Origins & Science
Daniel Dennet (Simon & Schuster: June 12, 1996), 586 pages.
Darwin's idea is very very simple; it goes like this: 1) Organisms pass their characteristics on to their descendants, which are mostly but not completely identical to their parent organisms. 2) Organisms breed more descendants than can possibly survive. 3) Descendants with beneficial variations have a better chance of surviving and reproducing, however slight, than those with non-beneficial variations. 4) These slightly modified descendants are themselves organisms, so repeat from step 1. (There is no stopping condition.) That's it. That's all there is to Natural Selection: a simple four step loop; a mindless algorithm that displays no intent, no design, no purpose, no goal, no deeper meaning... Dennett devotes the major portion of his book to aggressively arguing the above. He reviews how the algorithm could have "primed life's pump" eons ago and spends some time on describing evolution and biology. He argues that biology is engineering and thus reducible to algorithms. He also explains how simple algorithms can lead to computers that play brilliant chess and here he makes an important distinction: brilliant chess doesn't have to be perfect chess. ~ Vincent Poirier @ Amazon.com
Michael Ruse (Prometheus: Mar 1, 1996)
This is in effect an anthology of selected writings dealing with the science vs. creationism issue. The author starts with Bishop Paley's famous blind watchmaker argument for a creator and brings the arguments up to date. As other reviewers have noted, the quality of the reading depends in some cases on the original author. However, Ruse has done a good job of including a variety of styles and levels, and a complete reading should give you a good overview of the arguments over the years. This makes a good reference book or a good reader for someone trying to familiarize themselves with the controversy. The extensive philosophical analysis of the trial arguments are indeed fascinating.
J.P. Moreland, in Promise (March/April 1996): 40-42.
Scientific Naturalism is a worldview that is powerfully influencing our culture today. So much so that even believers in one and the same God struggle with conflicting views. J.P. Moreland begins the first of his four part series with a clear examination of its belief system and the role theistic evolution plays to perpetuate its ends. Here are parts II, III, IV.
Del Ratzsch on Creationism said...
The Battle of Beginnings (IVP, 1996), p. 82.
...But there is barely beginning to emerge a new generation of creationists with legitimate and relevant credentials who are undertaking to actually do some of the painstaking, detailed drudgery that underlies any genuinely live scientific program. This emergence has begun to produce a separation in the creationist movement — an upper and lower tier, so to speak. I think that what ultimately separates the two tiers is different levels of respect for accuracy and completeness of detail, and different levels of awareness that a theory's looking good in vague and general form is an enormously unreliable predictor of whether in the long run the theory will be disemboweled by recalcitrant technical details. That appreciation is something that typically comes only with a legitimate scientific education, which some of the creationist popularizers and many in their audiences lack...The newly emerging upper tier of the creationist movement, however, seems to have little patience with the vague popularized treatments and is, again, undertaking to do the meticulous detail work that a genuinely scientific creationism requires. As yet, this upper tier is not associated with any particular organization.
The Brothers K (Bantam Books: July 1996), p. 33.
Much as she dislikes baseball, Grandawma likes the Bible even less. This is because her hero, Charles Darwin, discovered evolution before God even mentioned it, proved scientifically that men are just apes at heart, and got the Christians all worked up because none of this was in the Bible. That's what Everett and Peter say anyway. Late one night when we were sitting around yapping, Peter said to Everett that if the Christian had any horse sense they'd just sit down and write themselves a new Bible, sticking some evolution in there this time. He said the biblical creation story was a dud anyhow, especially if you were a girl, since God made everything in the Universe, claimed He saw it was good, and then when the First Lady went out naked for a walk to enjoy all this so-called goodness, a completely evil Devil in snake's clothing came down out of a tree, lied his head off to her, got her thrown out of Paradise and cursed into having it hurt like hell to have babies, and she was still such a nice person that she didn't go back with a stick and kill that damned snake. Whose fault was all this? Peter wanted to know. Who claimed it was "good" in spite of the snake, then tried to cover Their tracks with a lot of cockamamie hoodoo about Forbidden Fruit and Trees of Knowledge and Eve's wicked curiosity? And what harm could a little Darwinian evolution possibly do to a mess of a story like that?
Niles Eldredge on Paleontology said...
Reinventing Darwin (Phoenix: Giant, 1995) p. 95.
No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change — over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.
Nancy R. Pearcey, Charles B. Thaxton (Crossway Books: Jul 1, 1994), 304 pages.
