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Einstein's God: Conversations about Science and the Human Spirit Paperback – 23 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (23 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116776
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 2.1 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Krista Tippett has a knack for finding thinkers who tackle deep and important questions in a sober but uninhibited fashion. The result is an exhilarating exploration of the meaning of it all."
-Robert Wright, author of "The Evolution of God"
"No one has a better ear for the most interesting facets of faith than Krista Tippett. And few topics lend themselves better to her nuanced interviews than the clash/collaboration/interplay of science and religion. If you want something beyond black-and-white culture war battles, you'll find these interviews powerfully stimulating."
-Steven Waldman, founder and editor in chief, Beliefnet
"In this sparkling book of interviews, Krista Tippett demonstrates that science and religion both benefit from a genuine dialogue. It doesn't matter if Tippett is talking about free will or the anatomy of the soul-she is always probing, measured, and illuminating. This book is a hopefully reminder that the intellectual conflicts we take for granted don't need to exist."
-Jonah Lehrer, author of "How We Decide"

About the Author

A journalist and former diplomat, Krista Tippett has created, hosted, and produced the popular public radio program "Speaking of Faith" since it began as an occasional feature in 2000, before taking on its current form as a national weekly program in 2003. She came up with the idea for "Speaking of Faith" while consulting for the internationally renowned Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at Saint John s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota."

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The author is an experienced host on public radio, and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and knowledge she brings in her conversations with well known physicists, biologists, philosophers, psychologists, theologians, and medical experts. It is fascinating to discuss Einstein, God, and religion with Physicists like Freeman Dyson, and Paul Davies, and about Charles Darwin with biologist James Moore. If there is anyone who understood God more than any anybody else, it is certainly Einstein and Darwin.

In a scientific assessment, God is regarded as an entity, a creating potential, and the all pervading Supreme Consciousness. Albert Einstein, the greatest physicist of all time frequently referred to God in his discussions, but he did not imply any particular faith. Einstein saw beauty in God's design of spacetime, energy - matter relationship, spacetime - matter relationship, the symmetry in physical laws, mathematical elegance in the physical descriptions and cosmic wonders. Similarly, it is fascinating to read how Darwin struggled for 20 years, in 19 century, before he published his monumental work on the origin and evolution of living species. At that time it would be unthinkable to question Genesis and New Testament. In fact it was met with ferocious opposition in United States especially in the Bible-belt, but Darwin remained steadfast in making it clear that species evolved, and one species came from another, and all living species came from unicellular organisms. He came to this conclusion through his intensive and prolonged research in natural selection, biodiversity, species adaptations, specificity and individual variation. The discussions in this book illuminate the fact both Darwin and Einstein struggled immensely to understand God though their scientific work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x8b9431b0) out of 5 stars 50 reviews
115 of 123 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bb74300) out of 5 stars Too rambling and superficial 2 April 2010
By Irfan A. Alvi - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In principle, this book should be really good: a fundamentally important topic, a conversational format which has the potential to be highly engaging, an inquisitive interviewer who sincerely wants to understand, and a diverse cast of interviewees which includes some well-known thinkers. Unfortunately, the book doesn't really work because it comes up somewhat short in all of these areas:

- Studying the interaction between science and religion is a great way to deepen understanding of both, as well as explore the big questions, but this book offers a relatively superficial treatment compared to the many other good books which are available on this topic.

- Instead of being engaging, the conversational format turns out to be rather rambling and unfocused.

- Tippett doesn't contribute much insight of her own to the conversations, and she's unable to adequately probe and challenge her interviewees. I think she has the potential to eventually be an effective interviewer on this topic, but she's not there yet.

- Some of the interviews cover interesting ideas, but they're only tangential to the topic of science/religion interaction.

To give more sense of the scope of the book, here are some notes on the ten interviews:

- Freeman Dyson emphasizes how mysterious reality is, and the related need to approach things with a sense of humor. Paul Davies expresses a sense of wonder at the intricate harmony of the universe and the existence of life and mind in it, thus suggesting a purpose to it all.

- Sherwin Nuland expresses wonder at the complexity of the human body and its ability to (usually) restore equilibrium. He also talks about how things can go wrong, especially the case of clinical depression.

- Mehmet Oz talks about the importance of integrative medicine, drawing on global medical knowledge and experience, and he (only) touches on the role spirituality might play in it.

- James Moore defends the view that Darwin didn't oppose theology, but rather saw nature as a wondrous example of God's handiwork.

- V.V. Raman emphasizes both the value and limits of both science and religion, and the resulting unavoidability of mystery. In my opinion, this may be the best interview in the book.

- Janna Levin presents quantum uncertainty, relativistic constraints, and Godel's theorems as examples of the limits to our knowledge, while also expressing doubt about the possibility of free will (a contradiction?).

- Michael McCullough describes how we're wired for both revenge and forgiveness because both have proven to be evolutionarily adaptive.

- Esther Sternberg describes how stress contributes to immunological disorders, and the resulting need to manage stress.

- Andrew Solomon, Parker Palmer, and Anita Barrows talk about depression and debunk the myth that it's simply an intense form of sadness.

- John Polkinghorne tries hard to reconcile science and Christianity, thus offering creative but highly speculative ideas to explain free will, the existence of individual souls, the possibility of God's intervening in the world, the problem of evil, the value of mystery, and the plausibility of God having limitations.

What does this all add up to? I think it's too much of a mixed bag to be amenable to a useful synthesis, and Tippett makes no attempt at such a synthesis by providing an epilogue.

