|Publication Date: 21 Aug 2013|
|Publisher: SPCK Publishing|
|Page Count: 168|
|Author: Gillian Straine|
|ISBN-13: 9780281068739, 9780281068746|
Introducing Science and Religion
Are science and religion compatible? Is the march of science unstoppable, boxing religion into an ever-shrinking comer? What can science tell us about the universe, does it leave any space for religious belief? What are the limitations to what we can hope to understand through science?
Questions such as these go to the heart of religious belief, and there is a respectable history of engagement and debate between science and religion over the years. This debate has become increasingly polarised recently, driven largely by vocal and often polemical contributions from the reductionist/atheistic viewpoint on one side and from Christian fundamentalists on the other.
At the same time, there is widespread acceptance of much scientific theory concerning the origins of the universe, the Earth, and even life itself. The current suggestion that comets may be the source of most of the Earth's water (though recently disproved in the case of the Philae landing on comet P67), and might have also brought organic matter including amino acids, is not seen as particularly controversial. There is general agreement that the age of the universe is closer to 13bn years than 6000 years, and that mankind has evolved in some way from other species. Current issues are more to do with the origins of life itself, the Big Bang, and whether we are alone in the universe, and the question remains as to whether there is any point in postulating any kind of religious explanation of these that may sooner or later prove to be in conflict with scientific explanations that will themselves gain widespread acceptance before too long.
Gillian Straine, an Anglican priest and trained scientist, is well qualified to guide the reader through the arguments presented by scientists on the one hand and theologians on the other, and has produced this carefully written and well organised review of the history of engagement between science and religion, and a discussion of several models of interaction between the two.
Following introductory sections covering what constitutes Science and Belief respectively, the book moves on to discuss the history of engagement between the two, with a study first of the "conflict" model. That model, which itself is no more than about 159 years old, generally involve each side taking pot shots at the more extreme manifestations of the views of the other.
... this is a thorough and well-organised book, providing a clear and closely-argued discussion and analysis of the arguments. It will be invaluable for anyone wanting to take stock of current thinking on engagement between the disciplines, and to work out where exactly they stand.
Gillian Straine, priest and physicist, has written a welcome guide for those who are perplexed by the intense and often bitter debates between science and religion. She shows that direct conflict, where scientists and believers deny the validity of each other’s discipline, is untenable. More commonly, scientists and theologians work independently, perhaps respecting but more generally ignoring others’ fields of expertise. She demonstrates it is more profitable to engage in dialogue and integration and to discover that many ways that science and faith in God can be complementary. The book then comprehensively and expertly addresses all the difficult issues –the ‘big bang’ and creation; Darwinian evolution; quantum theory; and human consciousness – but in a way that makes these complex ideas accessible for the non-specialist. Straine admirably succeeds in her aim – to demonstrate a ‘path through polemic’. This interesting book provides a highly readable, common sense approach to this strident debate.
This book is a fantastic starter for anyone wanting to join the debate about science and religion. Straine take the raw material of the issues and paints expert brushstrokes on the canvas of this diverse and intricate landscape, thus offering an accessible introduction to the science and theology debate. The book fulfils the author’s ambition to brush is ‘from polemic to dialogue’, opening the way for ever the most frightened Christian into this very important arena.