Book Reviews for June 1994
OF EVERYTHING: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation by John D. Barrow. New
York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1991. 223 pages, selected bibliography, index.
John D. Barrow is professor of astronomy at the University of Sussex, England, and is the author of The World Within the World, and with Frank Tipler, of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Recently, reductionism has become popular in the science cycle, so some science theoreticians search for a "Theory of Everything" (TOE) and want to solve the big problems like the nature of the universe, its ultimate components, and its origins. In this book, Barrow lays out eight essential ingredients for a TOE and explores each in turn, tracing the way our knowledge has developed and how scientific discovery relates to our changing philosophic and religious thought in each area. This book grew out of a series of Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Glasgow in January of 1988.
In the first chapter, he points out the human desire to unify all existing knowledge into a labyrinthine unity. The motivation for this is essentially religious, derived from the legacy of the great monotheistic religions. In the second chapter, Borrow investigates the first essential ingredients for a TOE: the laws of nature. Our search for a unified theory should reconcile the fields of quantum mechanics and general relativity. In chapter three, he goes on to examine the second essential ingredient, about the role of the initial conditions. The initial conditions for our universe are probably unknowable due to the ubiquity of chaotic phenomena. The role of initial conditions is related to the nature of time itself. A TOE should give both an adequate explanation. In chapter four, "forces and particles," the nature of matter is under focus. Why are there so many identical elementary particles in the universe? The symmetry principles of string theory are related to this phenomenon. However, this could either be a solution or a consequence.
In the fifth chapter, the question of constants of nature is raised. Why do they take the particular values we measure? Why are they constants, or are they really constants? Then Barrow discusses "broken symmetries" in chapter six. The questions about chaos and chance are raised for the predictability from a TOE. In chapter seven, organizing principles are discussed. Increasing levels of complexity in the biological world are presented as an antidote to pure reductionism, and a TOE will make little or no impact upon the problems of the origin of life and consciousness. The problem of selection biases is covered in chapter eight. A complete understanding of our observations of the physical universe requires an understanding of those elements which bias our observations and interpretations of data. Our observations are local and could be biased.
In the final chapter, the possibility of using mathematics to build a TOE is investigated. The author concludes that the world is not totally algorithmically compressible. Therefore, the most complete TOE with the most comprehensive mathematical explanation, cannot account for the uncomputable varieties of human experience and thought. In this book, the author has shown that while a TOE may be necessary for us to understand the Universe around and within us, it is far from sufficient. This book shows Barrow to be an accomplished humanist, scientist, and philosopher of science. For those who are interested in the interface between science, history, and religion, this book is highly recommended.
Reviewed by T. Timothy Chen, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892
SCIENCE: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues by Arthur N. Strahler. Buffalo,
New York: Prometheus Books, 1992. 381 pages, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $25.95.
The author's stated goal in writing this book "is to make the philosophy of science accessible and intelligible to science students, their teachers, and just about any person with a liberal college education who would like to learn something about the subject." Arthur Strahler is a geologist who has authored or coauthored textbooks on physical geology, earth science, physical geography, and environmental science. He also wrote Science and Earth History: The Evo1ution/Creation Controversy in 1987, which he frequently quotes from in this book.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part is an overview of science, of what he calls the new philosophy of science, and a discussion of pseudoscience. The second part is dedicated to relating science to other knowledge fields, such as logic and mathematics, ethics, and religion.
Strahler's perspective is set forth in the introduction where he says, "The modern scientific view of the universe can be described as naturalistic...The naturalistic view is that the particular universe we observe came into existence and has operated through all time and in all its parts without the impetus or guidance of any supernatural agency. The naturalistic view is espoused by science as its fundamental assumption" (p. 3). I would think few members of the ASA could agree with such a statement.
The new philosophy of science he describes in Part One is basically that nothing can be known for certain, or, rather, things can be known only with increasing or decreasing probability. For example, the "Law" of gravity is known to be correct with a probability approaching 1. Consensus among those competent to judge is the governing criterion for determining the probability of a given hypothesis being correct. ("True" is a forbidden word in the vocabulary of the new philosophy of science because it implies something unattainable, namely absolute truth.) Thus, only an elite group of people may determine what is correct or not about the world in which we live.
