"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 12, Number 7, July 2009

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

“That which ordinary men are fit for I am qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.”

Earl of Kent

Shakespeare’s King Lear

Act I, scene iv, ll. 32-34

 

[“As I See It” is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor’s perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org]

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Charles Darwin, Racist

 

“Lastly, I could show fight [i.e., vigorously advocate] on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilisation than you seem inclined to admit.  Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago, of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is!  The more civilized so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence.  Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilised races throughout the world.”

Charles Darwin

The Life of Charles Darwin by Francis Darwin

London: Senate, 1995 reprint of 1902 John Murray edition

p. 64

 

The volume from which this quotation is taken is essentially an abridgement by the author, one of Darwin’s sons, of his own longer 2-volume work (which contained considerable autobiographical material by Charles Darwin).  It is not a hostile, fault-finding attack on Darwin, or a “Mommy Dearest” expose by an alienated child, but a strongly pro-Darwin account.  Its casual revealing of Darwin’s inner thoughts and attitudes regarding the races of mankind is therefore most telling.

 

“Natural selection”--the death and genetic elimination and extermination of “inferior” individuals and races in the mad scramble for survival--is viewed by Darwin, the founder and proponent of this view, as a great good, not merely among fishes and ferns and ferrets, but among people.  Naturally--and arrogantly--assuming the superiority of his own “Caucasian” race (and of course himself, especially), he views with mirth the absurdity of the fear the white Europeans had in the 15th century of being overwhelmed by the Moslem Turks, which he viewed as a decidedly inferior race of people.  And notice, it was not merely white hegemony that Darwin gloried in, but victory in “the struggle for existence” (emphasis added).

 

(A similar Moslem scare occurred in the 8th century, when the Saracens from North Africa invaded Europe via Spain, but were stopped in their bloody campaign of “peaceful” subjugation via the sword by Charles Martel [“the hammer”] at the battle of Tours, France in 732.  Today, European civilization, and that “superior” white European race, faces once again the very real possibility of being overwhelmed by “inferior” non-white races, especially the Moslem immigrants from northern Africa [true for France, Holland, and most of Western Europe], but also once again the Turks [in Germany] and sub-Saharan blacks as well as South Asians [Britain].  In reality, it wasn’t race, but civilization--one founded in broad terms on Biblical Christianity--that gave European civilization its “edge.”  Virtually the whole of Europe has now and long since cast away any pretense of Christianity in contempt of the God of Scripture, embracing instead atheistic materialism--a.k.a., Darwinism.  And once again European civilization faces the real possibility of extermination, this time from without--following two unprecedentedly massive wars in the 20th century that nearly destroyed Europe from within.  “The wicked will return to Sheol--all the nations that forget God,” Psalm 9:17.  But I digress).

 

Darwin looked forward with eager anticipation “at no very distant date” when an “endless number of lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world” (emphasis added).  It was not enough in his mind that the European powers through their colonial empires ruled over and dominated these inferior races, but it was his hope and anticipation that they would be actually eliminated--exterminated (can you say “genocide” or “holocaust”?) by the superior whites, and sooner rather than later.  Darwinism is not merely in harmony with Arian supremacy, Nietzscheism, Nazism, eugenics, and genocide, it is their foundation and justification.  Indeed, there are demonstrable philosophical and intellectual links between Darwin’s hypothesis of “natural selection” and “the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life” (to quote the subtitle of The Origin of Species) with all of these evils, and more. 

 

In another revealing moment, Darwin wrote about one species of ant enslaving another species: “I have seen a migration from one nest to another of the slave-makers, carrying their slaves (who are house, and not field niggers) in their mouths!” (Life of Charles Darwin, p. 191; emphasis in original).  Such was his condescending contempt for non-whites.

 

Darwin was a malignant racist and Darwinism is inherently racist.  I wonder if all those non-Caucasian individuals now residing in England consider these things--or are even aware of them--when they spend their ten-pound notes, which sport a portrait of Darwin.  And what do the tourists who view his grave in an honored place in Westminster Abbey think about these things?  Likely nothing at all.

