Book Reviews for June 1992

DARWIN ON TRIAL by Phillip E. Johnson. Washington, DC; Regnery Gateway & InterVarsity Press 1991. 196 pages, index. Hardcover; $19.95.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 140.

Darwin on Trial is another book on creation and evolution written by a lawyer. Unlike Wendell Bird, who emerged from law school as an advocate for the creation-science version of creation, Phillip Johnson became active in evolution and creation issues as a law professor who had been teaching in the University of California at Berkeley law school for over 20 years. Johnson, whose specialty is the analysis of logical arguments and the identification of hidden assumptions, has written two books on criminal law and procedures.

Darwin on Trial has 154 pages of text followed by 33 pages of research notes and a short index. Except for the occasional footnotes, sources and quotes are referred to in the research notes by sequential paragraphs rather than numbered citations. There are no illustrations, charts, or tables. InterVarsity Press co-published this book by special arrangement with Regnery Gateway, Inc.

The first of 12 chapters is a discussion of the legal battle surrounding Louisiana's 1981 law requiring equal treatment for "creation-science" in public school science classes. After a chapter each on natural selection and mutations, Johnson devotes three chapters to an evaluation of fossil evidence for Darwinism, and a chapter each on molecular evolution and prebiological evolution. The last four chapters address the rules of science, Darwinist religion, Darwinist education, and science and pseudoscience.

The book reads well, with good chapter-to-chapter transitions that keep the reader informed of the path ahead. Johnson deals more with the philosophy of naturalism, hidden assumptions, inconsistencies, and the large picture than with details of evolutionary mechanism and analysis of word meanings in scripture. This broad philosophical perspective can help scientists who are more prone to focus on technical details than to see how well these evidences are used to support assertions. Johnson goes beyond mere objective analysis of evidence and the way it is used. It is easy to see Johnson the lawyer trying to persuade the reader as judge and jury to accept his point of view.

Johnson maintains that Darwinists lack sufficient empirical evidence to support the strength of their statements on evolution and that they exclude the possibility of design and purpose by God as creator. By automatically ruling out all versions of creation, Darwinism becomes the only reality allowed, because of their rules, not because of the strength of empirical evidence. The problem of insufficient evidence is solved by substituting scientific naturalism, a philosophy which, in some ways, is a religion to the Darwinists. This is also what G. A. Kerkut, a British biochemist and evolutionist whom Johnson did not cite, said in Implications of Evolution in 1960. Johnson does not merely imply that the emperor has no clothes; his repeated request for empirical evidences instead of philosophical substitutes is as persistent as the familiar AWhere's the beef?"

Johnson also points out that evidence does not speak for itself but has meaning only in the philosophical context of the interpreter. The different ways in which writers such as Richard Dawkins, Niles Eldridge, Stephen Gould, Douglas Futuyma, G. G. Simpson, and Karl Popper interpret science, Darwinism, and the possibility of God as creator are discussed. I was surprised that Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen's book The Mystery of Life's Origin was not mentioned, even in the chapter on prebiotic evolution.

Johnson recognizes the confusion caused by "elastic" definitions of science, evolution, and creation, which to him is not limited to literalistic fundamentalism. Although recognizing the important distinction between microevolution and macroevolution, he most often uses the general term"evolution," which can be given variable meanings by his readers, too. He points out the faulty analogy of artificial selection to natural selection, which he examines as a tautology, deductive argument, scientific hypothesis, and philosophical necessity for Darwinists. There is much more in this book to enlighten or refresh our perspective of origins, evolution, and creation.

Darwin on Trial emphasizes the influence that different philosophies and worldviews have on the way empirical evidence is interpreted, or accommodated for, when lacking. This book should inspire us to be more attentive to logic and to search for hidden assumptions. Before debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, perhaps we should ask whether or not angels even dance. The few overly inclusive statements, use of general instead of precise terms, and omissions of some important works on this topic are not serious. I recommend Darwin on Trial as a book worth reading.

Reviewed by L. Duane Thurman, Professor of Biology, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, OK 74171.