In Part Two of the book, Strahler deals with how science relates to other knowledge fields. He divides knowledge into two classes, perceptional and ideational. Perceptional knowledge includes only science and human history, while ideational knowledge includes such belief fields as ethics, morality and religion. Only perceptional knowledge may be used in any formulation of a view of reality. While ideational knowledge is interesting, it is of little practical value (with logic and mathematics being the possible exceptions). Chapter 11, on the supernatural realm, is where we finally learn that the author holds to an ontology he calls mechanistic monism. In this view, no supernatural realm exists. In Chapter 13 we learn that ethics and morality are evolutionary devices that arose to ensure group survival. A manager class invented the supernatural realm to increase compliance of the managed class with the ethical principles they thought would ensure group survival. Why this manager class would see group (as opposed to individual) survival as a "good" thing is not explicitly defended. Since religion has a place in this view of reality, he insists that it cannot be classified as atheistic. I was also disappointed that the answer to "the grand sez who" (quoted from Arthur Leff by Phillip E. Johnson in First Things, March 1993) question was not addressed by Strahler. The question is basically, why should any individual today forgo any pleasure or refrain from any pursuit of selfish interests? Anything claimed to be ethically wrong can be answered with "the grand sez who."
Chapter 14 discusses creationism (broadly defined) and it is here that Strahler attacks the ASA and others who hold to a dualistic ontology. He increases the rhetoric to fever pitch as seen by the following: "...we turn to the seething cauldron of modern Christian theology. In this pot theologians brew what are euphemistically called `liberal' scenarios that they think can wed theology to modern science" (p. 355). Passages such as this, which hint at his attitude toward any view other than his own, can be found throughout the book.
I think the author achieved his stated purpose of writing a book on the philosophy of science that is readable by the average science student. I found the book very helpful in understanding some of the technical philosophical jargon that is often used in articles that appear in Perspectives. But, as this final quote illustrates, since Strahler rejects a dualistic view of reality, there is little here for a person of faith to agree with. "A creationist stands in opposition to a scientist; these two individuals stand on opposite sides of a fence or wall that separates their unlike and mutually exclusive ontologies and epistemic fields." (p. 345).
Reviewed by David K. Probst, Assistant Professor of Physics, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.
CREATION: Perspectives on Science and Theology by Michael Bauman (Ed.). Hillsdale,
MI: Hillsdale College Press, 1993. 306 pages, index. Paperback; $9.95.
In this book, eleven writers tell how they see the relationship between science and theology. Try to formulate your own view on the relationship before reading the book. Then to see how others do it, start reading the essay by Richard Bube "Seven Patterns for Relating Science and Theology." To my regret, it does not include the way I see it, though the last pattern comes close. I like Bube's essay because it is the only place where "sin" and its effects are mentioned (p. 93).
Use of the word "science" for "experimental science" shows a certain implied bias. I agree therefore with the editor Bauman when he notes on p. 261 this philosophical and theological naivetÈ of many scientists. As an illustration to show how deep the misunderstandings are, I point to the essay of the editor Bauman himself. It is ironic that I have to accuse him of the same naivetÈ.
An example: Bauman claims on p. 249 that scientific world views changed completely over the last centuries. Contrary to that, he claims that the reorientation in Christian tenets in the sixteenth century did not require any fundamental change in orthodoxy. As proof, Bauman then refers to the fact that the Apostolic Creed remained. However, the creed is not theology. Theology changed drastically. The sacraments were not central anymore, the Word became central. The split between the holy and the secular disappeared. True, even the reformers had to struggle with remaining scholastic tendencies. These remaining tendencies often caused splits in protestant churches. Theology and its servants still were (and often are) placed on a pedestal. A certain reading of the Bible is the seen as the only possible reading: the science of theology rules faith.
Generally speaking, I miss a willingness to understand opposing views in this book. For example: in the essay of Phillip E. Johnson (Professor of Law at the University of California, and writer of Darwin on Trial) I do not see an understanding of the difficulties in the disciplines in which most of us work. Johnson may be a good lawyer, but he only notices weaknesses in our reasoning. He does not help us, since he does not propose an alternative that takes all relative facts into account. A scientist proposing a new theory is faced with facts which seem to contradict known theories. Consequently his reasoning will have, at least at first, gaps and jumps. This weakness is not limited to physics, etc., but is even true in the interpretation of the Bible. Both J. P. Moreland (professor of Philosophy in the Talbot School of Theology), and the book's Editor, Michael Bauman (Associated Professor of Theology and Director of Christian Studies at Hillsdale College) use uncritically a philosophy that goes back to pagan Greek philosophy.
They are not alone in not recognizing that God speaks in creation and in the Bible. Several other essays do not address the resulting difficulties either. Life is not seen as a unity to be lived as servants of Christ. I believe that we can only go on if we have a distinct Christian world view. To show how such a world view is possible, I recommend the reading of Creation Regained by Albert M. Wolters and The Transforming Vision by Brian Walsh and J. Richard Middleton. The last book has an extensive bibliography by discipline that includes books with views not shared by the writers.
