Book Reviews for September 1992
THE TECHNOLOGICAL BLUFF by
Jacques Ellul. (Translated from the French: Bluff technologique by Geoffrey W.
Bromiley). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. xvi. 418 pages. Hardcover; 24.95.
Jacques Ellul is one of the most interesting thinkers of our century. One of his first books, The Technological Society (1954), is of the same magnitude as the works of Veblen, Mumford, Spengler, or Giedion and much deeper and penetrative than works of Toffler, Kahn, or Servan-Schreiber. He is interested in the role of technique in civilization. Technique, defined as Athe ensemble of means," is the driving force of social development, more important than the ends it is supposed to serve. Technique became an end in itself and the society is organized around it. In 1954 Ellul pointed to the need of certain changes to subdue technique, but as he presently assesses it, "it is now too late to change the course of technique. We have lost a decisive opportunity in human history" (p. xiii). However, technique is frequently pictured as the only hope for a better future and the only means of making the world more humane. And that is the sort of statement that Ellul calls the technological bluff. Technology is a discourse on techniques: therefore, the bluff lies not in the failure of techniques as such but in presenting them in a falsely optimistic light.
The author formulated in 1954 two laws of technical progress: first, it is irreversible: second, it advances by a geometric progression. Thus, a computer revolution changes nothing in the nature of technical progress, although products are new. This progress is hampered not by internal mechanisms, but by maladaptation of the social body to it, since society is rooted in the past and constantly refers to it. On the other hand, technique is future oriented and discards as valueless everything that cannot be incorporated into the web of techniques.
Technical progress gives rise to a new aristocracy, technocrats, who combine authority with competence. Their knowledge is indispensable for the proper functioning of the society. However, if they talk about democracy, ecology, culture, etc., they are "touchingly simplistic and annoyingly ignorant." For instance, when stating that everyone will have access to data banks, only other technicians are meant, not poor farmers or the young unemployed. Technocrats are also the main source of the technological bluff, since when picturing tomorrow's society they often disregard such problems as pollution, growth of armaments, or stagnation of some countries. In their eyes, to halt building nuclear power stations is the same as returning to the caves. Technical progress is good by its very nature and thinking otherwise is a mark of obscurantism.
In Part I, Ellul discusses one of the features of the technical world, uncertainty. "Technical progress does not know where it is going. This is why it is unpredictable" (p. 39). It always has both positive and negative effects, and they are inseparable; technical progress also creates more problems than solutions. Ellul even goes as far as to say that "using techniques always pays off in the short term and then brings disaster" (p. 64). The last factor contributing to an increase of uncertainty of the future of techniques are internal contradictions of the technical system and society. For instance, a vulnerability to accidents grows proportionally with the size of organizations. Similarly, the more powerful a technique is, the more it disturbs the world.
Part II,Discourse," is an analysis of technical discourse. The techno-discourse is a discourse about humanity and the ways of advancing it; of course, by the means of techniques. Some humanists, on the other hand, think that the technique can be saturated with traditional values. Today's culture has just an operational value detached from tradition, molded by the technical progress and economic needs. As B. Lussato put it, bad culture chases out good culture (cf. Gresham's law stating that bad money always drives good money). Next, despite many statements, man has lost control over technical development. There is no greater power, political, moral etc., that could direct at will its potential. And finally, science, especially after Hiroshima, is not a pursuit for truth any more, but for power. An emerging ideology of science is soteriology - the view that only science holds the key to the future. Science has become divine. This image of science entails a high status of experts, who all too often fail and resolve nothing.
Part III, "The Triumph of the Absurd", shows innumerable instances of absurdity springing up from the position held by technology. Many needs and trends are absurd. A pursuit for producing more and more at all costs and doing it faster and faster is also absurd. The latter feature strikes a blow at democracy, which is slow. Moreover, some very costly projects are launched, with no clear vision for their purpose (e.g., orbital stations), or knowing that their full power will not be used (e.g., fast cars), only because technology makes it possible. It is absurd to rely on technology as the means of increasing productivity. For instance, a growth of rate of productivity in France is larger than in Japan and the US.
In part IV, "Fascinated People", Ellul describes the way people are manipulated by TV and advertising, and discusses the means of diverting people "from thinking about ourselves and our human condition," such as computer games or sports.
Technological progress goes on trampling upon our freedom and humanity."We are radically determined," says Ellul. Are we? Not quite, and Ellul sees a gleam of hope in the ability to criticize: this is the only freedom that we still have if we have at least the courage to grasp it" (p. 411). More importantly, the hope lies in education; but Ellul shuts this door up by stating that today the only goal of education is to adjust students to technological society, to shape them according to the needs of the emerging future. He does not even refer to an interesting theory of tensions borrowed from Max Weber and expanded in his The Political Illusion (1965). Tensions "between facts and values" are to be the means of maintaining a true democracy.
If we agree with the statement that "it is by being able to criticize that we show our freedom," then certainly Ellul appears to be very free. And, in fact, this criticism is a good antidote to frequently pronounced over optimistic assessments of technology and simplistic views concerning the future. Ellul shows the downside of progress, sometimes forgetting some positives. He sees just doom and gloom and his reaction is to strike back - with words. Nevertheless, his book (and most of his forty books) is very deep in its analysis, leaving no reader indifferent. It should be read by humanists and technocrats, and especially by Christians to see if really the only hope is in criticism. Ellul, a staunch Christian himself, has no polite words to the movement within the church, and his remarks should be considered very seriously.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
THE ABSENCE OF THE SACRED: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian
Nations by Jerry Mander. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991. 446 pages.
In the Absence of the Sacred is composed of two books the author originally intended to publish separately, whose topics are indicated in the subtitle. He quickly realized that technological development and suppressing Indian nations are two sides of the same coin: the latter is the outcome of the first. However, the original intention can be easily noticed in his book, since its two parts are rather loosely connected and could have been published as two separate books without much harm.
Mander is a harsh critique of technology, or rather technological enchantment that makes people see in technological progress the ultimate purpose of all enterprises and the only hope for humanity. Mander is not original in that respect, since many authors have critically analyzed technology, to mention only Lewis Mumford and Jacques Ellul. But Mumford's and Ellul's analyses are more theoretically oriented than Mander's. His book is largely anecdotal, since Mander quotes many facts from his life and events recounted by his friends, but it is also very richly documented with historical facts, especially when discussing the history and the present situation of Indians. Many facts quoted by Mander are surprising, some of them quite shocking and incredible. All of them are to prove that if technology remains unbridled, then the future of humanity is very uncertain.
There are one and a half million Indians in America, and many of them continue to live in their original environment with no desire to adjust to the American culture. Indian tribes are a part of 3,000 native nations in the world that, from the standpoint of our civilization, stand in the way of progress and technical development by blocking natural resources and by refusal to adjust. Technological development is imposed upon society by those who exercise power, that is, government, military, and large corporations. There are no, or at most very weak, democratic mechanisms of technology assessment. The public knows about directions of technology development post facto, when it is already very difficult to change the course of events. However, each technological innovation should be thoroughly and openly discussed before its acceptance and "assumed guilty until proven innocent."
Mander denounces a frequently used claim about neutrality of technology. He indicates that specialized technology requires specialists which easily leads to emergence of the class of technocrats. This technology results in centralized power that has to oversee, for instance, nuclear power plants.
