Schaefer's Book.

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Wed Aug 04 2004 - 21:19:20 EDT

I am a bit ticked off tonight, I must confess. I do lots of book
reviews for the ASA . I was sent Fritz Schaeffer's book, Conflict or
Coherence to review. I wrote the review, submitted it only to find that
another review had been accepted prior to when I was sent the book to do
the review. I have 19 books on my to-be-read shelf. One hates to do the
work of reading the book and then writing a review which no one will
ever see, especially with 19 other books which could be read during that
time. . This is the 2nd time this has happened to me and it is not very
much fun to do the work for nothing. Sorry for the rant.

Because of this, I thought I would publish my rejected review here.

Science and Chirstianty: Conflict or Coherence? by Henry F. Schaefer,
Watkinsville, Georgia: The Apollos Trust, 2003. 179 pages plus appendix
and index. ISBN 0-9742975-0-X.

Schaefer is a professor of chemistry at the University of Georgia and
this is his first book. It is a compilation of some speeches he has
given on apologetics over the past 20 years. In the preface, Schaefer
notes that this is both good and bad. Most of the egregious errors have
been removed over the years but the references documenting the points
are lacking.
        The book has ten chapters covering areas like Scientists and
their Gods, the Nondebate with Steven Weinberg, the Big Bang, Climbing
Mount Improbable, Quantum mechanics and postmodernism, C. S. Lewis on
Science and Scientism, ten questions intellectuals ask his testimony and
what he calls the way of discovery. Each is a self contained essay and
they are all fairly basic and fairly non-philosophical.
        In the chapter Scientists and their Gods, Schaefer answers the
question whether it is possible to be a scientist and a Christian. For
most readers here, this will be strange question akin to asking if it is
possible to be a thief and a Christian. Schaefer answers in the positive
citing several atheists, like Feynman, that it is ok to be a Christian
and a scientist. He then notes that science developed in a Christian
environment citing many of the early scientists as Christian, Kepler,
Newton Boyle, Pascal etc. But the problem with this approach, as I have
noted elsewhere is that one has to go back a few centuries to find
Christians at the forefront of the scientific world, and in some sense
whether William Perkins was a Christian or not seems not to matter much
to the issues we face today reconciling our faith with observation.
        From a personal perspective the Nondebate with Weinberg was
interesting as Schaefer cited my web account of that 'debate'. Schaefer
claims that Weinberg equated Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha and 'called the
three religious leaders "fairies".' The tape I have of the debate shows
that he didn't name Mohammed or Buddha but named Zeus, Jehovah, Christ,
Allah. Wienberg used the term as a placeholder for any supernatural
being. Schaefer also claimed that Weinberg almost broke down when he
said that we would not see our family after death, but others there
recall the statement but don't recall the near breakdown.
        The chapter on the Big Bang discusses the anthropic principle
and the chapter on Dawkins presents the usual arguments against the
origin of life. There is little which is novel in these chapters.
Schaefer's idea of what is in the geological record and its order is
vastly different. When outlining his conformance between the Scripture
and earth history he has land plants arise before marine life. This is
of course backwards. He also claims that Day 4 was a clearing of the
atmosphere, an event for which there is absolutely no evidence. And
flying creatures do not arise before land animals, contra this book.
        The Ten Questions chapter actually presents twenty one question
which are all rather basic, "Who made God?", "Who is Jesus?", "What
about other religions?" etc. The questions are answered with simple
answers. One gets the feel that the responses are superficial.
The lack of philosophical depth to the book is best illustrated by
Schaefer's surprise that the question "Can God Make a Rock So Big That
He Can't Lift it?" was not a joke. That is one of the biggest weaknesses
of the book. The book gives the impression that there has been no deep
wrestling with the issues confronting theology today. That is too bad
as Schaeffer obviously has made important contributions to quantum
There are very few references throughout the book and indeed the book
seems to have been little altered from the lecture notes. While that
will be a good documentation of his lectures, it is unlikely to make
much of a mark on the intellectual tenor of our times.
Received on Wed Aug 4 22:03:38 2004

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