Studying the book is worth the effort. A shortcoming of the book is that it has no bibliography.
Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, Box 168, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
THE EARTH: A Theological Perspective on Environmental Problems and Their Solutions by
Richard A. Young. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994. 333 pages,
This book is a worthy addition to the evangelical discussion of the ecological crisis. The writer brings credentials both in biblical studies (Ph.D.) and science (B.A. in geography). He displays a good grasp of the subject matter and creativity in discerning relevant issues in which some others have over looked.
Throughout the book, Young develops a contrast between three important, environmental perspectives. First, there is the pantheistic perspective, in which Nature is important because Nature is God (or Goddess). Second, there is the anthropocentric perspective, in which man's needs or authority are decisive in manipulating nature. (The abuse of biblical doctrine which gives humanity a virtually selfish, absolute authority over nature, Young characterizes as "theanthropocentric," that is, a human centered view with divine authority.) Third, there is the theocentric view, in which nature is to be respected because nature is valuable to a theistic deity.
Chapter 1 reviews the environmental case against Christianity. A hint of Young's general defense comes when the origin of "destructive attitudes" in Christianity is traced back to Greek rather than Old Testament thought (p. 11). This defense is further developed in chapter 2 by showing that the alternative ideologies also practice their own ecological abuses. Primitive animists, including Native Americans and Australian aborigines, on occasion abused the environment to the extent they were able (pp. 29-30). Young argues that secular thought, "with no transcendent source of values," leads to anthropocentric abuse of the environment (p. 46). He concludes that the present day negative stance towards nature "stems more from secularization of nature than from the desacralization of nature" (p. 47).
In chapter 3 Young posits the holistic unity of nature. He then argues that neither monistic philosophy nor the new animism of the Gaia hypothesis gives and adequate ideological base for environmentalism. Within this unity of nature, the right relationships or harmony between all the "points" is necessary. This principle leads to chapter 4, in which Young rejects a purely utilitarian view of nature's value. He points out that Shinto Japan, despite its animistic view of nature, has not avoided such utilitarian ecological abuse (p. 78). In the last word, Young's view of the value of nature is that its value and dignity grow from the fact that nature is valuable to God (p. 83). In chapter 5, Young argues that only a theistic deity, who is both transcendent and still immanent, can thus attribute value to nature.
In chapter 6, he argues that the biblical perspective properly understood, is neither anthropocentric not theanthropocentric. Nor is it biocentric. The genuinely theocentric biblical view is the only defensible base for the value of nature. Some will feel that Young has gone to an extreme in arguing that all death and natural evil are ecological consequences of sin (chapter 7).
Young views the "dominion mandate" (chapter 8) as ecological rather than cultural (p. 161). This mandate demands that humanity maintain the ecological harmony noted above (p. 162). The servanthood (rather than the capitalistic exploitative) model of the mandate then becomes the guide for biblical faith (p. 171). Chapter nine asserts that, though man is fallen, the image of God still leaves humanity in a position to make some "limited progress" with the environment (p. 204). Chapter 10 asserts that only a theocentric view can give a plausible ethic for environmentalism. In chapter 11, Young concludes that biblical Christianity, despite the errors of Christians in the past on this issue, should really be guided by the positive, biblical affirmation of nature (pp. 250-252). This is harmonious with the value of nature posited above. The Christian environmental agenda in chapter 12 will strike many readers as lacking in specifics.
This book is thorough, creative, and suggestive, although no one will completely agree with it. For the present reviewer, the most serious lack in this and other Christian books on the environment is that they seem to assume that the ideal environment is static. This might conflict with evidence from science, history, and the Bible, which would indicate that some environmental development or enhancement could be a legitimate part of the evangelical perspective.
Reviewed by Andrew Bowling, Division of Biblical Studies, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
SLIPPERY SLOPE ARGUMENTS by
Douglas Walton. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. 282 pages, references, index.
What do these terms have in common: slippery slope, falling dominoes, thin edge of wedge, camel's nose in tent, foot in door, tip of iceberg, snowball, genie in the bottle, sorites? The answer is that they are all terms that have been applied to a type of argument that proceeds step by step from an apparently innocuous premise to a final startling conclusion. The dictionary sums up the meaning of "sorites": "A form of argument in which a series of incomplete syllogisms is so arranged that the predicate of each premise forms the subject of the next until the subject of the first is joined with the predicate of the last in the conclusion" (American Dictionary, 1975).