I consider The Soul of Science to be a most significant book which, in our scientific age, should be required reading for all thinking Christians and all practicing scientists. The authors demonstrate how the flowering of modern science depended upon the Judeo-Christian worldview of the existence of a real physical contingent universe, created and held in being by an omnipotent personal God, with man having the capabilities of rationality and creativity, and thus being capable of investigating it. Pearcey and Thaxton make excellent use of analogies to elucidate difficult concepts, and the clarity of their explanations for the nonspecialist, for example, of Einstein's relativity theories or of the informational content of DNA and its consequences for theories of prebiotic evolution, are quite exceptional, alone making the volume worth purchasing." ~ Dr. David Shotton, Lecturer in Cell Biology, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994)
Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions. "Who am I?" man asks. "Why am I here? Where am I going?" Since the Enlightenment, when he threw off the shackles of religion, man has tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not exhilarating, but dark and terrible. "You are the accidental by-product of nature, a result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death." Modern man thought that when he had gotten rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself.
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 152-3.
When the idol of mathematics fell, it brought down with it confidence in any universal truth. The sharp ring of truth that characterized mathematics had inspired hope that truth could be found by similar methods in other fields of scholarship. Now that hope died... Filtered to the rest of the academic world, the crisis in mathematics was symbolized by the emergence of non-Euclidean geometries. Euclid's axioms had stood the test of time for some two thousand years. That physical space is Euclidean seemed part of common sense. But now Euclidean geometry had been relegated to one of many possible geometries. Far from being a universal truth, Euclidean geometry was a merely human invention that might apply in some contexts but not in others. The crisis in geometry became a metaphor for the shattering of established verities, the inadequacy of deductive systems, the loss of a single, unified body of truth.
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 56.
The majority [of scientists] continue to be naive realists, blithely assuming that science yields reliable facts. And given that the number of working scientists far exceeds the number of science historians, that makes realism the dominant view in science today. It is a view, moreover, that appears to be buttressed by the everyday experience of the bountiful practical benefits of science. When science works so well, it is difficult not to conclude that it bears at least some relation to a world that really exists.
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 36.
To begin with, Christian teachings have served as presuppositions for the scientific enterprise (e.g., the conviction that nature is lawful was inferred from its creation by a rational God). Second, Christian teachings have sanctioned science (e.g., science was justifies as a means of alleviating toil and suffering). Third, Christian teachings supplied motives for pursuing science (e.g., to show the glory and wisdom of the Creator). And fourth, Christianity played a role in regulating scientific methodology (e.g., voluntarist theology was invoked to justify an empirical approach in science). Among professional historians the image of warfare between faith and science has shattered. Replacing it is a widespread recognition of Christianity's positive contributions to modern science.
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 38.
[I]n The Making of the Modern Mind historian John Herman Randall writes that the Copernican revolution "swept man out of his proud position as the central figure and end of the universe, and made him a tiny speck on a third-rate planet revolving abut a tenth-rate sun drifting in an endless cosmic ocean." ¶ The implication is that Christians mobilized against Copernicanism to resist this shattering of their cozy cosmology, but the literature of the day does little to support this portrayal. It is true that medieval cosmology, adapted from Aristotelian philosophy, placed the earth at the center of the universe. But in medieval cosmology the center of the universe was not a place of special significance. Quite the contrary, it was the locus of evil. At the very center of the universe was Hell, then the earth, then (moving outwards from the center) the progressively nobler spheres of the heavens. ¶ In this scheme of things, humanity's central location was no compliment, nor was its loss a demotion. In fact, in Copernicus's own day a common objection to his theory was that it elevated man above his true station. In medieval cosmology, human significance was rooted not in the earth's central location but in the regard God showed toward it. Hence, the idea that Copernican theory threatened the Christian teaching of human significance is an anachronism. It reads back into history the angst of our own age.
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 46-7.
In The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers Carl Becker argues that histories written in the eighteenth century were designed with one purpose in mind — to discredit Christianity. Enlightenment philosopher knew they were engaged in a cultural battle for people's hearts and minds. In Becker's words, they felt themselves "engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Christian philosophy and the infamous things that support it — superstition, intolerance, tyranny." Their historical accounts were intended as weapons in the struggle. ¶ These histories would generally open with the Greco-Roman world, praised as a golden age of reason; move to the Middle Ages, denounced as a dreary period of ignorance and oppression, and end with the contemporary age, the Enlightenment, heralded as a revival of ancient wisdom and rationality. Clearly, this was no attempt at objective, fact-base history.
