June 1995 Book Reviews
THE CREATOR AND THE COSMOS: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century
Reveal God by Hugh Ross. Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1993. 155 pages,
notes, indices. Paperback.
Hugh Ross received his Ph.D. in astronomy, carried out research on quasars and galaxies as a post-doctoral fellow, served as church minister of evangelism, and currently directs Reasons To Believe providing "research and teaching on the harmony of God's revelation in the words of the Bible and in the facts of nature."
Every committed Christian must rejoice at an attempt to shatter the common modern myth that science has made Christian faith meaningless, and that, to the contrary, the description of the universe developed by modern scientists provides consistent evidence for a faith in the God of the Bible and his activity in the universe. Much of the material presented in this book is excellent and makes a good source for sharing, teaching, and encouraging understanding of modern scientific descriptions. It can be profitably used (carefully) in evangelical apologetics.
Unfortunately, however, the author often follows a somewhat questionable approach in his eagerness to be convincing. Central to these problems is the general failure to recognize that the position that God is not properly taken to be a mechanism in scientific descriptions in no way contradicts the position that scientific descriptions are our ways of picturing God's activity. This misunderstanding characterizes a large portion of the evangelical critique today. The author repeatedly insists that we must choose between "strictly" natural processes, and the direct non-scientifically describable acts of God (pp. 102-103); he apparently has little place for the category of scientifically-describable processes as our description of God's activity. He accentuates the dilemma by drawing a false distinction specifically, "A second response is that to believe in creation by God is not to claim that all the development in organisms is strictly divine. In addition to divine intervention, natural processes are obviously at work to change, at least to some degree, the form and function of organisms" (p. 104). Does he really wish us to believe that those things occurring by "natural processes" are happening without God?
"If the universe arose out of a big bang, it must have had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it must have a Beginner" (p. 14). This historic argument is consistent with a faith in God, but it is not itself logically demanding without a faith in God. Or again, "... the six discoveries provide overwhelming evidence that astronomers and astrophysicists are on the light track in determining that a hot big bang model best describes how the universe came to be and in concluding that God is the power and intelligence behind it all" (p. 33).
Commenting on Genesis 1, he writes, "Here was a journal-like record of the earth's initial conditions correctly described from the standpoint of astrophysics and geophysics followed by a summary of the sequence of changes through which Earth came to be inhabited by living things and ultimately by humans. The account was simple, elegant, and scientifically accurate" (p. 15). The insistence that the Bible gives us accurate scientific knowledge, in spite of the fact that this was not the purpose of its writing, leads to a whole host of well-known problems. In another place he writes, "The space-time theorem of general relativity leads not just to a theistic conclusion but specifically to the God of the Bible" (p. 71). Or again, "General relativity and the big bang lead to only one possible conclusion: a Creator matching the description of Jesus Christ" (p. 74).
The author has a fascination with large powers of ten and quasi-probabilities. Very early in the book, he tells how he mathematically determined that the Bible was more reliable than the laws of physics, by showing that the Second Law of Thermodynamics had one chance in 10 to the 80 power of being wrong whereas the probability of a chance fulfillment of thirteen Biblical prophecies was only one in 10 to the 138 power, thus showing that the Bible was 10 to the 58 times more reliable than thermodynamics. Again he tells us that, "If one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10 to the 100,000,000,000 power. It is well known that there are at least two major problems with this kind of reasoning at its best: (1) calculations based on uninformed chance alone easily overlook many factors that greatly increase the probability of "improbable" events, and (2) calculations based on uninformed chance can be used to show that the occuance of any particular event to any particular person in any particular place at any particular time is ridiculously improbable even though it happens all the time.
The terms "evidence" and "proof" are carelessly interchanged, claims are made that exceed the evidence, and poetry replaces factual description. "By 1986, several breakthrough discoveries uncovered proofs for the God of the Bible.... Secular scientists have reported to the media that these new findings reveal the face of God more clearly than ever" (p. 17). "No society has seen as much proof for God as ours" (p. 87).
The author repeatedly speaks of the concept of "physical law" as something that causes things to happen, rather than recognizing that a "physical law" is a human description of what is observed; e.g., "the laws of thermodynamics compel the maximum diameter of the universe to increase from cycle to cycle" (p. 59). For the Christian, natural law is a human description of God's activity in the universe. Or again, "Nothing in the physical world can be trusted to exist if we reject the physical laws" (p. 66); and, "Lerner notes that the laws of nature cannot explain the amazing advance in complexity of living organisms that has taken place on Earth over the past four billion years. He acknowledges that this advance stands in violation of the second law of thermodynamics" (p. 65). This issue has been debated and settled many times before by recognizing that if the second law of thermodynamics is an accurate description of everything in our universe, it applies specifically only to a closed system which the developing earth, with input of energy from the sun, was not.
It is truly unfortunate that so many misunderstandings should obscure what is in itself the totally desirable task of indicating the evidences provided by science that are consistent with the revelation of God of Himself in the Bible. The dangers implicit in this kind of approach, that so closely identifies the most current scientific models with the truth of God's universe and revelation, is that it leaves the most basic issues at the mercy of unknown changes in our scientific descriptions in the future. Today it may look as if certain current scientific descriptions are totally consistent with a particular Biblical view; what happens tomorrow if those scientific descriptions change?
Reviewed by Richard H. Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, California 34305.
THROUGH A UNIVERSE DARKLY by
Marcia Bartusiak. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993. 383 + xvi pages, bibliography,
From its beginning in speculation about the composition of the universe among Ionian philosophers, two threads intertwine in this account: what is matter made of at its most basic level, and how is the matter of the universe arranged on the largest scale? Those two questions gave rise eventually to today's particle physics and cosmology. The realization that those branches of physics are closely connected, that particle theory and the big bang model can inform one another, is a major part of Bartusiak's account. The early history, to 1800, is told quickly. From that point the story takes a more leisurely pace, with insights into the personalities involved in scientific developments.
