Science in Christian Perspective
for September 2005
Index for September 2005
Barber, Nigel. Kindness in a Cruel World,
57:3, 262, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Boa, Kenneth. Augustine to Freud: What
Theologians Tell Us about Human Nature (And Why It Matters), 57:3, 262, S
2005. (Robert Rogland)
Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly
Everything, 57:3, 253, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Davies, Douglas J. A Brief History of Death,
57:3, 260, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Egan, Hope. Holy Cow: Does God Care What We
Eat? 57:3, 252, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Falk, Darrel R. Coming to Peace with
Science, 57:3, 250, S 2005. (Joseph H. Lechner)
Freeman, Charles. The Closing of the
Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason, 57:3, 258, S 2005.
Guillen, Michael. Can a Smart Person
Believe in God? 57:3, 259, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Hellyer, Marcus. Catholic Physics: Jesuit
Natural Philosophy in Early Modern Germany, 57:3, 254, S 2005. (Robert
Lightman, Alan. A Sense of the Mysterious:
Science and the Human Spirit, 57:3, 251, S 2005. (Moorad Alexanian)
McGrath, Alister E. The Science of God: An
Introduction to Scientific Theology, 57:3, 257, S 2005. (Fraser F. Fleming)
O'Leary, Denyse. By Design or by Chance? 57:3,
255, S 2005. (George L. Murphy)
Peters, Ted and Martinez Hewlett. Evolution
from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence,
57:3, 256, S 2005. (George L. Murphy)
Pojman, Louis P., ed. The Moral Life: An
Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature, 57:3, 249, S 2005. (Richard
Post, S. G. Human Nature and the Freedom of
Public Religious Expression, 57:3, 260, S 2005. (Todd K. Pedlar)
Reagan, Michael, ed. Inside the Mind of
God: Images and Words of Inner Space, 57:3, 255, S 2005. (Richard Ruble)
Silverman, Kenneth. Lightning Man: The
Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse, 57:3, 253, S 2005. (John W. Burgeson)
Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant:
Worldview as a Concept, 57:3, 259, S 2005. (O. C. Karkalits)
Stannard, Russell. Science and the Renewal
of Belief, 57:3, 251, S 2005. (Mark A. Strand)
Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator: A
Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, 57:3,
249, S 2005. (J. David Holland)
Wilcox, David L. God and Evolution: A
Faith-based Understanding, 57:3, 257, S 2005. (Michael A. Vincent)
MORAL LIFE: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature by Louis P.
Pojman, ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 985 pages. Paperback;
$70.95. ISBN: 0195166086.
you like to contemplate the mysteries, vagaries, puzzles, enigmas, riddles,
inequities, controversies, and paradoxes of the moral and ethical life, this
book will speed you on your way. It contains a grouping of ninety-two classical
and contemporary readings on ethics and morals. The writers cover a wide range
of viewpoints, topics, and time periods. They include works by Camus, Dostoevsky,
Epictetus, Herodotus, Hugo, Nietzsche, Orwell, Plato, Plutarch, Tolstoy, and
many others. Noteworthy are the inclusions of two sermons by Jesus, C. S.
Lewis' article entitled "We Have No ŽRight to Happiness,'" and Charles
Colson's contribution on "The Volunteer at Auschwitz"
Angelou's autobiographical item, "Graduation," is about her graduation
from high school in Stamps, Arkansas. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous
speech, "I Have A Dream," is included. In the section on
"International Justice and the Threat of Terrorism," Joshua 6-8 tells the
story of "God's Command to Destroy Jericho and Ai" The story of David and
Bathsheba is told under the heading "Lust" Other articles which will appeal
to PSCF readers include "The Deep Beauty of the Golden Rule," "The
Evil of Lying," and "Licensing Parents"
articles are intended to lead students to a better understanding of
philosophical issues related to relativism, utilitarianism, virtue, the meaning
of life, freedom, sex, love, marriage, ecology, and other topics. There are pros
and cons on moral relativism, utilitarianism, the Golden Rule, religion and
morality, ethical egoism, abortion, and the legalization of drugs.
book includes helpful chapter introductions, biographical sketches, abstracts,
and study questions for each reading selection. Alas, there is no index. There
are, however, lists of further readings for each of the sixteen chapters. This
book is expensive because it is intended for college students. (Why are
college books expensive? One reason is because so many free ones are given as
examination copies to potential adopters.)
is a philosophy professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
He has written or edited many other books including Global Environmental
Ethics and Classics of Philosophy. Pojman's own writings in this
collection include "The Case Against Moral Relativism," "Egoism and
Altruism: A Critique of Ayn Rand," and "The Cosmopolitan Response to
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
CASE FOR A CREATOR: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points
Toward God by Lee Strobel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. 341 pages,
notes, index. Hardcover; $19.99. ISBN: 0310241448.
at Yale Law School, Strobel was an award- winning legal editor of the Chicago
Tribune for a number of years. He is the author of several best-selling
books, including The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. He
has been a teaching pastor at two of America's largest churches: Willow Creek
Community Church in suburban Chicago and Saddleback Valley Community Church in
Orange County, California. During his academic years, Strobel became convinced
that God was outmoded and that science had made the idea of a Creator
irrelevant. After his wife became a Christian, he began to seriously investigate
the claims of Christianity for himself. His journey from atheism to Christian
faith is retraced in his book The Case for Christ. This book, The Case
for a Creator, documents how recent developments in science are pointing
away from materialism and atheism and instead are pointing toward the existence
format of this book is identical to Strobel's previous two "Case" books.
He interviews a number of different scholars, taking on the role of a skeptic as
he searches for answers to questions that plagued him when he was an atheist.
Strobel states that he "sought out doctorate-level professors who have
unquestioned expertise, are able to communicate in accessible language, and who
refuse to limit themselves only to the politically correct world of naturalism
or materialism" (p. 28). Those chosen for interviews also represent a variety
of scientific disciplines with a chapter devoted to the evidence from each
discipline. Those familiar with the Intelligent Design movement will recognize
most, if not all of the scholars interviewed.
first person interviewed is Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute and author
of Icons of Evolution, a book that raises doubts about the evidence for
Darwinism. Stephen Meyer, also of the Discovery Institute (an Intelligent Design
think tank), is interviewed in chapters four and nine. Michael Behe, author of
the book Darwin's Black Box and proponent of the concept of irreducible
complexity, is interviewed in chapter eight. Others interviewed include J. P.
Moreland and William Lane Craig from the Talbot School of Theology, Robin
Collins of Messiah College, and the authors of The Privileged Planet, Jay
Wesley Richards (of the Discovery Institute) and Guillermo Gonzalez.
evidence that is cited in support of a Creator will be very familiar to readers
of this journal. The kalam cosmological argument (whatever begins to exist has a
cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause) is
supported by recent scientific evidence for the Big Bang theory. In the area of
physics, the anthropic principle, which recognizes the incredible fine-tuning of
the universe that makes life on earth possible, is discussed in detail.
Astronomical evidence comes from a variety of scientific sources; the concept of
the Galactic Habitable Zone, the unique arrangement of the planets in our solar
system, the unusual properties of our sun and moon, as well as from the
phenomena on earth that contribute to its ability to sustain life. In the field
of biochemistry, the concept of irreducible complexity as it relates to
biological structures and biochemical pathways, is used as evidence for
Intelligent Design. The failure of origin-of-life theories to adequately explain
how chemical evolution could have produced living organisms from nonliving
matter is the subject of the chapter on biological information. The last piece
of evidence to be addressed focuses on the problem of developing conscious,
thinking, feeling, believing creatures from materials that do not have those
properties (by a naturalistic evolutionary process).
whom is this book primarily addressed? After the cumulative case for a Creator
is summarized in the last chapter, a challenge is given to spiritual skeptics
and seekers to investigate the evidence systematically and enthusiastically, as
if their lives depended on it! Strobel clearly desires to reach those who are
not Christians, since he includes an appendix that summarizes the historical
evidence for Jesus Christ from his book The Case for Christ. If his
main purpose is to convince unbelievers that God exists on the basis of
scientific evidence, one wonders why he chose to only interview individuals
who are closely associated with the Intelligent Design movement. His arguments
may have been more forceful if at least some of them had been presented by
scientists who are not so closely connected to this movement. Several of those
he interviewed are actually Christian philosophers rather than practicing
scientists, and only two of those interviewed (Behe and Gonzalez) are research
scientists in secular universities. Although many quotes from scientists outside
of the Intelligent Design movement are included, extended interviews with some
of these scientists might have lent more credence to the evidence for a Creator
than is presented in this book.
primary audience appears to be the Christian community as the book is mainly an
apologetic for theism and Christian faith. The book can easily be used in a
study group setting within the context of the local church. This book could also
be used as a text in an introductory course on science and faith at a Christian
college. Study questions are provided in the appendix and brief bibliographies
are included at the end of each chapter. This book, like Strobel's first
two "Case" books, will likely be read by many within the Christian
community. Hopefully, many skeptics and seekers will read it as well.
by J. David Holland, 868 Oxford Drive, Chatham, IL 62629.