James Robert Brown (Routledge: Apr 1994), 216 pages.
Realism is an enlightening story, a tale which enriches our experience and makes it more intelligible. Yet this wonderful picture of humanity's best efforts at knowledge has been badly bruised by numerous critics. James Robert Brown in Smoke and Mirrors fights back against figures such as Richard Rorty, Bruno Latour, Michael Ruse and Hilary Putnam who have attacked realist accounts of science. But this volume is not wholly devoted to combating Rorty and others who blow smoke in our eyes, the second half is concerned with arguing that there are some amazing ways in which science mirrors the world. The role of abstraction, abstract objects and a priori ways of getting at reality are all explored in showing how science reflects reality. Smoke and Mirrors is a defence of science and knowledge in general as well as a defence of a particular way of understanding science. It is of interest to all those who wish or need to know how science works. ~ Product Description
J.P. Moreland in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 46 (March, 1994): 2-13.
There has been a growing debate about the proper way to integrate science and theology. On the one side are those who accept a complementarity view of integration and claim that science must presuppose methodological naturalism. On the other side are those who accept some form of theistic science. Central to this debate is the nature of divine and human action and the existence of gaps in the natural causal fabric due to such action that could, in principle, enter into the use of scientific methodology. In this article, I side with the second group. To justify this position, I first state the complementarity view and its implications for the nature of human personhood, second, explain libertarian agency in contrast to compatibilist models of action, and third, show why "gaps" are part of divine and human agency and illustrate ways that such a model of agency for certain divine acts could be relevant to the practice of science.
J.P. Moreland, in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 46 (March, 1994): 2-13.
Among other things, scientists try to solve both empirical and conceptual problems. Conceptual problems, in turn, are of two basic types: internal and external. In this article, I offer a taxonomy of both types of conceptual problems that have constituted scientific practice throughout its history and argue that certain activities done by creationists fit this taxonomy nicely. I then conclude that these creationist activities cannot be faulted as being non-science or pseudo-science once we see how they fit a proper scientific pattern of addressing conceptual problems in other areas. ~ An Excerpt
J.P. Moreland, ed. (InterVarsity Press: 1994), 335 pages.
Is there evidence from natural science for an intelligent creator of the universe? For a century the reigning scientific view has been that God is not necessary to account for the existence of the world and of life. Evolutionary theory is said to be all that is needed to explain how we got here. In addition, many theistic evolutionists contend that God likely used many of the mechanisms of evolution to achieve his will. In this book J. P. Moreland and a panel of scholars assert that there is actually substantial evidence pointing in a different direction. First, they consider philosophical arguments about whether it is possible for us to know if an intelligent designer had a hand in creation. Then they look directly at four different areas of science: the origin of life, the origin of major groups of organisms, the origin of human language and the origin and formation of the universe. The team of experts for this work includes a philosopher, a mathematician, a physicist, a linguist, a theologian, a biophysicist, an astronomer, a chemist and a paleontologist. Their data and their conclusions challenge the assumptions of many and offer the foundation for a new paradigm of scientific thinking.
Phillip E. Johnson, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity Press: Nov 1993), 220 pages.
In his own era, Darwin's most formidable opponents were fossil experts, not clergymen. Even today, according to the author, the fossil record, far from conclusive, does not support the presumed existence of intermediate links between species. A law teacher at UC-Berkeley, Johnson deems unpersuasive the alleged proofs for Darwin's assertion that natural selection can produce new species. He also argues that recent molecular studies of DNA fail to confirm the existence of common ancestors for different species. Doubting the smooth line of transitional steps between apes and humans sketched by neo-Darwinists, he cites evidence for "rapid branching," i.e., mysterious leaps which presumably produced the human mind and spirit from animal materials. This evidence, to Johnson, suggests that "the putative hominid species" may not have contained our ancestors after all. This cogent, succinct inquiry cuts like a knife through neo-Darwinist assumptions. ~ Publishers Weekly
J.P. Moreland in The Christian Research Journal (Fall 1993).
From space travel to organ transplants, one of the most important influences shaping the modern world is science. Amazingly, people who lived during the Civil War had more in common with Abraham than with us. If Christians are going to speak to that world and interact with it responsibly, they must interact with science. The question is, how are we to understand the relationship between science and Christianity? At a dinner party I was introduced to a professor of physics. On learning that I was a philosopher and theologian, he informed me of the irrational nature of my fields, contending that science had removed the need to believe in God.