Several scientists in the history of this search are women: astronomy was open to their participation before other sciences, though even here they were hindered by prejudice. Cecelia Payne (later Payne-Gaposchkin), whose work showed that hydrogen was the predominant element in stars, and Vera Rubin, whose studies of the rotation of galaxies revealed that they contain a considerable amount of non-luminous matter, are only two of the women in the story. But the young Payne, coming up against the ideas of giants like Shapley, Eddington, and Russell, was not the first scientist to back away from a discovery because it went against then-current wisdom.
Detection of interstellar molecules, studies of elusive neutrinos, excursions into the possible inflationary phase of the first fraction of a second of cosmic history, and demonstration of the "foamy" distribution of galaxies throughout the universe, are a few topics which Bartusiak explores. A search for enough matter to make the dynamics of galaxies or clusters work properly might be only of academic interest, but that matter would also make a crucial difference for the dynamics of the entire universe, determining whether the present cosmic expansion will continue forever or eventually be reversed. At least as far as science is concerned, "the fate of the universe" really is in the balance.
The book is written well enough that lay readers will be disappointed, but still feel that their journey has been worthwhile, on finding at the end that the question of dark matter has not yet been resolved. It may be brown dwarfs, massive neutrinos, as-yet purely theoretical particles such as axions, or some combination thereof. The author has simply brought the reader to the current state of uncertainty in scientific cosmology.
The presentation is not perfect. Copernicus did not eliminate all epicycles (p. 346), and Milgrom's theory (pp. 213-214) involves modification of Newton's second law of motion, not his law of gravitation. But given the scope of the subject, there are relatively few such inaccuracies.
Readers of this journal will be interested in the implications which the dark matter quest might have for science-theology dialogue. In one way it is to the author's credit that she does not deal with such questions. Too many writers of popular works on scientific cosmology have felt automatically entitled to pronounce on religion. Those who are interested in theological matters will find some stimulus here: How thoroughly do we really know the universe, how much confidence can we have in our present cosmological theories, and what will be the final state of the physical universe? Through a Universe Darkly does a good job of providing the scientific background for such questions.
Reviewed by George L. Murphy, Pastor, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Tallmadge OH 44278.
THE LEFT HAND OF CREATION: The Origin and Evolution of The Expanding Universe by
John D. Barrow and Joseph Silk. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993 (revised).
262 pages, glossary, index. Paperback; $10.95.
In light of recent developments in cosmology, two well-known astronomy professors have updated their ten-year-old book, The Left Hand of Creation Oxford's John Barrow, author of World Within a World and co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, and Berkeley's Joseph Silk, author of The Big Bang: The Creation and Evolution of the Universe. The book is a fine introduction to cosmology for the serious-minded nonspecialist, including helpful charts, illustrations, glossary, and (a sometimes inaccurate) index. It is an improvement on Hawking's A Brief History of Time in scope but not simplicity. It lucidly explores quantum theory, vacuum fluctuations, black holes, and much more at an almost-dizzying pace.
What is the "left hand of creation?" It refers to the "tiny, fortuitous breaches of complete symmetry" in the universe (229); these breaches are "the cogs of a glittering mechanism at the center of things, and one of the reasons our very existence is possible" (xxiv). As one reads the book, one is struck by the perpetual reminders of the delicately-balanced nature of the cosmos: "In many respects the universe is tailor-made for life" (227); "he universe is a surprisingly complex place" (26). Despite the non-theistic outlook of the authors, they inadvertently demonstrate the high plausibility of the Design hypothesis. At one point they admit, "Our new picture [of the universe] is more akin to the traditional metaphysical picture of creation out of nothing" (38).
The book is broken down into six chapters. Chapter one, "Cosmos," establishes a case for the universe's antiquity (about 15 billion years) and the Big Bang's validity. The second chapter, "Origins," attempts to get as close as possible to the nature of the elusive initial singularity of Ainfinite density"Cwhatever that meansCalthough present theories break down before the Planck moment. Chapter three, "Creation," sets out the basic nature of particle physics as it relates to the universe's origin and evolution as well as that of the four forces weak, strong, electromagnetic, and gravitationalCand their interrelationship (or lack thereof) as the hot universe began to cool. Given the higher temperature of the universe's early moments, matter behaved differently than it does presently. The fourth chapter, "Evolution," analyzes the origin and structure of galaxies. Chapter five, "Chaos and Cosmos," discusses issues surrounding the isotropic expansion of the universe, time, the universe's horizon, and the Anthropic principle.
My primary concern is to address the metaphysical issues the book raises especially in the sixth chapter, "Conclusions and Conundrums." What becomes clear through one's reading is the very uncomfortable position in which the secular astrophysicist finds himself in light of the universe's emergence out of nothing and its astonishing life-permitting conditions. Fortunately, this book makes fewer metaphysical extrapolations than in, say, Tipler's earlier World Within a World or The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, given the previous lack of philosophical rigor in argumentation (such as the arbitrary rejection of the teleological argument or the notion that the universe itself could be the uncaused cause).
The authors claim, "Unlike philosophers and writers, scientists have no reason for political or emotional attachment to their theories" (223), which makes one wonder why someone like Tipler seems so opposed to the intelligible alternative of a divine Designer (in his World Within a World) but then elsewhere posits as plausible the utterly bizarre "Omega Point," toward which the entire animate and inanimate universe is evolvingCwith self-replicating robots living on in the place of extinct humans.
Another subtle potshot at theism is the authors' remark, "The question of the precise identity of any such Grand Designer has always been a problem for any advocate of a cosmological design argument" (229). But Tipler and Silk seem to be using an inept metaphysical escape hatch to avoid the universe's theistic implications. The teleological argument only attempts to show that one Designer (according to Ockham's razor) who is powerful (not necessarily omnipotent) and intelligent can be reasonably inferred from the observable data of the universe, which is in keeping with biblical theism. There seems to be no good reason why our universe's being "unexpectedly hospitable to life" (227) does not permit one to conclude that the existence of a Creator and Designer is rational and credible.
These metaphysical incidentals, however, should not significantly detract from the book's informative discussion about cosmology.
Reviewed by Paul Copan, First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 6, Schenectady, NY 12301.
