Magazine article The Christian Century

Barbour Fostered Dialogue between Religion and Science

Magazine article The Christian Century

Barbour Fostered Dialogue between Religion and Science

Article excerpt

Ian Barbour, who died at 90 in Northfield, Minnesota, where he taught for 30 years at Carleton College, was widely lauded for his pioneering role in bridging religion and science. He died on December 24 in a hospital five days after suffering a stroke at home.

As a boy, Barbour grew up within a mixture of church, science and academic settings. His Episcopalian mother and his Presbyterian father (who was a noted geologist) both taught in China in the 1920s; the family left in 1931 for England, later moving to the United States.

Barbour earned a bachelor's degree in physics at Swathmore College in 1943. While there, influenced by Quaker thought, he registered as a conscientious objector.

After World War II ended and was followed by a nuclear arms race, Barbour resumed physics studies, earning a master's degree in 1946 at Duke University and a Ph.D. in 1949 at the University of Chicago, where he was a teaching assistant for the famed Enrico Fermi of the Manhattan Project.

Barbour was hired to teach physics by Kalamazoo College, but he said in later interviews that he was drawn to the ethical and theological implications of scientific discoveries. Supported by a Ford Foundation fellowship, he earned a degree at Yale Divinity School in 1956.

In 1955 he joined the faculty of Carleton, which had just founded its religion department. That campus became his base for writing or editing 16 books, including Issues in Science and Religion, published in 1966.

"His deep understanding of both science and theology allowed him to find parallels in the ways that systems of thought were constructed," wrote Karl Giberson of Stonehill College in a Huffington Post blog on January 2. …

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