All elements of technology are intimately interwoven, with computers occupying a prominent position. Computers enable developments in genetics, military, data gathering for surveillance, etc. Computers were invented primarily for military purposes and only later were applied in business. Still, the military is the largest financial supporter for computer science research. It is also the largest beneficiary of this technology, with the effect that "the possibility of computer-directed, instantaneous, worldwide holocaust is not theoretical" (p. 74).
Mander is the author of a controversial book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and many of its points are reiterated also in In the Absence of the Sacred. He is one of very few authors who claims that our society would be better off without TV. TV became an excellent tool for promoting consumerization and a manipulation tool in the hands of large corporations: 75% of commercials are paid for by 100 corporations, out of nearly half a million corporations in the country.
"Our society is characterized by an inability to leave anything in nature alone" (p. 160). As a result, there are two drives of contemporary technology: toward infinitely large and infinitely small, that is, space exploration and genetic engineering, or even molecular engineering. AIf it can be done, do it" is a maxim. Ethical considerations become irrelevant, and the sense of sanctity of life unimportant. There remains a march of technology.
Then Mander gives a well documented account of Indian history after the discovery of America, political systems of Indians, their economy, beliefs, and their constant striving for survival and to maintain identity. Many facts are not widely known, such as the declaration of independence of a Navajo community in 1979. Mander gives also an overview of the situation of native tribes all over the world. This account proves that the march of technology promoted by large corporations tramples upon the rights of those who do not want to accept it and desire to maintain their way of living.
After twenty chapters of showing the ills caused by technology, Mander very briefly tries to relieve the reader's uneasiness by indicating in the epilogue some solutions. The author's activity indicates that he does not see just gloom and doom, as his book certainly indicates, but that he sees some solutions at least in active participation of such groups as the Sierra Club or Greenpeace. He proposes reexamination of the goals of humanity, by including more in the picture than just growth and profit. The "present negative trends" are reversible, and many current political changes would allow waiting for the future with some optimism.
The author also suggests that reevaluation of our values and regaining the lost "sense of the sacredness of the natural world" is needed. Mander points his finger to Christianity as a cause of this loss, since "Judeo-Christian religious doctrines have de-sanctified the earth and placed humans over it" (p. 187). The blame is not new (see Van Dyke's article in Perspectives, Sept. 1991) and it may mean that revitalizing the pagan view of the world is the antidote for the ills of technology. Needless to say, this view is at least questionable.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ETERNITY
by Roy E. Peacock. Wheaton, IL; Crossway Books, 1990. 160 pages. Paperback: $9.95.
This little volume is offered as something of a companion piece to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Christian readers will find stimulation in the book. The non-Christian reader may find food for thought in Peacock's overlay of meta-physics on the thinking of Hawking.
The author is identified as a specialist in aerodynamics, and a visiting professor in aerospace sciences at the University of Pisa, were Galileo worked 400 years ago.
There is a special charm to the book: the writer communicates respect for and pays homage to the great thinkers from Aristotle through Einstein to Hawking. There is no "putdown" of any scientists, regardless of their religious convictions or lack of them. It is refreshing to read a discussion of a controversial subject - cosmology - which contains no animosity.
Peacock traces the development of science, and shows how each great thinker has relied and improved upon the thoughts of this predecessors in answering the "hows" of the universe. Then, like Hawking, he touches upon the "whys." But he goes further than Hawking, and sees in science itself some indicators of the "whys."
The writer focusses on the laws of thermodynamics, and especially the concept of entropy, in dealing with the origin and destiny of the universe. He speaks of boundaries which enclose the capacity of science to learn - one at the creation event and one when entropy has run its full course.
Don Page, a collaborator of Hawking's, calls A Brief History of Eternity a fascinating story, written from a Christian perspective. He observes, "While admitting that the heavens do not prove the existence of God, this book illustrates how they declare his glory."
But the reader will suspect that Peacock sees the proof of God in the very lives and words of the scientists themselves.
Reviewed by Fred P. Lollar, Associate Professor of Journalism, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
THE NON-REALITY OF FREE WILL
by Richard Double. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. 229 pages, end notes,
references, index; Hardcover; $32.50.
Double is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. In this book he takes on a problem which has taxed the great minds of the world for centuries, the reality or non-reality of free will. The book assumes that the reader has some skill and training in philosophy and is definitely not a book for a novice in the field.
The book also probes some other issues such as determinism and responsibility as they relate to free will. Double summarizes various positions which others have taken on this subject, and does so quite well. The one exception might be his failure to refer to Jonathan Edward's great work on Freedom of Will, perhaps because the author is addressing the subject strictly from a rational-philosophical perspective.
The author lists three conditions of free will. Free agents must have the ability to make different choices than they actually do. Free agents must control what their choices shall be. Free choices must be reasonable. In further analyzing the free will question, the author gives us five autonomy variables which must be present in order for one to conclude the reality of free will. These are: self knowledge (knowledge of one's own mental states), reasonability (the motivation to critically evaluate one's choices), intelligence (skill in using knowledge), efficacy (the power to control our mental states, including our choices) and unity (implying a single agent underlying free choices).
The book's bottom line is, of course, stated in its title. There are no rational-philosophical theories which can meet all the criteria necessary to establish the reality of free will. The author refers to the comment by Stephen Stich about the failure of analytical philosophy to reductively define any philosophically interesting concepts, free will being no exception. This is an astonishing admission to make and might cause a budding philosopher to wonder if one should invest one's life in such an uncertain field.
The author concludes that neither determinism nor indeterminism can be rationally verified. When we speak of persons being free and responsible in their actions we are merely expressing an attitude or personal opinion. The truth or falsity of such statements simply cannot be demonstrated in any deep or absolute sense.
Christian readers may be frustrated by the scant treatment God receives in the book. He dismisses God by saying"the existence of a morally perfect being is problematic" (p. 165). While that statement is certainly true if one begins from a rational-empirical base which excludes any "God" who cannot be rationally-empirically verified, it only raises the question, "Are human reason and experience adequate to solve the basic issues of life?" The author seems to admit that analytical philosophy cannot give clear cut answer to the ultimate questions in life. That is why some of us try to answer the real life questions by assuming God has spoken to us in Scripture, where such questions as human responsibility and morality are addressed.
One should not conclude that the author is saying there is no such thing as free will. He is rather admitting that philosophers have failed to rationally demonstrate the reality of free will. He is saying that free will and moral responsibility are incoherent concepts. He does end up with what he calls a Acommon sense" view of freedom which can sustain us. The crucial question for the author is not"Was he or she free in that action?" but "Was the action reflective of his/her character?" He believes the first question cannot be answered, while we can affirm the second, and this is enough to sustain a common sense view of freedom. The book is very thought provoking for those willing to grapple with some of the difficult ideas and terminology involved. The author has tried to push human reason to the limit to solve the free will question, only to come up empty. Yet, he is forced to admit that we must assume that people act responsibly and freely even though philosophical proof is not forthcoming. Our ability to relate to each other meaningfully depends on it.
Reviewed by Richard M. Bowman, Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 441 North Church Street, Dectur, IL 62522.
JUSTIFICATION OF SCIENCE AND THE RATIONALITY OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF by Michael J. Banner.
New York: Oxford Press, 1990. 196 pages, index, bibliography. Hardcover; $55.00.
Can religious belief be defended as carefully as scientists defend scientific beliefs? This is the primary philosophical question answered by Banner's book. Banner's book is not an apologetic for a particular religious belief. It is a carefully drawn logical treatise on the philosophical "right" to defend both scientific and religious belief. It is written by a leading philosopher who is currently the Director of Studies in Philosophy and Theology at Peterhouse, Cambridge, England.