A CENTURY OF BIBLICAL
ARCHAEOLOGY by P. R. S. Moorey. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991.
xvii + 189 pages, indexes. Paperback; $14.99.
The legitimacy of biblical archaeology as a field of study has been under severe attack. At times one wonders which side Moorey is on. At the end he does provide at least some hints of a future for the discipline, along with viewpoints of some contemporary archaeologists that could be used for a defense of sorts. After he has lamented the influence of the Judeo-Christian faith on archaeology throughout most of the book, however, one is left wishing that he had devoted even a few paragraphs to discussing the value a biblical background might have for the archaeology of Palestine, if, indeed, he sees any value. While Moorey nowhere explicitly treats his idea of the direction that biblical archaeology should take, he does provide succinct and thoughtful evaluations of individual contributions and the advantages and disadvantages of various excavation and interpretation techniques. Furthermore, Moorey admits his bias (he is an archaeologist rather than a theologian), observing only that maybe that's not so bad since Abiblical" is only an adjective qualifying archaeology.
Moorey presents the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, schools, and methodologies within an evaluative history of the development of biblical archaeology as an interdisciplinary field relating primarily to the Old Testament since 1800. Very little is included for the New Testament, because only recently has archaeology been applied in any substantive way to the NT, according to Moorey.
The strictly period by period chronological format is good for the history of archaeology, but it is bad for understanding the sites involved. When the interpretations of a site during one period are radically reinterpreted in the next period, one may have to wait for the next chapter to find out. However, the indexes of personal names and of place names will greatly facilitate obtaining an overview of one specific site or person.
The most irritating aspect of the book is the very regretful tones in which the biblical orientation of virtually all but the most recent archaeologists is cited. The recent ones are considered superior for not having any. Breasted, among the pioneers, is praised as a "remarkable exception in advance of his time" (p. 51) because of his lack of biblical orientation. To be fair to Moorey, the sins of the "proving the Bible" enthusiasts are many and flagrant, all too often in the same category as the Paluxy "huma" footprints among the dinosaur tracks fiasco. In spite of the problems with the "biblical bias," however, one must wonder if he has ever considered the problems occasioned by the present secular bias that we see seeping in everywhere. He gives us no indication of such an awareness. Late in the book, Moorey does provide us with the views of recent scholars supporting a difference in purpose between the Bible and archaeology and a difference in types of evidence that each presents. Nevertheless, it is surely not unfair to suggest that this evaluative history is a bit incomplete without at least a brief concluding chapter discussing the relationship between the Bible and archaeology and how the two might be melded into a legitimate discipline called biblical archaeology.
Moorey has been in the thick of archaeological activity in the Holy Land and is well positioned to write a survey such as this. He is President of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and author of several books on the subject, including a collaboration with Kathleen Kenyon on The Bible and Recent Archaeology.
A Century of Biblical Archaeology is well designed, with a rudimentary chronological table from 4,000 B.C. to the Roman Empire, three site maps, an "Index of Personal Names" and an "Index of Places." The "Brief Glossary" is, indeed, brief; but it will be valuable to those new to archaeology. The end notes and the "Select Bibliography" will give novices a start into the literature.
It is difficult to present a chronological history of archaeology that is not as dry as the dust of Palestine and as boring as reading the telephone book. However, Moorey succeeded admirably. The prose is accessible to educated people and the explanations, comments, and evaluations make it interesting and understandable.
All in all, this is an excellent book to peruse before beginning a detailed study of archaeology related to any part of the Bible. I would also recommend it to any student of the Bible who lacks a basic understanding of archaeology and its problems. It could have prevented some of the pain I have felt while listening to many a sermon. While Moorey's unquestioning acceptance of some of the prevailing interpretations, such as those of the Jericho digs, will cause problems for conservatives, all can profit from his book.
Reviewed by Eugene O. Bowser, Reference Librarian, The James A. Michener Library, The University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO 80631.
GREAT ESSAYS IN SCIENCE by Martin
Gardner, Ed. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1994. 427 pages. Paperback, $16.95.
The purpose of writing Great Essays in Science, according to the author, is "to spread before the reader, whether his or her interest be passionate or mild, a sumptuous feast of great writing absorbing, thought provoking pieces that have something to say about science and say it forcibly and well." As the title implies, Gardner has assembled excerpts of works from a broad spectrum of philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals. The sources from which Gardner draws these essays are varied, including chapters of books, excerpts of fiction, lectures, biographies, and articles. There are 34 essays of uneven length ranging from a couple of pages to over twenty pages. Each article is prefaced by a short introduction to the author providing the necessary context for the reader.
A few of the articles are essentially instructive. Albert Einstein provides a lucid explanation of his famous equation, in "E = mc to the 2 power." Jean Henri Fabre enthusiastically takes us into the world of insects through his anthropomorphically infested discussion of the sacred scarab in "The Sacred Beetle." Most of the essays, however, are devoted to examining science from political, philosophic, literary, and theological perspectives. Stephen Jay Gould undercuts any natural theology that attempts to deduce the Divine from an ethical analysis of the animal kingdom in "Nonmoral Nature" by describing the grisly practice of the ichneumon fly. The ichneumons plant their larvae into a living host, usually a caterpillar, after they have paralyzed their hapless victim. The larvae then proceed to eat their host from the inside out. Alfred North Whitehead, on the other hand, stresses the necessity of mutual dialogue and cooperation between theology and science in "Religion and Science." Whitehead examines the evolution of science and theology in history and concludes that their mutual interplay and tension are opportunities for synthesis and advancement rather than an unbridgeable chasm. From a political perspective, scientists receive a scathing critique by the philosopher Jose Ortega Y Gasset who denounces the technician's smug confidence in his scientific understanding as a general basis for knowledge in the "Barbarism of Specialization." The future of our technologically driven society is seen from the cynical gaze of Aldous Huxley in an excerpt from his book Brave New World. On a more positive note, Isaac Asimov reasserts the aesthetic appeal of scientific knowledge over the naive objections of Walt Whitman in "Science and Beauty." Laura Ferrni gives a fascinating, personal portrait of her husband as he leads a team in testing the first nuclear reaction in "Success."
