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Science and Religion in Quest of Truth Paperback – 22 Jul 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing (22 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281064121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281064120
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 0.9 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 227,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Polkinghorne impresses with a rare combination of theological sensitivity and technical grasp of the scientific and metascientific issues involved.' --Publishers Weekly

'Polkinghorne is the unquestioned leader in the growing field of science and religion, and by a considerable margin, is its most intellectually credible thinker.' --Karl W. Giberson, co-author of The Language of Science and Faith

'I found this survey of science and theology to be readable, scholarly, well-organized, and insightful as always . . . this is a fine introductory survey that will be helpful to a wide variety of readers.' --John Haught, author of God and the New Atheism

About the Author

John Polkinghorne is past President and now Fellow of Queens' College Cambridge. Former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, he is a priest and Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral. He won the Templeton Prize for Science and Religion in 2002, and is the author of many books, including Quantum Physics and Theology, his autobiography, From Physicist to Priest, and Theology in the Context of Science, all published by SPCK.


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4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is an excellent book, presenting its arguments in a clear and profound fashion.It should be read by anyone with a Christian ministry in this scientific age. Prof Polkinghorn brings together in a concise form discussions and argumennts from his previous books almost as a summary of his life's teaching on this topic.He discusses both separately and jointly the methodologies of science and theology.In an age where many see these in conflict he shows that they have a profound level of mutual support, with each throwing light on the other.
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This is a short book at 134 pages which means some of the descriptions are quite economical in places. Readers with a reasonable grounding in science, particularly quantum mechanics, will find the book more accessible than others. You don't need to know Schroedinger's equation, but it might help to know the back-ground to elements of quantum physics such as superposition and entanglement. Similarly with the chaotic behaviour of classical non-linear systems.

Polkinghorne subscribes to the finely tuned universe view that the constants of the universe are so finely tuned to result in self-conscious life (us) that those constants must have been set (designed even) by a creator. To differentiate this from the Deist non-interventionist God, Polkinghorne focuses on the inherent uncertainties in the universe (quantum mechanics, choatic systems, genetic mutations etc.). These require an immanent God to 'direct' (my word) all the uncertainities to result in the teleological emergence of mankind. Essentially, without God to hold the fabric of the universe together it would fly-off into chaos - classic 'order from chaos' stuff recast using modern science.

I will try and give my own interpretation of Polkinghorne: if God is operating through the uncertainty of the quantum world, then the multiplicity inherent in quantum superposition is illusory. The health of Schroedinger's cat is divinely determined 'a priori'. What is uncertain is our ability to know whether the cat is alive or dead. I can see the attraction to theists: only God can determine outcomes, the science of quantum mechanics means humans can never overcome the inherent uncertainties in the world.
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There will be two groups of fundementalist evangelicals who would find this book worthless

a) Those of 7 day Young Earth confession. To such, any attempt to show science and Scripture telling the same story in different ways will be unacceptable compromise
b) Those of diehard atheistic "scientific" confession. Such will never accept anything much beyond the material and physical. Nor anything which challenges current scientific wisdom

For those of us not of such persuasions this is a helpful offering in what is a very crowded market for such books. While I found the author's scientific descriptions taxed my own education (science to A level 40 ears ago) to the limit, he was clear enough in demonstrating the limits of science and theology. He makes efforts to "tell the presented Genesis story" in scientific terms - indirectly at least. He demonstrates clearly how a scientist does not compromise his own integrity in holding to a Christian faith. He shows how faith is a reasonable and not unscientific position, even though it cannot be proved in the sense that Ohms, Boyles laws etc can be proved. He shows how even science has to live with, and work around, the unproven, and adapt as further insights are made.

If I have any theological doubts it is that I felt his take on Scripture leant too strongly in emphasising the human dimension over the Spirit's inspiration. Also his explanations of the miraculous seemed needlessly complex, though not, in my view, wrong as such. His views on eternal desitiny would raise some eyebrows though they are not universalistic.

A worthy addition to the market. I found Gilberson and Collins "The Language of Science and Faith" a little more readable and coherent.
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If you are interested in the different ways in which religion and science search for and perceive truth; then this is for you. It's an excellent summary of the different approaches to finding (absolute) truth - in so far as man can determine it. There need be no conflict between the two approaches as long as both are understood. Polkinghorne is qualified in both areas and is a clear writer. Recommended for the serious thinker.
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