Banner argues that religious belief, like science, can be placed in a rational setting. Religious discourse is descriptive and capable of being judged as right or wrong by the same basic guidelines used in arguing the validity of scientific principles.
To prepare this argument, Banner first must show that science itself is rational and justifiable. This he does in Part I, dealing primarily with issues raised by Thomas Kuhn on the philosophy of science. In these two chapters Banner argues for Arational realism" and the validity of scientific truth.
Having argued that scientific belief is justifiable, the author defends religious belief in Part II (chapters 4-7). This argument culminates in chapter six, where religious belief is justified, in parallel to scientific belief, as an explanatory process. Religious belief is compared with two scientific theories whose logic and sensibility eventually overwhelmed scientific opposition. Banner first analyzes Darwin's theory of the origin of the species, and then looks at the theory of relativity. In each the scientific theory has three valuable components - its ability to explain known (past) data, its ability to predict future results (experimental confirmation), and its simplicity of form or explanatory power. Both Darwin's work and the theory of relativity had shortcomings in various predictive categories. Both did not explain certain know facts and both falsely predicted future events. Still, both - partly because of their explanatory power and general success - were eventually accepted by the scientific community. Banner argues that these same guidelines can structure a rational defense of religious belief.
Chapters six and seven, the climax of the book, are very good. The analysis in chapter six of the emerging acceptance of evolution and of relativity is exquisitely done. In chapter seven, the author acknowledges the existence of evil as "the most pressing and persuasive objection to belief in the existence of God." This chapter, like much of the book, is carefully and subtly argued and requires of the reader total concentration, a strong cup of coffee, and a perfectly silent environment.
The entire book is hard reading. It is a philosophy text intended for the professional philosopher. It could serve as a supplemental text for a graduate course in the Philosophy of Religion (or the Philosophy of Science), but the ordinary scientist - even if he or she reads Plato at bedtime - will find this book very difficult. Particularly difficult are the steady references to the recent writings of other modern philosophers. The first two chapters discuss arguments of Kunh, Newton-Smith, and Laudan; later chapters casually refer to Swinburne, Phillips, Luas, Mackie, Newman, and Wittgenstein, assuming that the reader is either familiar with these authors or is ready to look up their papers.
The author's careful conclusion deserves wide distribution:
"...A careful and patient apologetic which clears a path to faith... helps the enquirer to perceive that pattern in experience which points to the existence of God. There is no reason in principle why such apologetics could not be as compelling as the apologies which are made for currently accepted scientific theories. And since it may provide the grounds for faith, its neglect is more than regrettable."
This $55 text does not provide that apologetic, but does provide the foundations for it.
Reviewed by Ken W. Smith, Department of Mathematics, Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859
EXPERIMENTATION: The Moral Issues by Robert M. Baird and Stuart E. Rosenbaum
(eds.). Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1991. 182 pages. Paperback; $14.95.
Animals have always been used by humans for a variety of purposes. They have been used for food, clothing, pets, entertainment, and experimentation. Some animals have enjoyed a privileged (e.g., cows in India), but in most cases animals are not held in high esteem. But should we treat animals on an equal footing with tools? Can they be used for any purpose imaginable and in any way we please? Do we have moral responsibility toward animals as we do toward people? These are the questions posed in papers included in Animal Experimentation.
Recently, various organizations have sought decent treatment for animals both in their natural setting and in laboratories. The use of animals for medical research has become a sensitive and personal issue. Should we inflict pain upon animals in experiments in an effort to save human lives? As Robert White put it, Athere are many people who would let my grandsons die rather than allow any animal to be used in medical research" (p. 22). However, the defenders of animal rights are not always against any use of animals in scientific research but against their cruel treatment. Steven Zak knows from experience that researchers have Aa natural tendency to lose all empathy with one's animal subject" (p. 30). However, a philosophy behind a struggle for animal rights relies on evolutionism and draws it to a seemingly inevitable conclusion: animals do have rights.
Man is an animal, says Richard Ryder, who Aarrogantly exaggerates his uniqueness;" but with accepting our Abiological relationship with other animals" we should take a next step and Aacknowledge a moral relationship" and treat animals as our relatives, thereby stopping all research on animals. The next step would be a rigid vegetarianism; but what to do with pest control? Would it not be cruel to annihilate those with whom we have a moral relationship?
To avoid such consequences, Robert Wright sees in sentience "a condition for the possession of high moral status," and not in reason or self-consciousness. But in this way he is unable to argue why killing 100 baboons to save a human life is not the same as killing a human to save 100 baboons "unless you can create a moral ratchet called 'human rights'."
But Carl Cohen is certainly right when observing that "rights arise, and can be intelligibly defended, only among beings who actually do, or can, make moral claims against each other" (p. 104), or beings participating in "a community of moral agents." It is the moral dimension that becomes a hallmark of beings to whom we can ascribe rights, both legal and moral. Therefore, animals are not called to the court on account of their moral irresponsibility nor held responsible for their deeds. It is this moral dimension that was elevated by Kant to the highest status, since in his philosophy practical reason (ethics) has a priority over pure reason (cognition). Of course, it does not justify any cruelty, unnecessary use of animal specimens in experiments, inflicting needless pain, or hunting for pleasure. But animals are not humans and they should not be treated on equal footing with them. If no difference is seen between these two worlds, then, to be sure, we can be appalled with Peter Singer, who laments that "even the most profoundly retarded human being is entitled to the respect and moral consideration that we properly deny to the most intelligent dog" (p. 61).
But how can one determine whether certain experiments are unnecessary? Drawing from Singer's ideas, Edwin Hettinger says that we should try to answer the question: "Would the investigator still think the experiment justifiable if it were performed on a severely retarded human at a comparable psychological level as the animal? If not, then the experiment should not be conducted" (p. 126). Only "arbitrary preference for members of our own species" would allow us to conduct this experiment. Thus, there should be no difference in treatment of a rat, an ant, or a lizard and a retarded human whose intelligence does not exceed the IQ of these animals. We can wonder if it amounts to elevating animals to the level of humans (the way Hinduism does by including them in the cycle of reincarnation), or to pushing humans down to the level of animals.
Animals are under human dominion, but it should not mean that they can be treated in an inhumane, cruel way. They are not humans and despite superficial similarities there is a gap between the worlds of animals and men. Impressive as they may be, the achievements of the society of ants will never measure up to those of humans, and the language acquired by Washoe will never attain the level of the first grade student. Humans were created in the likeness of the Creator, not animals, and humans have a dominion over animals. They are to use animals wisely and lovingly, tending them and protecting. But they cannot be treated as equal with humans and if there is a problem of whose life to choose, then the lives of humans are always more precious than the lives of animals, however retarded the humans may be.
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
MEDICINE AND AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LIFE by Robert C. Fuller. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1989. 164 pages, index. Hardcover; $19.95.
Fuller is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Bradley University. He is the author of Religion and the Life Cycle and other books. During the late 1980s, Americans have shown a great interest in the New Age movement with its unconventional practices and beliefs, and many have found in it spiritual fulfillment and healing of the body. Fuller tries to show in this book that such alternative forms of healing and religion are nothing new in American culture. He claims that the belief in the importance of an individual's rapport with the cosmos is a characteristic of American unchurched religious life. He gives a sympathetic account of the history of alternative medicine which related to unorthodox religion, and provides interesting cultural and sociological interpretation.