This is a book on the technique of logical argumentation, written by Douglas Walton, professor of philosophy at the University of Winnipeg, and the author of many works on informal logic and argumentation. As such, it tends to be rather technical and concerned primarily with the structure of arguments rather than with their content. The author uses over fifty case studies of argumentation on controversial issues, such as abortion, medical research on human embryos, euthanasia, the decriminalization of marijuana, pornography and censorship, and whether or not the burning of the American flag should be banned. His prime concern about each slippery slope argument is whether or not the particular form of the argument is fallacious or not, and what strategy is best for one involved in debate. His conclusion is that the slippery slope approach can be used fallaciously, but can also be "a reasonable argument, fulfilling a legitimate function in an argumentative dialogue." Even in this context the definition of "fallacy" adopted is a fairly technical one: "A fallacy is to be understood as a particular type of argumentation tactic which can in some cases be used correctly to fulfill or advance legitimate goals of reasonable discussion, but is used in a particular case at issue as a systematic type of argumentation tactic to try to subvert the goal of the discussion and unfairly get the best of the other party." A general conclusion reached is that "the slippery slope argument is fallacious where it is used as a tactic to hinder or block a reasonable dialogue, in violation of the rules for the proper conduct of that type of dialogue." Or again, "...when a slippery slope argument phrases its conclusion in terms like `inevitable' or `can"t be stopped' or `must happen,' there are always strong grounds for suspecting that you are dealing with a fallacious case."
The central portion of the book is concerned with four major variations of slippery slope arguments. (1) It is argued that if some new step is taken, it will become a precedent for another step, which will in turn become a precedent, and so on to total disaster. This approach has been given the name of thin edge of the wedge, camel's nose in the tent, and foot in the door. (2) It is argued that once a process is started, the vagueness of key terms involved means that there is no cut-off point; this approach is called the "heap" argument (sorites), or the continuum argument. (3) It is argued that once a step is taken, it will cause a second step, which will then cause a third step and so on to disaster; this approach is called the domino argument, the snowball argument, or the genie in the bottle argument. (4) Finally there may be a full-scale slippery slope argument that combines all three of these variations as subarguments. It is characterized as
"a complex network of argumentation that involves eight component types of argument: (1) argument from gradualism, (2) argument from consequences, (3) practical reasoning, (4) argument from analogy, (5) argument from popular opinion, (6) argument from precedent, (7) causal argumentation, and (8) the sorites type of argumentation, which exploits vagueness."
In a final chapter on practical advice on tactics, the author gives six tactics to counter a slippery slope: (1) "Claim that the negative consequence won't really follow," (2) "cite the uncertainty of the future," (3) "modify the goal to eliminate the negative consequences," (4) "stress positive consequences, arguing that these outweigh the negative consequence," (5) "choose some alternative means of achieving the goal, one that does not have the negative consequence," and (6) "argue that not taking the action in question (or taking an opposed course of action) will have even worse negative consequences."
Finally, a major conclusion of the book is that "the textbooks can move towards a more balanced and adequate account of the slippery slope argument by recognizing more clearly that it is a technique of argumentation that can be used reasonably in some cases and unreasonably or improperly in other cases."
This is a specialized book that can serve as a valuable resource in a specialized area. It does not in itself deal with issues involving the interaction of science and Christian faith.
Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Material Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
BLACKWELL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MODERN CHRISTIAN THOUGHT by Agister E. McGrath (Ed.).
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1993. 701 pages. Hardcover.
The editor of this large book, Agister E. McGrath, is research lecturer at Oxford University and research professor at Regent College. He was assisted by nine consulting editors and 92 contributors of articles. The contributors are associated with some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Although there are no pictures, the book does have a substantial index and a diminutive glossary.
In the Introduction, the editor states that this compendium is intended to give the reader an authoritative, readable, and reliable reference source about the main features of modern Christian thought. Further, it aims to stimulate inform, and direct attention to other sources for further study. This it does by providing a brief bibliography at the conclusion of each article.
This book discusses the development of central themes of Christian thought, those topics which can be found in a systematic theology book. It also discusses such themes as political theory, aesthetics, ethics, music, and philosophy. Additionally, it covers topics of particular interest to readers of PSCF such as the impact of the sciences on Christian thought. There are major articles on the biological, physical, psychological and social sciences.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
BEGINNING: After COBE and Before the Big Bang by John Gribbin. Little, Brown and
Company, 1993. 255 pages, index, bibliog. Hardcover; $22.95.
John Gribbin may be familiar to science readers as the author of In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science, and more than 30 other books. His training in astrophysics at Cambridge provided him with his expertise and interest in astronomy and cosmology.