 

Of course, when his theory became applicable to his own life or his own family, Darwin was decidedly “inconsistent.”  There is the issue of his own incredibly poor health, which plagued him for the last forty years of his life.  Its exact origin is unclear; psycho-somatic causes were probably a substantial factor.  His various and severe gastro-intestinal problems began when he began his preliminary speculations on evolution, and continued until he had largely ceased his evolutionary writings:

 

Darwin’s illness has been the subject of extensive speculation.  Some of the symptoms--painful flatulence, vomiting, insomnia, palpitations--appeared in force as soon as he began his first transmutation notebook in 1837. . . . [A] careful analysis of the attacks in the context of his activities points to psychogenic origins.  Throughout the next decades Darwin’s maladies waxed and waned.  But during the last decade of his life, when he concentrated on botanical research and no long speculated about evolution, he experienced the best health since his years at Cambridge.

Bettyann Kevles

“Darwin,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, 1992

Vol. 16, p. 980b

 

It may be that Darwin had stress-inducing inner turmoil generated by battling mentally against what his own mind told him was the truth, and that he was fighting against the knowledge of God.  It is notable that Darwin admitted that there was overwhelming evidence of design (today we would say “intelligent design”) in the so-called “natural world.”  Once the Duke of Argyll confronted Darwin about this matter.  Noting features of orchids and earthworms (which Darwin had made special study of), the Duke of Argyll went on,

 

I said that it was impossible to look at these without seeing that they were the effect of the expression of mind.  I shall never forget Mr. Darwin’s answer.  He looked at me very hard and said, ‘Well, that often comes over me with overwhelming force; but at other times,’ and he shook his head vaguely, adding, ‘it seems to go away.’

The Life of Charles Darwin, p. 64, note

 

So Darwin, refusing to believe or acknowledge what his own observations often and overwhelmingly convinced him was true--that there was Divine design in nature--took refuge in his anti-supernatural speculations and presuppositions (having previously, by age thirty, rejected the possibility of Divine revelation or miracles, or the historical accuracy of Scripture; see The Life of Charles Darwin, pp. 57, 58).

 

But one must further observe: so chronically ill a being--whether dog or cat or man--as Darwin was, must obviously (from a Darwinian perspective), be an “inferior” being, one unfit and unworthy of survival or procreation.  In a letter written in 1852, Darwin expressed his fear that his own ill-health was hereditary: “How paramount the future is to the present when one is surrounded by children.  My dread is hereditary ill-health.  Even death is better for them” (p. 161).  So--had he the power to chose between his children alive but in a state of chronic illness, or dead, he would for them choose death.  We here witness Darwinism giving birth to “euthanasia,” also bizarrely misnamed “mercy killing.”

 

But when one of his daughters, Anne, died at age 10, he was deeply grieved.  Should he not rather have rejoiced that the omnipotent if cold hand of “natural selection” had eliminated one of the inferior members of the human species, even one of the superior Caucasian race, thereby improving the species and the race, helping drive mankind to higher and better and superior status in the present and future?  By his own theory, the death of his daughter at 10, before she could reproduce, was first of all proof of her “unfitness” to live, and secondly a genuine benefit and blessing to the rest of mankind and all future generations.  But of course the human heart is not designed to react with the sterile rationalism that consistent Darwinism demands.

 

Darwin also believed that men were more evolutionary advanced than women (making him a sexist as well as a racist; see the Encyclopedia Britannica article, p. 980)

 

The whole cult of Darwin, which praises him to the skies as the greatest scientific benefactor of mankind, is remarkably silent on his blatant Hitler-esque racism and his chauvinistic sexism, to say nothing of his bad science and demonstrably false hypothesis.  The motive for embracing Darwin and Darwinism is not one compelled by genuine science or a single-minded quest for truth.  Upon reading Origin, Charles’ brother Erasmus wrote to him, “In fact, the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit in, why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling” (Life of Charles Darwin, p. 215).  In short, ‘the hypothesis is so good, I accept it regardless of whether it conforms to the facts!’ 