THE CREATION SCIENCE CONTROVERSY by Barry Price. Sidney: Millennium Books, 1990. 244 pages, index. Paperback.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 142.

This book was written by an Australian Roman Catholic science teacher, and for this reason has a perspective not commonly found in anti-creationist writings. The author discusses not only Ascientific creationism" in the United States, but also the Acreation science" movement, as it is called in Australia.

Price deals with the areas typically found in anti-creationist materials such as thermodynamics, the flood, fossils, dinosaurs, Paluxy footprints, and others. He also discusses rather extensively the leaders of the movement, notably Henry Morris, Duane Gish, and others involved in Australia. Gish seems to be his primary target. One chapter ("Gish the Debater") and parts of other chapters contain information on alleged inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and other problems related to statements made by Gish. Much of this is not documented with bibliographic references and may lead the reader to wonder about the accuracy of Price's information.

Other chapters contain various other problems associated with the scientific creationism movement. These include textbook controversies, court cases, and numerous details regarding the movement in Australia.

Price makes numerous valid criticisms of the scientific creationism movement. However, his style of writing is biased and not very objective. He makes some rather personal attacks upon the leaders of the movement and questions their honesty and integrity. There is quite a bit of material related to the Bible in which the author demonstrates little sympathy with traditional biblical interpretation. For example, he states that the creation accounts were totally borrowed from Babylonian materials, and that Genesis was the last Old Testament book to be written (i.e., he dates Genesis at ca. 450 B.C.). He implies that the book was written to reach those who have fallen under the spell of scientific creationism. Such readers, however, would be likely to be turned off by the approach of the author, and probably not read beyond the first few pages.

Reviewed by Phillip Eichman, University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande, OH 45631.

SCIENCE AND REASON by Henry E. Kyburg. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. 283 pages. Hardcover; $35.00.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 143.

Kyburg's most important and most interesting contribution to science is an original approach to probability. The two known interpretations of probability refer to mass phenomena and to uncertainty, the former leading to statistics, the latter to inductive logic. Kyburg attempted to combine these interpretations by defining probability as a function of assigning to sentences not numbers but intervals of numbers. However, axioms of probability calculus are not satisfied in this interpretation. Since it is not a relation between sentences, as in inductive logic, but between sentences and a body of knowledge, the author calls it an evidential probability. (In 1961 he called it an epistemological interpretation).

Science uses observation to create and to justify its laws and generalizations. However, virtually no observation is free of error. Therefore, a theory of error based on observational experience must be included in the picture. In this respect, Kyburg applies the minimization principle, which states that observations should be attributed a minimum amount of error entailed by a theory. He spells out also the distribution principle according to which errors are as evenly distributed among different kinds of observation as possible. Observation statements are included in the body of knowledge only if their level of error does not exceed the level imposed by a theory with respect to observation.

The concept of error along with the concept of quantity and measurement is central to laws and theories. Because an error is present in measurement, it has to be analyzed in this contest as well. In fact, as the author claims, we should focus on observational errors when analyzing theories rather than, for instance, on the controversy between realism and instrumentalism (p.151). This statement betrays Kyburg's rather unfriendly view of philosophy, which is especially clear in his treatment of causality.

When discussing causality, Kyburg asks a rhetorical (in his view) question: "does classical dynamics require that the fall of the leaf be caused at all? It seems not" (p.191). He finds a belief in causality unnecessary, even superstitious (p.209), since everything can be explained in terms of numbers, ideally in statistical terms. Causality is too weak to be used for explanation and prediction. Thus, it is one of these metaphysical concepts that logical positivists wanted to reject. However, causality seems to have always been one of the strongest motivations for doing science. Causality per se is not a scientific concept, in the same sense as mass, velocity, atom, etc. Yet it led to scientific theories, and scientists are more interested in establishing causal relations between events rather than mere correlations. Otherwise the theory is not deemed satisfactory from a cognitive standpoint. Causality is an extra-physical concept but as important to physics as, for example, consistency or sensual perception, and statistical character of quantum physics did not render it obsolete. However, physics itself may create an impression that what is sufficient is the post hoc ergo propter hoc (after, that is, because) principle. Satisfaction with this principle would mean that scientists are in what psychologist Harry Sullivan called the parataxic mode of experience, the dominance of temporal sequence as the only conception of causality in the infant's developmental history.