In chapter one," Introduction," Fuller explains that religion and medicine were closely related in the human history. Only in the recent secularized Western society are orthodox medicine and religion separated. He observes that the persistence and popularity of unorthodox medical systems is due to their articulation of a different religious world view. According to their view, a higher energy could filter in and work upon a person's body and personality. He notes that not every unorthodox medicine relates to a religious view, and that this book only surveys alternative medicine which relates to unchurched American religious life. This book also does not discuss "faith healing" within orthodox religion.
Chapter two, "Sectarian Healing and Protestant Perfectionism in the Nineteenth Century," treats the development in the 1830s of Thomsonianism (which held that all disease was caused by cold and could be cured by heat), homeopathy (principle of like is cured by like), hydropathy (philosophy of water cure), and Graham's dietary regimens for disease prevention. Fuller claims that they represented a physiological Arminianism, that is, individuals could take control of their own physical and spiritual salvation. Graham's Christian Health Movement led to the establishment of the Seventh Day Adventists and the founding of Kellogg and Post cereal companies. He observes that these developments did not educe any metaphysical theory of healing.
Americans applied the ideological resources of two European Aisms" to get the connection between metaphysical and physiological reality. The ideas of Swedenborgianism and mesmerism and their influence on America are explored in chapter three, "From Physic to Metaphysic: The Spiritualizing of Alternative Medicine." These systems, which sprang up in the 1830s and '40s, proposed a connection between the physical and spiritual realms. They gave Americans opportunities to experience an ecstatic influx of divine spirit. Mesmer claimed that health can be achieved by supercharging one's nerve system with a mysterious energy = animal magnetism. The process of mesmerizing brought a person into an intimate rapport with the cosmos. Swedenborg also claimed that there is an indwelling cosmic force which can be approached by inner adjustments. These metaphysical thinkings gave birth in the 1880s to American religious philosophies such as New Thought and Christian Science.
The fourth chapter, "At the Fringes of Orthodoxy: Chiropractic and Osteopathic Medicine," examines the emergence of these two unorthodox healing systems in the late nineteenth century. Fuller shows their indebtedness to mesmerism although they have gradually muted references to metaphysical concepts of disease.
The twentieth century's concern with holistic approach to medicine is treated in the fifth chapter, "The Contemporary Scene: Images of the `Higher Self' in Holistic and Psychic Healing Movement." Fuller points out the underlying concept which recognizes the spiritual dimension of disease in diverse healing practices such as Ayurvedic medicine, Yoga, Shiatsu, rolfing, psychic healing, Therapeutic Touch, Alcoholics Anonymous, and New Age crystal healing.
In the last chapter, "Healing as an Initiatory Rite," Fuller gives his interpretation of all these events in American history and argues that these groups are very effective in bringing the resource of religion into the healing process. He concludes very positively about the influence of these groups in fostering spirituality in their adherents. They offer people a more vivid experience of a `sacred reality' than do most organized religions. According to Fuller, by emphasizing the transcendence of God, orthodox religion cannot help believers to have profound psychological connection with God. It also cannot retain intellectual assent because of the advent of modern science, biblical criticism, and comparative religion.
Overall this book provides an interesting history of alternative medicine which culminates in spiritual pantheism. Fuller has a good mastery of American religious life. However, the connection between the movements in the previous century and those of this century is not as strong as he has argued. A gap of seventy years is related to the phenomenal advance of the modern medicine. The resurgence of alternative medicine and unorthodox spirituality after the 1970s is more related to an impasse of the medical progress, revolutionary change in American society, and the influx of Eastern religions and merchandise. His opinion about orthodox religion is also debatable.
Reviewed by T. Timothy Chen, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.
OF MORAL PERSONALITY: Ethics and Psychological Realism by Owen Flanagan.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. 393 pages. Hardcover.
All existing ethical theories are, according to Flanagan, inadequate in not sufficiently stressing the psychological dimension of man. These theories are overly interested in social aspects, as though ethics were restricted only to the social dimension of man. But ethical investigations must not be divorced from psychology, meaning both philosophical and scientific psychology. The goal of this book is to trace links between ethics and psychology, and to discuss current ethical theories from the standpoint of their sensitivity to psychological issues.
The first part of the book is a long introduction to the problem of psychological realism. The author spends one chapter just defending the view that each of us is a separate individual with a distinctive personal point of view" (p. 58) - and at least that much has to be acknowledged by any moral theory. This is a claim of minimal realism; the position of strong realism - which, for instance, wants to put a limit on impartiality - is indefensible.
Having stated that, the author formulates a meta-ethical principle of minimal realism according to which all prescriptions and ideals of any ethical theory have to take into account "the creatures like us." They simply should not be detached from reality, in particular from psychological reality, and impose rules that are unrealizable by anyone. Theories claiming that psychology is irrelevant for ethics do not even deserve a serious discussion.
In Part Two, Flanagan discusses communitarian theory, which states that a proper social arrangement contributes to a proper development of persons. The author does not deny the reality of this contribution, but he indicates that there is a problem with determination of such proper social arrangements. Communitarians are right in indicating that there are social determinants of personality of concrete communities, but their generalizations are unsubstantiated.
Part Three begins with a long critique of the assumption that there is a the deep structure in the moral psychology of Piaget and Kohlberg. There are a number of definite moral forms, and each person's moral development goes through the same series of moral stages. Flanagan himself does not deny the existence of the deep structure, but he sees it as an insignificantly small piece of common ground between various moralities. For him "it seems simply unbelievable that there could be a single ideal moral competence and a universal and irreversible sequence of stages" (p. 195).
Next comes a lengthy discussion of the claim that moral ideals are gender-specific; for instance, the assumption that male moral reasoning is more rule-governed than is female reasoning. The claim of gender-specificity is all too simplistic and cannot be defended on either theoretical or empirical ground. It is an example of a formalistic approach to ethics, and "more contentful direction seems ... like the right direction in which to move" (p. 252). And Flanagan moves in this direction himself in Part Four.
Following Fodor's idea that the mind is divided into autonomous and encapsulated modules, Flanagan introduces a moral competence module, which possibly is divided into submodules. Also, dispositional modules, or traits, are customarily assumed to be stable in different situations. But situations very often reinforce certain traits and suppress the others. "Persons are ubiquitously in situations" (p. 260), and it is always reflected in the way the moral competence module and other dispositional modules affect human behavior.
Philosophical ethics may have a tendency to confine themselves to moral issues alone with an exclusion of context in which moral problems have to be solved. Psychological ethics may go in a similar direction by restricting the analysis of moral problems to man's psyche. What Flanagan stresses throughout his book is the validity - and the need - for a psychological approach to moral problems without loosing sight of the fact that man is a part of a larger context, and this context has an impact upon the moral dimension of man. Moreover, the character ethics should not Amake the mistake of ignoring the vast array of moral personalities, of failing to see that both good character and good action are realized in multiple ways, and of thinking of traits of character as more solid, unequivocal, and decontextualized than they are" (p. 332).
Reviewed by Adam Drozdek, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
GOD'S IMAGE AFTER ALL: How Psychology Supports Biblical Creationism by Paul D.
Ackerman. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990. 101 pages, no index, discussion
Ackerman is assistant professor of psychology at Wichita State University and is active in creation science organizations. He has also written It's a Young World After All.
Ackerman was a psychologist before he became a Christian and has sought ways to incorporate his knowledge of psychology into a biblical world view. His thesis is that the findings of modern psychology support the biblical view of human nature.
