The Way Of Science by Dennis R. Trumble (book review).

July 20, 2014 | By | Reply More

As always with non-fiction books, you should always pay attention to the sub-title even it would make the main title bar too big if included. Such is the case with Dennis R. Trumble’s book, ‘The Way Of Science’ and ‘Finding Truth And Meaning In A Scientific Worldview’. Basically that translates into how science rules the world we live in and yet so many people still rely on their faith to seeing things.


In his introduction, Trumble makes the astute observation that to tell the difference between right and wrong, one must first understand which one is right. When there is evidence of a twenty year period where American people put their trust in prayer to solve their children’s illnesses or accidents and 172 children died, you really do have to wonder why they didn’t call on medical help. Although America is besieged by medical insurance, I have been assured that there are some hospitals who will treat some people freely.

I should point out from the start that although the first section focuses on Darwin and evolution, any mention of creationism is kept to the minimum. That will come later although not dwelled on in depth because Trumble looks at the faith issue as a whole. Darwin, himself was a staunch church supporter and was very reluctant to print his own evolution theory and was nearly beaten to the punch had not Alfred Wallace sent his own notes to him for an opinion. While Darwin was attending his own son’s funeral, who died of scarlet fever, his friends put his book, ‘The Origin Of The Species’ into print and the rest, shall we say, is history.

In many respects, when you look around you and see things today, I suspect most people think that outside of fashion and buildings, change doesn’t happen or it’s over within a few weeks. The concept of things taking centuries let alone millennia to change must seem like a stretch for some people. After all, it’s way outside of their lifetime and how can they see it happen? Considering children’s fascination with dinosaurs, perhaps that should be qualified to adults only. Darwin’s theories soon put Carl Linnacus’ theory of nothing changes into the annals of misdirection because of proof. To be where we are today, we evolved and not suddenly happened. Evolution is, after all, the practice of nature and not a theory.

I liked the way Trumble sorts out the argument that if Man descended from monkeys, why are they still about? If you didn’t know, our branch of primates is based on ancestry that did die out and humans are the end result with nothing shown to replace it. Something to bear in mind when so many other species have diversified and adapted to other environmental qualities, there won’t be anyone to take our place. If anything, Man might be able to adapt his environment but not himself. We could well be our own cul de sac.

When Trumble gets on to why religious faith persists from generation to generation, he really does get straight to the prime cause. It’s a demonstration of the herd instinct, even if Trumble doesn’t actually call it that. Children unquestionably take on what they are told and taught by their parents and teachers as being…er…gospel. In a more, shall we say, religious environment you will maintain the beliefs that you are taught even if includes Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The Christmas myth that is maintained around the world that a white bearded chap from a reindeer driven sledge drops down the chimney giving gifts instead of human people seems absurd to adult eyes yet kids do lap it up for a time. It’s no wonder that children don’t see their parents as their chief providers for everything but believe everything that they are told.

Trumble also makes a very good point that, at least in America, few scientifically trained people actually teach science in the lower grades and often those with only a teaching diploma are left with the task. I know in the UK, our current Coalition government wants only appropriately qualified people to teach science, but they’ve raised the goalposts to second level honours degrees and most of these people would rather work in industry than teach because it pays better. Personally, I think that’s an even bigger mistake because you need a combination of both abilities than limit the number of people to teach the subject that this is setting the goalpost too high to achieve. Things aren’t helped on either side of the pond where information is taught by repetition than getting people to develop their natural curiosity to learn, although junior seminars over here seems to be providing that incentive. Hopefully, that should restore critical thinking although I can’t help feel that teachers still think the questioning child as a disruption in the classroom environment. My science teachers saw my potential at school and allowed me to be more inquisitive.

One argument that Trumble focuses on is that you don’t have to be a genius to be interested in science and that people who are come from all walks of life. He points out an interesting fact that 70% of the American population have an interest in space travel these days. Presumably, that makes the other 30% religious except that Trumble points out that 12% have no interest at all in what’s out there. From a statistical point of view, I would like to see the sample population chosen. Like with any subject, it is the time that you devote to it that makes it a career that you end up following.

I should point out here that Trumble does not attack religious faith with anything but understanding their point of view and does some comparisons of faith and those who don’t believe to compare integrity. I’ve said so myself in the past, that morals don’t need to be taught with religion and he makes a very good case for it in chapter ten. Something I did feel as odd is that people accept the Buddhist approach to karma across the various religions even if some call it by different names. Buddhists, I should note, are willing to change their views in light of new evidence and don’t disrespect scientific knowledge. He points out that the Delhi Llama came from a poor scientific background but has made great strides in his understanding and science importance since. If anything, this is a demonstration of faith meets science when both want to know the answers of the universe.

Towards the end of the book, Trumble points out that the belief in God in America comes from the President down and which re-enforces the faith. From a political point of view, any politician not acknowledging any faith in their electing campaign is going to lose votes over there. Although we have an anthem using the term ‘God’ in the UK, I think fewer people see it as any more than a word being used.

In his conclusions, Trumble points out that we’d probably be a different kind of world if there wasn’t any sort of religions but I’m less sure I’d agree with him that we would lose our geniuses, just that they would happen at different times. Think what would have happened had the likes of Galileo not been religiously persecuted? We’d have probably been more advanced than we are now. We’re Science Fiction folk, we understand such things.

OK, you can tell by the way I reacted to this book shows that it will make you think in a good way and question everything. As with all books of this sort, the religiously orientated audience that should be reading it probably won’t which is a shame because this book is at least sympathetic to their view. So it’s up to the rest of you reading the book to understand the lessons and teach your sprogs that science rules their world far more than religion and hold the herd instinct moves away from having a faith in something that can’t present itself today. Trumble makes his points reasoned and well in an excellent book that you should all read.

GF Willmetts

July 2013

(pub: Prometheus Books. 346 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $20.00 (US), $21.00 (CAN), £11.80 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61614-755-6. Ebook: Price: $11.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-756-3)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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