How is the level of including a statement to the body of knowledge chosen? Kyburg starts with an analysis of full belief, or acceptance. Full belief is relative to the risk/reward ratio. The range of such ratios is what Athe agent has (implicitly) in mind" (p.250). If the risk/reward ratio characteristic for a certain action is below the level of what the agent knows to be the risk/reward ratio characterizing the situation, then the act is rational. Thus, our acts can be deemed rational even if what we have in mind is not rational. Kyburg cannot accept such a consequence and tries to argue for rationality of assumptions and speculations, stating that "perhaps there are no standards of reasonableness or rationality, but standards of taste" (p.262), and he points to such standards as coherence, simplicity, and beauty. Interestingly, he does not think much about truth as such a standard, since "it is not clear that it serves a useful function in the evaluation of scientific theories" (p.263). Clearly, instrumentalism is the only option.

Kyburg criticizes the claim that science requires assumptions that cannot be scientifically defended as a Aspeculative hypothesis, or an article of faith". Yet in the same breath he advocates making an attempt "to produce a presupposition- and assumption-free analysis of scientific argument" (p.270). Isn't it an article of faith?

Kyburg equates rationality with computationality (p.256), and the whole tenor of his book, where he generously uses statistical analyses, is to support this generalization. He mentions the existence and some importance of qualitative considerations, but does not make much of it. Understood rationality is therefore a cure for religious and ethical problems. This rationality, and science generated by it is to be a source of values, and since we have science, we have no use for such hypotheses as sin and salvation.

Kyburg made, as indicated, a very important contribution to inductive logic, and uses this logic throughout his book trying to solve with it each and every problem. But although it lends itself very well to approaching such problems as measurement or observational statement, it is ill-suited for solving traditional philosophical and metaphysical problems, such as causality, truthfulness, sin and salvation. Kyburg apparently disagrees with it by either dismissing them as pseudoproblems or diminishing their importance. This solution is hardly satisfactory.

Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.

  BEYOND THE BIG BANG: Quantum Cosmologies and God by Willem B. Drees. La Salle: Open Court Publishing Company, 1990. 323 pages, appendices, index. Paperback.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 144.

Does the Big Bang and most modern cosmology support or refute the biblical belief in creation? Is this area of physics perhaps religiously neutral or even irrelevant? These hot topics are rigorously addressed by Willem Drees' doctoral dissertation, Beyond the Big Bang. Since the author's previous doctorate was earned in theoretical physics, this examination of theological issues in cosmology is refreshing in its personal examination of the interplay between theology and physics.

The book's six chapters are meticulously subdivided into as many as twenty sections, the table of contents is 6 pages long, to help the reader map out the argument. Drees begins with an examination of the Big Bang and creation. He points out the inadequacies of attempting to use the Big Bang to support or prove theological premises (God of the gaps(!), ambiguity of scientific terms such as beginning, time, contingency) or to use creationism to argue against modern cosmology. In a similar vein he examines some scientists (Hoyle) who dislike the Big Bang theory for its supposed theistic implications. In a later chapter, he examines the claim that modern cosmology (Hawking) has made God redundant; that the Big Bang combined with quantum cosmology marks the Aend of the road for metaphysics." His personal conclusion is that the Big Bang theory is religiously neutral, but consonance can/should be constructed between our theological and scientific ideas within an appropriate metaphysic.

He shows how different scientific approaches (Hawking versus Penrose versus Linde) might challenge or influence various theological programs. Furthermore, theology and science do not usually dialogue on equal terms.

"Science leads our understanding of the world. However, the presence of metaphysical influences in the construction of the most abstract theories about the Universe gives an opening for an influence from religious convictions to scientific research."