The diversity among the essays represents both the book's greatest strength and weakness. The breadth of viewpoints is refreshing and challenging. However, the quality and relevancy of selections are uneven, thus diluting the collective impact of the essays. It seems that Gardner could have found more material from individuals who have had a significant impact on science and have successfully communicated their work to the general public. In particular, none of the pioneers of quantum physics, save Einstein, are represented, such as Heisenberg, Bohr, or Schroedinger, in spite of the fact that all of them have written important accessible works on science and its relationship to other areas of intellectual endeavor. Nevertheless, Great Essays in Science should leave readers with a panoramic view of the scientific landscape that should prove to be intriguing and rewarding.
Reviewed by Kevin W. Bowman, Phd. candidate, Center for Optical Science and Engineering, Georgia lnstitute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, e-mail: email@example.com
REALITY, AND THE SACRED: The Nexus of Science and Religion by Langdon Gilkey.
Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 1993. 204 pages, notes, bibliography, index.
Written by the well-known author Langdon Gilkey, Professor Emeritus of Theology at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, this book presents an erudite examination of issues at the intersection of science, theology, and nature. It is the result of a collection of earlier course lectures, addresses, and papers. Perhaps because of this origin, there appears to be a higher number of repetitive treatments than in a typical book.
The book starts with the balanced perspective, "A purely `religious' apprehension of nature, void of any influence of the scientific understanding of nature, is indefensible. ... A purely `scientific' apprehension of nature, void of any influence of the religious understanding of nature, is equally indefensible" (p. 1 ). It concludes in a similar way: "To know nature truly is to know its mystery, its depth, and its ultimate value it is to know nature as an image of the sacred, a visible sign of an invisible grace" (p. 204). The book is presented in 13 chapters corresponding to three major sections: "Reality, Science, and Religion," A Nature, Science, and Religion," and "Nature and the Sacred." Because of the high density and elaborate prose of its presentation, it is a book to be studied carefully in small doses, not to be read through casually in recreational reading. The themes that course through this book, therefore, concern nature; the scientific knowledge of nature; and religious, especially archaic religious, apprehensions or intuitions of nature" (p. 2). The second part of this statement reveals that a major thrust of the book is a comparison of a view of nature derived from modern science with the corresponding view of nature set forth in "primal religions." It is not, therefore, explicitly a comparison of a scientific view of nature and a view of nature based on Christian theology. Positive aspects of the book are its careful avoidance of extremes into either scientism or theology-dictated"science," and its advocacy of critical realism as a viable scientific position.
Some of the main thrusts of the book can best be illustrated by direct quotations from the text itself.
"The most important conclusion of this discussion is that world and mind are inextricably correlated or mutually dependent. World does not originate from mind, as idealism had stated; by the same token, however, the world as it is known by science is not independent of mind C a se so to speak but is itself in part a product of mind (p. 67)."
"This book assumes ways other than empirical science of knowing what is real: through interior self-awareness, through personal and communal awareness of the other, and through intuitions of external reality that are much wider and deeper than either sensory experience or inquiry based on sensory experience (p. 86)."
"My hope is that even though modern humans are participants in a scientific understanding of nature, we may learn from the archaic religions and through them enrich and expand our own modern understanding of nature (p. 102)."
"God is, therefore, the name for that unlimited reality spanning the entire ordered past and the entire open future, uniting into an ongoing order achieved actuality, on the one hand, with the open possibilities of the novel future, on the other; uniting destiny from the past with freedom in and for the future (p. 203)."
These quotations illustrate the character of the text: picturesque words artistically arranged. Some of these statements can be agreed with immediately, some might be understandable as poetic statements rather than cognitive propositions, and still others may seem incapable of full integration into an authentic Christian science and theology. Students of these issues should be aware of what this book claims and why.
Reviewed by Richard Bube, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
FOUNDED ON THE FLOODS by S. Hugh
Paine. Walnut, CA: Productions Plus, 1993. 150 pages. Paperback; $18.00.
Paine majored in math and physics at Wheaton College and did his graduate study at the University of Chicago. After working for several years as a process metallurgist at Bell Aircraft he returned to the University o Chicago where he became a senior metallurgist at Argonne National Laboratory. There he spent fifteen years studying radiation damage to metals related to nuclear reactors. In 1960 Professor Paine became head of the physics department at Houghton College where his brother, Stephen Paine, served as president. He taught physics and earth science and began a serious study of Hebrew, until his retirement in 1976. The study of Hebrew was to gain an understanding with a sure translation basis of the critical passages of Genesis. Professor Paine recalls in the book's introduction, "My introduction to the Gap theory, however, came through an intriguing volume from Dad's uncle's library, Pember"s Earth's Earliest Ages (a volume I still treasure), which gave me my first taste of the Gap theory." He taught the Gap-Flood theory in essentially the form printed in this book for about ten years before his retirement.
At the urging of family, friends, and former students, Professor Paine has reluctantly agreed to record the insights he has gained from his extensive studies of the Bible, with special emphasis on Genesis, and from his teaching involvement with the earth sciences, particularly geology, for the understanding of the events of creation. In his words: "My situation is somewhat similar to that of Copernicus, who did not dare publish his work for fear of reprisals. Near to the time of his death his friends took a hand in the matter. In the same way, my 'friends' are urging me to publish my studies of Genesis" (p. 23).
A reading of Founded on the Floods reveals several guiding principles which were very important in shaping Professor Paine's views of origins. I understand several of these as follows:
1. He is convinced that the Bible deals with realities, not myth or fantasy; however, at times figurative language is used. In short the Bible is the record of God's historic dealings with mankind and the Bible says what it means. Professor Paine has made an intensive study of the Hebrew language to better understand that record.
2. He believes that the verified findings of the physical sciences are to be accepted if one is really interested in finding the truth.
3. He finds the "theory of naturalistic biological evolution cannot honestly be called anything but a faulted hypothesis."
4. What we believe about Creation really does matter because it affects what we believe about the Bible and about God himself.