 

Rather, for many, likely most, Darwinian “natural selection” (versus Divine creation or intelligent design) is favored consciously or unconsciously because it provides a convenient means for eliminating God from the human equation: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” and “did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge,” as the Apostle Paul describes it (Romans 1:25, 28).  In rebellion against the God of the Bible and Jesus Christ as Lord of life and death, they say, ‘Let us tear off their chains, and free ourselves from their restraints,” (Psalm 2:3).  Darwin and Darwinism are embraced, not because they are true, but because they are convenient means to an end.  Twenty-first century man wishes to become the autonomous God that Satan promised in Eden.  Darwinism is the easiest means to that self-destructive end.

---Doug Kutilek

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On the Rabbinic Observation Regarding the Creation of Eve

 

In the previous issue, we compared and contrasted the rabbinic and Christian devotional implications of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib.  We relied on Alfred Edersheim for his undocumented presentation of the rabbinic exposition of Genesis 2:21, 22, and acknowledged our own inability to locate from whence Edersheim took his information.

 

Brian Gault of Cincinnati, Ohio, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. student at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati (and whom I have known since he was about three or four years old!) did some research in the Klau Library at HUC and located the text in question.  It is found in Genesis Rabbah, a homiletical exposition of sorts of Genesis, which may date in its earliest form to the third century A. D., but which has numerous later additions and accretions.  The passage in question is found in section 80:5--

 

5. Rabbi Joshua of Siknin commented in Rabbi Levi's name: “But ye have set at nought all My counsel,” (Proverbs 1:25).  Thus it is written, “And the Lord built the rib,” (Genesis 2:22). This is written wayyiben, signifying that He considered well (hithbonnen) from what part to create her.  Said he: “I will not create her from [Adam's] head, lest she be light-headed [frivolous]; nor from the eye, lest she be a coquette; nor from the ear, lest she be an eavesdropper; nor from the mouth, lest she be a gossip; nor from the heart, lest she be prone to jealousy; nor from the hand, lest she be light-fingered; nor from the foot, lest she be a gadabout.  But [I will create her] from the modest part of man, for even when he stands naked, that part is covered.”  And as He created each limb, He ordered her, '”Be a modest woman, be a modest woman.”  Yet in spite of all this, “But ye have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof.”  I did not create her from the head, yet she is frivolous: “They walk with stretched-forth necks,” (Isaiah 3:16); nor from the eye, yet she is a coquette: “And wanton eyes,” (ibid.); nor from the ear, yet she is an eavesdropper: “Now Sarah listened in the tent door,” (Genesis 18: 10); nor from the heart, yet she is prone to jealousy.

 

“Genesis” in Midrash Rabbah, vol. 2

Edited by Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman and Maurice Simon

Translated by Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman

Soncino Press: New York, 1983, 3rd ed., p. 738

 

 

This quote reveals a typical ancient rabbinic disdain for women (in harmony with the rabbinic morning prayer of gratitude to God that he had not been born a woman or a pagan or an idiot).

---Doug Kutilek

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Isaiah 7:14 and the Virgin Birth

 

A reader recently wrote with reference to a statement we made in the May 2009 issue of AISI (12:5).  We noted there how the New English Translation (NET) Bible, the work of professors at Dallas Seminary, a historically conservative school, agreed with the Revised Standard Version in translating almah at Isaiah 7:14 as “young woman” rather than “virgin” (and be it noted, the NET Bible eviscerates nearly every major OT Messianic prophecy, not just this one.  We plan to speak to this issue in the near future).

 

Our correspondent wrote:

 

I saw your comment on the "mistranslation" of Isa 7:14 in the New English

translation, and I was wondering about your perspective on this verse.  If

you translate 'almah as "virgin," is the intended meaning only a prophetic

word about the virgin birth of Christ, with no significance/sign for

Isaiah's original word to king Ahaz?  Was there another virgin birth which

functioned as a sign to Isaiah's audience?  Was there a layered meaning, the

prophecy of a human royal birth originally intended for Isaiah's word/sign

to king Ahaz, with a more complete fulfillment in the virgin birth of Christ

(Matt 1)?  If so, how do you convey such a layered meaning/significance in a

translation, without importing all the significance of Matthew's theology

back into Isaiah, assuming that everything the NT writer conveyed was also

intended by the Old Testament prophet?  While I know this is a complex

issue, I am curious as to your thoughts on the subject.