Overall, I appreciate Tippett's effort and I do think this book has some value (hence my 3 stars), but it's too rambling and superficial, especially for people who have already devoted a lot of reading and thought to the topic. Novices might get more out of the book, at least as a vehicle to get their feet wet, but I think they would also benefit from a more systematic presentation. For better options, the following are a few examples of good books on this topic:

Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation
The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science (Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology)
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8bab58ac) out of 5 stars Of course, science is full of mysteries....And the same's true of religion." 12 April 2010
By K. M. - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Krista Tippett's Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit contains interviews with thirteen distinguished guests from her radio program, "Speaking of Faith." These physicists, physicians, psychologists, authors, poets, educators, and clergy offer their unique perspectives on the indefatigable human search for understanding about our world and our place in it. As Tippitt puts it, she wants to ask "seemingly unanswerable questions" of scientists. Some of these interviewees are atheists, some are agnostics, and some are believers. But whether they profess a confidence in empiricism alone or embrace a wider means for inquiry, each of them beholds our universe and our own very existence with awe, gratefulness, and inspiration. As Mehmet Oz says, "I wanted to be an explorer, and I wanted to know about why we are here and what we are doing here."

I won't mention everyone with whom Tippitt spoke, just a few:
- Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies talk about Einstein, and clarify, among other things, that science was really his religion, and that he did not believe in a personal God.
- The surgeon Sherwin Nuland expresses the conviction that the spirit within each of us arises from biology.
- Oz relates the story of a Jehovah's Witness whose bleeding ulcer should have killed her because she and her family would not consent to transfusions, yet something (faith, the will, a miracle) beyond current medicine allowed her to recover.
- Janna Levin, for whom "[t]he universe is special because we can understand it" through mathematics, pretty much sums up for all when she adds, "So that is where I would get a sense, again, of meaning and of purpose and of beauty and of being integrated with the universe so it doesn't feel hopeless and meaningless."

The attraction of such an anthology is the hope of gaining new insights. How does it measure up? It tends to be most informative and fresh for those who know little about the subjects (cosmology, the mind/body problem, psychology, treatment of depression, alternative medicine, Darwinism, etc.). One must keep in mind that Tippitt's radio program was aimed at the general listener, not at an audience with specialized knowledge. However, even those for whom much covered in EINSTEIN'S GOD is not new will probably learn something. Tippitt writes that her "conversations with scientists leave me with an exhilarating sense of the immediacy and vastness of both reality and mystery...." I think many readers will be pleased to "eavesdrop" on those conversations...for those reasons and more. We all have opinions on this charged subject, and hearing from others who have given thought to the "science-religion 'debate' " energizes further thought.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8c60d6cc) out of 5 stars Rambling thoughts of interesting minds - but does it add to the interviews as aired? 15 April 2010
By Jessica Weissman - Published on
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Krista Tippett is well known as an interviewer who assembles weekly programs discussing issues of faith with a variety of thinkers and religious figures who do not shy away from thoughtful analysis of these issues. In this book she's collected ten conversations with a total of thirteen people, editing what was originally broadcast and adding supplementary explanatory material.

As is the nature of conversation, some of the interviews are interesting, some rambling, and a few incisive. There are several relevant questions, assuming that you're interested in what the interviewees have to say about the relationship between science and faith, and places where faith may illuminate scientific issues.

First, do the interviews stand up in print? Does the interview format add anything or would readers be better off with short essays by the interviewees? While there is some additional material, and while a book is handy, there's not much here that goes beyond the original interviews (that can still be heard on the website). I don't think Tippett as intervewer adds enough to be a worthwhile read - she is smart and well-read and all, and asks good questions. But her insights just don't amplify the interviewees. I'd rather read, say Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies in their own books, which are terrific.

Second, is this the best possible set of people to interview? This is an unfair question. Sure it would have been interesting to hear one or two of the Big Atheist Voices who maintain that science and faith have nothing to do with one another. But Tippett has to work with the people she could get.

To be fair, I've enjoyed listening to the original interviews, which help make preparing Sunday breakfast more enjoyable. But the book doesn't add enough value to them. If you're interested in these questions and want something in book form, seek out the books by the interviewees that touch on them. If you need something audible, download the original Speaking of Faith podcasts.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d8b6570) out of 5 stars Misleading 17 Mar. 2011
By Joseph Devita - Published on
Format: Paperback
Given the title and book description, I expected an insightful dialogue on various scientists' views on the nature and validity of religious and spiritual beliefs. What I found were some conversations of this nature, which were interesting, but also others dealing with the evolutionary reason for revenge and forgiveness, the influence of emotion on depression and the beneficent effects of positive feelings on health and recovery, a hodgepodge of subjects which I suppose could only be considered encompassed by the concept of spirituality if it is used in a New Age sense .

Additionally, the introduction/questionnaire format of each chapter resulted in a lot of repetition and disjointedness, the net effect being an incoherent mishmash with nuggets of interest strewn among alot of mundane and sometimes awkward conversation. In short, another magazine article put on steroids to create a so called book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8cae6c24) out of 5 stars Very dull 24 Sept. 2010
By J. Davis - Published on
Format: Paperback
I found this book somewhat boring and superficial.It seemed like the author only talked to scientists who are sympathetic to religion. An interview with a scientist who does not think religion and science can be reconciled, such as Steven Weinberg or Sam Harris, might have made it much more interesting. Glad I checked this out of the library and didn't pay for it.
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