TO PEACE WITH SCIENCE by Darrel R. Falk. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 2004. 234 pages, index. Paperback; $17.00. ISBN: 0830827420.
member Darrel Falk studied or taught at five secular universities before serving
two Christian universities. He is currently professor of biology and
associate provost for research at Point Loma Nazarene University.
recalls a picnic with his wife and daughters on a southern California beach
over twenty-five years ago. He spotted a Sunday school bus belonging to the
denomination in which he grew up. This brought fond memories of church
fellowship that he once enjoyed"a fellowship to which he, as a young adult,
felt he could not return. "The chasm that separated us was too great," he
writes, and one of the widest gulfs was "my belief in gradual creation"
to Falk, three origins scenarios are consistent with Scripture: (1) separate
origin of each species; (2) separate origin of prototypes, followed by
microevolution of related species; and (3) each new species arose from a
previously-existing species. Many Christians think creation can only mean
(1) or (2); and that (3) excludes God. To Falk, all three imply Divine
involvement. The Bible teaches that life arose at God's command and because of
his presence. It does not reveal mechanisms. Falk believes that God gave the
creation freedom to act, as he also gave humans moral freedom. Autonomy is
implied by phrases such as "Let the waters teem ÷" (Gen. 1:20).
Falk wants Christians to understand that gradual creation is a valid position
for evangelicals to hold.
from many disciplines suggests that (3) is the most scientifically valid
position. Astrophysics tells us the universe is 12-13 billion years old.
Numerous methods indicate the earth is 4-5 billion years old. Stratigraphy and
plate tectonics yield a coherent geological history. Transitional fossils (which
Darwin's critics said did not exist) have been found"many during the 1990s.
change. The changes accumulate at rates that correlate with the geologic events
that isolated populations. Cichlid species in Lake Malawi (which formed four
million years ago) are more closely related to each other than to cichlids in
Lake Tanganyika (which is six million years older). Marsupials in Australia are
more similar to each other than to their placental counterparts in South
DNA testifies to a species' past. SINE CHR-1 occurs at identical loci
in all even-toed ungulates, dolphins, and whales. This retroposon (which was
inserted by a virus) has been replicated faithfully, and organisms cannot delete
it. Its presence strongly implies common ancestry. Like facial scars or lunar
craters, it is mute evidence of formative history.
wants fellow believers to understand the reasonableness of his scientific views,
but he wants Christian oneness even more.
the church begins to downplay the significance of believing in some variety of
sudden creation ÷ there will continue to be thousands of individuals ÷
who will be denied true fellowship in God's kingdom ÷ not because of their
refusal to accept Christ ÷ but because they believe the church doors are not
wide open to someone who believes in gradual creation.
is not hard to find examples of the divisiveness that Falk is talking about. A
Google search for "Darrel Falk" directed me to Christianity4Life,
where Michel Archer brands Falk as a "theistic evolutionist" (TE) and
charges that TEs "do not believe the Bible" May God have mercy on us; for
his people are fighting a civil war. Falk wants to be a peacemaker.
is the most helpful book I have ever read on biological origins and
Christianity. Every ASA member should own it. Please share this book with your
pastor and with your church's young-adult Sunday school teacher. College
biology teachers should assign it as supplemental reading.
I write these words, I am enjoying a picnic with my daughter at a state
park in northeast Ohio. Across the road, a signpost proclaims that we are
sitting astride a continental divide. Rain that falls south of us will drain
into the Mississippi River and empty into the Gulf of Mexico. Drops that fall
north of us will drain into Lake Erie and will eventually reach the Atlantic
Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. Coming to Peace with Science
is a watershed event in evangelical publishing. Its rhetoric is unusually
gracious, and its purpose is to restore fellowship among the body of Christ. Let
it be so, Lord.
by Joseph H. Lechner, Professor of Chemistry, Mount Vernon Nazarene University,
Mount Vernon, OH 43050.
AND THE RENEWAL OF BELIEF by Russell Stannard. Philadelphia: Templeton
Foundation Press, 2004. 228 pages, index. Paperback; $16.95. ISBN: 193203174X.
is emeritus professor of physics at the Open University in Great Britain. He is
highly regarded for his expertise as a physicist and also his ability to
popularize issues pertinent to science and faith. He has a number of
best-selling books and is a well-known television and radio broadcaster. These
unique skills show through in Science and the Renewal of Belief, as he
makes complex science concepts, such as quantum physics, understandable to the
and the Renewal of Belief was first published in 1984 in Great Britain. This
reprint is an updated version published for the first time in North America.
This book contains twenty-two chapters, many of them quite short.
are several main arguments that undergird Stannard's work. He considers modern
science to be continually providing evidence for the legitimacy of basic
Christian doctrines, including original sin, the Trinity, and Christ's
divine-human nature. This reflects his sincere Christian faith. At the same
time, he considers the advances of science to be the first and nearly invincible
evidence of truth, and weighs the Bible against the authority of science. For
example, he questions the virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus. He said that
in some of his miracles Jesus is as much a good psychiatrist as a miracle
worker. He explains God's provision of manna as insect secretions on tamarisk
leaves. The only supernatural aspect of the Bible that he seems to recognize is
the resurrection of Christ. ASA members might be troubled by the casual attitude
he takes toward the Bible. His philosophical and scientific prowess provides
fascinating fodder for theologians, but most evangelical theologians would
find it hard to rest many of his arguments securely in orthodox biblical
ideas are creative and fascinating, and his mastery of complex physics concepts
is stunning. One of his more interesting concepts is what he calls the "the
experiment of prayer" He considers our relationship to God to be of
paramount importance, of more importance than our conceptions of God. He wrote
that "÷ all valid statements they [theologians] make about God are
statements about our relationship with God, and any attempt to go beyond that,
in order to arrive at an objective description of God in isolation from us,
is inadmissible" (p. 214). So he challenges the skeptic to pray for one year
and test whether in fact through prayer he meets God. While I suspect that
without input from the Word of God, the "pray-er" will likely end up an
animist or a yogi, he is not so concerned.
18 on the role of paradox in science and faith was particularly enriching for
me. He has much to offer the Christian struggling to thrive in the relativistic
context of postmodern thinking. His ideas will possibly push you deeper into the
postmodern waters, but he also provides interesting arguments which will keep
you from being washed away.
book would be good for skeptics who consider science to have eliminated the need
for faith. His descriptions of the changing nature of science would challenge
their confidence in science and possibly open them up to considering faith.
However, unless they had a prior commitment to Christianity, I suspect
Stannard's teachings would as likely lead them to new age philosophy as to
Christianity. This book could also be used in an upper level course on science
and faith. To that end, I found it to be better engaged with the kinds of
questions the modern university is throwing our way than most books by more
conservative Christians. Many loyal readers of our journal PSCF would
enjoy this book, and I do recommend it.
by Mark A. Strand, Shanxi Evergreen Service, Yuci, Shanxi, China, 030600.
SENSE OF THE MYSTERIOUS: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman.
New York: Pantheon Books, 2005. 224 pages. Hardcover; $17.95. ISBN: 0375423206.
is the author of several novels that include Einstein's Dreams, which
was an international best seller; Good Benito; The Diagnosis,
which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and Reunion. He also
published Great Ideas in Physics that serves as a text for a course of
the same name at UNC-Wilmington for nonscience majors. His essays have appeared
in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Nature, The Atlantic
Monthly, and The New Yorker, among other publications. Lightman,
who received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of
Technology in 1974, is a novelist, essayist, physicist, and educator. Currently,
he is adjunct professor of humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of
book represents a collection of essays most of which have appeared previously in
various publications. The titles of the essays, which are not in chronological
order, are as follows.
"A Sense of the Mysterious," Lightman recounts his early tinkering with
rockets and the realization that beauty at times succumbs to reality not only in
the crash of a rocket but also in ideas such as parity conservation in particle
physics. Early on, he showed an underlying interest in science and art but
concentrated on relativistic thermal plasma research at Caltech. This was his
introduction to discovering something new in science.
"Words," Lightman contrasts scientific words that are operationally defined
and objects and concepts that the novelist uses but cannot precisely define. It
is clear that this distinction is based on the former dealing exclusively with
the physical aspect of nature, whereas the latter deals essentially with the
nonphysical aspects of human nature.
"Metaphor in Science," Lightman discusses the use of metaphors in science to
create theories, such as the mechanical picture of Maxwell's electromagnetism,
and its use to explain results of theories, e.g., the expanding balloon
used by Eddington to illustrate the expansion of the universe.