 

My reply:

 

While a whole dissertation could be written--and many have been written--on this text, I will briefly summarize why I still am convinced that 1. the word almah does indeed mean virgin; and that, 2. this is a strictly Messianic prophecy referring only to the birth of Christ.

 

First, the larger context.  Isaiah 7-12 is all one unit, called by some “the Book of Immanuel” and the same individual is in view in 7:14, 9:6-7 and 11:1ff (so affirms Delitzsch, among others)--his birth is in prospect but impending in 7:14; his birth has occurred and his reign is prospective and imminent, and is characterized, 9:6-7; his person and reign are described in further detail, 11:1ff.  That this person is of the house of David is implied (7:13) or expressly declared (9:7; 11:1), ruling out any of Isaiah's children--or any other child not of the Davidic line--as the fulfillment, and also naturally identifying the one conceived, born and reigning as the promised Davidic Messiah (the perpetuity of reign in Isaiah 9:6, 7 is strictly Messianic, as in Psalm 72:5, 17; note likewise the popular expectation in Jesus’ day, John 12:34).

 

Second, the word "sign" ('ot) in this context means primarily "pledge, promise," a meaning that has some frequency in the OT.  In context, Judah and Jerusalem are threatened with invasion by the northern kingdom Israel in alliance with Damascus to force Judah into alliance against the larger threat, Assyria.  For all the danger that the Israel-Damascus alliance posed, the Assyrian threat was even greater one, and destruction at the hands of one enemy or the other seemed humanly certain for Judah, Jerusalem, and the Davidic dynasty as well (and came perilously close to reality in the Assyrian siege of 701).  However, in the Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7 (see also Psalm 89, for a poetic exposition), God pledged the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty (as He earlier had identified Judah as the perpetual royal tribe, Genesis 49:10).  The contextual import of v. 14 is that the present crisis will fail to extinguish the Davidic dynasty, and God's promise will stand firm, believe it or not.  That both Pekah and Rezin were overthrown in short order is a fact; that it was before the promised child achieved the age of accountability is also a fact.  That this promised overthrow occurred 7 centuries before the child's birth I do not see as a problem--the promise was still outstanding, and the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty was once again affirmed and assured--and this was the point at issue in Ahaz's scheming and planning: he did not believe the Divine promise.  The name of the child (Immanue-el) and the "names" (characteristics) given in 9:6 (especially "El gibbor"--see Isaiah 10:21 where it is used of YHWH; I think the NET Bible entry at 9:7 is also bogus--in fact, almost every Messianic prophecy in the OT is gutted of its content in the NET Bible notes, all the work of Professor Bob Chisholm, I understand) require that this individual is more than a man (B. B. Warfield has a good article on the Deity of the Messiah in the OT, to be found in his collected works).

 

Third, " ‘almah" is a relatively rare word in the OT--9 occurrences, 4 singular, 5 plural.  Of the singular references, it is presumptive in context that Rebekah (Genesis 24:43) and Miriam (Exodus 2:8) were virgins, and there is nothing to indicate that Proverbs 30:19 is not also said of a virgin (described as experiencing her first sexual encounter, I think).  Of the plurals, in Psalm 68:25; Song 1:3; 6:8, there is nothing to indicate that the individuals in question are not virgins.  I take the two musical references, I Chronicles. 15:20 and Psalm 46, title, as a technical term, "sopranos" (women with high voices), though they may simply parallel the usage in Song.  In none of these OT contexts is the one in question either clearly or apparently 1. married; or 2. not a virgin.

 

