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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reconciling Science and Relegion
John Polkinghorn a theologian and theoretical physicist is in a unique position to bridge the gap between science and religion. To enjoy this book which is written at a high level of abstraction one needs to be familiar with natural and physical sciences.Issues such as reductionism, and evolution of Universe are approached in a philosophical manner.A comparison of...
Published on 13 April 2003 by Amazon Customer

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for those unskilled in quantum mechanics
One must presume that the author of Belief in God in an age of science, a theoretical physicist and theologian of some eminence, must be very accomplished. Unfortunately his accomplishments do not extend to the writing of clear English. For a mere modest scientist with only around thirty years of experience in teaching and research (but not in quantum mechanics)the...
Published on 6 Jan 2010 by Ron S.


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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reconciling Science and Relegion, 13 April 2003
John Polkinghorn a theologian and theoretical physicist is in a unique position to bridge the gap between science and religion. To enjoy this book which is written at a high level of abstraction one needs to be familiar with natural and physical sciences.Issues such as reductionism, and evolution of Universe are approached in a philosophical manner.A comparison of methodologies in Science and theology is given, and prospects for future dialogue is disscussed. The author finds parallel between the scientific quest for understanding and its counterpart in theology. The book appeals more to the proponents of natural theology than to the fundamentalist. I enjoyed the book very much.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for those unskilled in quantum mechanics, 6 Jan 2010
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Ron S. (Northumberland, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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One must presume that the author of Belief in God in an age of science, a theoretical physicist and theologian of some eminence, must be very accomplished. Unfortunately his accomplishments do not extend to the writing of clear English. For a mere modest scientist with only around thirty years of experience in teaching and research (but not in quantum mechanics)the message of the book, even on a sympathetic reading, is very difficult to discern. Perhaps on a second reading, and after reference to some of the cited literature (and a primer in quantum mechanics) it may become clearer. Sadly, the book is unlikely to persuade any who are swayed by the fatuous writings of Richard Dawkins. At least Dawkins' writing, however irritating, is intelligible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ideas but overall a disappointment, 3 Sep 2009
This should be a fascinating read - an eminent scientist who's also a Christian and who can think. I found it however quite disappointing. The author has some interesting ideas, for example: "there is no universal epistemology but rather entities are knowable only through ways that conform to their idiosyncratic nature." He thinks this has been shown to be true in physics and can also be applied to theology. That seems an important insight worthy of thought, and this is just one of many parallels between science and theology he suggests in the book. The problem I have with this book is that the important ideas are put in such complex language and sentence structure as to make his thoughts needlessly hard to follow. Philosophical texts like this one are not known for simplicity. It's fine to come up with phrases to try to express meaning exactly and to be fair this author does try to define these, but the main difficulty is that he chooses not to use a simple word when a more complex one will do. One sentence chosen at random from chapter 5 gives an example: "While the resolute sceptic can never be defeated in logical argument, neither can the epistemologically optimistic who decline to despair of gaining verisimilitudinous knowledge of reality." If this sort of language puts you off, I would recommend you avoid this book. If you are not put off however and the themes interest you, then you may find this a worthwhile read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding synthesis - one of the best, ever!, 27 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures) (Hardcover)
I was fascinated by this book and aim to read it again. Although some of the philosophy can be a bit thick at times, this is an excellent overview of the relationship (healthy and dysfunctional at times) of science and religion/theology.

I think this book picks up where E.O. Wilson's *Consilience* leaves off. Polkinghorne faces squarely both the strengths and the difficulties/drawbacks of empircal science and religion (specifically Christian theism, although much is of general interest) and shows that each discipline gains from understanding the complementary interests and value of the other.

I can truly say that this book has enriched my thinking.

Cannot recommend this highly enough.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joy to the Believer, Nonesense to the Unbeliever, 3 Dec 1999
By A Customer
A difficult but enriching read for the well-educated general reader. I intend to read this book again. Although evidently intended for the cognoscenti in the fields of Natural Theology and/or Physics (or maybe Polkinghorne just can't stop himself expressing his ideas in this way?), it is a worthwhile read. It is especially attractive to the believer who never accepted the assertion that human reason and faith can't be reconciled. Personally, this book provided many "ah hah" moments for me and I am still jumping for joy. Atheists are likely to find this book utter nonesense. One criticism? When WILL academics learn to stop constructing convoluted sentences when a straight-forward one will do?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deus sive natura... it is not!, 24 July 2013
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In this helpful contribution to the Science/Religion debate written for Jane & Joe Public - Polkinghorne (both scientist and theologian) - says that he is not engaged in "an apologetic exercise, trying to make the faith appear acceptable in a scientific age." Equally, he warns against a "scientific takeover bid, offering no more than a religious gloss on a basically naturalistic account." Indeed, he specifically declines to adopt Baruch Spinoza's deus sive natura argument; stating bluntly, "That was Einstein's God, but it is certainly not mine".

He argues that the vast majority of what is done in science is, as he puts it, "the creative interpretation of experience, not rigorous deduction from it." It is not "truth" that it seeks but "verisimilitude" - a philosophical concept that distinguishes between the truth and the falsity of assertions and hypotheses. Absolute truth is as illusive to the scientist as the theologian. That said, though he acknowledges the capacity of science to test its theories against observation, theology too has a reasonable claim on the basis of verisimilitude.

He insists that theology is concerned with "ontological questions" which do not profit much from "science's fascinating, but largely theologically irrelevant, talk of temporal origins." In this regard, he is somewhat different from other theistic scientists who find much in current cosmology that appears to offer evidence that the universe has been fine-tuned for life. For him what is of much greater significance "in cosmic history to date - (is) the dawn of consciousness."