"Inventions of the Mind," Lightman confronts the intriguing question of why
the constructs in pure mathematics find applications in the description of
nature. He indicates that the human description of nature relies on the
language of mathematics but that the phenomena themselves may not necessitate
it. In addition, the success of the use of pure mathematics is because
science is a human construct. Alternatively, it may be that our minds are part
of nature and thus reflect nature and its logic. Of course, for a theist,
the mystery is solved by acknowledging God as the Creator of both humans and
nature with humans in turn the creator of mathematics.
"The Contradictory Genius," "The One and Only," and "Megaton Man,"
Lightman recounts the lives of Einstein, Feynman, and Teller, respectively. In
"Dark Matter," one learns of Vera Rubin, a woman who loved astronomy and
discovered mass in spiral galaxies that do not emit light, now christened
"A Scientist Dying Young," Lightman bemoans how great scientific
achievements are accomplished very early in the life of scientists, thirty-six
being the average age of physics Nobel laureates. Of course, most scientists
dwell happily in teaching, academic administration, and some research. Some
continue their love for research on an individual basis while others administer
the research done mainly by others.
in "Prisoner of the Wired World," Lightman decries the modern world of
technology with its accompanying benefits and ills. Our society is obsessed with
speed and a consequent impatience embedded in consumption and materialism. The
world is exploding in communication and computers giving rise to a virtual world
devoid of face-to-face personal contacts. People have accommodated themselves to
a noisy environment where privacy has been lost by being constantly
"plugged-in" Technology has gone from being our servants to becoming our
gives a personal account of his scientific life. The book is peppered with
quotes of famous physicists and insights derived in the pursuit of scientific
knowledge and discovery, which is common to all practicing scientists. His
writing is very good and informative. However, despite the reference to spirit
in the title of the book, no unifying world view is presented that integrates
science and the true nature of humans, viz. the spiritual.
book is entertaining to read and quite informative for its size. ASA members can
require it as reading material for any course that deals with the anecdotal
history of science and a secular critique of modern society.
by Moorad Alexanian, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC
COW: Does God Care What We Eat? by Hope Egan. Littleton, CO: First Fruits
of Zion, 2005. 162 pages. Paperback; $14.00. ISBN: 189212419X.
Cow is about what you put into your mouth and how it relates to the Bible,
health, and longevity. It does not advocate legalism or vegetarianism, but it
does come down on the side of those who advocate a diet based on Old Testament
dietary laws. It considers the ban on unclean foods just as relevant today as
the ban on idolatry and adultery (p. 111). Egan concluded that "the Bible's
instructions about which meats God designed to be eaten still applied to us"
(p. 8). The concluding chapter is entitled "God's Word Does Not Change"and
Neither Does the Physiology of Pork or Shellfish" (p. 83). She believes that
"God established His statues to last forever" (p. 85).
stresses throughout that dietary choices are not related to the hope of
salvation. Whatever one's theology, it would be difficult to disagree with the
book's conclusion that "eating more vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas,
nuts and seeds is a healthy, economical alternative to meat eating ÷"
(p. 84). Egan offers supporting evidence throughout. One example: "A John
Hopkins University study illustrates how pigs and other unclean mammals, birds,
fish and insects have significantly higher toxicity levels than clean ones, like
cows" (p. 33).
the chapter "What Would Jesus Eat?" Egan writes: "Dispensational theology
holds that there is a Žparentheses' during the Church Age in which believers
are not bound by the Hebrew Scriptures' laws, which will become applicable
again in the future. This idea of a Torah time- out seems odd" (p. 57).
However, to contend that the Old Testament dietary rules should be followed
because they are conducive to health may be more reasonable to some Christians
than the idea that these Old Testament rules apply to Christians today.
readers may question some conclusions. For example, Egan asks: "Did God
provide meat in order to shorten our life spans? Would our loving Creator"who
carefully created our bodies and a myriad of Gen. 1:29 foods to perfectly fuel
them"intentionally provide food that would harm us? I doubt it" (p. 15). But
the reader might wonder about tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other natural
disasters. They certainly cause harm. Where do they come from, if not the
co-author, D. Thomas Lancaster, observes that "Whether or not a particular
commandment seems to apply in our day is irrelevant" (p. 86). This sweeping
generalization seems contradictory to the point of the book. Some of
Lancaster's other (controversial and unorthodox?) views include: today unclean
animals should not be eaten (p. 96); Peter's sheet vision episode did not
relate to which meats are fit to eat (p. 109); Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians
8-10 do not sanction the consumption of unclean meats forbidden by the Torah
(p. 117); Acts 15 does not abolish biblical dietary laws (p. 122); and
Colossians 2 is not speaking against Old Testament dietary laws (p. 126).
book is handsomely produced, with easy to read large type, and written in a
mostly non-polemic style. The author's irenic attitude may reduce the tendency
to argue with some of her conclusions. She writes: "As we explore whether God
cares about what we eat, I want to be helpful" (p. 30). She intends the book
to be "neither a theological treatise nor a diet manual" (p. 10).
summary, despite some gentle nitpicking, I liked this book. Christians concerned
about obeying God's will in all of life's venues will find this book
helpful in dealing with a controversial topic in a thoughtful, helpful,
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING by Bill Bryson. New York: Broadway
Books, 2004. 544 pages. Paperback; $15.95. ISBN: 076790818X.
writes books in the genre called "travel literature" And he is an expert at
it. A Walk in the Woods, about his hiking the Appalachian Trail, is
informative, entertaining, and sometimes hilarious. His In a Sunburned
Country is also deeply amusing and thoughtful as Bryson observed life in
Australia as "a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest
weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet"
Bryson comes forth with a chronicle of his scientific travels and finds in many
parts of the world. His acknowledgments include sites and people in the United
States, England, Australia, and other places. For three years, he interviewed
experts, visited museums, read copiously and amalgamated all he learned into a
highly educational and unusually insightful volume. It will interest experts and
possibly thrill neophytes. In the Bryson tradition, it manages to amuse quite
often: if you dived two and a half miles in the ocean, the water pressure would
be "equivalent to being squashed beneath a stack of fourteen loaded cement
trucks" (p. 240). Or take the case of J. B. S. Haldane, the absent-minded
Oxford professor. Once his wife found him in bed in his pajamas after sending
him upstairs to dress for a dinner party. Haldane said he found himself
disrobing and assumed it was bedtime (p. 243). The first bathysphere "held two
men, but only if they were prepared to become extremely well acquainted" (p.
relatively long book has the customary table of contents, endnotes,
bibliography, and index. Its six major parts are subdivided into thirty easily
digestible chapters (wonderful for reading in one sitting without "reader
fatigue"). In them you will learn some amazing things and look at things
you already know in brand new ways. Bryson has a gift for telling metaphor,
illuminative analogy, and potent observation. For example, he starts chapter 16,
"The Lonely Planet," with this trenchant observation: "It isn't easy
being an organism. In the whole universe, as far as we know, there is only one
place, an inconspicious outpost of the Milky Way called Earth, that will
sustain you, and even it can be pretty grudging" (p. 239). Bryson quotes
Freeman Dyson as saying: "The more I examine the universe ÷ the more
evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were
coming" (p. 238). Above 5500 meters, women do not provide enough oxygen to a
fetus to bring it to full term (p. 259).
of Bryson's salient observations may entice you to read this book. If you were
to pull atoms from your body with tweezers, "you would produce a mound of fine
atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been
you" (p. 2). "Of the billions of species of things which have lived since
time began, 99.99% are extinct" (p. 3). "Protons are so small that a little
dib of ink like the dot on this i can hold something in the region of
500,000,000,000 of them, rather more than the number of seconds contained in
half a million years" (p. 9). The edge of the universe is 90 billion trillion
miles away, according to Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson (pp. 11-12). It was
not until 1978 that anyone noticed Pluto had a moon (p. 19). (Pluto is so small
it would cover only half of the United States). Space is so enormous that "it
is possible that alien beings travel billions of miles to amuse themselves by
planting crop circles in Wiltshire or frightening the daylights out of some poor
guy in a pickup truck on a lonely road" but it does not seem likely (p. 27).
Isaac Newton inserted a long needle into his eye socket and rubbed it around to
see what would happen (p. 46; fortunately, nothing did). Scientists can
calculate the weight of the earth sitting in their La-Z-Boys (5.9725 billion
trillion metric tons, p. 62).
introduces his thoughts with a quote from Leo Szilard who was thinking of
keeping a diary: "I am merely going to record the facts for the information of
friend Hans Bethe inquired, "Don't you think God knows the facts?"
Responded Szilard: "He knows the facts, but He doesn't know this version
of the facts" This book is Bryson's version of the facts, and while it
may not inform God, it will certainly inform the curious. Bryson is a wonderful
writer, and you will be richly entertained and rewarded by reading this book.
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
MAN: The Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse by Kenneth Silverman.
Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2003. 503 pages, bibliography, notes, index.