After a Prologue the book has two main parts; "The Bible as the Ultimate Source" (50 pages) and "Science as a Reliable Source" (45 pages). These are followed by an Epilogue, 3 brief Appendices and a Postscript. "The Bible: Ultimate Source," obviously a study of Genesis, includes interesting sections such as "Difficulties in Translating Scripture," "Language Gaps and Discriminating Figurative and Literal." Professor Paine's thesis is that we must be very careful in interpreting clear statements of God's inspired Word as figurative. Further, we should not depend on English versions or commentaries but should do the hard work of reading the original language. This part of the book concludes with a discussion of Noah's flood as universal and placid.
AScience: Reliable Source" presents Professor Paine's applications of the scientific method to creation theories. He favors the Gap-Flood theory because "it is in complete harmony both with what the Bible says and the verified findings of Science." This section includes flood tectonics, age of earth and universe, the standard geologic column, and pre-Adamic hominids.
This book is important to me, not so much for its clear presentation of the Gap-Flood theory but because it represents one man's life-long search to understand God through his revealed word by study in the original language and through his creation by application of the scientific method. I close with another thought from this book: "What we believe about the Bible influences what we believe about creation, and what we believe about creation influences what we believe about the Bible. It has to be that way."
Reviewed by Bernard J. Piersma, Professor of Chemistry, Houghton College, Houghton, NY 14744
ORIGINS OF LIFE, The
Central Concepts by David W. Deamer and Gail R. Fleischaker, Eds. Boston, Jones
and Bartlett Publishers, 1994. 431 pages, bibliography, index of authors cited. Paperback.
In the Foreword we read: "This volume is intended to provide an overview of the multidisciplinary approach that is now applied to the origins-of-life problem. Here you will find a smorgasbord of ideas: planetary accretion, impacting comets and asteroids, deep-sea hydrothermal vents, self-replicating polymers, the RNA world, and more." The editors note in the introductory section that we have "a modest level of confidence" in statements about the age of the universe and solar system. The fact is, they say, that we can only arrive at these conclusions by using deductive logic. The foundations are uncomfortably thin. Investigators often rely on "plausible" arguments using the principles of continuity, ubiquity, and robustness. Thus warned, we notice how often the words "assume," "probable," "believed," etc., appear. The writers realize that we do not know how many facts are connected. Even when selecting facts, the scientist shows a bias. Being aware of these biases makes reading this book interesting. However, the selected articles are often very technical.
Forty-six papers, published between 1908 and 1992 are reprinted in five sections: The Early-Earth Environment, Prebiotic Chemistry, Self-assembly of supramolecular systems, Energetics of life's origins, and Bioinformational molecules. Only four papers are from before 1940, forty are from later than 1950. To limit the size of the book, papers about molecular evolution, origin of the genetic code, and antiquity of life (fossils, models based on metabolic pathways and/or molecular sequence comparisons) are not included.
Included in the book is a 1929 article of J. B. S. Haldane. He tells something about the early history of scientific research. He writes that the Church was captured in the third and fourth century by a group of very inferior Greek philosophers. Since that day, views of the relation between mind and body, which Paul did not hold, have retarded the progress of science. Not only do these Greek concepts hamper science, they are dangerous for the faith of Christian scientists, some theologians say. Haldane ends his article, saying that the biochemist knows no more, and no less, about the question than anyone else.
The book is a technical book and will mainly be of interest to scientists or historians of science who work in one of the fields covered in this book. As the book consists of reprints, the letter types used in the book vary from large to very small.
Reviewed by Jan de Koning, Instructor of Mathematics, Box 168, St. Michael's College (University of Toronto), 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ont., M5S 1J4, Canada.
ON THE NEW
FRONTIERS OF GENETICS AND RELIGION by J. Robert Nelson. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1994. xii + 212 pages, index. Paperback, $12.99.
Books of this type are certainly needed. I am sure that members of this affiliation join me in hoping that non-members will read books like this, and think seriously about religious questions associated with genetics. This is what the author had in mind. We, and the author, would certainly hope that some of the readership would be practicing geneticists.
Unfortunately, anyone who knows anything about genetics, and bothers to read the "I already know this part" section in the front is going to be seriously put off. I quote one of the most glaring reasons:
... this DNA was not proved to be the substance of genes, however, until 1943, by Sewell Wright and colleagues.... During the first decades of the twentieth century, a succession of ingenious, patient, persistent scientists endeavored to prove the chemical processes which account for physical inheritance. They worked with simple organisms such as viruses, bacteria, and fruit flies to learn how cells grow and reproduce. Among the leaders of research were T. H. Morgan, Herman J. Muller, Sewell Wright, Walter Beale, Max Delbruck, Salvador Luria, and Barbara McClintock. (p. 3)
In the first place, the late Sewall (my spelling is correct) Wright, though a prominent geneticist, made no contribution to proving that DNA was the substance of genes. In the second place, the organisms of choice for Wright and McClintock were not any of the simple ones indicated. In the third place, I think I know something about the history of genetics, and I have no idea who Walter Beale was. The name does not occur in the indexes of two genetics texts which have a strong historical emphasis. My guess is that this is a gross misrendering of George Beadle, but I'm not sure. In the fourth place, I don't know what "prove the chemical processes" means, and I am not at all sure that the worthies listed were explicitly working on chemical processes at all. Rather, they were doing the necessary preliminary groundwork of characterizing genes, linkage groups, and genetic mechanisms.
The messengers are RNA or ribonucleic acid units, which are sent on a one-way only track from particular genes on DNA fragments in the pairs of twenty-three chromosomes plus X or Y sex chromosomes. Francis Crick had perceived this mechanism even before it was demonstrated in 1960 by the work of two French geneticists, Jacques Monod and Edmund Jacob, and by a young American, Marshall Nirenberg (p. 6).
This is another real howler. The twenty-three pairs of chromosomes include the sex chromosomes. Any normal males reading this don't have X or Y, but X and Y sex chromosomes. AOne-way only track" excludes reverse transcription, which is, of course, very important experimentally, and also is used by the retroviruses, including the AIDS virus. What Monod, Fran┴ois Jacob (again, Nelson made up a scientist), and Nirenberg are noted for is important, but it is not the explanation of how messenger RNA works.
