Book Review: Song of a Scientist
Song of a Scientist:
The Harmony of a God-Soaked Creation
by Calvin B. DeWitt
Review by Nate Adema
Dr. Calvin B. DeWitt is a prominent voice among Christians for engagement in ecology, environmentalism, and stewardship. This engaging book serves as a personal testimony as to why all Christians must be concerned for the earth. DeWitt begins by introducing his life theology and worldview through story, song, and Scripture. Using caterpillars, wolves, and a host of verses from Scripture, DeWitt lays a solid foundation for the claim that God can be seen in both special and general revelation and that both are needed for a fuller view of how great our God is. To understand and embrace this view, readers must take time to slow down and observe the beauty around them. This in turn leads to awareness, which leads to appreciation, which ultimately leads to stewardship —the biblical calling to care for and restore the world that has been entrusted to humanity.
The heart of the book offers DeWitt’s model, which links stewardship, philosophy, and practice. This simple yet elegant triangular framework connects science (what we know), ethics (what is right), and praxis (what we do). Thinking through each of these points of the triangle is key to interacting with the world in a stewardly fashion. What is important is not necessarily articulating these concepts, but integrating our worldview with our cultural practices so they become habits—and the greater culture of the world is transformed by our actions.
While the book is filled with many examples of stewardship practices, DeWitt’s triangle framework is modeled by Dunn, Wisconsin, the town where he lives. Under his leadership and guidance, the town spent considerable time studying their land (science) and determining how they wanted to care for it (ethics). It is also here that the “praxis” is fully executed. DeWitt shares details of how Dunn, Wisconsin, (population 44,000) enacted laws, taxes, and plans that encourage the residents to live in harmony and stewardship with their surroundings instead of engaging in the typical for-profit, pillaging type of development seen in most parts of the United States.
DeWitt critiques the broader development practices in the United States and by human beings in general. He calls attention to humanity’s anthropocentric view of life within the environment, and points out how short-term outlook and development result in devastating long-term effects. Because stewardship of the earth has not necessarily been an inherited value—but rather has been widely neglected in modern times—the church bears responsibility to teach this crucial and critical doctrine. After all, it is from the Creation story that we receive our stewardship mandate.
DeWitt is Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network. He presents his arguments with the scholarship of a scientist, the sensitivity of a poet, and the heart of a committed Christian. DeWitt’s frequent forays into hymn verse and nature stories make interesting and engaging reading. Although the book could dwell more on the theological basis for stewardship, it is a thought provoking and accessible start for any reader, regardless of their science or faith background.
Song of a Scientist
March 15, 2012