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Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science [Kindle Edition]

Steve Paulson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Here is an unprecedented collection of twenty freewheeling and revealing interviews with major players in the ongoing--and increasingly heated--debate about the relationship between religion and science. These lively conversations cover the most important and interesting topics imaginable: the Big Bang, the origins of life, the nature of consciousness, the foundations of religion, the meaning of God, and much more.
In Atoms and Eden, Peabody Award-winning journalist Steve Paulson explores these topics with some of the most prominent public intellectuals of our time, including Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, E. O. Wilson, Sam Harris, Elaine Pagels, Francis Collins, Daniel Dennett, Jane Goodall, Paul Davies, and Steven Weinberg. The interviewees include Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims, as well as agnostics, atheists, and other scholars who hold perspectives that are hard to categorize. Paulson's interviews sweep across a broad range of scientific disciplines--evolutionary biology, quantum physics, cosmology, and neuroscience--and also explore key issues in theology, religious history, and what William James called ''the varieties of religious experience.'' Collectively, these engaging dialogues cover the major issues that have often pitted science against religion--from the origins of the universe to debates about God, Darwin, the nature of reality, and the limits of human reason. These are complex, intellectually rich discussions, presented in an accessible and engaging manner. Most of these interviews were originally published as individual cover stories for, where they generated a huge reader response. Public Radio's "To the Best of Our Knowledge" will present a major companion series on related topics this fall.
A feast of ideas and competing perspectives, this volume will appeal to scientists, spiritual seekers, and the intellectually curious.

Editorial Reviews


"In this wonderfully insightful and provocative book, Atoms and Eden, radio journalist Steve Paulson explores two of the most powerful forces in human history - science and religion - and the way they shape our world view. Using interviews with scientists, historians and philosophers as a springboard, Paulson deftly creates a conversation about faith, doubt and the very nature of belief systems that draws the reader into rethinking assumptions about what's important in the way we build our lives today."

--Deborah Blum, author, Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death

"These transcripts capture the excitement of the radio series from which they are drawn. They stimulate the imagination, broaden the knowledge of all but the most widely informed readers, and clarify key issues and perspectives in the tensions between science and religion."--Library Journal

About the Author

Steve Paulson is Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio's nationally syndicated radio program "To the Best of Our Knowledge." He is a recipient of the Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellowship in Science and Religion. He has written for Salon, Slate, and other publications, and has produced feature stories for NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered."

Product Details

  • File Size: 471 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199743169
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (October 5, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0041OT9SU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,385 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointng February 1, 2011
I am intensely interested in studies of the intersection between religion and science. And as a big fan of Steve Paulson for his great, thought provoking radio interviews I excitedly ran out and picked up a copy of this book as soon as I heard about it. Unfortunately it fails to deliver much insight.

Though the book does contain many interesting interviews with leading scientific and religious thinkers it completely avoids what I would consider the core issue - how to try and evaluate the truth claims made by the various interviewees. The fact that the only serious philosopher that was included, Rebecca Goldstein, is more concerned with discussing how her novels address the issues than discussing how truth claims are evaluated speaks volumes. Paulson may call Ken Wilber a philosopher of consciousness but his ideas, while interesting, don't really seem philosophical in the traditional sense, at least in the sense of helping one evaluate truth claims. Not a single philosopher of science or a philosopher concerned with epistemology was included. Given that scientists and religious thinkers are probably pretty unreliable in terms of evaluating the truth claims of science and religion this seems a tragic omission re. helping people to more deeply consider the issues discussed.

And Paulson tantalizingly hints at how important this is in the introduction when he discusses the criticisms of Stephen J Gould's NOMA position that science and religion function in independent realms. The primary critique of NOMA is that science and religion in fact make truth claims in overlapping areas of human experience. So what could be more important than giving the reader some tools to think about how to try to evaluate those truth claims.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dubious Disciple Book Review February 5, 2011
If you really want to start an argument, ask a room full of physicists this question: Are the laws of physics fine-tuned to support life? This question and others are debated in Steve Paulson's collection of interviews. In the great "religion vs. science" debate, this is a meet-the-players book, from renowned atheists Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins to Roman Catholic John Haught to affirmed Muslim Nidhal Guessoum. En route, you'll talk with Karen Armstrong, Daniel Dennett, Ken Wilber, Robert Wright, Elaine Pagels, Paul Davies, Steven Weinberg, and more ... 20 interviews in all, and these are big names!

These are some of our greatest thinkers, and none are closed-minded. You won't find anyone here who rejects the overwhelming evidence for evolution; Paulson purposefully excludes fringe theorists like "young earth" believers and intelligent design proponents, preferring to stay on the cutting edge of both science and religion. But what you will find here is an appreciation for today's mysteries, like consciousness.

There's another hot spot that's sure to start an argument: the whole mind-body question. It's very hard to figure out what's going on when you throw together 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, but is our mind (in religious terms our soul) hidden in there? Surprisingly, the majority of our greatest thinkers punt on the subject, sometimes suggesting consciousness is a topic we'll never understand. As Dawkins says, "consciousness is ... a very, very big problem."

I found the book fascinating and, of course, highly intelligent; the best of its kind I've read. This is not a book about accepting or rejecting a particular caricature of God, such as the Judeo-Christian God. It is about the big questions: Can consciousness survive after death? (atheist Sam Harris: "I just don't know.") Is human existence a lucky evolutionary accident? Does the universe have a purpose? Is faith evil or necessary?

Buy this one.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful October 24, 2010
Provides well thought out arguments from both "sides". This book is great for those with an open mind who are looking to make sense of it all. Simply read all of the interviews and continue studying those that intrigue you most.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Battle Goes On! August 6, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Up until the late 19th century it was not unusual to find clergy dabbling in fields of science. An example is John Wesley, an Anglican priest who birthed early Methodism, was noted for his writings and experiments in science and medicine. The title of a most popular book among lay people and physicians of the 18th century was entitled PRIMITIVE PHYSICK that was a best seller and considered to be a valuable source for medical knowledge and practices. It is worth noting that the book was acknowledged in the PROCEDINGS Of THE ROYAL SOCIETY of MEDICINE, Volume 13, 1920, for its set of rules for good health.

ATOMS & EDEN: Conversations on Religion and Science written by Steve Paulson, Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio's nationally syndicated radio program To The Best of Our Knowledge, uses the tools of interviews with clergy and scientists, believers and non-believers alike, to provide a tool for intelligent discussion and research for today's readers. His interviews with scientists of various disciplines, clergy of differing faith persuaions and those who choose to be known as atheists are like discovering nuggets of gold in a muddy stream of water.

This is a thoughtful, challenging book great for personal engagement with the struggle between science and relgion and for study groups whether or not in local churches.
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