Scientists Peer into the Cosmos of Spirituality Four Recent Books Explore the Possible Connections between Science and Religion

By Jane Lampman, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

Scientists Peer into the Cosmos of Spirituality Four Recent Books Explore the Possible Connections between Science and Religion


Jane Lampman, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION: SCIENTISTS DISCUSS THEIR BELIEFS

Edited by John Marks Templeton and

Kenneth Seeman Giniger

Templeton Foundation Press

152 pp., $22.95

SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY: THE NEW CONSONANCE

Edited by Ted Peters

Westview

256 pp., $58

SKEPTICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS: THE EXHILARATING CONNECTION BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION

By Chet Raymo

Walker

288 pp., $23

DARWIN'S BLACK BOX: THE BIOCHEMICAL CHALLENGE TO EVOLUTION

By Michael J. Behe

Touchstone

307 pp., $13

What is science? "The search for truth about the order and structure of the universe." "The great book of the universe written in the language of mathematics." "A model of the world subject to modification by new evidence."

To scientists, it is all of these, plus a marvelously successful discipline, uncovering new and astonishing worlds, from the infinitesimal to the infinite.

Yet for some scientists, it cannot uncover the whole story. To inscribe the nature of life in its full meaning requires going beyond description of the physical world. Practicing science may inform and be informed by a spiritual journey.

Spiritual Evolution: Scientists Discuss Their Beliefs is an engaging set of personal essays exploring how 10 prominent scientists have sought to integrate what they were learning professionally with their most private intuitions and perspectives.

Biologist Charles Birch and medical doctor Larry Dossey, for example, write of their passages from fundamentalist childhoods through loss of faith during scientific studies into deep spiritual convictions that influenced their careers. Birch finds a meaningful perspective on evolution and the conviction that "mentality cannot arise from no-mentality." Dossey moves into consciousness research and a "vision of the world that is inherently spiritual."

S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, an astronomer who discovered pulsars, writes of her Quaker experience and the "felt presence" of God in everyday life, whether or not "S(He) created the physical universe 15 billion years ago."

This small volume also speaks to the "false choice," in Dossey's words, that young science students are pressed to make between science and the spiritual. This has "caused immense pain for millions of questing, bright young people" who are told they must choose between being "rational, analytical, logical, and scientific" or "intuitive, religious, spiritual, and intellectually reckless."

Science and Theology: The New Consonance is an in-depth engagement in the discussion between a group of scientists and theologians on some of the big questions: Is there a purpose to the universe? Does God act in nature? What does evolution have to do with ethics? How does the possibility that the universe will die relate to the concepts of resurrection and immortality?

The contributors range from physicist Paul Davies, a popular writer ("The Mind of God") and winner of the Templeton Religion Prize, to philosophical theologian Nancey Murphy, to Pope John Paul II.

Davies deals with the question "Is the Universe Absurd?," the pope with "Evolution and the Living God." Murphy discusses why universities should teach the natural and social sciences "as if there is a creating and loving God."

This is not a "popular" science and religion book. It can be heavy going in places. But for those with deep interest, it offers valuable insight into where scientific and religious thinkers are heading.

Skeptics and True Believers: The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Religion is a "popular science" book. …

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