The springboard for this fascinating book is the interpretation of the data from the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite. Its mission was to determine the uniformity of the radiation discovered in the early 1960s by Penzias and Wilson. The existence of this radiation had given credence to the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. Refinements of the theory, however, showed that it could explain the existence of galaxies only if that background radiation exhibited fluctuations of 30 millionths of a degree from its 2.375 Kelvin temperature. The dramatic discovery by COBE in 1992 of these predicted ripples opened a new chapter in cosmological thought. Gribbin takes the opportunity in this book to be one of the first to explain the implications to laypeople.
Gribbin considers the COBE results to be the "third most significant cosmological discovery of the century" (p. 19), superseded only by the discovery of Hubble's law and the discovery of the background radiation. He believes that the data confirm the inflationary version of the Big Bang theory and that "we live inside a black hole" (p. 243). His major objective is to argue that our entire universe is a living entity.
To make this argument, Gribbin weaves a fact-filled tale of the universe. The first part reviews the theories of the origin of the universe and shows how the COBE results differentiate among them. The second part addresses the question "What is life?" It is an excellent summary of the latest views of chemical and biological evolution. He advocates the Gaia hypothesis first published by Jim Lovelock. The Gaia hypothesis, named after the Earth goddess, considers the entire planet Earth to be a single living organism. Gribbin's intent is to extend this concept to the entire universe. He describes the universe in the third part of the book. Here he presents examples of the "Goldilocks effect," the many amazing "coincidences" necessary for the universe and life itself to exist. He cites the energy levels of carbon-12 and oxygen-16, first publicized by Fred Hoyle, and the peculiar properties of water. Finally, in the last part of the book he argues that the universe is alive, not metaphorically but literally.
The significance of a living universe has several different aspects. First, from a scientific perspective, life refers to a complex set of interacting elements that exhibits behaviors such as reproduction, evolution, self-adjustment to the environment, etc. This provides a new and useful approach to studying and understanding the universe, but is independent of whether the term "life" is applied literally or metaphorically. A second implication is spiritual in nature and has been exploited by the New Age movement, not necessarily endorsed by Lovelock or Gribbin. A third aspect is one that Gribbin advocates. A living universe is one that he believes is evolving and that the evolutionary process explains the Goldilocks effects as well as the origin of the universe. Therefore "there is no longer any basis for invoking the supernatural" (p. 254).
Evolution requires a large population, variability within that population, and a means for selection among that variation. Gribbin argues that within every black hole (essentially infinite in number) there exists another universe where the laws of physics are reset with arbitrary constants and formulations. Selection occurs through the short lifetime or non-reproducing (i.e., failure to generate more black holes) character of most universes. Unfortunately for Gribbin and his hypothesis, the existence of universes of any kind in black holes can never, by definition, be detected. Such a theory appears to be outside the realm of testability.
Although ASA readers are not likely to agree with Gribbin's conclusions, they will undoubtedly be fascinated by a book full of facts and the latest theories in evolution and cosmology. Though somewhat unevenly written, as it contains numerous facts and oversimplified illustrations, this book is an important part of the library of anyone interested in cosmology. Now that Gribbin and others are plugging the last gaps in our understanding of the origin of the universe and sealing the fate of the "God of the Big Bang," it is important for us to proclaim the living God of the universe(s).
Randy Isaac, IBM Microelectronics Division, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
MEANING OF LIFE AT THE EDGE OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM by Leonard Swidler. New
York/Mahwah, N. J.: Paulist Press, 1992. 116 Pages. Paperback; $8.95.
Swidler wants a dialogue among world religions and ideologies. Under the heading "Semitic Religions" he groups Christianity, Judaism and Islam. He compares the "understandings" (basic ideas) of this group with Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and Marxist "understandings." Since the meaning of life is expressed differently in these religions and idealogies, Swidler uses unusual words to show what he sees as common ground. For example, when we say "God" Swidler says "Ultimate Reality," or "Ultimate Person."
The writer says that Christ was not Jesus' family name. People knew him as Rabbi Yeshua Ben-Yosep, or as Yeshua ha Notzri (the Nazarene). The writer hardly uses the name Jesus, but talks about Yeshua. He says that "Christ" is a religious/theological idea. Millions of Christians do not focus their attention on the source of Christianity, Yeshua. Instead, says Swidler, they concentrate their thinking on ideas, creeds, councils, the Pope, or the Bible, especially the New Testament. According to the writer, the "alleged" super-natural dimensions (miracles) of Yeshua are not helpful to the contemporary world. He calls them distractions when taken literally.
