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Friday, June 25, 2010

Books on science and religion

I have been blogging here since December, 2004, and I've tried to cover a lot of ground.

One topic that continually interests me, whether it interests any of my readers or not, is the topic of science and religion, in particular, science and Christian faith. I have been reading books on this subject since I was in graduate school, nearly a half a century ago. I was never assigned any such books for a class assignment. I assigned a few such books to myself, and my students, as textbooks, and I read many more because I thought I should. I would guess that I have read at least 75 such books, by many authors, from many viewpoints. Some people, when they see the title of this post, would suppose that "science and religion" has to do with origins, or, if you prefer, evolution. That is a legitimate subset of such books, but the "science and religion" also includes other, more fundamental topics, such as the historical relationship between science and Christianity, the assumptions necessary to do science, and whether or not scientific study is compatible with religious belief at all.

I'd like to do two things in this post. One of them is to post links, for my own benefit, to reviews and discussions of such books that have been published on this blog. More on this below.

The second thing I want to accomplish is to tell you that I have recently finished the best book on science and religion (mainly Christianity, although the author touches on Islam and Judaism somewhat) that I have ever read. That's saying a lot -- I've read some good ones. I wish that I had read Ferguson earlier, and that I had assigned it to some of my classes. That book is The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion and the Search for God, by Kitty Ferguson. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) I expect to be posting about that book in the near future, God willing. I had heard of it, and ordered it for the Southern Wesleyan University library, but I had never read it. Shame on me.

Ferguson has a brief article in the Wikipedia, and there is an unofficial Kitty Ferguson web site. (For some reason, it classifies The Fire in the Equations as a "novel," which it certainly is not. The Amazon web page on the book is here, and the Barnes and Noble web page is here.

Books on science and religion that I have reviewed on this blog

The books mentioned below do not include books on environmental or medical ethics, some of which are also about science and religion.

Lest there be any doubt, I do not necessarily agree with everything that each book listed said, and tried to make clear where I did not in my reviews.

I reviewed Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. The last of four posts is here. Strobel was really presenting a "Case for Intelligent Design." Although he was well-intentioned, I do not believe that he made a good case, and, in fact, I don't think that such a case can be made. See here for my post on my problems with the Intelligent Design movement. (I have plenty of Christian company in this.)

I reviewed The Language of God, by Francis Collins, who, until recently, was director of the US Human Genome Project, and is a Christian. Collins does a good job of arguing that science and Christianity should be compatible. He also gives his personal testimony. The last post is here.

I reviewed A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, by David Snoke. The last post is here. Snoke is clearly a student of the Bible, and not one to do violence to scripture. He makes some strong arguments that a belief in Scripture is compatible with a belief in an earth much older than a few thousand years, although, of course, everyone is not convinced.

I devoted one post to a review of Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Shermer, a well-known atheist, was surprisingly respectful of religion in this book.

I reviewed John F. Haught's Is Nature All There Is? here. Haught argues that it is not possible to explain purpose, or critical intelligence, without going outside of nature, which of course, means that he is arguing for the existence of God.

I reviewed The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, probably the most widely known atheist of our time. The last post is here. Dawkins does not believe that there is a God, and argues that case at considerable length. He does not claim that he has disproved God's existence. Dawkins is an excellent popularizer of science, and has solid scientific credentials.

This post, which is not a review, mentions three important authors in the field, namely Stephen Barr, Ian Barbour, and John C. Polkinghorne. Although I have read books by each of these -- several by Polkinghorne -- I read them before I started blogging, and have never reviewed one of their books.

Here is a post -- not a full review -- about Stephen Jay Gould's Rocks of Ages, wherein this important popularizer of scientist, who was a geologist at Harvard University, and apparently not a believer, indicated that he believed that religious study and belief were legitimate activity for humans.

I have also read, as I said, many other such books, including Darwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe, The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris, and Davis A. Young's Christianity and the Age of the Earth. I consider these books to be among the most influential volumes on Christianity and science written between 1961 and 1996. Johnson, a lawyer, argued that Darwinism was based on false logic and unsupported assumptions, and founded the Intelligent Design movement. Behe gave some scientific respectability to that movement. Morris founded the modern young-earth creationism movement, and Young's book refuted The Genesis Flood. I have not, so far, at least, reviewed these books here. (I have here documented statements showing that Young-Earth Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement are not very compatible.)

Thanks for reading.

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