, University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS, Canada B1P 6L2.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 70.
GOD, PHILOSOPHY AND ACADEMIC CULTURE: A Discussion Between Scholars in the AAR and the APA by William J. Wainwright, Ed. Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1996. Hardcover; $20.00. Paperback; $14.00.
At the 1992 convention of the American Academy of Religion (AAR)/Society of Biblical Literature, David Tracy (University of Chicago) gave a lecture on The End of Theism and the Re-naming of God. He simply asserted without argument that traditional theism was no longer a viable option and that there are many names for the unknown Reality a claim for which he received hearty applause. After the lecture, someone aptly commented, We just heard a lecture on the end of theism, and nobody looks worried.
This scenario highlights one of the AAR's distinctives which is in contrast to the seriousness with which philosophers in the APA (American Philosophical Association) take theism. Philosopher William Wainwright has edited an important book for all who are interested in the place of the philosophy of religion in American culture. In light of the unfortunate lack of interaction between the AAR and the APA, Wainwright has brought together thinkers from these two philosophically-divergent camps (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Merold Westphal, Walter Lowe, Stephen Crites, Philip Quinn, Stephen Evans, Wayne Proudfoot, and Robert Adams) in an attempt, at least in part, to heal this breach (p. 3). Wainwright's excellent introduction offers a succinct summary of the book's contents and lays out the differences between these guilds.
At the risk of oversimplification, I shall list below four key differences between these camps:
1. AAR philosophers (who tend to be housed in fragile departments of religious studies a fairly recent phenomenon) are usually not theists whereas many APA philosophers of religion (who are housed in departments of philosophy) are. Given the cross-cultural nature of religious studies departments, there tends to be pressure to avoid any kind of proselytizing or dogmatism; thus these philosophers of religion tend to keep their own religious views out of their teaching and research so as to appear more objective (pp. 52-3). Moreover, AAR members often assume that theism is abstract and irrelevant (e.g., Crites: `theism' is of very limited importance, and to speak about it in philosophical terms consigns it to religious and existential irrelevance [p. 44]). Such is not the case in the APA, where even if philosophers are not theists, they tend to take theism seriously. (The essays by Crites [AAR] and Evans [APA, although a member of AAR] epitomize the deep differences of this first point. Evans rightly takes Crites to task for his depreciation of the theistic tradition.)
2. While the AAR approaches the study of religion from a sociological and historical point of view, the APA focuses on rationality, truth, and falsity: PA philosophers [tend to] view those in the AAR as insufficiently rigorous in logic and argumentation, while those in the AAR view their counterparts as insufficiently historical (p 71). (Incidentally, Lowe characterizes the heart of the AAR guild as being ethically-oriented: AReligion deepens the ethical; the ethical validates religion [p. 32].)
3. Westphal observes that among philosophers of religion the AAR/APA division tends to correspond with a continental philosophy/analytic philosophy division (p. 24). The AAR's philosophers tend to ignore the pre-Kantian thinkers of the medieval and early modern periods, who were usually theistically inclined. The APA philosophers of religion, however, usually bypass post-Kantian Continental thinkers.
4. Wolterstorff's essay points out that most analytic philosophers tend to be perspectival particularists whereas those in the religious studies departments have an interpretation-universalism orientation. Though they both reject the naive foundationalism of Descartes, the analytic tradition's post-foundationalism is post-Kantian (only in that it is possible to recover from Kant [p. 20]!) whereas the Continental tradition's post-foundationalism is Kantian (in which Reality is never present to us).
The general consensus of the book's contributors is the importance of greater interfacing between the two camps. Quinn especially emphasizes this in his essay (p. 54-6). (1) The AAR, with its emphasis on ritual and myth in religion, should not ignore the APA's emphasis on the rationality or truth of theological doctrinesCand vice versa. (2) The religious studies departments should be more cautious about embracing continental European philosophy and accepting social scientific explanations of religious phenomena just as the APA guild should not ignore Continental philosophy or be so hostile toward social scientific discussions of religious phenomena. (3) The AAR guild should come to more fully appreciate the intellectual resources of pre-Kantian theological and philosophical (theistic) thought while the APA philosophers of religion should more conscientiously examine post-Kantian Continental thought. (4) While the AAR tends to relativize religious truth-claims on the basis of socio-cultural factors, the APA should not ignore the socio-cultural dimensions of religion. On the other hand, the AAR should not assume that simply because there exist social constructs in religion, there can be no religious knowledge of nonrelativistic truths. So simply staying at the respective extremes of relativism and Platonism will not promote a healthy mutual understanding. Thus Quinn recommends that the two tribes should get better acquainted (p. 55) as they have much to learn from one another. In this way, they can help overcome their mutual hostility.
As Christians, we should affirm that we can have limited, yet objective, knowledge. While the AAR rightly reminds us of our limitations, we cannot accept its dismissal of the Christian worldview or its considering Christianity to be just one of many legitimate ways of attempting to understand the Ultimate Reality.
Reviewed by Paul Copan, Marquette University, Coughlin Hall, 132, P.O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881.
From PSCF 50 (March 1998): 70.