The Fall into sin is hardly mentioned, and consequently the central mission of Jesus is misunderstood. Instead we read:
"Yeshua's view of life is thoroughly optimistic. God has created all humans good. Though they may have wandered into one kind or another confusion, or even slavery, they can find their way back to a properly ordered life, to the AReign of God," wherein the laws God structured into humans are again followed." (p. 77)
The core of these laws are the two great commandments of Matthew 22:37-39. Swidler concludes that to love one's neighbor one must first love oneself. If we do that we can fulfil the first commandment. It seems that according to the writer we must first love self, then neighbors and only then are we able to love God. This is the wrong way around in the opinion of this reviewer. In 2 Tim. 3:2 we read that a sign of the distressing last times will be that people will be lovers of self.
Swidler notes that Greek philosophy had a great influence on Christianity. This, with the Roman legal system, was the foundation of modern western civilization. The idea of "soul" as used by most Christians came from the Greeks, and he applauds it. Other influences Swidler claims to be of the Greek origin he rejects. For example, the "Stoic" parts of the "deutero-Pauline" and "pseudo-Petrine" letters (for example, Ephesians 5:21-6:6; 1 Peter 2:13-14) are rejected. He does not try to understand these texts positively. It seems that Swidler only listens to Scripture if it suits him.
The writer does not discuss Protestant theologians. One wonders why "dialogue" with non-Christian religions would be more important than talking with Protestant Christians. The reading of this book leaves me dissatisfied. It seems that Swidler wants to unify all religions into one. He notes similarities and wants to build on them. He forgets sin and its consequences in personal and communal life.
When we now try to unify nations and faiths by using the power of dialogue instead of the power of proclamation, we will not unify the world in Christ. On the contrary, we are losing the significance of Jesus Christ who came to save sinners. I do not recommend this book if you want to study relationships of faith and science. The book may be of help if you want to know how Eastern religions have appeal to some "Christians."
Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, Box 168, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1J4 Canada.
SCIENCE AS WRITING by David Locke. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1992. 237 pages. Hardcover; $27.50.
The goal of this book is to convince the reader that the language of science is not a passive receptacle of content, but that it plays an active role and also reflects the idiosyncrasies of scientists. Therefore, the language of science should be treated very much as the language of literature, that is, it should be subject of the same analyses as the language of poetry and belles-lettres. To be sure, there are different ways these analyses can be made, and Locke discusses in his book six approaches to the analysis of the language of science. These approaches are representational theory, which sees a text as representing the world; expression theory, for which the text is an expression of inner life of its author; evocative theory, which sees the work as the evoker of the reader; art-object theory, for which the text is primarily an object of art; artifact theory, which analyzes the text in its social context; and instrumentalist theory, for which the text is basically a tool.
The author shows that representational theory is impossible (which after Kant is very much a platitude); that scientific texts are not devoid of the emotions and feelings of their writers, although they are to a much lesser extent than texts of literature; that "rhetorical considerations are, and should be, an important part of most, if not all, scientific discourse" (p. 89); that scientific papers are written in order to spur an interest; that scientific writing is cut-and-dry; that science is not free of social pressures, which is reflected in its choice of research topics and emphasis of some results.
In spite of his emphasis on language, Locke admits that in scientific writing there is something "out there," but that this something is always seen "through the medium of thought," and since thought "in large part, is thought in language," we are confined to language to the extent that "the world is the word" (p. 199). Hence, in the spirit of cognitive psychology, moral and aesthetic dimensions are disregarded as possible mediators between humans and reality; only a cognitive dimension is retained as the channel through which man can have contact with the world. But he claims even more. Since "the world is the word," all scientific changes "come about by operations on the language" (p. 175), and "it is always language that gives birth to a known reality." Thus, after discarding a representational view, Locke moves to the other extreme and sees language as a filter through which we can perceive reality. Language is our only mediator, the only means of acquiring knowledge. Not even Kant in his Copernican revolution claimed that much. "fter all, to him practical reason had priority over theoretical reason. In his insistence on the role of language in reporting scientific research and in explaining data, Locke gave it a predominant role in scientific reasoning, so that a scientist has no contact with reality, and science becomes a linguistic child play of concepts. Rules of scientific research are reduced to scientific rhetoric; rules of observation and experiment are replaced by rules of writing papers. Science is a game limited to language, and written documents are science (p. 204). Who would now find doing science appealing?
However, what is the nature of the language of science? As Locke disarmingly admits, "precisely what scientific language is, then, what its ultimate characteristics are, how it works in the last analysis, I will not claim to know" (p. 201). But the author has no doubts about its preeminence in our contact with reality.