Drawing on chaos and complexity theory, he concludes that "holistic and relational concepts are coming to play an increasing role in science." These, he argues, are "congenial to theological thinking," as exemplified by "much Trinitarian discussion that emphasizes relationship (communion) as the ground of being." In this way, he finds room for God to act within the framework of chaos theory. God does not randomly or selectively insert "energy" into various places in the universe requiring his intervention, instead, as "pure spirit," he injects "information". Thus, as the complex nonlinear systems of life oscillate back and forth trying to decide towards which strange attractor to move, God intervenes in a way that moves the system in the direction towards which he desires for it.
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19 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Motivated belief or blind faith?, 21 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures) (Hardcover)
I am one of the "scientific atheists" described in previous reviews. Whilst I found this book interesting (and yes, at times immensely irritating) I did not find many of the arguements compelling. My perception of most people I know who describe themselves as religious is that they have generally inherited their belief, accept it as "Truth" and have no interest whatsoever in challenges to their "Truth". Surely the fundamental approach of science is to discover the truth, irrespective of what we think (God Fearing people may insert the word "believe" at this point!) that truth might be. Most scientific experiments are designed to test or disprove a hypothesis. Organised religions are, as far as I can see, based on hypothesis - not empirical Truth. A good scientist who believes in a hypothesis without conclusive, reproducable supporting evidence should be willing, even eager to be proven wrong. Moreover, they should be attempting to disprove their own theories as vigorously as possible. When the Pope sanctions attempts to disprove the existance of God, or critically and objectively examines Holy scriptures, then I will concede that religion and science adopt similar approaches in the quest for truth, and if Satan existed, he would surely be skating to work. One of the points I agreed with was the important role religion plays in maintaining social structure, based on a set of rules that make sense for our species in an evolutionary context (e.g. don't kill each other!).
An interesting read though (if a little heavy going at times), certainly thought provoking, and for the many irritable scientists out there, this may even help to clarify ideas on religion and science.
Of course, as a scientist, I'm more than happy to accept that I may be totally wrong about all this!
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4 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pointers to the Divine through ontological persuasions., 27 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures) (Hardcover)
Eminent Physicist and believing Christian finds ontological depths and persuasions both of the fundamental unity of all knowledge, a motivating force for the furtherance of enquiry in all fields, and futher, that all knowledge seekers are on a Divine search, I quote 'whether they acknowledge that divine quest or not' (p.24) One example among many of the tendency towards a conflation between science and religion given Polkinghorne's wish to maintain some form of a revised Natural Theology. How can one agree with this statement,on page 4, for example 'I believe that Dirac and Einstein, were participating in the encounter with the divine'? Much more of a distinction between the subject-matters of theology and science needs to be made to avoid the debasement of language and the word 'divine', a mere symptom here of the lack of greatest discrimination needed. In comparing the degrees of accomodation made by key thinkers in this debate between science and christianity (page 86), it would appear to me that Polkinghorne is not allowing Theology to speak fully out of it's own integrity instead he masterminds a possible scientific research program based largely on the thinking processes of physical and possibly biological scientists, to bolster up an ailing theology which he says has not been able to advance as well as the sciences down through the centuries. Yet, there is everybit as much conceptual beauty or elegance about Nicene (creed) formulations eg. the homoousion, as there is about his physical formulations. If he were less of a Natural theologian he might discover that his reference on page 81 to the work of T.F. Torrance might in fact be more pregnant with meaning than he realises. Where this book is strongest, I feel, is chapter 5, a misfortune for those readers put off by a certain amount of 'verbiage' earlier on, where he describes beautifully the enterprise of scientific thinking as one of critical realism. Maybe to ally this to a book such as 'Belief in scince and the Christian Life' ed. T. Torrance, would be to see more clearly how the believer is to approach thelogical statement and dogma. Mirroring the work of Torrance at this point Polkinghorne too shows us that a critical realist epistemology and ontology allows one to arise above the pseudo-problems of fundamental literalism on the one hand and so called progressive liberalism in theology on the other. See his important middle way position at the top of page 98. Finally, here is a turn of phrase particularily apposite :'It does not touble me that one cannot find articulated in the N. Testament the developed doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.....instead..seeking to come to terms with the new knowledge stemming from the new phenomenon of Christ,page 37' This is another timely book on the stringencies of the thinking process so poorly understood if, and I think it true, the following is an accurate description of our predicament: ' One of my (scientific)companions ..berated playwrights for the way in which they represented scientists as eccentric ineffective figures, not worthy of serious respect in the "real world". "Thats funny", I said "they do exactly the same to the clergy". You only have to mention to others the notion of objectivity in knowlege and often one gets a tirade back in one's face of a pronouncement on the matter of subjectively, relativity, no mention of the word, truth at all, nor even to use Polkinghorne's phrase seeking after truth , however corrigible one is.
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1 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Circular Arguments and Lacking any Philosophical justification, 3 Sep 2008
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i read this book because i was told i would have the pleasure of interview the author for some tv thingy. in all honesty i foud it amazingly irritating, reading and talking to him. his arguments are basically, "this is one solution to all the questions i have, there are others but i like my one". prety much he "has faith". he dismisses selfish gene theory as a means of explaining human nature, despite knowing very little about it at all, and then uses God to explain things such as altrusim which any 16 school boy could explain using the evolutionanry theory if they had a good read around. He also miss uses the anthropic principle, and then later says the ressurection is true because why else whould such a story last so long apart from it being true....unbelivable! I have read his books on physics which are seriously good but he lacks any philsophical rigour, scientist and theologians should shut up about God's existance and leave it to the educated philosophers and that is coming from a scientist.
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Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures)
Belief in God in an Age of Science (The Terry Lectures) by John Polkinghorne (Hardcover - 17 April 1998)
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