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Pascal's Fire: Scientific Faith and Religious Understanding [Paperback]

Keith Ward
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 9.36 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

27 Jun 2006
Groundbreaking, ingenious and devastatingly clear, Keith Ward's Pascal's Fire is guaranteed to reignite the timeless dispute of whether scientific advancement threatens religious belief. Turning the conventional debate on its head, Ward suggests that the existence of God is actually the best starting-point for a number of the most famous scientific positions. From quantum physics to evolution, the suggestion of an 'ultimate mind' adds a new dimension to scientific thought, enhancing rather than detracting from its greatest achievements. Also responding to potential criticisms that his ultimate mind is unrecognisable as the God of Abraham, Ward examines our most fundamental beliefs in a new light. Emerging with a conception of God that is consistent with both science and the world's major faiths, this ambitious project will fascinate believers and sceptics alike.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (27 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851684468
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851684465
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 14.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 488,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Ward is a reliable and entertaining tour guide who explains clearly an extensive arena of ideas in a concise, readable and logical manner. Atheists, agnostics and theists alike will find much in this book on which to chew.' --Chemistry World.

'Eloquently informed by modern science, Keith Ward's thought-provoking account sequentially explores its implications for the god of the philosophers and the God of religion. Ward writes with both wit and profundity.' --Professor Owen Gingerich, Senior Astronomer Emeritus the Harvard-Smithsonian center for Astrophysics.

'…a splendidly thought-provoking book.' --John Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science & Religion, University of Oxford.

About the Author

Keith Ward is Professor of Divinity, Gresham College, London. He is the best-selling author of God: A Guide for the Perplexed, also published by Oneworld.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully argued work 5 Dec 2006
Format:Paperback
In this excellent book, the author explains in a balanced and carefully reasoned way why science is not only compatible with belief in God, but may well actually strengthen that belief. Calm, intelligent and fair at all times, this book was a breath of fresh air!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An alternative view to Richard Dawkins 4 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback
In this book, Keith Ward discusses the view that belief in God is a valid, perhaps a more valid, starting point for engagement in scientific investigation than that of the non-believer. The book seems to be written as an apologetic in the light of Dawkins' popular and influential recent anti- religious polemics, most notably The God Delusion. It is well written and accessible to the general reader, although he does presuppose some familiarity with philosophical and theological terms. There is a thorough bibliography and index which mean that the interested reader can follow the selection of evidence for themselves, in whole or in part.
He looks at a wide range of current scientific theories, and explains how they are not incompatible with belief in God, and that speculation on such things as other universes, non-materialistic explanations of matter, such as quantum theory, may fit with what religions have said all along. By the end of the book he doesn't answer the question which everyone wants the answer to: can we prove there is a God in the same way that we can prove that the table is in front of me? Can I do an experiment which shows there is a God, which can be replicated for anyone who wants to know the answer, as sulphur turns red when you heat it in a test tube?
The reader of this book or Dawkins' book, will come to either with a frame of mind which will determine who they believe. On the very last page, Ward says: "In the end, however, without personal experience of transcendent mind and without some experiential evidences of such a mind in history (what the religious call 'revelation'), this will simply remain speculation." "This" being the book's assertion that it is reasonable to see compatibility between the discoveries of modern science and belief in God.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Statements without Elucidation 1 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
In Pascal's Fire, Keith Ward states that science and religion are complimentary, rather than contradictory, activities; both concerned with the nature of reality. However, it seems that penning such statements is adequate, without need for further elucidation. This general pattern of thought pervades the book, and was a frequent source of frustration. A particular instance being Ward's discussion of divine action. Here, Ward simply states, with boring repetition, that 'the intelligible order of nature is not undermined by occasional modifications of its laws...' (page 227). It may be noted that similar views have been expressed by scholars such as John Polkinghorne, but with further investigations of how such providential action could operate without violating or suspending the laws which govern nature. Had Ward provided further explanation of this kind, the book would have been of much greater value. I was disappointed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a win-win for faith and reason 24 July 2006
By xiongmao - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "Pascal's Fire", Keith Ward reflects on the relationship between faith and the findings of modern science, treating topics such as - among others - chance and necessity, quantum physics and the mechanistic universe, the evolution of order in the universe, leading to life and ultimately to self-awareness and responsibility, the origin and future of the cosmos etc. The existence of an ultimate mind who chose to create a rationally intelligible universe which functions through laws that can be expressed in mathematical terms, but who also freely intervenes in the context of an otherwise autonomous progress of self-organisation of the universe, for which it was originally set up and by which it reaches goals of intrinsic value, are presented - and, in my view, convincingly so - as a rational and coherent explanation for the universe. In other words, the observation of the universe suggests such a mind. The argument progresses to show that this ultimate mind can also be viewed as personal, loving and compassionate, though in a way far beyond anthropomorphic projections. A purely scientific approach, however, is blind to the personal side of God, Ward argues - this is where personal experience, feeling and intuition come in, and may legitimately be taken seriously.

All in all, Keith Ward's holistic approach, integrating faith and reason in his intellectual quest, is inspiring and reminded me of the "two wings" of faith and reason by which man strives toward the truth, of which John Paul II wrote. To me,after having read this book, the apparent contradiction between evolution and intelligent design is resolved. In short, it's a win-win for faith and reason!
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars unconvincing 17 April 2009
By Slainte - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The xiongmao review is good summary of the book's aims. I've enjoyed Keith Ward's previous works and while this book has many interesting passages - primarily because the author has a keen ability to explain complex scientific findings in very accessible language - it appears to have been written because the author has had his faith in traditional religious narratives properly undermined by contemporary science. Eschewing these easily assailable religious stories, he has taken scientific discourse and composed a pseudo religious narrative (somewhat Platonic, somewhat Kabbalisistic) which does not find itself at any point, at odds with the emerging sciences. The trouble is that along the way, he is constantly speaking for his creator god in absentia, apologising on their behalf for what many evolutionary biologists see as a wasteful and violent universe, and all this (especially the chapters on evolution) are propounded in bombastic prose. The author consistently calls scientists who are disturbed or unimpressed by this universe as 'depressed' or 'depressive' (! their conclusions are hardly rash or the result of mental imbalance), but this implies that if the reader agrees with these scientists and not the author they too are 'depressive'. From my layperson's POV it seems that the small biological narratives of individual lives are founded to no small degree in hunger, pain, insecurity and finally death. The meta-narrative of biology IS violent, merciless, and seemingly entropic. The necessity of the enquiring human being to seek beyond these inherently unappealing narratives is a sign, surely, of psychic health, even if one's seeking leads one to agree with the aforementioned evolutionary biologists. It would seem that the author's view of creation is that it is not 'fallen' but suggests that the physical is the means whereby a creative intelligence has chosen to create finer things - spirit. Yet as one recently uncovered 'gospel' put it, "If the flesh came into being because of the spirit, it would be a marvel, but if the spirit came into being for the sake of the flesh, it would be a marvel of marvels (Ward's thesis). Yet I marvel that this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty."
3 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pascal's fire: scientific faith and religious understanding 12 May 2007
By Lin Miao - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
the delivery was fast, but it cost too much.
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