The role of language is undeniably important in science, but Locke reduces science to language; in his combats with ascribing a sacrosanct position to science, he uses deconstructive reasoning, a philosophical fad of the day, and abolishes even a thought about absolutes as unseemly. There remains only de Saussurian glissement which Derrida so abundantly uses in his Of Grammatology. It is an ideology of a demolition man who sees in tearing things apart the way of revealing truth (if there is such).
This book is not free from factual errors, for example, swerving (paregklesis) was introduced by Epicurus, not Lucretius (p. 154); -on in photon is not unit (which is hen) (p.170); including Hume in the skeptical tradition is an overstatement (p. 171). Also, Locke's book is not free from verbosity: material for a large essay is stretched to the size of a book. His language is also stilted and pompous, thereby making easy reading difficult. The book, written in the spirit of deconstructionism, offers no new perspective (as deconstructionism itself does not), and even makes science look like a caricatural endeavor confined to language alone.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
ORIGINS OF LIFE by Freeman Dyson. Cambridge,
England: Cambridge University Press, 1985. 81 pages. Hardcover.
This book is a version of the Tarner Lectures given at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1985 and addresses some of the scientific and related philosophical questions surrounding the origin of life. It does not consider any of the theological or associated metaphysical issues pertaining to origins.
Dyson presents the hypothesis that life began twice, once with metabolising organisms based on protein structures, and on a second occasion with replicating organisms based on nucleic acids to produce a parasitic organism something akin to a bacteriophage. That is, the two main processes we see in living organisms today, replication and metabolism (to achieve homeostasis), represent two separate lines of evolution. Dyson favours this view of origins in part because it fits well with the views of Lynn Margulis that the main internal structures of eukaryotic cells did not originate within the cells but are descended from independent living organisms which at some point invaded the cells.
Dyson is concerned largely with the origin of the first living organisms and one is struck in reading the book with the fact that the greatest difficulties in developing a complete evolutionary theory come in getting to the first living organisms. The step from bacteria to humans is small compared to the step from non-living matter to the first bacterium-like organism.
The book is organized well and the author does not take himself too seriously, freely admitting the highly speculative nature of most of his ideas. Because of the mathematical modelling which it contains, and the speculative nature of the discussion, this book appears likely to be of most interest to specialists or to those with a particular interest in scientific theories of origins. However, the book is useful in providing a summary of some of the current views and hypotheses regarding the mechanisms of the origin of living organisms.
Reviewed by Steven R. Scadding, Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1.
UNIVERSE STORY: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to The Ecozoic Era, a Celebration of the
Unfolding of the Cosmos by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry. San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 1992. 305 pages, index, timeline, glossary, bibliography. Hardcover;
The Universe Story is a fascinating book. The authors tell how they see the history of the universe from the Big Bang, or "Flaring Forth," as they call it, to the next century. They concentrate on the beginnings of the universe, of the earth, of life, of plants, of animals and finally of man. They then tell about the development of human society from small hunting groups to the present society, and finally to the coming century. Because they tell a story, there are no footnotes. The bibliography provides, however, an insight into their sources.
In the Introduction the writers give their reason for writing:
"The historians, even when articulating world history, deal not with the whole world but just with the human, as if the human were something separate from or an addendum to the story of the Earth and the universe. The scientists have arrived at detailed accounts of the cosmos, but have focused exclusively on the physical dimensions and have ignored the human dimension of the universe. In this context we have fractured our educational system into its scientific and its humanistic aspects, as though they were somehow independent of each other."
When discussing objects, the writers stress that we must realize that to know the whole thing we need to analyze intellectually its component parts. But we cannot know the component parts without knowing their functioning in the unity of the whole. Only then do we learn the integral nature of whatever we are researching. That means that knowledge about the universe must include self-knowledge. We can no longer talk about an objective world out there. The writers warn against reductionism: trying to understand things by considering only one aspect of it.
This sounds familiar to anyone who is familiar with philosophy as taught by Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd. There is, however, a very big difference with the thoughts in the book under review. Vollenhoven stressed the hand of God in all that happens. The writers of the book under review talk about developments in the universe as if the older things create the newer things. They do not mean this in a materialistic way only. Chapter two ends: "The mind that searches for contact with the Milky Way is the very mind of the Milky Way galaxy in search of its inner depths."
Creative powers of life are, according to the writers, chance, choice and necessity. In their interpretation of the evolutionary story they go beyond the ordinary scientific accounts. They do not only accept natural selection and genetic mutation but also a third cause: conscious choice. The universe had from its beginning a self-organizing power.