What is a geneticist reading such a mish-mash to think? My own conclusion is that I am going to be very careful about anything else Nelson writes. If he is so ignorant about the history and mechanisms of genetics, he may be just as ignorant about what Roman Catholics or Hindus believe about genetic engineering, and I have no easy way of checking. It is hard to imagine a geneticist going beyond the sixth page except for laughs.
What would our hypothetical geneticist find, upon reading past Chapter One, "The Frontier of Genetics?" She would find a book based, it says, largely upon two national conferences on AGenetics, Religion and Ethics," held in Houston in 1990 and 1992. These were funded by Human Genome Organization (HUGO) funds. C. Thomas Caskey, president of HUGO, was principal investigator, and the author was program director. Caskey wrote a brief Foreword, which begins "Veracity and accuracy are ideals of good science and good medicine" (viii). Indeed! I was unable to find a statement, by Caskey, Nelson, or Eerdmans, that this book is the official proceedings of these conferences, nor any reference to such a work. However, there are numerous references to the conferences, and quite a bit of the book was written by conferees, apparently. The book states that the ASA gave an endorsement of the conferences. Our hypothetical geneticist would find an introductory chapter; a chapter on genetic advances in medicine, including discussion of diagnosis, counseling, and prevention and treatment; one on social issues, with the inclusion of thinking about female perspectives and the question of the danger of knowing too much; one on human nature, and the possibility of changing it; one on personal religious positions; and one analyzing the official statements of religious bodies.
Chapter One lists six areas that religious thinkers should pay attention to: human diversity; genetic engineering; counseling and education; genetic screening; pregnancy termination; and public policy and legislation. The author includes concern about the female perspective under human diversity. I would include it as a separate issue, or place it in the last area. I have no serious quarrel with Nelson's list. However, readers looking for guidance about how to go about considering these issues will be disappointed. Has God spoken about any of them? Are there biblical principles, or historical Christian positions, upon which our reactions should be based? Nelson doesn't say.
The chapter on genetic advances in medicine has a fairly long treatment of counseling. Among other matters, Nelson points out that religious views are important to many persons being counseled for genetic reasons, but that counselors from the medical professions are ignorant of religious views, or reluctant to discuss them. On the other hand, most pastors and other religious counselors are woefully ignorant of genetics.
Some readers may wonder about the inclusion of specifically feminine concerns. However, Nelson points out that the burden of reproduction is on females, and that there aren't many female geneticists.
The chapter on personal positions includes two Jews, two Catholics, two Eastern Orthodox thinkers, a Lutheran, and a Reformed, an Islamic, and a Hindu thinker. I would fault the selection, because it doesn't include a Southern (or any other kind of) Baptist, which is the largest Protestant group. The Lutheran is a professor at Gettysburg Theological Seminary, the Reformed theologian is at Rice.
The chapter on official statements includes statements by the World and National Councils of Churches, and by the Church of the Brethren, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists, and the United Church of Christ. Nelson makes an important statement about the World Council of Churches: "No attempt was made to undergird the practical proposals which the document recommended with a theological rationale. This was a deplorable lack..." (pp. 172-173).
Nelson is not prescriptive. He doesn't tell us what to think, thereby avoiding the necessity of providing theological rationale.
I am sure that anyone who has read this far knows that I have some serious reservations about this book. Nonetheless, it does have some value. Some of us need to think about our personal positions, and some of us need to have our denominations, maybe even our Affiliation, adopt some official positions. Reading what some others have said would be helpful in these endeavors.
Reviewed by M. M. LaBar, Central Wesleyan College, Central, S.C. 29630.
FIELDS: Reflections on the Science of the Mind and Brain by Malcolm Jeeves. Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 1994. 141 pages.
Mind Fields began as a series of lectures to inaugurate New College at the University of South Wales. Addressing a broad audience, Jeeves introduces the strong link between the physiological processes of the brain and the thought of the mind. He emphasizes however that while the study of the brain offers insights into consciousness it cannot provide a full explanation. The human mind is more than synaptic activity.
What then is the relationship between mind and brain? Jeeves offers numerous analogies, particularly favoring parallels with the computer. The computation of a computer is determined by physical laws, yet one might also say that its calculations are determined by the equation it has been set to run. The two descriptions are complementary, describing different levels of the same phenomenon. As a computer program is embodied in the hardware of the computer, thought is embodied in brain activity. The mind and brain are closely related, yet not identical. As a noted neuropsychologist, Jeeves writes that the precise relationship between mind and brain is well beyond the understanding of his field at this time.
Jeeves concludes that "the science of behavior should be content to be the science of behavior. It should contribute its insights into one level of discourse, yet it should remain humble and unpretentious enough to recognize that many of the deeply significant questions of life are not psychological questions and we ought not to talk of them as if they were" (96). The book is a fine example of communicating scientific developments and implications to a general audience, while carefully avoiding an immodest "scientism."
Reviewed by James C. Peterson, C. C. Dickson Chair of Ethics and Director of the Program in Religion, Ethics, and Technology, Wingate College, Wingate, N.C. 28174.
TRAVAlL OF NATURE: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology by H. Paul
Santmire. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985, re-released 1993. 272 pages.
After it first appeared in 1985, The Travail of Nature was capably reviewed by Dr. Stanley Rice in PSCF (39:1). This short "re-review" is occasioned by the books "re-release" and its continuing relevance to current discussions. Santmire offers a reasonably accessible survey of past theologians as they write on the environment. Contrary to the famous Lynn White indictment that Christianity has always been on the side of nature's despoilers, Santmire traces root metaphors of "fecundity" and "migration to a good land" that support a redemptive plan for creation and call for responsible stewardship in the meantime. In the current burgeoning of books and articles devoted to a Christian view of ecology, it is helpful to learn from that heritage. Santmire leads one to some of those treasures of insightful past reflection. Unfortunately, the book over all is often repetitive, sometimes rather loosely argued, and falsely assumes that holding the spiritual transformation of human beings as a primary concern consistently leads to harming nature.
