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Atoms and Eden: Conversations on Religion and Science Paperback – November 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199743169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199743162
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #217,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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."

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Karl A. Young on February 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By Dubious Disciple on February 5, 2011
Format: Paperback
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 By DTA on October 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
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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