Thus, a concern for history would correspond more closely to cosmology with time asymmetry (Penrose). Drees also reminds us that all scientific theories are tentative proposals, especially in the frontiers of cosmology, where a successful integration of general relativity and quantum mechanics is still more of a wish than fulfillment.

Drees also outlines and criticizes the various anthropic principles or arguments from design implied within them. While humans are children of the universe, that doesn't clearly point to a world designed for the sake of humans, nor does it imply there is nothing but nature. Drees acknowledges that the mystery of existence, the conceptual boundedness of theories, and the intimations of transcendence are suggestive for theism, but he thinks there is too much ambiguity allow us to either build theology up or make knock-down arguments.

Drees examines the future and both secular/scientific and religious eschatologies. Dyson's open universe envisages an advanced human species living forever by carefully choosing cycles of activity and hibernation. Tipler's Final Anthropic Principle describes/prescribes all events being guided by the future's Omega Point, which is the determining boundary condition for the wave function of the universe. Drees treats these secular visions respectfully but notes glaring difficulties which might cause even the most hopeful optimist to despair. Process theology and Pannenburg's eschatology share some similarities with Tipler's final causation approach, but their congruence require further analysis.

Drees' own "constructive consonance proposal" does not demand a strong methodological consistency or even attempt a proof of a religious claim. It merely seeks some sort of mutual consistency and credibility based on an adequate method of relating the scientific and theological enterprises. Drees emphasizes the constructive nature of all knowledge as well as the human desire for integration or consonance. Drees sketches other attempts (Barbour, Peacocke, Gilkey, Torrance) to relate science and theology briefly before outlining his own enterprise. He focuses on the ambiguity in theology; God is both present and absent. Secondly, the limits of the Big Bang theory and the various research programs imply the relevance of metaphysical preferences and a close examination of methods of relating theology(ies) to different cosmologies. Thirdly, he focuses on intelligibility and credibility; to clarify and embed theological ideas in a web with the most credible scientific and philosophical ideas. This difficult and ongoing task is further complicated by some fundamental dissimilarity between theology and science, including the difference between description and prescription. Drees finishes his book by starting his theology, constructing a consonant vision of God and the Universe.

Reviewed by Marvin Kuehn, 106-3731 W. 6th Ave., Vancouver, BC, VGR 1T8.

THE CHURCH AND CONTEMPORARY COSMOLOGY by James B. Miller and Kenneth E. McCall, (eds.). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1990. 400 pages. Paperback; $13.95.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 145.

This book consists of the Proceedings of a consultation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) held in December 1987. Both editors are ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Seventeen other authors each contributed a chapter to the book; among the authors, eight are theologians, three are astronomers, three biologists, two philosophers, one ethicist, and two are professionally undefined. The book is slow reading. It presents overall a wide variety of perspectives (some of which have very little connection with historic Christianity). A few approaches offer wise and valuable suggestions for dealing with the interaction between science and Christianity.

What does cosmology mean in this context? Miller offers an all-inclusive definition in his chapter, AFrom Organism to Mechanism to History."

"First, by cosmology I will mean the broad worldview which orients a culture...cosmology also implies epistemology. And with these two in attendance can metaphysics be far behind?" (p. 65).

In later chapters authors involved in science offer somewhat different definitions. In a chapter devoted almost strictly to a scientific summary of the theories of the origins of the universe, Joseph Silk of the Astronomy Dept. at the University of California at Berkeley treats cosmology as dealing with scientific questions concerning physical properties of the universe. In another chapter that deals only with science in the areas of quantum physics, James Maher of the Physics and Astronomy Depts. of the University of Pittsburgh, points out the large difference between the common use of the word between physicists and theologians. He says, "When I use the word cosmology below, I mean no more than the implications of our current knowledge of physical law for the way we think about the very long ago and the very far future of our physical world" (p. 193) It is not surprising, therefore, that the perspective and approach of many authors, even to what "cosmology" means, follows the conventions of their own disciplines.