In each chapter of his book, Ackerman addresses one aspect of human nature that is studied by psychologists, such as morality, free will, or learning. He summarizes the currently accepted psychological theories about each characteristic and then provides the results of a couple of well-known experiments done in that field. He interprets the results to show that they actually support the biblical view expressed on that issue, also giving relevant Scriptural citations. Ackerman concludes that we strive to become our own god, but that in fact we are completely dependent on God to sustain us, as evidenced by our involuntary actions.
His preface is a good summary of the dangers of trying to get science to prove the Bible, as opposed to having science witness to the veracity of the Bible. Ackerman certainly accomplishes his goal of showing how certain well-known and reputable psychological studies can be shown to support the biblical view of humanity, but the number of studies selected was very small. I was often left with the question: AIs this really the dominant view in psychology?" If a number of other studies coming to the same conclusions were at least referenced, this would have answered my question without dramatically increasing the length of the book. In addition, a chapter on the different interpretations of the phrase "God's Image" would have been welcomed.
Another criticism is that I think that the choice of sub-title was inappropriate. This book supports a biblical view of human nature, but not one which has anything to do with either biblical creationists' or old earth creationists' views This book does not deal with any of the issues in this hotly contested debate and it would therefore appear to be inappropriate to take sides. This book would support both views, but may be less widely read because it claims to support only one.
This book is certainly suitable for those without a background in psychology. It would be a helpful introduction to the issues in this field. It also provides some interesting support for the Christian world view. I would imagine that a student of this field would be very familiar with most of this material, though it may be presented from a different perspective. It would be useful for group discussions as many of the questions in the appendix are very thought provoking.
Reviewed by Donal O'Mathuna, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, 127 S. Davis Ave., Columbus, OH 43222.
OF RELIGION: Classic and Contemporary Views by David M. Wulff. New York: John
Wiley and Sons, 1991. 640 pages plus glossary, references and index. Hardcover; $38.95.
Two of the most significant figures in twentieth century psychology, Erik Erikson and B. F. Skinner, have high praise for this text. (Their views are accurately summarized in this book.) Paul Pruyser, late of the Menninger Foundation, characterizes it as "magnificently informative and broad-scoped." The publishers describe the book as Athe first truly comprehensive, non-Christocentric treatment of the psychology of religion." It also avoids sexist language. Chapter introductions, case studies, a glossary, tables, biographical sketches, figures and illustrations supplement the text.
The book aims to integrate theoretical, empirical, and clinical literature into an analysis of the world's major religions. In addition to citing works published in the United States, Wulff also includes source material from other parts of the world. The book is organized around two basic viewpoints: objective (experimental and correlational methods), and subjective (depth, existential, and humanistic psychologies). Comprehension of the text is possible without a background in psychology.
Major space is given to the perspectives of Sigmund Freud, Erik Erikson, C. G. Jung, and William James. Additional viewpoints discussed include those of Hall, Galton, Allport, Fromm, and Maslow. Wulff does not take the approach of discussing a major religion in each chapter. Rather, his approach is thematic in which he uses different religions to illustrate the various topics. Wulff refers to the major religions of the world including Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish.
Some of the topics discussed with which readers of PSCF will want to interact are narcissism and Christian faith, belief as reflex arc, behavior theory as a means of attacking religion, experimental studies of prayer, religion and prejudice, and the question of whether religious faith can be meaningfully measured?
The book is written in an objective, textbook style. Therefore, it should not be offensive to those of any religious tradition. The book is not a critique of religion, although same of those referenced take a negative view of the religious experience. Wulff had three audiences in mind when he wrote this book: undergraduate students who have no background in the topic, advanced students in the psychology of religion who need a comprehensive overview, and scholars of religion who need a handbook to summarize and evaluate the subject.
Wulff is professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where he has taught for 20 years. Trained in experimental psychology and personality psychology, Wulff is deeply interested in the history of psychology and the psychology of religion. His own view is that "the study of religion is inevitably an adventure that is both intellectual and personal."
Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Spring, AR 72761.
SEX AND FRAUD: The Indoctrination of a People by Judith A. Reisman and Edward W.
Eichel; John H. Court and J. Gordon Muir (eds.). Lafayette, LA: Huntington House
Publishers, 1990. 234 pages, 4 appendices. Hardcover.
The claim of this book is that the legendary Kinsey reports of 1948 (male) and 1953 (female) were based on research that was poorly conducted from a statistical standpoint, indicating a higher level of sexual promiscuity and homosexuality than was true. This may have contributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960's ("Everyone else is doing it, so why not me?")and its attendant increase in sexually related diseases, including AIDS. It is also the basis on which projections of the number of AIDS cases today have been made, projections which are being found to be overinflated.
Kinsey's main investigational flaw was his selection of interviewees, since a larger than representative number of prison inmates were included. There was a further bias which Abraham Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs) pointed out, in which volunteers in a sex survey were more likely to be non-traditional and less conservative in their sexual activities and preference. Kinsey ignored Maslow's advice and included that group of volunteers in his numbers.
Fraud is suggested by the fact that experiments in sexual stimulation and response were done on children and babies, frequently by pedophiles.
The authors claim that these reports were not the result of unbiased scientific research but rather research to support Kinsey's idea that sexual response is an animal response and is the same regardless of the stimulus, homosexual or heterosexual. There's a spectrum of sexual orientation with bisexuality in the middle and exclusive hetero- and homo-sexuality at either end. He felt that the best-balanced people should be in the middle.
Kinsey's current day followers have gotten control of the programs that train sex educators, and they continue to push this philosophy. Equally disturbing is the concept that children, as sexual beings, have a right to a sex life. This should be encouraged by adults who would interact with them sexually.
It's unclear from this book what the authors feel is the answer, or why the "Kinsey Agenda" is wrong. Are they Christians who are trying to alert a wider audience, one which would instinctively believe in a sexuality that was Bible-based, even though they were unable to articulate their reasons?
The authors, Reisman and Eichel, are, respectively, educator-pornography researcher and psychologist-sexologist. The personal experiences of Eichel, having gone through one of the master's programs on training sex educators, were particularly disturbing - students touching each others' genitals, for example. Court and Muir are listed as editors, and they co-author several of the chapters. Court is a professor of psychology at Fuller Seminary, and Muir is a physician and now president of Lochinvar, Inc.
Regardless of the position of the authors, Christians should be aware of the disturbing message of this book, and those of us in science should be able to refute those who claim this new direction for sex in America is based on science and nature.
Reviewed by Edward M. Blight, Jr. Professor of Surgery, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92354.
AND COUNSELING: The Psychological Impact of Religious Belief by Robert J. Lovinger.
New York:Continuum Publishing Company, 1990. 198 pages, footnotes, no index. hardcover;
The author is a clinical psychologist involved in the training of students for this field. The basic theme of the book is the impact which religious beliefs have upon the mental state of clients who seek out a therapist. The author also attempts to give summary statements in reference to the main religions in this country, including some discussion of various denominations, and also contemporary cults. The author appears to be generally sympathetic to religion, identifying his own religion as Jewish, and advocates that counselors relate to a client's religious beliefs from a neutral perspective.
While the counselor may or may not have religious beliefs, his or her function is to attempt to identify how religion brings order and meaning to a client's world, not to pass judgment on the client's religion. The author rightly observes that the majority of persons in this country profess some religious belief, making it important for counselors to understand those beliefs. Since there are times when religion may be an integral part of the client's psychological situation, to ignore that dimension is to be cut off from a critical part of the client's world. He even suggests that clergypersons be consulted in cases where the counselor may have no understanding of the client's religious orientation. Since some counselors avoid religion like the plague, Lovinger's approach seems more realistic.
