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VINE VOICEon April 1, 2010
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)
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VINE VOICEon April 11, 2010
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.
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on April 15, 2010
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.
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VINE VOICEon March 17, 2011
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.
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on September 23, 2010
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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on June 19, 2010
I've taken to listening to podcasts rather than listen to radio or watch TV. There are favorite podcasts for me and one of them is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett. More often than not, this award winning radio program makes me think more deeply about the intersection of science and religion and gives me new ways to think about spirituality. Einstein's God is a compendium of several of these programs from the show interviewing key individuals adding to the thinking around the interface of science and religion. People such as Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Sherwin Nuland, Mehmet Oz, James Moore, Esther Sternberg, V.V. Raman, Michael McCullough, Janna Levin, Andrew Solomon, Anita Barrows, Parker Palmer and John Polkinghorne.

Tippett has organized the book in the same way she organizes her show (likely because it is supposed to be true to that format). She recounts the transcript of the show and at the same time intersperses what her own thoughts and interpretations are for the guest's interview and writings. The result is a wonderful story progressing in a reasonably logical manner and painting a picture of the often confusing intersection of science and religion.
Einstein's God starts with interviews with Dyson and Davies an Tippet refers to it as "The Human Legacy of a Great Mind and a Wise Man. The next section is "The Spirit as an Emergent Life Force," followed by "Discovering the Globalization of Medicine," "Creation as an Unfolding Reality," Content with the Limits of Religion and Science," "The World Feels More Spacious," "Science That Liberates Us from Reductive Analysis," "Knowing How to Heal Ourselves," "The Nature of Human Vitality," and finally section 10 "On the Complementary Nature of Science and Religion."

One of the insights I gained was from the interview with Jana Levin. In response to Tippett's question about how the messiness of the human experience might impinge on the ultimate reality of what we can know and achieve through logic and through science? In part, Levin responded that, "One of the painful but beautiful things about being a scientist is being able to say, `It doesn't matter what I believe. I might believe that the universe is a certain age, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.' There's something really thrilling about being committed to that." For me, this is the crux of the matter: Can religion and science each embrace the fact that if they are wrong, they are wrong; and that perhaps we are simply asking different questions?

Tippett has written a delightful book leading us into deeper introspection into our own view of how we might reconcile the two world views of science and religion. After all, we each view the same world even if from different mountain tops. We are likely all to be proven to be not wrong, but incomplete in our interpretation of the view.
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on April 15, 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Let me get something off my chest, and maybe vent just a little. This book will probably be unjustly categorized as some type of New Age reading. I hate the New Age (or as Gooch said, "I can't afford anything new.") There's been nothing new under the sun for at least 2000 years, that was Christianity, it went the way of all new things - it got old. On top of that, every year or so the newest new age nonsense hits the shelves: Eat Pray Ugh being the latest, hard on the heels of Eckhardt Tolle. Recycled thinking destined for the recycle bin. There, done with that.

Einstein's God is a terrific set of transcribed interviews from Krista Tippett's public radio show, Speaking of Faith. These are chats with some particularly brilliant people about the life of the spirit as it pertains to ecology, medicine, psychotherapies, and the arts. There's very little nonsense here as Ms. Tippett and her guests explore the spiritual lives of religious believers and non-believers through their particular disciplines and discoveries.

This book is a scalpel of sorts, that cuts through the fog of the woo-woo, and la-la that surrounds contemporary spirituality. Thich Nat Than said, "The miracle is not walking on water; the miracle is that we're walking on this earth at all." Einstein's God reinforces the miraculous.
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on September 18, 2014
Want to know what those scientists you have studied in college actually said about God. This is the book for you. An easy read which makes it possible for us to know what these smart people thought. A challenge to complacency.
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on September 25, 2011
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In Einstein's God, Krista Tippett presents interviews on spirituality and science. This book will appeal to those tired of scientism and religious extremism.

Tippett has a very precise, nuanced use of language. The prose often has hints of poetry or song, where a theme is introduced by Tippett, developed by the interview subject, and possibly echoed or varied in another chapter. The refrain is harmony between science and religion.

I think this book is great for introducing the reader to thoughtful, conciliatory perspectives.
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on April 22, 2010
This is an excellent presentation of the issues surrounding the subject of science vs. religion as they pertain to everyday activities in our current cultural climate. The book is a mind-blowing display of how science and religion dovetail in their respective views of the larger universe we live in. Once started, I could not put the book down.
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