Paperback; $20.00. ISBN: 0306813947.
Finley Breese Morse, the inventor of a technology that revolutionized
civilization, transformed transportation, the military, foreign affairs, and the
very course of this world's history, was a miserable failure. Morse described
his life as "cursed"
prolific painter, Morse's art was largely unappreciated and often went unsold.
His neglect of his wife and children in the pursuit of his career was indecent.
He was a lifelong Anglophobe (until England granted him a medal). He assured
George Vail, who worked closely with him on the invention, that Vail was his
"partner," but took all the glory of the results for himself. A zealous
Christian, he railed against public education and church-state separation,
opposed immigration from "sub standard races," and attacked Roman Catholics
vilified Abraham Lincoln as (p. 410) illiterate, inhuman, wicked, and
irreligious. He organized a committee for the overthrow of the Emancipation
Proclamation, and argued that male domination of females and Negro slavery were
God ordained. He saw Abolitionists as the hideous progeny of religious
liberalism, a Christian apostasy. The concept (after the Civil War) of black
suffrage and interracial marriage threw him into frenzies. He once ran for Mayor
of New York City on such a platform, garnering just 78 votes out of 37,000 cast!
His commercially successful telegraph brought him much wealth, many honors,
hundreds of lawsuits, and interminable debates in the public press.
Acclaiming himself always as a "meek Christian," his favorite photograph,
bedecked with medals, and taken at age 72 (p. 390), is best described as
Silverman, a Pulitzer Prize recipient and a masterful storyteller, depicts Morse
in all his complexity. The book is a microhistory of the exciting times of the
first seventy-five years of the nineteenth century. It shows how a world was
changed, not only by the telegraph, but by other technologies. More than that,
it is the very sad story of a man who truly tried to follow Christ, yet never
recognized he had lost his way. Morse died in 1872, still defending his claims
both in the courts and in the public press. He was not only a failure, but
a man unfulfilled, who had lived much of his life in acrimonious legal battles.
was not a scientist; he had no education or training in the sciences. Yet, at
age 41, he did have one great idea, conceived (as it seems) on board the ship
Sully, in October 1832. June 20, 1840 marked the filing of his patent, "a new
and useful Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals, by
the application of Electro Magnetism" (p. 212). Four years of experimentation,
legal fights, and seeking funding followed. On May 24, 1844, the historic words,
"What hath God Wrought," were flashed from Washington to Baltimore.
days later accounts of the Democratic Convention in Baltimore were telegraphed
to eager listeners in Washington. A day later political negotiations by
telegraph between the two cities were underway. The world would never be the
same. The impact of the technology drew a nation"and a world"together.
story is exciting; I found myself unable to put the book down. I heartily
recommend it to my ASA colleagues. There are lessons in humility, examples to be
avoided, and perspectives on nineteenth century civilization to be gained.
Morses's harmatia (Aristotle's "fatal flaw") was that he was
always sure he was "right," his biblical interpretations "truth," and in
the adoption of this rigid and unyielding stance, he brought misery not only on
himself but on others.
most poignant part of the story comes in the final chapter. In 1944 the country
celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the first telegraphed message. Western
Union sent its last domestic telegram in 1960. Morse's invention lasted just
by John W. Burgeson, 36633 Road, Mancos, CO 81328.
PHYSICS: Jesuit Natural Philosophy in Early Modern Germany by Marcus Hellyer. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005. 352 pages,
appendix, endnotes, bibliography, index. Paperback; $50.00. ISBN: 0268030715.
is a senior research officer at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. He
previously taught at Brandeis University, and has edited a book of readings on
the Scientific Revolution. He received his Ph.D. in the history of science at
the University of California, San Diego.
1 of Catholic Physics describes the Society of Jesus' program for
shaping university instruction in post- Reformation Europe, a program crafted in
the middle sixteenth century to maintain Roman Catholicism in Catholic lands and
to reclaim Protestant territories for Roman Catholicism. The Jesuits sought to
produce leaders for both church and state capable of maintaining and defending
Roman Catholic theology. They believed that a firm grounding in scholastic
philosophy, i.e., the peripatetic philosophy of Aristotle as Christianized by
Thomas Aquinas, was a prerequisite for learning theology. Natural philosophy,
based on Aristotle's Physics, constituted the second year of the
Jesuits' philosophy triennium. Parts 2 and 3 of the book deal with
developments in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ending with the
suppression of the Society of Jesus by Pope Clement XIV in 1773.
physics was a very different thing from modern physics with respect to what was
believed to be true about the natural world, with respect to the nature of
questions asked, and with respect to the means by which those questions were
answered. Catholic Physics tells how Jesuit thinking and teaching evolved
during the two hundred years they interacted with the new science begun by Copernicus,
describing how they actively confronted, rejected, or absorbed crucial
components of the Scientific Revolution.
most important questions of physics for Roman Catholics in the sixteenth century
concerned the Eucharist. How could bread and wine be transubstantiated into the
physical body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist while maintaining the accidents"the
physical taste, appearance, odor, etc."of bread and wine? And how could
Christ's body and blood be present on the altars of thousands of churches at
the same time? Scholastic physics had provided satisfactory answers to these
questions for centuries, but newly-revived atomism challenged the scholastic
view. The Jesuits struggled to maintain the scholastic physics of substance and
form and accidents throughout the two centuries during which they monopolized
philosophy instruction in the universities of Germany. Nevertheless, by the time
the Society was suppressed, most Jesuit instructors had adopted atomism, though
still maintaining a Roman Catholic understanding of the Real Presence.
source of pressure (pun intended) on peripatetic physics that appeared during
the sixteenth century was the air pump invented by Otto Guericke. Guericke, a Protestant
with no commitment to Aristotle, claimed to have demonstrated the existence of a
vacuum by evacuating various cylinders and spheres. At first the Jesuits opposed
Guericke's interpretation of his experiments, but as certain Jesuits began to
practice experimental physics for themselves, they began to abandon
Aristotle's views. In hindsight, the significance of the air pump for the
Jesuits was not primarily its effect on their views regarding the vacuum;
rather, it was in moving them to accept experiment as a source of truth in
Physics is a well-researched book, citing nearly three hundred primary
sources, most in Latin, and over four hundred secondary sources. It gives every
indication of being an adaptation of the author's Ph.D. dissertation.
Nevertheless, Catholic Physics is a book the nonspecialist can read
without difficulty. It will not interest everyone in the ASA, but some will
find it a worthwhile read. Those interested in the history of science will
find it fills gaps in their knowledge (I know of no other work dealing with
Jesuit natural philosophy in early modern Germany). Some who teach in Christian
colleges will find that the Jesuits faced the same problems they face:
integrating their faith with new, sometimes disturbing scientific discoveries,
working in an institutional framework that exerts pressure to conform, or even
explicitly censoring and forbidding divergent opinions.
by Robert Rogland, Science Teacher, Covenant High School, Tacoma, WA 98465.
THE MIND OF GOD: Images and Words of Inner Space by Michael Reagan, ed.
Philadelphia, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2005. 160 pages. Paperback;
$19.95. ISBN: 1932031901.
photographs and inspiring words transport the reader Inside the Mind of God. Reagan
has assembled an impressive group of pictures and words to conjure up a sense of
awe and wonder at creation and creation's God. Bacteria, DNA, lung cancer,
sperm, adrenaline, protozoa, lymphocytes"they are all pictured here. To
highlight the text, luminaries such as Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw,
Harold S. Kushner, and Elie Wiesel are quoted. And quotes from celebrities
appear which might surprise you: Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Christopher Reeve,
Albert Camus, and Rene Descartes. Richard Dawkins observes that "the essence
of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale" Elton Trueblood
thinks "faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation"
the Mind of God was previously published in a hardback edition; this
softcover format now makes the book available to more people. The seventeen-page
introduction by Sharon Begley, science editor at the Wall Street Journal,
sets the proper tone with her view that "it is possible to see the sacred in
the science of life" (p. 24). This idea is explored in William Paley's Natural
Theology which holds that God's existence, attributes, and benevolence can
be inferred from the intricacies of nature. Michael Reagan, the editor, is
president and founder of Lionheart Books. He has previously produced for
Templeton Press The Hand of God and Reflections on the Nature of God.
is a wonderful book to give as a gift. It could also serve as a resource for
personal devotions. No matter the reader's view of theology, it will be
difficult to ponder the words and pictures in this book without being
emotionally and spiritually touched. The reader will be impressed with the
magnificence of creation and the Creator.