I am aware that " ‘almah" is the feminine reflex of " 'elem" (found but twice in the OT, I Samuel 17:56; 20:22) which the lexicons give as "young man", but again, it is contextually presumptive that the young man in each place (David; and Jonathan's arrow-fetcher) is a virgin, and there is nothing in context to suggest otherwise.  But even if the literal, etymological meaning of “ 'almah” / “ 'elem” was only "young woman / young man" (which I allow momentarily for the sake of argument), that would not settle the issue.  Words in many languages often have meanings more specific or other than their etymology might seem to suggest.  For example in German, "Jungfrau" is literally "young woman" but it certainly has the meaning "virgin" (so says every German dictionary I consulted with no other meaning given, and so agreed several native speakers of German whom I consulted; “young woman” is expressed by "junge Frau").  In English, we have a now-rarely heard term "maidenhood" or "maidenhead" which specifically refers to virginity, though etymologically it means less than this.  A little wider afield, in Romanian, an old word for an elderly man is "mosh" which I have encountered almost exclusively in the phrase “Mosh Craciun” that is, "Father Christmas," or what we would call "Santa Claus"; you might suppose that the feminine form, "moasha" would mean “old woman,” which it occasionally does, but in fact it usually has the very specific meaning of "midwife."

 

Furthermore, there are several problems with the claim sometimes met with that "betulah" is the specific Hebrew word for "virgin" and Isaiah would have used that word instead of “ ‘almah” had he intended that meaning.  First, Joel 1:8 speaks of a "betulah" lamenting for her now-dead husband, which, if this is not an engagement ended by death before consummation, is a clear case of "betulah" NOT meaning "virgin."  Furthermore, there are cognates to both "betulah" and " 'almah" in Ugaritic, a language closely related to Hebrew (viz., btlt and glmt), in synonymous parallel.  Charles Feinberg in his book, Is the Virgin Birth in the OT? notes this use in Ugaritc text 77, lines 5 (btlt) and 7 (glmt), in a phrase that is strikingly similar to Isaiah 7:14.  Cyrus Gordon, a Jewish scholar, in The Journal of Biblical Literature (April 1953), allows "virgin" as a legitimate meaning of " 'almah" in Isaiah 7:14 (as of course does Feinberg).  This particular Ugaritic text is also found in volume 2 of Gordon's Ugaritic Textbook.  This text strongly suggests that "betulah" and " 'almah" in Hebrew are synonyms, and if "betulah"  can and sometimes does mean “virgin,” so too can " 'almah".

 

Fourth, the fact that the pre-Christian Septuagint Greek translation of Isaiah, made around 200 years B.C., renders " 'almah" by parthenos (which means only “virgin”) is more or less inexplicable, if   " 'almah" actually means only "young woman."  Remember that the Septuagint was made while Hebrew was still very much a living language.  What could have led to such a translation, if the word did in fact not have that meaning?  That the Jewish Greek OT versions from the 2nd century A. D., Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion, by way of contrast uniformly have neanis, "young woman," is easily explained as a theologically-motivated alteration in light of NT and Christian recognition of Isaiah 7:14 as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  I could just as easily cite the Peshitta Syriac, Old Latin and Latin Vulgate versions of Isaiah 7:14, which agree with the Septuagint’s understanding of the passage, but naturally, these would be dismissed by critics as under the influence of the NT and Christian prejudice.

 

Fifth, that Matthew quotes the verse according to the Septuagint and expressly applies it to Jesus, the fulfillment of the long-promised Messiah, is notable.  Yes, sometimes Matthew quotes OT passages as "applications" or "illustrations" of things which were not expressly part of the original prophecy (for example, the quote of Jeremiah 31:15 in 2:18), but he also and often quotes OT prophecies that are expressly and directly fulfilled in the life of Jesus (as in 2:5-6, quoting Micah 5:2, or, rather, quoting the Jewish scribes quoting Micah 5:2).  In its OT context, 7:14 is a prophecy of the Davidic Messiah's birth.  This argues strongly for a direct prophecy-fulfillment connection, not mere employment as an illustration or application.

 

Sixth, to claim that " 'almah" is incorrectly rendered "virgin" and correctly rendered "young woman" would mean that the early Christian apologists, particularly Justin Martyr in his “Dialogue with Trypho” (chapters 43, 66) and Irenaeus’ treatise “Against Heresies” (chapter 21) were entirely wrong and the unbelieving Jews and their revised translations of Isaiah 7:14 were right.

 

This then is my thinking, and why I accept "virgin" as the correct translation of " 'almah" in all it uses in the OT, the two possible uses as technical musical terms excepted.