The author gives examples of how religious ideas may reveal insight into a client's psyche. A client who sees God as distant and unapproachable may be reflecting a human father with similar qualities. He points out that sometimes religion has been used as a means to frighten and/or control persons. Thus, a client may be engaged in a behavior which may lead to eternal damnation, according to parental or church teaching. In such cases, helping clients see alternate meanings in the Bible may be a means of helping them to arrive at a different perspective. Thus, for a therapist it is important to focus on possible meanings of religious ideas rather than focusing on their truth or falsehood.
The book has a chapter on how special problems may be handled in the light of religious overtones. He speaks briefly to such contemporary issues as abortion, alcoholism and homosexuality, among others. Persons with strong opinions on such issues may not find this section very satisfactory.
Further, there are times when the author, in spite of his attempts at neutrality, allows his own religious bias to slip in. He makes an interpretive statement suggesting that the New Testament authors expected the world to end soon, a statement which many Christians would not accept. He states that heaven and hell are Christian folk stories having no real basis in Scripture. PSCF readers who believe in the inspiration of the New Testament and in the great creeds of the church might not be all agree with the author's bias at this point.
While the book made some interesting and thoughtful points, this reviewer found much of the material to be superficial, and not very practical. His brief mention of my own denomination misses the mark badly, and he failed to grasp the essence of "Jews for Jesus" in his brief analysis of their intentions. It seemed to me that the author tried to cover too much material in a brief manner, with predictable consequences. Even though I have a keen interest in the subject discussed by the author, I must confess that reading the book was a struggle. My interest kept sagging, and it was only the need to write this review that kept me going.
Reviewed by Richard M. Bowman, Pastor, First Christian Church, 441 North Church St. Decatur, Il 62522.
FUNDAMENTALISM AND EVANGELICALISM by George M. Mardsen. Grand Rapids, Michigan:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991. 201 pages, index. Paperback; $12.95.
George Marsden has written on the topic of "fundamentalism" before (Fundamentalism and American Culture, 1980) and is considered by many to be a leading authority on the subject. He is a professor of the history of Christianity in America at the Divinity School at Duke University. His newest book is a collection of essays edited into book form. The title may be somewhat misleading. I thought it would be a theological analysis of fundamentalism and evangelicalism, but it is more of an historical survey of these movements in America. His survey of how evangelicalism and fundamentalism have related to American culture from the second half of the 19th century until today is informative.
The author helps the reader to grasp the difference between two labels which are often difficult to distinguish from one another. He considers "evangelicalism" to be the primary and original term, with Afundamentalism" a sub-heading under it. Both groups have much in common. They both believe in the centrality of Jesus Christ as the world's Savior, and both have a high view of Scripture, using such terms as "infallible" and/or "inerrant" to describe it. "Evangelical" originally referred to the great American revival movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. As evangelicals came into conflict with theological liberalism and the modern approach to science, some of them became very militant. In order to protect purity of doctrine, they often separated from their churches to form new churches and denominations. These militant and separatist evangelicals came to be called fundamentalists in the early 19th century. Thus, a fundamentalist is an angry evangelical, according to Mardsen, which is a simple but fairly helpful way to distinguish the two terms.
The author reminds us that there was a time when evangelical Christianity and science lived in harmony. However, primarily because of the influence of Charles Darwin, a split took place in the evangelical community. There were those who were at least willing to try to relate evolution to a high view of Scripture, believing that true science and biblical truth must be compatible. The author uses the American Scientific Affiliation as an example of a group whose members tend to accept evolutionary ideas while still holding to basic evangelical truths. The Creation Science movement is seen more in the fundamentalist camp, but here again labels are slippery, since, for example, this reviewer leans towards creation science but does not consider himself a fundamentalist. The key difference seems to be in the words "militant" and "separatist." One tends to slide into the fundamentalist camp when one not only holds to certain truths, but tends to separate from those who disagree, refusing to dialogue on the issue in question.
Although the book is made up of essays, thus giving it a certain uneven quality with the individual chapters not always closely tied together, I found it to be both interesting and helpful. I came away from the book feeling that my understanding of evangelicalism and fundamentalism was sharpened. ASA members will appreciate the changing relationships between science and religion which are documented in the book, especially chapters 5 and 6 ("The Evangelical Love Affair with Enlightenment Science" and "Why Creation Science?").Those involved in present controversies involving science and religion may benefit by stepping back from the present in order to gain some historical perspective. Mardsen's book helped me to do just that.
Reviewed by Richard M. Bowman, Pastor, First Christian Church, 441 No. Church St., Decatur, IL 62522.
SCATTERED VOICE: Christians at Odds in the Public Square by James W. Skillen.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Books, 1990. 252 pages. Paperback: $7.95.
Skillen, director of the Association for Public Justice and the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C., challenges American Christians Ato develop a principled framework that can distinguish the task of government and the role of citizenship from the responsibilities of other institutions and communities." This theoretical challenge stems from certain conceptual, historical, and theological confusions, common to all currents of opinion, which constrain our imagination and prevent us from meeting the opportunities of the present.
A Christian perspective will be distinguished, the author concludes, by four conditions. First, it will recognize, in light of Trinitarian theology, the cultural mandate of politics and the importance of political science to political order. What is political order? What is the purpose and scope of the political? Neglect of these questions admits a fundamental conceptual confusion that precludes a constructive and critical Christian contribution. Second, it will come to grips with the real history of American politics. Political order cannot be grasped outside of history, but there is a dangerous tendency to look to history for the norms of justice and polity; a misinformed or uncritical perspective on one's historical context binds one to an unconvincing moralism and to a piecemeal approach to reforms. Third, it will draw on its biblical roots and Christian tradition to recognize the good of political order; a Christian perspective that ignores the full authority and scope of the Bible and the wisdom of the church is bound to place an inordinate emphasis on, for instance, sin to the neglect of justice, and vice versa. Finally, it will recognize both our highly differentiated society and our rapidly shrinking world. Indeed, contrary to liberal prejudice, confessional and structural pluralism is an important implication of a Christian perspective on politics.
In the middle chapters, Skillen leads the reader on a tour of the present landscape of American Christianity. We meet, in the author's terms, pro-American conservatives, cautious and critical conservatives, sophisticated neo-conservatives, traditional and reflective liberals, civil-rights reformers, projustice activists, and theonomic reconstructionists. Under these labels he gathers a familiar list of voices, including Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, the Catholic Bishops, the oldline Protestant denominations, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, and Gary North. Their insights and errors endue the author's own perspective with catholicity, conceptual clarity, and theoretical and historical depth.
The value of this book is, in short, that it draws the reader into the current debate by providing some basic conceptual tools, some fundamental questions, and the benefit of the author's knowledge of American Christianity, Reformed theology, and democratic theory. Skillen, who holds advanced degrees in both theology and political science, renders the reader who is familiar with the leading lights of the current debate but who is dissatisfied with their conclusions. Those who look here for a slate of policy recommendations or for approbation of their own moral prejudices will be disappointed and unsettled. But those who seek a Christian political perspective informed by political science will be greatly enriched.
Reviewed by Gregory A. Bezilla, Dept. of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 1027.
ECONOMICS TODAY: A
Christian Critique by Donald A. Hay. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1989. 313 pages, endnotes, index. Paperback; $17.95.
The author of this book, which seeks to relate Christian truth to the field of economics, is a Fellow and Tutor in Economics at Jesus College, Oxford. This background would seem to qualify him to write in this area, but in the Preface the author suggests that "my reading is insufficient and my understanding inadequate for what I am trying to do" (p. 9). In spite of this disclaimer, it is a thoughtful book. Economics is a difficult field with many conflicting theories regarding its nature and essence. Chapters four through eight were revisions of previously written materials published in Great Britain.