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
DESIGN OR BY CHANCE? by Denyse O'Leary. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg,
2004. 337 + xiii pages. Paperback; $15.99. ISBN: 0806651776.
this book, Canadian freelance journalist Denyse O'Leary pitches batting
practice for the Intelligent Design movement and observes with satisfaction that
it hits a lot of balls into the seats. How it does in real games is a different
book is divided into four parts which focus, respectively, on cosmology,
evolution, creationism, and design, followed by an "Afterword" and extensive
notes. The author presents a reasonably accurate survey of the history of ideas
about creation and scientific views of cosmological and biological origins and
development, and sets out some major controversies involved with these issues. I think
she tries to treat different views about origins and development fairly, but her
own preferences are not hard to discern. What is problematic is her selection of
evidence and arguments, her scientific and theological analysis, and at times
the latter point first. In the discussion of evolution, we encounter several
cutesy sarcastic comments such as the one heading a box about the coelacanth:
"Oh, Dear! Those Inconvenient Details ÷" (p. 70). We do not find these
with the presentations of creationism or intelligent design. This in itself
makes it pretty clear what the author does not like.
correctly points out that there is a wide variety of views labeled
"creationism" She makes some criticisms here but seems inclined to treat
even young-earth creationism gently. For example, she argues (pp. 142-3) that
the belief of young earth creationists that terrestrial life is less than 10,000
years old is no "weirder" than ideas of modern physics such as extra
dimensions or multiple universes. Both, she says, are "subject to much
ridicule" But it is one thing to be ridiculed for proposing extravagant
theories that have not yet received support by correctly predicting novel facts
and another to be derided for ignoring mountains of evidence.
heart clearly seems to lie with the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. She
sketches its development, describes the basic claims made by Behe and Dembski,
and discusses some scientific and theological objections to claims for ID.
Unfortunately she does not deal with the most pointed scientific objections. Is
Behe right that some biological systems are irreducibly complex, so that they
could not have developed through natural selection? While O'Leary refers to
Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God, she mentions only briefly (in
another place, p. 45) his arguments about putative irreducible complexity,
giving the impression that he can only express a hope that science will some day
explain such features. Miller's substantive arguments are not dealt with.
Similarly, scientific objections to Dembski's claims about "conservation of
information" are not addressed. Instead O'Leary prefers to discuss
rhetorical objections such as "ID is merely ŽStealth Creationism'" (p.
treatment of theological issues connected with ID is no better. While O'Leary
recognizes the role of the ID movement in the cultural strategy of Philip
Johnson's "Wedge," she does not see that if it is to play that role, it cannot
be dissociated from religious claims. If ID is to serve the purpose of helping
to destroy naturalism, then the Designer must indeed be God (pp. 212-5
notwithstanding). Conversely, a Designer who is some being within the universe
(as with directed panspermia) would, of course, be natural. (And the problem of
explaining design would only be pushed back a step.) In order for God to
"leave his fingerprints all over the evidence" in Johnson's well- known
phrase, God must act directly rather than by means of natural processes which
science can investigate, so that ID would be a "science stopper" (pp.
193-4 notwithstanding). Conversely, if God brings about design through natural
processes, then there are no such "fingerprints"
failure to engage seriously with the relationship between divine action and
natural processes undermines O'Leary's discussion, a failure common to many
ID proponents. On the concluding page of the Afterword, she warns "Christian
evolutionists" that "you must be content with a God who is not there,
except as an emotional experience" This shows that she misunderstands not
only the ideas of Christian evolutionists but the classical Christian view of
providence. That and other misconceptions outweigh any positive value the book
may have. For an overview of the issues, Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett, Evolution
from Creation to New Creation (Abingdon, 2003) is greatly to be preferred.
by George L. Murphy, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1361 W. Market
Street, Akron, OH 44313.
FROM CREATION TO NEW CREATION: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence by
Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2003. 215 pages.
Paperback; $20.00. ISBN: 0687023742.
would be easy to skip over yet another book about evolution and creation but do
not miss this one. There has been a lot of debate about these issues, but one
problem for the church has been that too many clergy and other
theologians have been willing to accept superficial reconciliation's of evolution
with Christianity, and have not provided theological resources to help people
understand the issues involved. Another difficulty is that treatments by
scientists sometime present naive theology and those by theologians often
have less than adequate scientific treatments.
book goes a long way toward remedying those problems. It should be a very
helpful resource for those who want to lead discussions about creation and
evolution with groups of people who have no special scientific or theological
authors are well qualified to provide such a resource. Ted Peters, a professor
of systematic theology at Pacific Lutheran Seminary, has long been engaged
in theology-science discussions and has written and edited several books in the
area. Martinez Hewlett, a Roman Catholic, is an emeritus professor of molecular
and cell biology at the University of Arizona and an adjunct professor at the
Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley. They make no secret of
their own position, which falls within the broad category of "theistic
evolution" But they also provide fair, though critical, discussion of other
of the points they make is that there are not only the differences between
traditional proponents and opponents of evolution, but that today there are some
new participants in the debates. Evolutionary theory continues to develop, so
that sociobiology and evolutionary psychology provide new challenges for
religious believers. Those who reject evolution experienced a revival in the
1960s and now argue against evolution, not just on biblical grounds, but as
"scientific creationists" The more recent Intelligent Design (ID) movement
cannot in itself be classified simply as an opponent of evolution"though some
people associated with it may be. ID holds that complex features of living
things cannot be explained by evolution alone, but require belief in a Designer.
And a number of theistic evolutionists have gone beyond mere acceptance of
evolution and argue for it theologically, making use of concepts related to the
theology of the cross and the participation by the creator in the sufferings of
and Hewlett begin by examining the popular notion that these differences are
part of a "war" between science and religion and find it wanting. The
different understandings of origins may instead represent different views of
what good science and true religion should be. The authors also point out that
the various views line up differently on different issues. For example,
scientific creationism and ontological materialism are at opposite ends of their
"Divine Action" spectrum, but they are close together at one end of the
"Causal Explanation" spectrum (p. 31). Theistic evolution is close to the
middle of both spectra.
Two and Three describe the development of evolutionary thought from Darwin
onward, including not only its treatment of biology in the narrow sense but
also attempts to apply it to society (social Darwinism, sociobiology) and
psychology. Analyses of scientific creationism and ID follow. While the authors
do not accept these positions, they are not simply dismissive of them and try to
set out the concerns that motivate their proponents of these views as well as
scientific and theological criticisms of them.
6 provides a survey of theistic evolution positions. While this is very helpful,
I have one criticism. A kenotic view of God's work, in which God
voluntarily limits divine action, need not require that God is absent from some
processes. It means rather that God acts within the limits of creaturely
capacities to bring about whatever happens in the world.
final chapter sets out the authors' own proposal for theistic evolution. Those
familiar with Peters' work will not be surprised that there is emphasis on
God's creative action from the future. (See, e.g., his systematic theology God:
The World's Future, 2d ed. [Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000].) This
chapter provides a unified way of dealing with many of the issues in discussions
of creation and evolution. The following glossary of scientific and theological
terms will be useful for those who want to understand and participate in these
review is a revised version of one published in Trinity Seminary Review 26,
no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2005).
by George L. Murphy, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1361 W. Market
Street, Akron, OH 44313.
AND EVOLUTION: A Faith-based Understanding by David L. Wilcox. Valley
Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2004. 165 pages, notes. Paperback; $14.00. ISBN:
professor of biology at Eastern University in Pennsylvania and Fellow of the
ASA, holds a Ph.D. in population genetics from Penn State University. His
research interests include theoretical models of fitness, the nature of genomic
blueprint hierarchies, selective models for punctuated change, and human
origins. His publications include papers on the integration of science and
and Evolution consists of fourteen chapters covering a range of topics about
evolution and religion. Wilcox begins with discussions of biblical teachings
about nature, understanding what science is and how it works, and conflicts
between science and religion. From there, he addresses topics such as the
earth's age, definitions of evolution and creation, and what is meant by
"cause and effect" Wilcox then discusses evolutionary ideas about life's
origins, Darwin's concepts of evolution, origins of species, missing links,
and the Cambrian explosion. The author covers concepts about human origins in
chapter 13, and concludes with a chapter on evolution as creation. The book
is mostly well written, with few structural errors and misspellings.
this small book, Wilcox attempts to show that evolutionary theory and faith in
God are not mutually exclusive. He begins with a quote, purportedly from a young
girl, that she cannot believe in dinosaurs since they are not in the Bible. Of
course, since most of earth's biodiversity is not mentioned in the Bible, does
this mean that we cannot "believe" in it (think of bacteria, amoebae,
nematodes, and tomatoes)? Wilcox initiates his discourse on the unnatural
conflict humans have created between evolution and faith with a discussion of
what the Bible says about nature. God created the natural world and governs
it, even though the specific mechanics of creation are not spelled out in
Scripture. Could the minds of Hebrews in Moses' day, or those of early
Christians when the gospels were written, have comprehended the scientific
knowledge we have today about how creation functions and how life carries on from
generation to generation?