Chapters eight through thirteen describe human history: from hunting and gathering groups, via neolithic village, classical civilizations (Near East, China, Meso-America, Cambodia, Israel, Greece), the rise of nations, the present time to the next century. Though the universe is evolving in an identifiable sequence of irreversible transformations, the writers want us to return to the mythic origins of the scientific venture.
Swimme and Berry warn us that the path of progress to the myth of Wonderland will lead us instead to Wasteland. Ever increased consumption is not possible with limited resources. They write in the last chapter: "to glory in a rising Gross Domestic Product with an irreversibly declining Gross Earth Product is an economic absurdity." And: "among the challenges that face governance in the human order is the relationship of national governments with each other, with particular reference at the present time to the more industrialized northern nations of the planet that are exploiting the less industrialized southern nations." This chapter contains more challengers. The writers call us back to the time when man lived with nature. It affects every area of life, just like our faith. Theirs is still a faith in a self sufficient creation, without a Creator.
Despite these facts I heartily recommend this (unChristian) book be studied. As Christians we should know the spirit of the time and listen to valid criticism of our way of life.
Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), Box 168, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont. M5S 1J4, Canada
KILLING, AND SUFFERING: Moral Vegetarianism and Applied Ethics by R.G. Frey.
Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1983. 256 pages, index. Hardcover.
This book addresses the question, "Is it morally wrong to eat meat?" It is essentially a study of the ethics of eating meat. Although the main focus is on the use of animals as food, much of the discussion and reasoning is equally relevant to other uses of animals such as in scientific research. The author is a Senior Lecturer in philosophy at the University of Liverpool and his perspective is that of moral philosopher. The book is an essay in practical ethics and is not written from a Christian viewpoint.
Frey examines the arguments which have been presented against eating meat. He identifies three basic arguments: those based on the claim that animals have certain rights which are violated; those which claim that it is wrong to kill animals; and those which claim that raising animals for meat involves pain and suffering which renders use of animals in this way unacceptable. In each case, Frey examines the nature of the arguments presented and finds them wanting. He suggests that arguments based on human responsibility for right behavior are more cogent.
Frey criticises the claim that animals have rights. He points out the difficulty of establishing the grounds for such rights which often seem to be based on intuition, self-evidence, obviousness, and appeals to "natural law." He suggests that appeals to rights are superfluous in ethics: that if we have a well developed notion of right and wrong that is all we need in order to decide how to act. We cannot argue about rights with any degree of finality because we have no method for agreeing on how rights are to be established. Frey also argues that rights get in the way of the real issue (how shall we act) by focusing attention on speculative and abstract rights claims.
Rights, incidentally, have played very little role in Christian ethical thinking. Christians are enjoined to act in certain ways because God would act in those ways and we are to emulate God (e.g. "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 1 Peter 1:16 RSV, quoting Lev. 11:45; or "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7 RSV) or because God has directed us to act in certain ways: "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12 RSV.
Frey goes on to examine the claim that it is wrong to kill animals. He points out the difficulty of demonstrating this claim and reaching agreement, since we cannot even reach agreement on the taking of human life, as the debates on abortion, euthanasia, or capital punishment demonstrate. Our views regarding the killing of animals will depend on our views on the value of life and in particular on the relative values that we place on human versus animal life. Frey argues that basing ethical decisions on the value of animals (or other aspects of nature) are fraught with difficulties, since even if we agree that animals or other natural things) have inherent value, it is not obvious that this leads to any particular moral imperatives.
The orthodox Christian view on the value of life is that animal life (and even plant life and inanimate matter) has value in God's eyes, but human life has much greater value ("Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's will. But even the hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31). The value of God's creation is vividly presented in the creation account of Genesis 1 in which God looked at the various parts of his creation and declared that it was very good ("And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." Genesis 1:31 RSV).
The argument that the suffering of animals is grounds for vegetarianism is based on the observation that animals can and do feel pain, and on the claim that pain is an evil which must be eliminated, or at least justified. Frey suggests that the weakness of this argument is that if one removes the pain and suffering in objectionable animal husbandry practices, then one removes this grounds for vegetarianism. Clearly some methods of raising animals for food cause pain and suffering (e.g. e.g. confinement rearing of veal calves) which many people (meat eaters included) would like to see changed. However, this does not provide an adequate basis for the abolition of meat eating where there is no evidence of animal pain.
This book is well written, easy to read, and develops a cogent argument. The ethical force of the book is somewhat blunted however, since there is an implicit assumption that if there is a compelling argument in favour of a particular course of action, that people will follow it. I suspect that most people are less rational and more driven by their desires and emotions than Frey would like. Overall, however, I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in the ethical issues pertaining to animal rights, human use of animals, and vegetarianism.
Reviewed by Steven R. Scadding, Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1.