God’s Universe is a very short introduction on the subject of science and faith. It is based on a series of lectures given by Owen Gingerich, a former Professor of Astronomy and Science History at Harvard University. In these very accesible lectures, he talks about the different layers of truth occupied by science and religion on physical and metaphysical levels of understanding. He differentiates Intelligent Design (with caps) from intelligent design, rejecting the former while showing his reasons for believing in the latter through a discussion on the fine-tuning of the universe.
Arthur Peacocke’s book ranks as one of the classics on the discussion between science and religion. It begins with an analysis of the state of science and religion in today’s world, followed by a sweeping overview of what science has uncovered about the world in which we live. He then sets out to rethink theology in light of what we know through the sciences, introducing the concepts of panentheism and emergence along the way. While we are introduced to all these new ways of thinking about God and his relation to the world, we are whisked back to right where we started to ‘know the place for the first time’, as Arthur Peacocke reminds us that these new ideas are not that far from traditional Christian thought.
This is meant to be an introduction to the dialogue between science and religion. The author, Sir John Polkinghorne, is a distinguished quantum physicist and Professor at Oxford University. He is also an ordained priest of the Church of England. His experiences as both a scientist and a theologian place him in a privileged position to speak on both subjects. He is thus at the forefront of ongoing dialogue between these fields, and is well respected by people on both sides. His books, like this one, are very dense and contain many deep insights, but are unfortunately very hard to comprehend! It will definitely need a lot of re-reading and cross-referencing to at least understand what he is trying to say, especially for a non-specialist. But once you do, the pay-off is definitely rewarding.
Sir John Polkinghorne attempts to give a short survey of some of the recent advances in both fields in this book. He brings us up to date on the frontiers of science in areas such as quantum mechanics, cosmology, evolutionary biology and the neurosciences. On the theological side, he investigates current issues in thinking about subjects such as creation, eschatology, Christology and divine agency. This book will be a good guide to help us understand the things that are going on at the forefront of research in both fields, as well as what is required to attempt a reasonable dialogue between them. Like all his other books, it is a dense and difficult read, but hugely rewarding if enough effort is put into it. One has to be very familiar with many of the terms used.
For once, John Polkinghorne presents his ideas about science and religion at a level suitable for non-scientists and non-theologians! In Quarks, Chaos and Christianity, he tackles theological issues ranging from prayer and miracles to eschatology (the end of all things), and speculates about how they can be compatible with scientific understanding. This book may appear very thin, but its contents can be dense and profound.
The Beginning of All Things is another dense read about science and faith, this time from a renowned Catholic theologian with an interest in science. Hans Kung shares his thoughts by organizing the structure of the book according to the following: the beginning of the universe, the beginning of life, and the beginning of humanity.