this book, the author does a relatively good job presenting in lay terms what
science and the scientific method are, but still promotes (subtly) the idea that
science "proves" hypotheses, rather than finding evidence in support of or
disproving them. Wilcox addresses the human-made conflict between science and
theology, how this conflict may arise from a human misunderstanding of the Bible
and scientific data, as well as how everyone brings presuppositions to any
discussion of the topic.
discussing the earth's age, Wilcox does a creditable job of showing that,
logically, a young earth is not possible given evidence from geology and fossil
coral reefs. He shows that we should believe the evidence, unless we wish to
think that God is in the business of writing fiction upon the earth. Wilcox
states that we should not avoid these controversial subjects in our teaching, so
that misunderstandings will not be taught without challenge. When considering
questions of life's origin, Wilcox says that the Bible tells us that God works
through nature, and it is thus wrong to pit God against nature; it is his
handiwork. The author brings in many ideas about how evolution occurred, as seen
by his inclusion of topics such as mutation, missing links, punctuated
equilibrium, and adaptive radiation. Each of these is discussed briefly, as is
necessary in such limited space, but basic information necessary for
understanding the concepts is presented.
the chapter on human origins, Wilcox does not shy away from providing genetic
evidence for the relatedness of human beings to other primates. While doing so,
Wilcox is careful to state that interpretations of both Scripture and
scientific evidence should be held lightly, since interpretations may change as
we learn more.
is refreshing to me, as a Christian biologist, to see an open-minded discussion
of evolution from a man of faith. While much evidence for evolutionary change is
omitted (such as endosymbiosis, and many excellent plant examples), this is a
good starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about evolution and avoid
the creationist rhetoric often used in such discussions. The bottom line in this
debate is this: Christians cannot proclaim that God's glory can be seen in
nature while they ignore nature's complexity and the evidence it provides of
evolutionary change. This is intellectual dishonesty and does nothing to
convince a nonbeliever that our message can be trusted.
by Michael A. Vincent, Department of Botany, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056.
SCIENCE OF GOD: An Introduction to Scientific Theology by Alister E. McGrath. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. 271 pages.
Paperback; $25.00. ISBN: 0802828159.
Science of God is a concise overview of McGrath's seminal formulation of
scientific theology. The work is a true distillation of key ideas from the more
expansive three- volume work, A Scientific Theology, which explores how
science informs theology. McGrath has written extensively in the area of science
and theology and is eminently qualified, with Ph.D.'s in biochemistry and
theology, in developing this new theological endeavor.
theology seeks to "explore the interface between Christian theology and the
natural sciences, on the assumption that this engagement is necessary, proper,
legitimate, and productive" (p. ix).
book clearly and thoroughly argues key concepts without over-simplification and
is prefaced by an excellent introduction. It explains McGrath's development as
a scientist and theologian which lead to his vision for a scientific
theology. As expected, the book is partitioned into three distinct sections that
parallel those of the three volume work: nature, reality, and the theory of
scientific theology. The style is relatively relaxed, providing a background to
some of the general assumptions of the scientific theology while avoiding
theology is developed through a linear progression of ideas beginning with the
conception of nature. After summarizing the different historical understandings
of nature, McGrath specifically focuses on the Christian doctrine of creation,
engaging theology by appealing to "the intrinsic resonance between the
structures of the world and human reasoning" (p. 60). The "unreasonable
effectiveness of mathematics" and the regularity and intelligibility within
nature, form a prelude to a detailed discussion of natural theology. McGrath
specifically aims to take natural theology in a new direction. His goal is not
to prove the existence of God, but to ask: "What should we expect
the natural world to be like if it has indeed been created by such a God? The
search for order in nature is therefore intended not to demonstrate that God
exists, but to reinforce the plausibility of an already existing belief"
2, "Reality," compares and contrasts knowledge in theology with that of the
natural sciences. The approach is reminiscent of Polyani in that "knowledge
arises through a sustained and passionate attempt to engage with a reality that
is encountered or made known" (p. 94). McGrath builds on the ideas of Alisdair
MacIntyre to ask how effectively can scientific theology provide insight into
the existence and ideas of rival philosophies? Airplanes fly and medicines work,
underpinning most scientists' position as realists, and yet the pursuit of
science is replete with competing theories which leads McGrath to adopt a
stratified view of reality. The key issue is that "natural sciences
investigate the stratified structures of contingent existence at every level
open to human enquiry, while a theological science addresses itself to God
their creator who is revealed through them" (p. 151).
last section of the book, "Theory," requires considerable fortitude from the
reader as competing theories are introduced, analyzed, and contrasted with the
approach taken in scientific theology. The section begins by arguing for the
legitimacy of theory within scientific theology and moves to examine how
reality and revelation are represented.
theology has unleashed a new perspective that is reenergizing the interface
between science and theology. McGrath's concise Science of God
introduces the main issues to a larger audience than his comprehensive trilogy,
although the book is still an intellectually demanding read. Given the impact
that McGrath's project has unleashed, this book provides an accessible place
to begin following what is likely to become one of the most influential areas in
the science-religion dialogue.
by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University,
Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
CLOSING OF THE WESTERN MIND: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by
Charles Freeman. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Paperback; $16.95. 432 pages.
is a scholar with a specific knowledge of the ancient world he is writing about.
The theme of this book is that when Christianity became the accepted religion of
the Roman Empire, the Greek intellectual traditions, which were the potential
basis of scientific thinking, were swept away and replaced by faith in the
dogmas of Church.
twenty chapters, Freeman sets out the sequential evidence on which his
postulates are based. The diction is clear and precise with carefully
organized supporting documentation. The author introduces his thesis with an
excellent study of the influence of Aquinas on the culture of his time, followed
by comments on the contribution of leading individuals in the Church.
Although initially oratory skills had governed debates in the Greco-Roman
culture, many of these talents were demoted and subsequently lost.
contrasts the teachings of Jesus, who the Apostle John presents as the logos,
the force of reason, with those of the Apostle Paul. Jesus expressed himself
from within his Jewish culture whereas Paul, the author believes, often
encouraged his converts to withdraw from their cultural connections because
these were based on the worship of idols, explicit sexuality, and Greek
time passed there were other more subtle changes occurring such as in the
attitude to women, who had played important roles as disciples in the early
churches. The author describes how Gnosticism, embodying concepts of Platonism,
became a threat.
says some Christian beliefs were partly derived from pagan philosophy. The soul,
a pagan concept, was implanted, according to the Church, at conception by a
sinful act, sexual intercourse. The author assesses the teaching of the leaders
of the churches in the post-apostolic era leading up to the time of Emperor
Constantine. After this time, Christianity was officially tolerated, and the
church hierarchy shared the wealth and social prestige the Roman Empire made
available to it. This was seen in a better lifestyle for church leaders and
shown in expenditure on church architecture and in the orthodox tradition in the
East, iconography and other art works. Asceticism rejected this newly acquired
wealth and opulence of the churches. Desert habitats and personal battles with
evil and sexuality were the lot of some of these mystics.
controversy that accompanied decisions at Nicea in 325 CE was partly fueled by
the demand from the emperor that there should be doctrinal unity and order
throughout the Empire. The bishops could then be used to support the Empire.
These leaders now represented an institutional hierarchical structure. They
interpreted doctrine and finalized the canon of the scriptures. The author
explains the influence, in their day, of Arius, Nestorius, Pelagius, Augustine
of Hippo, and the Donatists.
in the fifth century, secular study was condemned. Intellectuals were silenced.
The author outlines how Greek philosophy was preserved through translations of
its works into Arabic. Freeman says Arabic was the channel and catalyst
leading into the Renaissance which followed many centuries later. The works of
Aristotle and other philosophers were available to Aquinas in the thirteenth
replacement of the Greek tradition impeded observation of nature and the
cultivation of an inquiring mind. The rejection of a scientific approach to
medicine meant that Galen's works remained unquestioned for one thousand
years. Magic and relics drew pilgrims to the churches. Obedience to the Church
replaced reasoned thought.
has achieved his aim and has shown that the rational attitude of the Greek
intellectual tradition was effectively suppressed by the fourth and fifth
centuries of the Christian era. Faith in Church practices now achieved
prominence over reason. This was to have dire effects on the development of
the scientific method in Europe. The author defines this period as the closing
of the Western mind.
is an excellent book with a wealth of information about the origins of
Christianity. Freeman's book is highly recommended. The author's helpful
comments integrate the complex changes within the Roman Empire with those
occurring in the Church. Freeman therefore presents an important challenge
expanding every reader's horizon of early church history.
Books is to be commended for producing a book with an attractive cover, a sound
binding, clear readable type-face, a contents page, introduction, an extensive
collection of endnotes, an alphabetical list of the authors cited, an index, and
a photo of the author.
by Ken Mickleson, 105 St Andrews Road, Epsom, Auckland 1003, New Zealand.
THE ELEPHANT: Worldview as a Concept by James W. Sire. Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 2004. 161 pages, index. Paperback; $ 14.00. ISBN:
publishers deserve a vote of thanks for requiring every book to have a subtitle.