The eight chapters of the book can be divided into two main sections. The first two chapters grapple with biblical/theological issues which impact on economic issues. Armed with a Christian understanding of truth, the author then proceeds to relate that understanding to various secular economic theories, with a chapter on both capitalism and socialism.
One of the main points of the book is the question of how to relate the high economic ideals, which can be identified in Scripture to economic realties which are taking place in a fallen world, where unredeemed persons often are influential. The author comes up with eight principles which he believes "incorporate the essential features of biblical teaching concerning economic life" (p. 77). These principles cover the areas of man and his dominion, work, and the distribution of goods. As is frequently the case when dealing with complex material, principles can be stated rather clearly, but the difficulty lies in their application to day to day situations. For example, his eighth principle has to do with the obligation of the rich to help the poor. Few Christians would argue with that, but then the author says that men have"no right to consume any more of the product than is essential to provide for their own basic needs" (p. 76). This statement is fraught with ambiguity and does not necessarily follow from the eighth principle. It certainly leans in the direction of socialism rather than capitalism.
The author suggests that Christians must always strive for the biblical ideal in economics. He recognizes that full implementation of biblical economic truth is out of the question in a fallen world. Christians cannot really promote economic principles which presuppose a relationship to God in society where many do not enjoy such a relationship. Christians must often pursue that which is "second best" or "possible" in a sinful world, while never losing sight of God's ideal.
I thought the author's material relating to biblical/theological issues was very helpful. I must confess that I bogged down in those sections where he analyzed various secular economic theories. This reviewer has had very little formal training in economics (one undergraduate course many years ago) and found some of this material difficult to grasp. This is not a defect in the book but rather in the reviewer.
I wondered if the author was not familiar with the Christian Reconstruction (or "Theonomy") movement in the United States. This group has much to say about how biblical economic theory should be applied today. They would not agree that Christians should settle for "second best." The author never mentions this movement or any of its many books and authors. I would think that any book on Christian economics would have to interact with this position, and was disappointed to find that it did not.
I believe this is a book worth reading and owning. I plan to do some more work with the book to sharpen my own understanding of the field. The first two chapters are a good beginning point for Christians who are weak in the subject. We live in a society where much that happens economically is unrelated to divine truth, and sometimes even Christians support economic practices which cannot be justified biblically. Hay's eight principles are a good beginning point.
Reviewed By Richard M. Bowman, Pastor, First Christian Church, and editor of Disciple Renewal magazine, Decatur, IL 62522.
AND THE GENERAL READER: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in the British
Periodical Press, 1859-1872 by Alvar Ellegard, Chicago and London: The University
of Chicago Press, 1990. 394 pages, index. Paperback.
The author, professor emeritus of English at the University of Goteborg, Sweden, has written numerous articles on the public reception of Darwinism. This book was first published in 1958, two decades before a general recognition that historical analysis needs to be based on extensive statistical data. Ellegard's stated purpose is to "describe and analyze the impact of Darwin's theory of Evolution on the British public during the first dozen years after the publication of the Origin of Species." To do so he scoured 115 British newspapers, magazines and journals for articles and reviews of Darwin's theory.
Ellegard discusses four main influences on its reception - politics, religion, philosophy of science, and scientific issues. Although many authors have attempted to minimize the conflict between Darwin's theory and religion, he sees it as a significant factor in the acceptance of evolution. Even though the theory, properly construed, did not oppose major theological tenets, in point of fact it threatened the belief of millions. To the general public Darwinism was at least as much a religious as a scientific question.
The most important contributions to the debate came from biologists. However, "the scientists were not merely scientists, they were also members of the general public, and were influenced, like everybody else, by various political, religious, and ideological beliefs." Those factors are better studied in general publications than in the purely scientific journals. Practically all of the beliefs and attitudes that prevail on this subject today can be traced in the vigorous, wide-ranging mid-Victorian debate.
The first chapter reviews the scientific and religious background of the debate over Darwin's theory. Its revolutionary and radically new element was not the concept of development itself but the proposed mechanism of natural selection. His main objective was to establish a solution to the species problem that rendered superfluous any reference to supernatural causes in their production. During the 1860s the Darwinian theory became the central point in the debate over the philosophical basis of scientific inquiry - its presuppositions, method and implications.
The next three chapters present the climate of general opinion, presentations in the press and reactions of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and several major universities.
The second 100 pages consist of five chapters dealing with religious and philosophical issues: Science and Religion: A Mid-Victorian Conflict, The Argument of Design, Miracles, The Bible, Mid-Victorian Philosophy of Science. A third section, equally long, considers The Immutable Essence of Species, Missing Links, The Battle against Natural Selection, The Case for Darwin, The Descent of Man.
The last chapter Summary and Conclusion, based on a wide range of evidence, concludes that
"The general public's interest in the Darwinian theory was almost wholly due to two factors which were closely bound up with each other, namely, the religious and ideological implications of the theory as such, and its bearing on traditional views concerning the history of mankind and the nature of man."
Only at the scholarly level did debate center on the fundamental problems of the teleological interpretation of nature, the structure of scientific explanation, and the relation of facts to values in the moral and aesthetic spheres of human activity.
Ellegard dispenses with the pervading myth that scientists are value-free agents pursuing objective truth:
Though the actual arguments used in the Darwinian controversy ostensibly concerned scientific points, it is quite clear that the stand taken by the disputants was ultimately determined by ideological or religious considerations. One did not, on the whole, disagree about the facts; one disagreed about the interpretation of the facts, and preferred the interpretation which supported the ideological position one wished to maintain.
Appendices provide 30 pages of statistical data, charts and graphs; 15 pages of periodical references; and six pages of names with biographical notes.
The wealth of information in this unique book enables the author to achieve his purpose. Ellegard combines a readable style with extensive documentation. His book will prove invaluable to anyone who wants an understanding of the actual issues in the debate stirred by Darwin's theory during the two decades immediately following its publication.
Reviewed by Charles E. Hummel, author of The Galileo Connection, Grafton, MA 01519.
AND THE MYTH OF CREATIONISM: A Basic Guide to the Facts in the Evolution Debate. by
Tim M. Berra, Stanford, CA., Stanford University Press, 1990.
I and many other biology instructors across the country received free copies of this book for possible adoption as a textbook, presumably either for biology majors or for non-majors. It claims to be a basic guide to the facts, and in large measure it is: it presents generally clear and enjoyably interesting summaries of the background information that anyone would need in order to evaluate the evolution controversies. Berra provides concise explanations of natural selection, nonadaptive evolution, speciation, radiometric dating, punctuated equilibrium, convergence, neoteny, molecular clocks, DNA hybridization, etc.
Evidence is summarized for the Cretaceous extinction, vestigial organs, fossil forms intermediate between all the major vertebrate groups, and describes microevolution caught in the act. An extensive section summarizes what is known about the hominid fossil record. And Berra does a good job of showing that many lines of evidence converge together on an evolutionary conclusion: he cites the correlation among genetic, anatomical, and embryological evidences for the common origin of vertebrates (p. 20).