 

I do not accept the hermeneutical notion of double fulfillments or double references in Biblical prophecies.  Examples claimed as such usually involve the NT quoting of an OT passage as an illustration or application, rather than a direct fulfillment of the OT passage in question.  This would, for example, be the case in Acts 2:17-21, where Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32.  A close examination shows that the Joel passage in context is regarding the future tribulation period, and that nothing foretold in Joel--visions, dreams, prophesying, signs in the sky and on earth-- occurred on Pentecost (except the pouring out of the Spirit), and nothing that occurred on Pentecost (the sound of wind, tongues of fire, languages) was foretold by Joel.  Peter uses the Joel text to illustrate what happened that day, with a view to far greater working by the Holy Spirit at the end of the age.  The whole notion of “double fulfillments” is an uncontrollable can of worms, and is an expedient to be avoided.

 

This topic is far too detailed and complex to treat thoroughly here.  Let me recommend some sources for further reading on the interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 (in order of publication)--

 

Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Isaiah.  Translated by James Martin.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969 reprint.  This mid-19th century commentary still has something to offer on this important chapter in Isaiah.

 

Charles Lee Feinberg, Is the Virgin Birth in the Old Testament?  Whittier, Ca.: Emeth Publications, 1967.  An excellent, very readable brief treatment by an outstanding scholar.

 

Edward E. Hindson, Isaiah’s Immanuel.  Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1978.  An excellent survey of the issues and evidence from a scholarly point of view.  Gives the fullest and clearest presentation of the evidence of any of the items listed here.

 

Alfred Martin and John Martin, Isaiah: the Glory of the Messiah.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1983.  Gives a good overview of 7:14 in the context of “the Book of Immanuel,” i.e., Isaiah 7:1-12:6.

 

Geoffrey W. Grogan, Isaiah in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.  Vol. 6, pp. 62ff.  A brief survey of interpretations and evidence.

 

Gordon J. Wenham, “Virgin” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.  Vol. IV, pp. 989-990.  A brief summary of the evidence regarding “betulah” and “ ‘almah.”

 

I trust these words and works will assist you in seeking a fuller understanding of Isaiah 7:14.

 

Doug Kutilek

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Books from a Female Perspective

 

“Another enemy of books must be mentioned with the delicacy that befits the topic.  Almost all women are the inveterate foes, not of novels, of course, nor peerages and popular volumes of history, but of books worthy of the name.  It is true that Isabelle d’Este, and Madame de Pompadour, and Madame de Maintenon, were collectors; and, doubtless, there are other brilliant exceptions to a general rule.  But broadly speaking, women detest the books which the collector desires and admires.  First, they don’t understand them; second, they are jealous of their mysterious charms; third,  books cost money; and it really is a hard thing for a lady to see money expended on what seems a dingy old binding, or yellow paper scored with crabbed characters.”

 

Andrew Lang (1844-1912), The Library

Quoted from Quotable Quotes: the Booklover, p. 77

London: Magpie Books, 2004

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Dr. Michael J. Behe, Ph.D.  New York: Free Press, 2007.  320 pp., hardback, $28.00

 

Dr. Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Science at Lehigh University, and is self-identified as a fairly traditional Roman Catholic.  He first gained widespread attention (some would say notoriety, others acclaim) in his 1996 book, Darwin’s Black Box, in which he proposed that the “irreducible complexity” of certain biological systems--the eye, blood clotting, the flagellum--required that they appeared suddenly, fully formed and fully functional, since there was no possible scheme for assembling them over multiple generations by neo-Darwinian mutation and natural selection, fortuitous component by fortuitous component. 

 

Naturally, the committed Darwinists poured out their vitriol on Behe from ‘going off the reservation’ of doctrinaire Darwinism--‘How dare he!?  He can’t possibly be a real scientist!’  On the other hand, his findings regarding irreducible complexity have been widely embraced by “intelligent design” advocates (of which he is himself one) as well as young earth creationists (of which he is not one).

 

In this follow-up book, Behe addresses the issue of just what the mechanisms of classic Darwinism, namely, mutation and natural (unguided) selection of traits can achieve.  His chief focus is on the bacterium that causes malaria and the HIV virus.  These are ideal choices for such a study since both produce massive populations, allowing for the greatest possible number of genetic mutations, and have short generational spans, meaning that selection for superior traits can occur rapidly (one year’s worth of malarial bacteria vastly outnumber all terrestrial mammals for all time, using evolutionary time scales).