Sire's book is a case in point. Naming the Elephant could leave the
impression that zoologists are considering a new name for the popular zoo animal
now referred to as "elephant" Theologians also might shake their heads in
disbelief if they read the last sentence in the text which states: "God,
indeed, is the name of the elephant" This statement, left alone and not read
in context, would suggest that Sire is somewhat irreverent, which is not true.
of us familiar with Sire's earlier works are not surprised by his unique gift
of expressing complicated concepts in simpler language. Many philosophers and
theologians whose works I have read would do well to follow Sire's example.
Carl Sagan, popular exponent of biological evolution, is one that comes to mind.
In the books by Sagan that I have read, he neglects to say that his worldview
is: nature is the ultimate reality. The one exception is his book
entitled Cosmos. The first line reads: "The cosmos is all there is, or
ever was, or ever will be" Some exponents of theism are guilty here also.
statement on the back cover of Sire's book summarizes very well what the book
is all about: "Here is an excellent resource for those who want to explore
more deeply how and why worldview thinking can aid us in navigating our
enunciates his revised definition of worldview in these words:
worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be
expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be
true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or
subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of
reality, and that provides foundation on which we live and move and have our
member James Sire has achieved what he set out to accomplish: that God is the
ultimate reality. I heartily recommend this book to all ASA members and those
seeking to examine their worldview.
by O. C. Karkalits, Dean of Engineering and Technology, McNeese State
University, Lake Charles, LA 70609.
and Christian Faith
A SMART PERSON BELIEVE IN GOD? by Michael Guillen. Nashville, TN: Thomas
Nelson Books, 2004. 170 pages. Hardcover; $17.99. ISBN: 0785260242.
book is best described as an apologetic, theodicy, or defense of theism. It will
appeal to laypersons in its concise, clear, and convincing approach. Guillen
analyzes the position of the six percent of Americans who do not believe in the
existence of God. He finds their position untenable. He thinks some people with
a high IQ (intelligence quotient) have a very low SQ (spiritual quotient), and
conversely. He includes a twenty multiple-choice test at the conclusion of the
book to measure SQ. Guillen believes it is possible to believe in God's
existence with both your soul and your mind.
says he is not trying to win anyone over to theism or atheism. He intends to
provide evidence for faith in God so that believers need never feel embarrassed
for their stance. If you are an atheist, Guillen thinks after examining the
facts, you have no justification for denigrating theists.
book is short with just ten chapters and a brief bibliography. One of the
chapters bears the title of the book. Guillen gives quite a bit of
autobiographical information about his adventures in science and faith. His
conclusion is that faith needs science and science needs faith. He quotes
approvingly Albert Einstein: "I think that science without religion is lame
and, conversely, religion without science is blind" (p. 80).
would be a good book to bolster your faith, to give as a gift to someone
struggling with faith/science issues, or to provide the fodder for a lively
debate in a discussion group.
Guillen is a theoretical physicist, former science correspondent for ABC News,
former Harvard University teacher, and is currently president of Spectacular
Science Productions and consultant on science for Crystal Cathedral Ministries.
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
NATURE AND THE FREEDOM OF PUBLIC RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION by S. G. Post.
Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame Press, 2003. 208 pages, index. Hardcover, $36.00.
title of this book by Post, professor and associate director for Educational
Programs, Department of Bioethics at the
Case Western Reserve University, is attractive, and sets the stage for Post's
perspective. His central thesis is that a religious inclination is demonstrably
part of what it means to be human and that suppression of religious
expression is detrimental to both personal and corporate well-being.
states in his introduction that he intends to show the place of scientific
evidence for this innate trait, and thereby to strengthen the argument for
unfettered freedom of religious expression, although he admits that an ethical
argument alone is sufficient to support that freedom. He approaches this from
several perspectives, beginning with citations of empirical studies that find
strong evidence for religiosity in crisis situations. He next discusses studies
in neuroscience that show certain human features to be consistent with the
evolution of religious tendencies. He then applies this evidence to the natural
law argument for a human right to religious freedom. In his concluding chapters,
he makes strong ethical arguments for celebrating human religious expression.
primary strength of this book lies in its scientific evidence and the way in
which it is placed within the context of the ethical discussion. In the opening
chapters, Post presents unambiguous empirical evidence for something that
observers of humanity have long known: religious inclination is found among all
peoples. He discusses the positive development of a rising awareness in medicine
of the importance of spirituality health and recovery of patients"and argues
that neglect of religious training in the medical profession is detrimental to
health and recovery. The empirical studies Post includes make a strong and
invincible case for protecting religious freedom, since the inclination to
religion has been shown to be a core component of human nature.
of the strongest arguments Post makes are found in the closing chapters, when he
places the empirical fact of human religiosity into the context of ethical
arguments for religious freedom. He writes: "A genuinely liberal public world
is not one that pushes religious expression into the underground of
privatization, as though such free expression were an obstacle to liberal
democracy rather than its essential underpinning" (p. 93). Post argues that
demands by secular humanists for utter privatization of religion, i.e., for
absolute silence on religious matters in the public square, strike at the very
heart of democracy, and of basic human rights.
my view, Post weakens his approach by resting so much of his case on the
assertion that religious inclination is a product of evolution. Given his
assertion, I do not see how he can defend himself against secularists who argue
with Nietzsche that since we have evolved religious behavior, we will soon
evolve "beyond religion" Post has soundly demonstrated that religious
inclination is innate, and this is critical, and sufficient for his purposes;
but he should have left it at that. Evolutionary principles seem to be an
unsteady foundation on which to rest something that is presented biblically as a
permanent human feature: namely, the abiding need for a relationship with God.
am concerned that in invoking evolution as that which produces this inclination,
Post has left the door open to solid, effective criticism from the secular
existentialist position, while claiming to have defeated it. Post argues,
correctly in my view," that views of human nature are invariably informed by
some prior view of the nature of the universe" (p. 109). The secular humanist
does not share Post's prior view of the universe, as created and governed by
God, and thus will not interpret the data as Post does.
the weaknesses, this work represents a valuable contribution to the discussion
of religious freedom, and will be appreciated by a wide audience. Using
convincing evidence from medical and neurological studies, Post has demonstrated
that religious inclination lies at the heart of what it means to be human. He
has argued effectively that suppression by governmental or judiciary pressures
of the extension to the public square of this foundational part of our humanity
is harmful to both individual and community life. May Post's warnings be
by Todd K. Pedlar, Assistant Professor of Physics, Luther College, Decorah, IA
BRIEF HISTORY OF DEATH by Douglas J. Davies. Malden, MA: Blackwell
Publishing, 2005. 184 pages. Paperback; $17.95. ISBN: 1405101830.
a professor at Durham University (in this book, his British spelling and
punctuation prevail), has written a number of other books including Death,
Ritual and Belief (2002) and Reusing Old Graves (1995). Recognized as
an expert in this area of knowledge, Davies writes about dying, grieving,
burial, artistic representations of death, death and memory, fear of death, and
tragedies associated with death.
most influential accounts of mortality, writes Davies, are those of Gilgamesh,
Adam and Eve, and Jesus Christ (Davies devotes a lot of space in discussing the
variety of Christian views on death). These he considers along with "other
myths of death's origin" (p. 1). Individuals face death in four ways: (1)
personal grief; (2) the death of others; (3) personal death awareness; and (4)
our actual death (p. 15).
of Davies' views may be inaccurate; some are surely controversial. According
to Davies, among the Jews, the resurrection of the dead as an act of vindication
for the righteous developed about 200 BCE (N. T. Wright, on page 109 in his The
Resurrection of the Son of God, writes of Dan. 12:2-3: "There is
little doubt that this refers to concrete, bodily resurrection" Daniel wrote
this about 580 BCE.). Davies thinks the Genesis creation account (p. 4) and
Christian eschatology are myths (p. 7).
addition to its eight chapters, the book contains photos of a crematorium,
memorial plaques, coffins, gravestones, and cemeteries. Included also are an
index and thorough bibliography (I was surprised to see no mention of Ernest
Becker's Pulitzer prize winner, The Denial of Death. However, Davies
does acknowledge Becker's key point: People fear being buried alive, suffering
in hell, departing the security of one's social circle, and extinction. They
control these fears by unconsciously keeping busy, thus denying death [p. 131].)
A good deal of the contents of A Brief History of Death is based on
speculation, not unexpected in a history book.
learn some interesting things in this book. For example, the Chinchorro people
of Chile mummified their dead 2,000 years before the Egyptians (p. 24). In Great
Britain, there is a growing interest in natural burial, green burial or woodland
burial in keeping with ecological- environmental attitudes (p. 79). Over seventy
per cent of Britons are cremated with the remains placed on sites personally
significant (p. 103). Zygmunt Bauman thinks society hides death lest individuals
lose their will to live and impede cultural progress (p. 116). The first
architectural constructions of the early church were "funeral buildings" (p.