In addition to providing background information about evolution, Berra addresses the young-earth, global-flood creationist challenge. He emphasizes that the vast geologic ages, and the general outline of those ages, were accepted by scientists long before evolution was proposed, and that these ages are based on the overwhelming majority of over 100,000 measurements in published literature, and thus is not something that scientists have accepted merely to accommodate Darwinism. He also presents brief (sometimes inadequately brief) refutations of the more common creationist arguments, especially in Chapter 5. He concludes, I am afraid with some truth, that the young-earth creationist arguments are "scientifically inaccurate, willful, or devious" (p. 132). He also summarizes recent court cases.
However, while this book deals mostly with providing background information, it is not exactly unbiased in its approach. Much good information is presented, but in several cases important issues are passed off with brief nonfactual statements because of the author's open and clear anti-creationist crusade. For instance, like most textbooks, this book hides the immense problems that still remain for the materialistic scenario of the origin of life from prebiotic chemicals. (None of the problems cited in Thaxton et al.'s The Mystery of Life's Origin are even mentioned, much less refuted.) Berra brushes aside the still-embarrassing discontinuity commonly called the Cambrian Explosion with the old adage that soft-bodied animals do not leave fossils (p. 128). (The very existence of microfossils disproves this.) At one point the author hints, without saying it since - it is known to be untrue - that viruses may have been transitional in the origin of cells. He also makes a big deal about microspheres and coacervate droplets as if they really were cells, which they are not. And for a few pages he slips into ad hominem arguments against creationists, ridiculing them for some religious beliefs that have nothing to do with scientific controversies. He correctly takes most of the creationists to task for their poor publication records in science journals. But I happen to know that one of the creationists whom he criticizes does, in fact, have a legitimate publication record, and Berra conveniently ignores this. He insists that the whole phenomenon of the natural world can be explained by nothing more supernatural than Awater seeking its own level" (p. 66). Thus the author is correct in stating "This lavish fossil record speaks loudly and clearly to the fact that evolution has occurred" (italics his) but cannot conclude that creation did not also occur.
But why is the author carrying out his anti-creationist crusade? Some anti-creationist writers seem to be offended primarily at the idea of God, and for them it is a religious crusade. Not for Berra, who takes pains to point out that many people are studiously religious and yet also accept evolution. For Berra, the crusade is one of basic education. He believes that to "teach students that the foundations of biology, most of geology and astronomy, and a good deal of physics are flawed is to cheat them, shackle their intellectual growth, erode their ability to compete for jobs, and stifle their prospects for a rewarding life" (p. viii). He cites that statistics about how American students are at the bottom of the heap in terms of mathematics and science achievement.
I share Berra's alarm at the dismal achievements of American college students, and agree that much of creationism's popularity arises from the inability of these students to recognize even the most basic errors. But likewise, the situation is not helped by evolutionary indoctrination. Thankfully, this book should go a long way towards helping this situation: the very existence of this book invites the student to inquire and evaluate rather than simply accept either a creationist or evolutionist party line. Furthermore, it should help students to appreciate that science is a way of knowing that can be applied to everyday life.
Reviewed by Stanley Rice, Department of Biology, Huntington College, Huntington, IN 46750
SUSTAINING THE EARTH by John Young.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. 225 pages, bibliography and references,
index. Hardcover; $19.95.
In an erudite and comprehensive way, John Young, Professor of History and Director of the Center of Environmental Studies at the University of Adelaide, Australia, delineates the main facets of environmentalism, from its beginnings as a single issue thirty years ago, to the present, in which the environmental crisis influences everything. Young sees green politics finding common ground to emerge as a major force in making a peaceful and invigorating transition from a post-industrial society to a world that is sustainable.
Young begins by uncovering greed as the basis for environmental degradation. "We ... accelerate the degradation of the environment to make the world safe for inequality" (p. 20); but a return to a AGarden of Eden" by those disillusioned with modern life is a dead end. Three comments on chapter 2: (1) On page 27, the word not is missing. Read: the Aborigines of Australia, however, did not acquire firearms..." (2) Missionaries did not preach "that disease was God's punishment for sin and that conversion would entitle the victim to Western medicine," but they healed following the Lord's example and as part of the mandated Great Commission, providing physical evidence of the Good News (p. 39). (3) I doubt that regrowth of bush on Maori lands can be attributed to Aenvironmental management" by them (p. 45).
Chapter 3, "The Parable of the Talents", starts with a discussion of biblical and Christian ideas. As the outset, the author informs us of his humanistic, non-revelational bias: "Society produces the religion it needs to authorize functioning in customary ways" (p. 54). The unique life of ancient Israel among its neighbors cannot be explained in this manner. "In Genesis, man justifies (italics his) his action... the stories justified the state of society retrospectively and provided authority for the generations of the future" (p. 55). Ultimately this means that, in the environmental crisis, man is left to his own self-justifying actions; God has no revealed plan for his planet toward which his creatures can live in hope.
Young then asserts,"The New Testament places man at the center of the universe" (p. 56). Whatever happened to John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:1-37? Again, Christ's statement (Lk. 12:17) that the Father values persons much more than many sparrows does not mean unconcern for nature (p. 56). Evidently this author does not know that the paliggenesia, literally new genesis or new creation (Mt. 19.28), is an essential part of Christ's kingdom. The I Cor. 9:9-10 passage (p. 56) is misinterpreted. Paul is arguing for the right of support in his apostolic labors, not for "extra-terrestrial immortality."
Young completely ignores the great biblical passages about the new order of justice, equity, peace, joy and renewal of the whole creation as Isa. 11:1-9; 65:17-25; Rom 8:18-25; Rev. 21:1-5, 24-27;22,1-5. On the credit side, the author does recognize that the concept of stewardship in Christian thought offers most to those in search of an ideology for a sustainable society (p. 54).
In chapter 4, "Science to the Rescue," the author concludes "that technological remedies were only capable of dealing with symptoms. Cures would be found only as a result of asking the political and moral questions of diagnosis" (p. 92). Science, however, cannot be so easily dismissed. It has a vital role to play in a sustainable world. Some so-called environmental problems are falsely perceived, as an objective review of the hard facts will reveal. In some instances there have been too much politics involved, preventing safe and workable scientific solutions, such as disposal of nuclear wastes. A good book on the scientific side of the question is "Trashing the Planet" by former AEC chairman and Washington governor Dixy Lee Ray (Regnery Gateway, Washington, DC, 1990).
Chapter 5, "Small is Beautiful, But Can We Afford It?," works through the harmful effects of present kinds of industrial growth in both rich and poor countries. The point is now reached where environmental issues shift from the periphery of the political agenda to the center (chapter 6). Young advises that in a post-environmental society, single-issue organizations (e.g., animal rights, Greenpeace, wilderness protection) need to seek a common ethical denominator as an essential ingredient to a sustainable society. Only by "green groups" finding common ground (chapter 7) can they be effective in persuading people to democratically to accept the "relationship between the deterioration of society and that of the natural environment" - and to change.
In the final chapter, "The Politics of a Sustainable Society," it seems to me that the author steps out of the role as historical chronicler and analyst into that of a political strategist advising the green movement on individual ideology and action; the function of the community pressure group; and finally activity in the political society, which includes local, state and national government (p. 174). He does not disapprove of such tactics as confronting bulldozers or clinging to bows of nuclear ships.
This important book icludes some features that enhance its use as a textbook. At the end of each chapter suggestions are given for further reading. Following this is a concise transitional statement summarizing the argument so far and leading into the issues of the next chapter. The extensive bibliography (16 pages) alone is worth the price of the book. While deficient in biblical perspective, this book is a must for the serious student of environmentalism.
Reviewed by Albert C. Strong, B. S., M.Div., Retired, Silverton, OR 97381.