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Article Reviews*

Reviewed by Paul Gosselin


I. Eileen Barker: Thus Spake the Scientist: A Comparative Account of the New Priesthood and its Organisational Bases. pp.79-103
in the Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion. Vol.3 (1979) Mouton Netherlands 236 p.

This paper by Barker begins with a short historical sketch of the rising and waning prestige of science in the Western world. At the height of its prestige, it seemed science had done religion in (or at least was about to). But as Barker notes:

With this drop in the prestige of science, religion and religious beliefs have become popular once again - not only traditional Western religions, but also oriental religions and occult practices are in style. Western man has taken a step away from the rational. But despite this break from "progress", western man is reluctant to part with an older piece of his "cultural baggage": the notion of truth. He still insists (or hopes) that his world view will be proven to be true, and the only people he knows who are capable of providing this validation are... scientists. The main impact of this article is summed up by Barker on p.81:

The main portion of Barker's article is devoted to the analysis of six ideal types and their positions on the issues of origins (creation vs evolution) and of truth (Scripture vs Science). The six ideological/religious positions are the following: Fundamentalism, Orthodoxy, Liberalism, Modernism, Agnosticism and Atheism. In each case, examples are given of the various organisations of scientists who support and provide sanction for the ideological/religious position in question. These various groups on the basis of the age and sex composition of their membership, their manner of organisation, attitudes towards one another and also towards sociology. Another point (employed rather humorously) Barker compares the groups on is dress and mannerisms:

Unless we take ourselves too seriously, there is no danger of being offended. Barker is obviouly enjoying herself here and manages to poke fun at pretty well everybody. As far as my own experiences of creationism and Christianity is concerned, Barker's categorisations (especially in matters of dress and mannerisms) bear little relation to reality. I know many Christians and creationists who would not fit in her categories at all; perhaps in England things are (or were) more clear-cut (most of Barker's research was conducted there). Creationism, as such, is examined in the section on Fundamentalism. On this subject, Barker makes little effort to avoid patronizing. She does seem to have a minimal understanding of creationism, but this article is lacking in that the better creationist books are absent from its bibliography. Among creationist organisations named are: in the U.S., the Institute for Creation Research; in England, the Newton Scientific Association and the Evolution Protest Movement. Barker goes as far as to admit that some of the arguments for creationism can be fairly complex and that there are, in fact, qualified scientists among the proponents of creationism, but this seems somewhat hard to swallow.

I wonder if the thought might occur to some that evolutionary scientists as well might "succeed in blinding the layman with science"? Barker, at a certain point, seems at a loss to discuss the creationist position analytically and resorts to pompous remarks such as the following:

Barker fails to notice that a comment of this sort is applicable to all the positions discussed in her article and as such is inconclusive. Creationists would likely profit in reading the remainder of the article where five other religious[3] ]3] viewpoints and their scientific supporters are examined. Each group works out a different epistemological status for the Bible and for the body of knowledge known as science. In this article Barker also does a good job of pointing out the various social uses of science, society turning to science and the scientists for truth, but she misses a phenomena I suspect is possibly more important here which is the individual scientist's need for truth or a more complete world view, which science, many would now agree, by itself does not provide. In other words the scientist's involvement in the various groups discussed by Barker might equally be accounted for as a search for meaning on the part of scientists and I'd be inclined to believe this phenomena is at least as significant as the public's supposed need for legitimation of it's particular belief systems.


II. Eileen Barker: In the Beginning: The Battle of Creation Science Against Evolutionism. pp. 179-200
in On the Margins of Science: the Social Construction of Rejected Knowledge. Roy Wallis (ed.) Sociological Review Monograph no.27 U. of Keele Staffordshire 1979 337 p.

This paper by Barker proposes a study of Creationism as a movement and specifically studies creationist organizations as providing an environment in which a non-orthodox paradigm (in relation to the predominant evolutionary paradigm) has been able to develop. Beginning the article Barker covers the initial development of evolutionism and the following period in which creationist beliefs went 'underground' largely. (p.185) Being based at the London School of Economics Barker presents historical information concerning the beginnings of creationism in Britain which is likely to be of interest to creationists in North America, though creationist organisations in the U.S. are also discussed in this paper. British organisations mentioned are the Victoria Institute founded in 1865 (not commited strictly to creationism), the Evolution Protest Movement (1932) and the Newton Scientific Association (1972) and in the U.S.; the American Scientific Affiliation founded in 1949 supporting the Biblical account initially but moving towards theistic evolution in later years, the Creation Research Society (1963) and the Institute for Creation Research (1970). In one section Barker discusses the views of these organizations in relation to Science and Scripture and in another presents a fairly adequate resume of creationist arguments against evolutionism.

Compared to the previously reviewed article Barker displays a better grasp of creationist material here. Other points brought up in the paper are the demand for creation science (religious groups interested by this paradigm), attitudes of evolutionists, theistic evolutionists and creationists towards one another (especially in Britain), and the creation-evolution confrontation in the schools. Barker points out that in Britain there is no equivalent to the American text book controversies as there is no system of text book control in British schools. Controversies have occured though, Barker notes, in the context of religious education and Barker cites one case of the dismissal of a religious education teacher in Britain for having taught the Genesis account of origins. Concluding the article Barker alludes (p.197) patronizingly to creationist scientist's role of comforting the 'ignorant masses' (as in the previous article), but beyond this she does allow that creationism as such may be beneficial to science in the long run.


* The following reviews were previously published in Creation Research Society Quarterly Vol. 22 no. 4 March 1986 pp. 201-203

[1]- British Society for Social Responsability in Science: a marxist-oriented association.

[2]- All groups in the article are designated in this fashion.

[3] Curiously enough, Barker unintentionally provides an excellent argument for the fundamentally religious nature of all six positions discussed in her article in that these six positions all fit in so well on the same spectrum. It is my own opinion that ideologies (cosmology without God) and religion are all part of the same phenomena. This view is being held by an increasing number of social scientists who are coming to see western ideologies in a similar manner. To name a few: Ward Goodenough, A.F.C. Wallace, C. Kluckhohn, Thomas Luckman, Andrew M. Greeley and George Steiner.