Reviewed by James C. Peterson, C. C. Dickson Chair of Ethics, Wingate College, Wingate, N.C. 28174.
FRAUD: The Malignant Effect of Freud's Theory on American Thought and Culture by E.
Fuller Torrey. New York: Harper Collins 1992. 362 pages. Hardback; $25.00.
The book traces the impact of Freudianism in America during Freud's lifetime. Freudian doctrine was never popular in Europe, including Vienna, Freud's hometown, where Ait was considered bad taste to bring up Freud's name in the presence of ladies" (p. 3). Freudianism was embraced in New York at the beginning of the century by some political activists, physicians, artists, and novelists. However, by 1930 the influence of Freud's theory had declined. The nature-nurture controversy revived its popularity.
Torrey discusses the popularity of racially motivated eugenics in America which led to the Immigration Act and to compulsory sterilization. One of the most prominent opponents of eugenics was Franz Boas who desperately needed some data disproving the claims of the inferiority of some races. These data were supplied largely by his two assistants, Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict. Torrey presents their views, work, and lifestyle. He presents their fascination with Freudianism which was partially motivated by a desire to substantiate their own lifestyles. He expresses reservations about the widely acclaimed Coming of age in Samoa, and of Patterns of Culture; "both women viewed the cultures they studied through prisms tinged with political and personal concerns" (p. 82).
The Nazi atrocities in World War II contributed more than any effort of intellectuals to the dissolution of eugenics; in the nature-nurture debate nature clearly lost. The discussion now was about what influences are more important, those stemming from early childhood, or from culture. Some research projects were launched with such results as that all events of Soviet history were related to "feelings associated with swaddling" (p. 115). Freud's popularity rose not only in scientific circles, but also among the public due to regular features in the media. Also, Benjamin Spock contributed vastly to the dissemination of Freud's ideas even though Spock failed as a psychoanalyst.
Psychoanalysis also entered into the courtroom as a defense of two youngsters who murdered a boy. They allegedly "were not responsible for their actions because particular events in their childhood led to emotional immaturity" (p. 154). On the theoretical turf, Karl Menninger defended the thesis that roots of crimes should be traced to childhood experience. He advocated the renouncement of the concept of responsibility. However, in crime prevention, counseling and psychotherapy given to juvenile delinquents sometimes increased later criminal behavior, instead of reducing it.
It is astonishing that the tremendous popularity of psychoanalysis lacks any solid scientific basis. Interestingly, Freud himself criticized those who wanted any scientific validation of his theory. Torrey analyzes this lack of evidence in some detail. Some elements of Freud's theory were disproven, and some research indicated that psychoanalysis was more harmful than beneficial. The number of psychoanalysts grew, but the rate of divorce and crime grew even faster.
The heritage of Freudianism is extremely harmful. First, it can make people ego-oriented, narcissistic individuals looking out only for their own well-being. We can only wonder "what would happen to many of the individuals in long-term psychotherapy if they spent the same hours working in community service . . . that they now spend in the eructation of childhood trivia" (p. 249). Second, Freudianism acquits people from any guilt since the worst crimes can be traced back to childhood experiences, that is, to parent's faults in rearing children.
Freudianism became an unfortunate "scientific" substantiation for self-indulgence, for enslaving people by what is animal in them, for exonerating people for all possible misbehavior by having them point their finger at their parents. Psychoanalysis may turn adults into perennial children who can do what they want and in fact should do that, lest they would become a victim of neuroses.
Freudianism, although born in Europe, is mainly an American product, permeating many facets of life. From a Christian perspective, Freudian doctrine is an encouragement to sin by removing any guilt for misdeeds as, presumably, a mark of healthy and human development. It reduces man to the animal level by giving predominance to impulses, urges, and libidal instincts. As the author indicates, it is a religion, and it has been held as such by Freud himself. Treating psychoanalysis as a scientific theory is at least a misunderstanding, if not a fatal blunder. From its inception, Freudianism was a creation of a megalomaniac personality and elevated to the status of scientific theory by people whose political and personal agenda was frequently of an unsavory quality. It is fortunate that there are such books as Torrey's. It is well-researched, competent, and exposes what the title rightfully calls the Freudian fraud.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
RELIGION AND MENTAL HEALTH by
John F. Schumaker, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. 320 pages. Hardback;
This collection of 24 essays, written by 24 authors, is divided into these main sections: historical perspective, affective and cognitive consequences, psychosocial dimensions, and cross-cultural perspectives. Notes and references occur at the end of each chapter and an index appears at the rear of the book.
The editor, John Schumaker, is senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Newcastle in Australia and the author of Human Suggestibility: Advances in Theory, Research, and Application. In addition to the introduction, Schumaker has also written a chapter in this book. With three exceptions, all of the authors of these previously unpublished papers are associated with secular institutions. The international roster of contributors includes psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. Their opinions about the interface of mental health and religion are diverse and stimulating.
The controversial relationship between religious behavior and mental health is the context in which these articles are presented. One side says religious faith has a beneficial affect on mental health because it produces hope, meaning, and purpose. The other side says religious faith has a deleterious affect on mental health because it produces guilt, repression, and anxiety. Evidence can be marshalled to support both positions.
These articles report on the theories and research associated with the influence of religion on self-esteem, well-being, sexual and marital adjustment, anxiety, depression, suicide, self-actualization, mental illness, and anti-social behavior. Considered in the discussions are women, children, the elderly, and the perspectives of non-Western religious faiths.
Some of the authors' conclusions serve as catalysts for discussion: religion endows men with power and esteem and women with helplessness and dependency (p. 51); irreligion and improvised religion divest people of pathways to psychological health (p. 65); contemporary religious people are profoundly hypocritical (p. 66); and the practice of Catholic sexual orthodoxy has been related to psychopathology (p. 81).
For anyone interested in reading about the way religion impacts people's lives, this volume would be a good place to start. The articles are packed with succinct summaries of research, trenchant insights, and suggestions for further inquiry.
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
VARNISHED TRUTH: Truth Telling and Deceiving in Ordinary Life by David Nyberg.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993. 244 pages, index. Hardcover; $22.50.