There are two papers that one might conclude simply do not belong in a book with this one's stated purpose. The very first paper on "Our Cosmic Heritage by astronomer Eric J. Chaisson starts unbelievably with the words, "The subject of cosmic evolution is my religion. The process of change itsel, is my God" (p. 20). Later he states, "Formerly the nearly exclusive purview of philosophy and religion, a viable ethic for today's world is in my view no longer provided by either of these venerable institutions." Garrett Hardin, Prof. of Biology at UCSB, contributes a totally utilitarian analysis titled, "An Ecological View of Ethics." His second paragraph starts, A scientist cannot accept the orientation of the first sentence of the book of John. If I were charged with altering Scripture to conform with science I would say, "In the beginning was the World." (p.345) It is difficult to see how either of these chapters is suitable for a book on The Church and Contemporary Cosmology,, unless it is to imply that the Church has nothing to offer. This is not to state that these chapters themselves have nothing to offer, but only that they seem to belong to another conference.

The major chapter, by James B. Miller of the United Campus Ministry of Pittsburgh, consists of 60 pages of text without a single subsection break, and 23 pages of notes. The author provides an overview of some 3000 years of historical and cultural development. His treatment of Wittgenstein's contributions are particularly helpful. He clearly presents the major contribution of Popper, involving the position that Atruth is to be understood as correspondence in some sense between statement and reality" (p. 109), but then goes on himself to deny that truth is measured in this way.

There are some excellent insights in this collection that should not be missed. Although his paper is limited to science, the chapter by Maher referred to above, concludes cogently,

"[N]o biological theory can in principle comment on the ultimate questions addressed by theologians, and theologians will only embarrass themselves if they tie their arguments too closely to contemporary biological theory (p. 204).

In a paper entitled, "Genesis, Procreation, or Reproduction: Cosmology and Ethics," Abigail Rian Evans, Director of the National Capitol Presbytery Health Ministries, sounds a similar theme when she writes that, A[s]truggles emerge when science attempts to provide ultimate answers to the questions it raises and when religion attempts to use theology to explain how the physical world functions" (p. 328). In "What Ever Happened to Immanuel Kant," Langdon Gilkey of the University of Chicago Divinity School, argues effectively against all forms of naive realism in science. In "Evolutionary Biology and the Study of Human Nature," Philip T. Spieth of the Dept. of Genetics at the University of California at Berkeley, concludes that, AIntroduction of ethics and values, not to mention concepts of morality and sin, into the study of human nature is beyond the competence of biology. The task calls for theology, and not just natural theology. "For the Christian theologian, therefore, the major problem is one of integrating scientific knowledge with Biblical interpretation" (p. 220). A good "Consultation Summation" by Ian Barbour of Carleton College sets forth in helpful form the various options of interaction between science and theology and suggests major areas of promise and problem.

It is somewhat surprising that two authors make the mistake of identifying paradox with contradiction (pp. 241, 264). Some authors get carried away with their own rhetoric in calling for a grand new synthesis of science and theology different from anything we currently know (e.g., pp. 267, 321). Others make much ado about perspectives long since forsaken by those with an understanding of authentic science and theology, as though these perspectives were on the cutting edge of today's interactions (e.g., pp. 288, 289). For some, only process philosophy offers a framework within which to view the science/theology intersection (e.g., p. 290).

In the next-to-last-paper,"Notes on the Practice of Christian Asceticism in Relation to Contemporary Science and Technology," Carl Mitcham of the Philosophy and Technology Studies Center of the Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, raises the question, "Is there a Christian technological form of life?" (p.361) and suggests that "sometimes 'less is more'" (p. 363). The chapter presents a warning, leaving open the question of how valid it is and how it should be dealt with.

The final chapter of the collection is somewhat curiously written in the style of a cracker-barrel philosopher by Robert Short. Borrowing a phrase from novelist Kurt Vonnegut, he repeatedly describes a principal role of science with respect to theology as "cleaning s... off practically everything." (p.372) One could argue that the author's style gets in the way of his message.