118). Albert Schweitzer thought it would be dreadful to be caught up in
earthly life without end (p. 135).
concludes: "The history of death is a history of a kaleidoscope of
sentiment: hope, fear, longing for and gratitude for love, despair at loss of
endeavor, concern for our mate and offspring, whispers of a transcendent
sense" (p. 173). The Apostle Paul's concludes: "Where, O death, is your
victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ÷ God gives us the victory through our
Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
Publishing has developed a series of books on important topics relating to
culture, theology and religion. Moreover, they all start with the words "A
Brief History of ÷" The authors are scholars in each field, and the books
are brief, informative, and appealing to lay readers. Five have already been
published with eight more in preparation. One already available, written by
Alister E. McGrath, is A Brief History of Heaven. Another one forthcoming
is Carter Lindberg's A Brief History of Love. People short on time and
money, but well-supplied with curiosity and a hunger for knowledge, will find
these volumes just fit the need. Davies' A Brief History of Death fits
the bill and delivers a good deal of information in a small package at a
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.
TO FREUD: What Theologians Tell Us about Human Nature (And Why It Matters)
by Kenneth Boa. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2004. 288
pages, appendix, bibliography, footnotes. Paperback; $14.99. ISBN: 0805431462.
book is an adaptation of Boa's Ph.D. dissertation at Oxford University,
completed in 1994. The purpose of the book is to compare and contrast what
selected theologians and psychologists have written about the nature of human
needs in order to discover the extent to which the two accounts can be
synthesized. This involves three convergence/divergence studies of six
theologians and eight psychologists (representing two basic models of
personality theory) and the theological and psychological accounts of human
needs that emerge from the first two studies. The Appendix is a valuable
twenty-page survey of human needs in the New Testament.
1 is concerned with theological accounts of human needs. Boa summarizes what
Augustine, Aquinas, Edwards, Kierkegaard, Tillich, and Rahner have written about
human needs; then he critiques, compares, and contrasts their views.
2 surveys psychological accounts of human needs by examining the work of Freud,
Erikson, Jung, Rank, Maslow, Rogers, Adler, and Fromm. The first four theorists
present conflict models of human personality; the last four theorists present
fulfillment models. Boa critiques, compares, and contrasts these models in the
same way he does the views of the theologians.
3 considers the metaphysical and moral assumptions held by the eight
psychologists, psychological accounts of theism and theological accounts of
nontheism, interest and self-love, and a contrast between immanent and
transcendent solutions to human needs. The comparison and contrast of the
theological and psychological models regarding human needs also touches on
cognate areas like the question of goodness in human nature, the source of
morality, the purpose of life, and the quest for meaning in view of the reality
to Freud could serve as a source book for those who want a quick summary of
the views of the fourteen thinkers whose work is summarized in it, but one's
head begins to swim in trying to keep in mind the comparisons and contrasts Boa
makes. On the other hand, in the last chapter he wraps up his study by drawing
broad conclusions that are easily understood.
concludes, first, that psychological models are based on metaphysical and moral
assumptions as well as on scientific grounds, even though many psychologists are
reticent to acknowledge the fact. Secondly, Boa believes that "[d]espite the
differences in presuppositions, vocabulary and proposed solutions to the
satisfaction of [human] needs, there is a correspondence between the theological
models and the psychological models" (p. 160). Thirdly, Boa concludes that
"[t]he psychologies in this study have become secular alternatives to the
Judeo-Christian worldview and often serve as religious surrogates for the
psychotherapists who embrace them as well as their patients" (p. 165).
Finally, Boa concludes that these secular alternatives inherently fall short of
either understanding or being able to deal as effectively as possible with human
is not to deny the important and sometimes acute perceptions these personality
theorists had concerning human traits and behavior. The problem is that when
these true insights are embedded in a reductionistic worldview, the solutions
the psychologists offer become superficial (p. 180).
as a convinced Christian, Boa is not concerned that these secular alternatives
or religious surrogates will ultimately displace the Judeo-Christian world view.
Since they deny or ignore spiritual needs and the vertical, Godward dimension of
personality, they cannot finally satisfy:
uses the pulley of unfulfilled longing to draw people away from idolatrous
attachment to the created order to the beatific vision that will satisfy every
human need (p. 180).
autobiographies from Augustine's Confessions to C. S. Lewis's Pilgrim's
Regress have made Boa's final point: humans have a longing for God that
the world cannot satisfy. Boa's work is no substitute for classical spiritual
biography, but for those who have wondered how to integrate (or whether to hold
at arm's length) modern psychology and the Christian faith, it is a rewarding
(and quite orthodox) book.
by Robert Rogland, Science Teacher, Covenant High School, Tacoma, WA 98465.
IN A CRUEL WORLD by Nigel Barber. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.
415 pages; index; endnotes. Hardcover; $28.00. ISBN: 1591022282.
a world of aggression and barbarity, whence comes altruism and kindness? Barber
skillfully dissects this question in delineating the how, when, who, where, and
why of altruistic acts. Along the way, he investigates highway behavior, mutual
grooming, religious celibacy, politeness, heroism, reciprocal altruism, and
fundamentalism. Barber, former assistant psychology professor at Birmingham-
Southern College, is a freelance writer and researcher. He has written The
Science of Romance and Why Parents Matter.
four major sections are titled "Altruism in Man and Beast," "Growing Up to
Be Good," "The Social Impact of Kindness," and "Kindness and
Politics" There are twelve chapters nestled within the four sections
including "Sterile Castes of Priests and Nuns," "Altruism Among
Thieves," and "Kindness Among Strangers" The book's large type will be
appreciated by the visually challenged.
of the many intriguing questions addressed by Barber are: why do people donate
blood; why did Christians help Jews during the holocaust; why do people adopt;
why are worker bees, termites, queen bees, bats, organ donors, priests, and
others altruistic. Answers given to these questions by researchers and theorists
are among the most interesting parts of the book. For instance, Darwin, baffled
by nonreproductive worker bees, imagined altruism resulted from the bee colony
making up a superorganism. A better explanation rendered by William Hamilton was
based on gene selection (p. 34).
items abound in this book. Sated bats regurgitate food to sustain their famished
friends (p. 10). Almost half of people in England consider their dogs family
members (p. 101). (Dogs fit into human societies by treating their owners as top
dog.) Pet owners are four times less likely to die in the year after cardiac
surgery than patients without pets (p. 190). Children younger than 18 months are
not self-aware (p. 103). Chimpanzees show self-awareness, monkeys and gorillas
do not (p. 105). Rats are not capable of high moral behavior (p. 111). Children
in nonindustrialized societies are more altruistic than children in industrialized
ones (p. 129).
is little difference in altruism between men and women (p. 182). For all fifteen
of the leading causes of death, men have higher death rates (p. 185). Some
Americans have paid no tax for ten years despite being taken to court by the IRS
(p. 231). Adoptees have a higher incidence of alcohol and drug use, delinquency,
crime, and depression which sometimes leads to attempted suicide (p. 227).
Youngsters in poorer countries, compared with those in wealthier ones, are
usually more altruistic (p. 14). In-group altruism can translate into out-group
aggression (p. 12). The most spectacular failure of altruism relates to violent
criminals (p. 13), but mothers who kill their offspring also are examples (p.
readers may find Barber's definition of altruism confusing. On page 9, he
defines altruism as actions helping another person at some cost to the altruist.
("Some cost" is vague and needs to be operationally defined. Is "some
cost" determined by the altruist, the receiver, or society?) On page 10, he
adds the qualifier that altruistic acts have no ulterior motive, "except
whatever pleasure is derived from the act itself, and no delayed benefit of any
kind" (Would not the altruistic acts of Mother Teresa be influenced by her
anticipated delayed reward in heaven? Furthermore, how does "reciprocal
altruism" qualify as altruism since "a benefit is returned at a future
time," p. 43). Then on page 19 an altruist is defined as someone who puts
the survival or reproduction of another individual before his own. (Certainly
most altruistic acts are performed without the altruist intending to elevate the
recipients' survival above his own.)
people may find some of the reported research disconcerting and questionable.
For instance, some research shows little scientific support for religion
improving health (p. 327). Some scholars think fundamentalist religion
undermines moral reasoning (p. 329). A reliable difference between religious
people and others is religious people are more intolerant of ethnic minorities
(p. 330). A study found atheists less likely to cheat than religious students
(p. 328). There is little evidence that religious people are more ethical or
live better lives than nonreligious people (p. 329).
aside, this is a fun book to read. It will hold your interest throughout. It is
full of interesting facts, anecdotes, explanations, observations, and questions.
The topic of altruism is certainly an important one in a world so full of
meanness, brutality, aggression, and hostility.
by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.