Nyberg states briefly in the introduction that he does not intend to dispute "the truism that truth telling is very important to the development of knowledge in science and scholarship," and that we should avoid "harmfully exploitative deceptions such as consumer fraud, insider trading, the misuse of public office...." The rest of the book, however, seeks to justify the skilled deception of self and others as important for practical moral living.
According to Nyberg, it is part of easily observed human nature to deceive ourselves and others. Since this trait is omnipresent in human beings, it must have been bred into us by the selective pressures of evolution. Therefore, it must be serving an important part in our survival. In particular, deception is necessary for social stability and individual mental health. For Nyberg, lying is sometimes necessary to show care and protect feelings that are foundational to trust in relationships. "To live decently with one another we do not need moral purity, we need discretion which means tact in regard to the truth." Kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths. We also must consistently deceive ourselves. "The whole of life is too much to take." "Given the distance between what we are and what we wish we were, some amount of other-deception and self-deception is an essential requisite for carrying on." "Self knowledge is always bad news," so "we lie, even to ourselves about ourselves, to give life meaning."
For Nyberg, who assumes a materialistic evolutionary model, there are no moral standards beyond what human beings create and the only real value is survival. Morality is simply a survival strategy that we human beings have devised to help us live with ourselves and each other. Moral education then is learning to recognize those "useful moral principles" that support survival. The one resulting principle that Nyberg specifically states is that people should seek to avoid pain and not cause too much harm. Applied to deception, one should tell the truth if it seems to avoid harm, lie if it does not.
If Nyberg is correct about the needed capacity for self deception in human beings, can we trust ourselves to appropriately choose when it is appropriate to lie to avoid pain? And why create for ourselves even this standard? Nyberg does not say, although the implication may be that excessive self interest may limit the chance of cooperation with others that is beneficial to one's survival. But working from a materialistic evolutionary model, why affirm even survival?
It is not only here that arguments are left hanging. At the book's foundation is a constantly repeated and false dichotomy between deception and total disclosure. Since total disclosure is not always necessary or even possible, the only alternative, deception, must be acceptable. "Deception" is defined so broadly that one of Nyberg's examples of deception is of a professor praising the good she sees in a student's effort without specifically enumerating at that point everything that could be improved. Since this deception" is acceptable, many other kinds of deception must be as well. He claims our choice is either "unworldly openness" or "cunning," absolute truth telling or deception. One must either be a "hedgehog" that tells the truth absolutely or a "fox" who manipulates truth and deception to best advantage.
The book is also riddled with straw man arguments. At least Nyberg does cite arguments for truth telling such as those of Sissela Bok, but burlesques them to such extremes that, of course, they no longer make sense. For example, he attacks what he calls "The Good Person Fallacy," that someone who is observed to do good is a good person, hence probably more worthy of trust. Nyberg writes that since people who do good things sometimes do bad things, there can be no expectation of better choices from one person to another. Certainly the Christian tradition is open about good people making bad choices. From Abraham's lie that ensnared him and Sarah, to Paul rebuking Peter, the Biblical tradition often points out respected people acting inconsistently. However, that does not eliminate the basic judgment that we all depend on, that people who have been trustworthy before are more likely to be trustworthy again.
In our interdependent society, we depend on the choices and word of strangers, even in matters of life and death. I have no idea who is driving the car coming towards me at fifty miles per hour on a two lane highway nor who is protecting the safety of the tap water in my home. I depend on others to do what they have promised to do even when I am not watching them and it would be easy to deceive me. If one cannot depend on others to tell the truth and do what they say they will do, it becomes increasingly difficult to cooperate with one another, and ironically more difficult to deceive. Deception is always parasitic. It can only work if there is an expectation of truth. If lying becomes accepted or expected, it no longer works, and communication and cooperation break down. Nyberg alludes to this himself when he writes about deliberate deception that I think our difficulty in talking frankly about it stems partly from our tacit understanding that to do so would often place us at a practical disadvantage."
Nyberg says he is merely stating with candor what everyone does any way and must do to survive socially and with oneself. We can at least appreciate his candor, that is if he is actually choosing to be candid. How would we know? Nyberg is currently a professor in the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Reviewed by James C. Peterson, C. C. Dickson Chair of Ethics, Wingate College, Wingate, NC 28174
ALL OF ONE PEACE:
Essays on Nonviolence by Colman McCarthy. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
McCarthy is a writer, teacher, runner, vegetarian, pacifist, and bicyclist. He is also described as Athe liberal conscience of the Washington Post," a publication for which he has written 25 years. This book is a result of his twice-weekly syndicated columns published during the past five years.
This is a peaceful and gentle book; it is also a provocative and incendiary one. McCarthy can be both benign and aggressive. On the one hand, McCarthy seeks to win readers to his viewpoint by a low-keyed, factual, and reasoned approach. On the other hand, McCarthy reveals his outrage on controversial issues by using telling statistics, moving examples, and scathing sarcasm.
Above all else, McCarthy is a pacifist. He speaks forth fervently in favor of peace and in opposition to a culture of violence. In addition to his syndicated columns, McCarthy also spreads his viewpoints by attending rallies, teaching high school and college classes, and contributing his time and money. He complains that students know Amore about the Bataan death march than Ghandi's salt march."
This paragraph from the preface catalogs McCarthy's various causes:
Saying no to the military ethic that saw the United States kill people in Grenada, Libya, Panama, the Gulf and Somalia, or dissenting from the legal violence that destroys 1.5 million fetal lives a year, or protesting the killing of ten million animals a day for food, or condemning U. S. sales of weapons to 142 of the world's 160 government or stationing troops in 62 nations - not much of that is on display.
He is right, of course, that relatively little press is given to pacifism, or vegetarianism, or arms' sales. But in the United States, McCarthy and those who share his concerns are in the minority. Whether his views are biblical or not, each reader must decide. Here is what McCarthy believes: "Animals in the stable at Bethlehem were a vision of the peaceable kingdom. Among theology's mysteries, this ought to be the easiest to fathom."
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761