This book gives a feeling for the unanswered questions that grip at least one denominational group as it tries to face the interactions between science and Christianity. Others involved in similar activities among Christian or scientific groups ought at least to know what these authors think are the problems and possible solutions.

  Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.

EVOLUTION AND THE MYTH OF CREATIONISM: A Basic Guide to the Facts in the Evolution Debate by Tim M. Berra. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990. 198 pages, annotated bibliography, index. Paperback; $7.95.
PSCF 44 (June 1992): 146.

Tim Berra, a Professor of Zoology at Ohio State, was drawn into the evolution/creation controversy when he reviewed biology curriculum and discovered it was Aabout 50 percent creationist." To counter the threat to the growth and spread of knowledge, Berra joins the vocal contingent of scientists and philosophers to show that "creationism has no scientific validity" while there is no "genuine scientific controversy about the validity of evolution," even though certain details or nuances remain to be worked out." The book is written for the open-minded non-specialized reader and pulls no punches with regard to the quality or character of creationist claims.

The well-illustrated book is divided into five chapters and two appendices (one on genetics and the other on Darwin). The first chapter introduces the nature of science, creationist tenets, and a brief summary of the mechanisms and evidence for evolution. The second chapter outlines the fossil record and geological time, including radiometric dating. Next Berra details the explanatory power of evolution with reference to drug resistance in bacteria, myxomatosis in rabbits, moth melanism, sickle cell anemia, convergent evolution and stepwise adaptation. Chapter four is the largest chapter and lays out cosmic evolution, abiogenesis, the emergence of the major taxa, and human evolution. Berra focuses on the broad outline of the history of evolution and major evidences that support its occurrence. His final chapter refutes major creationist challenges to evolution and attempts to place the debate within the broader context of twentieth century American society.

Berra carefully distinguishes the fact of evolution (organisms are related by common descent) from the theory of evolution (natural selection) which explains how the fact occurred. The first is supported by evidence too vast and too varied to deny, such as biogeography, morphological homologies, embryology, the fossil record and molecular biology. While the second is still being worked out with greater precision (neutralism, punctualism) it has survived "considerable challenges" and still fruitfully guides research.

The portrayal of the origin of the first cell is painted with a broad optimistic brush, for Berra feels compelled to leave no gaps for creationists to fill with God. On the other hand, Berra spends much more time on human evolution, his field of interest, to detail the argument and evidence that we share descent with all other organisms. While there are "quibbles" about precise pathways (Leakey versus Johanson) the fact of human evolution is "so solid and comprehensive that it cannot be denied by reasonable people." Similarly, he carefully examines certain controversies (Is Archaeopteryx transitional?) to marshal support for evolution and show how even respected scientists (Hoyle) can err in areas outside of their expertise.

In attempting to write with "candor and clarity" Berra inevitably overstates his case. For instance, he claims that an engineer could certainly design from scratch a more efficient and pain-free backbone than natural selection was constrained to do (p. 69). He treats abiogenesis as the highly probable result of a real-world process very like the various simulation experiments that scientists have conducted" (p. 80). Berra also takes a few cheap shots at his opponents. He describes the modern features of the Neanderthals, Awho could probably pass for television evangelistsA if attired in business suits (p.115). The Bible is blamed for its injunction for man to"master the environment (which might) yet do us in" (p. 131). In an age of polemic, he neglects to mention the role that scientism has played in spawning creationism. Moreover, he is also silent about the stance and efforts of the ASA. in relation to abuses of science and genuine scientific research and reflection on the question of origins; does he know we exist?

Berra's book achieves its purpose: to explain and defend evolution. He does not spend too much time demolishing flawed creationist arguments, for that see Willard Young's Fallacies of Creationism and various ASA members' publications, to strongly present the positive case for evolution. This book goes a long way to showing the general public why evolution is accepted by the scientific community, for reasons other than a predisposition to naturalism, or worse, some sort of conspiracy theory (In the Minds of Men).

Reviewed by Marvin Kuehn, 106-3731 W. 6th Ave., Vancouver, BC, VGR 1T8.