 

Results: though just about every mutational possibility occurs regularly in malarial populations, only a very limited few of them--involving one or at most two specific genetic mutations in specific locations on specific genes--allow it to counter other organisms’ improvisations against malaria (e.g., sickle cell and other human genetic mutations) and anti-malarial drugs, both natural and man-made.  And in each case of a “beneficial” mutation, as with so-called “beneficial” mutations in humans that counter malaria, these changes in malarial genetics make the bacteria over all less viable, though more specifically effective in the limited local “war” against anti-malarial defenses.

 

Since malaria and HIV far outpace the possible opportunities for mutation and selection--the supposed driving mechanism of Darwinian evolution,--in humans, if mutation and selection don’t work in these microorganisms to create new features or whole new species, then by extension, they couldn’t possibly do so in rats, cauliflower or people, whose numbers are far fewer and whose generational life cycles are much longer.

 

Behe’s conclusion: the maximum possible “beneficial” change via mutation and selection in an organism is two simultaneous mutations; when three simultaneous mutations are required, the odds of such happening are prohibitive and hyper-astronomical; in short, it simply cannot happen, even given infinite time.  And since the development de novo of virtually the whole of the separate components of cellular life would require far more than three simultaneous genetic changes, they simply could not arise by accident; they must have been designed / planned by a super-intelligent and powerful being.

 

Behe up-dates the findings regarding cellular irreducible complexity in the decade since Darwin’s Black Box and concludes that it is truly far beyond “irreducible complexity” and is in fact, “mind-boggling complexity.”

 

So far, so good.  However, though concluding that there must necessarily be a designer behind earthly biological complexity, Behe is an old-earth (“billions of years”), build-in-the-program-for-development-of-complexity, wind-it-up and let-it-go theistic (almost deistic) evolutionist.  Supposedly, the designer built into the original created life form the inherent mechanism to produce onward and upward and diachronically more complex life forms.  But Behe never gives the smallest shred of evidence to support this notion of primitive life forms pre-programmed for macro-evolution, and nowhere identifies in cells / genes / DNA exactly where or what this mechanism is or how it works.  He gives no evidence whatsoever that such pre-programmed evolution via mutation has occurred in the past or occurs in the present.

 

Behe does devote some space to the remarkable “coincidences” that conspire to make earth habitable--the size of the sun, the type of star that the sun is, the size and orbit of moon, the distance from the sun of earth, earth’s near circular orbit, its precise tilt, its chemical and atmospheric composition, and much more, all of which are just too unlikely to be accidental.

 

Behe does accept the “theorie de jur” of lunar origins--the supposed collision of a body (of unspecified origin) with the primitive earth, knocking off a large chunk which became the moon--but it is just as scientifically impossible as the other three discredited theories (the “spouse,” sibling” and “child” views).  The moon should not exist--but there it is (I viewed it just last night, in fact).

 

Behe is at times technical, and he is off-base in his old-earth, theistic evolutionism but in his discussion of irreducible complexity and the impossibility of mutational creation of new cellular features, things he knows directly and thoroughly, his work is solid.

---Doug Kutilek

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“Let the Waters Roar”: Evangelists in the Gulag, compiled by Georgi Vins.  Baker Book House, 1979.  268 pp., paperback.

 

This volume presents the testimonies of 13 Baptist believers, young and old, men and women, in Ukraine and Russia under communism who were sentenced to years of imprisonment and harsh treatment for the “crime” of being a Christian and believing the Bible.  Their spiritual strength under the harshest of treatment is a testimony to the grace and faithfulness of God.  Their consistent Christian conduct while imprisoned gained the respect of other prisoners, guards, wardens, and reluctantly, even of the KGB.  In every case, they counted their imprisonment as an opportunity to grow closer to God, and to minister to the spiritual needs of those they encountered.

 

Their behavior under severe trials is much-needed instruction for us in America where it is likely that very soon expressing Christian views will become a “hate-crime” punishable by fines and imprisonment.

 

The accounts are accompanied by numerous photos.

---Doug Kutilek

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