I recently finished The Chemistry of the Blood and Other Stirring Messages by doctor/pastor M. R. De Haan – a fascinating little book dating from 1943.
In spite of the title, this is not a science book. Rather, it is an example of the important genre of theological or philosophical reflection on science. The depiction of the pelican in medieval bestiaries is a past example of the genre, while The Lives of a Cell is a well-known secular example.
The pelican in her piety
One of my favourite lines (from the essay “The Chemistry of Tears”) was “A tear is a distillation of the soul. It is the deepest longing of the human heart in chemical solution. It is the concentrated extract; the final precipitate of the deepest feelings of the heart, filtered through the sieve of trial and testing.” However, one day all those tears will be wiped away, all those longings will be satisfied, and all those feelings will be assuaged (Rev 21:4).
I didn’t agree with all of De Haan’s theology (for example, his principle that “the first use of a word, a phrase or incident in the bible gives the key to its exact meaning everywhere else in the word of God”). The book did make the interesting suggestion that in Exodus 32:20 (and Deut 9:21) Moses was turning gold into a liquid that looked like blood (although I’m not sure how scientifically plausible it is that colloidal gold can be produced purely mechanically):
Colloidal gold solution (photo by Wolfgang Kühn)
The disadvantage of this genre is that, as time passes, it becomes a little dated – as the medieval bestiaries have done. I would very much like to see a somewhat more modern book of this kind.
See here for another review of the book.