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A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology (Gifford Lectures) (2009 Gifford Lectures) Paperback – March 2, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

A superb contribution to the science/faith conversation. --Francis Collins, MD, PhD, former Director of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God

[Alister McGrath's] book will be of great interest to all concerned with the relationship between science and religion. --Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS

Review

“A superb contribution to the science/faith conversation.” —Francis Collins, MD, PhD, former Director of the Human Genome Project and author of The Language of God

“[Alister McGrath’s] book will be of great interest to all concerned with the relationship between science and religion.” —Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS
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Product Details

  • Series: 2009 Gifford Lectures
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (March 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664233104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664233105
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alister E. McGrath is a historian, biochemist, and Christian theologian born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. A longtime professor at Oxford University, he now holds the chair in theology, ministry, and education at the University of London. He is the author of several books on theology and history, including Christianity's Dangerous Idea, In the Beginning, and The Twilight of Atheism. He lives in Oxford, England, and lectures regularly in the United States.

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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By D. G. Frank on October 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first became interested in Alister McGrath's work when he began systematically vivisecting Dawkins The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine. Of course, Dawkins is an easy target, but after 'The God Delusion' he deserved it. And I am not alone in my opinion; at the AAAS meeting in Chicago this year there was public scoffing of Dawkins in more than one session I attended...even by devout Darwin supporters. The theme of the scoffing was "Dawkins should stick to biology...wait...does he do biology any more?"

Anyway, although the McGrath's earlier book (The Dawkins Delusion?) did not contain dramatic new insights, it was a pleasure to read and it is useful to have the rebuttals cogently and systematically arranged. I left it out on the coffee table for some time! I also recommend it as primer for anyone who needs to cut the legs out from under the 'new atheists' (whose ideas and arguments are actually quite antiquated), especially college students, who often find themselves in a sea of gullible peers.

I mention McGrath's earlier book here by way of comparison; this new work by McGrath is no mere pamphlet, and it doesn't belong on the coffee table...but most certainly in the college classroom and on the scholar's bookshelf. Its fourteen chapters would provide an excellent outline for a semester course on natural theology, especially if one followed up on all the footnotes and references.

Based upon McGrath's "2009 Gifford Lectures" given at Aberdeen, this work is a rigorous academic treatment of an important new trend in our culture; the growing interest in natural theology.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul R. Bruggink on March 15, 2010
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While one might guess from the title that this book is about the anthropic principle, it's actually about an alternative way to look at natural theology. In a 2005 book ("Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life") McGrath concluded that William Paley's "Natural Theology" was an experiment that had failed as an approach to Christian apologetics. In his 2008 book "The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology," McGrath presented the basic elements of a new vision for natural theology. This 2009 book describes his alternative approach to natural theology, which McGrath labels a Trinitarian approach. It involves applying counterfactual thinking to natural theology, which results in an "explanatory unification" that "resonates strongly with our observation and experience of the world" and "the capacity to confer meaning."

The usual approach to natural theology can disclose a god, but not the God of Christianity. "Deism holds that God created the world; theism holds that God created the world and continues to direct it through divine providence; Trinitarianism holds that God created the world, continues to direct it through divine providence, and guides the interpreters of both the books of nature and Scripture through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian approach to natural theology does not prove the existence of God, but "offers a high degree of consonance with what is actually observed."

McGrath begins with a brief history of the place of natural theology, from "proving the existence of God" to using it to argue "that Christianity makes better sense of the empirical evidence than any of its alternatives or rivals by interpreting nature on the basis of Christian beliefs.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roger B. Clough on January 5, 2010
Format: Paperback
"A Fine-Tuned Universe" , by Alister McGrath, who has PhD's from Oxford in both theology and biophysics, extends the idea of fine-tuning previously applied to creation to evolution-- although in a very general way, by which I mean that one can make out instances of design where improbable steps take place: for example the critically important role of water in folding a certain protein. It is an excellent updated account of evolution which unintentionally makes Dawkins' account seem quite dated, and also obsolete, as the "Selfish Gene" has been shown not to be sufficiently general to merit the role of basic transmission mechanism.

McGrath's writing is a bit dull, but what did you expect from a genius writing on a very technical topic ? It is well worth struggling through. The only other criticism of McGrath's scientific writings is that they always seem a bit teasing, as if they are introductions to something wonderful.

Most importantly, McGrath devotes a chapter to St. Augustine's account of creation, which is remarkably modern. Augustine places "rationes seminales" into matter, which are metaphorically like seeds of God's intentions, essentially like virtual forces. So it is something like Paley's watch which has self-building, evolution and reproduction built
in. McGrath quotes someone as saying that God's creation of the universe is a miracle. but even more miraculous that creation is able
to create itself.

McGrath also uses a trinitarian formalism, which because of his dull writing is there, but is a little hard to pick out. Still, it is a contemporary natural theology (his words).
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