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Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion Paperback – September 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"I cannot think of a more trustworthy guide than John Polkinghorne, who holds up both ends of the science/faith debate."  —Philip Yancey, author, Disappointment with God

"The revealing story of an influential Christian and brilliant physicist whose life trajectory has been astonishingly unexpected. Written with sensitivity and clarity, this extraordinary spiritual biography illuminates one of the leading figures in our contemporary science-and-religion dialogue."  —Dr. Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and author, God's Universe

"An interesting and perceptive study of the life of a great and thoughtful person, who emphasized the relation between science and religion."  —Charles Townes, winner, Nobel Prize for Physics, and professor of physics, University of California

"With Quantum Leap, the authors open doorways for the reader to engage in a real and sophisticated thought on meaningful life-and-death topics." —The [San Diego, CA] North County Times

"Giberson has a native understanding of how conservative Christians feel and think about evolution . . . he sketches an engaging historical narrative.  —Publishers Weekly on Saving Darwin

About the Author

Dean Nelson is an award-winning journalist who writes for the New York Times as well as Sojourners and Christianity Today. He is author of 14 books, including God Hides in Plain Sight. He lives in San Diego, California. Karl Giberson, a physicist, is the director of the Forum on Faith and Science at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. He has written more than 100 articles on science and religion, and seven books including The Language of Science and Faith and Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Lion Hudson (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745954014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745954011
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #545,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul R. Bruggink on October 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Keeping in mind that this is a book about John Polkinghorne rather than by him, it is a wonderful read. It describes Polkinghorne's career in theoretical physics, his switch to the priesthood, his career as an Anglican priest, his re-entry into academia, and his "retirement." Although this book was not written by Polkinghorne, it is filled with enough Polkinghorne quotations from the numerous interviews that the authors had with him and from his previous books that it almost feels like it was written by him. It touches on many of the ideas that Polkinghorne has discussed in his own 35 books.

In Chapter 1 (Intellectual Suicide), the authors describe the New Atheists' case via the writings of Stephen Weinberg, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, and E. O. Wilson, intermingled with Polkinghorne's responses.

Chapter 2 (Room for Reality) describes his youth, education, and career as a theoretical particle physicist and his decision to switch to theology at age 49.

Chapter 3 (Droplets of Grace) covers prayer and Polkinghorne's prayer life, largely in the context of the illness and death of his wife of 51 years. It including a discussion of whether prayer can change things.

Chapter 4 (Regime change) tells of his experiences and feelings as the vicar of the only church in a small village near Canterbury and his attitude toward being able to celebrate the Eucharist. This chapter also covers miracles and the topic of science and the resurrection. Polkinghorne argues that scientists hold on to perplexing paradoxes all the time (particle vs. wave nature of light, quantum physics) and argues that "We live in a subtle world and both science and theology need to be subtle in their accounts of it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on September 14, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Polkinghorne was a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge.. until one day, he shocked his coworkers and announced he was entering Anglican seminary. He still believes in physics, and still believes in God as depicted in the bible.
To many readers, nurtured on sensational media accounts of Richard Dawkins, or the series "cosmos" this might come across as unusual, but, as Polkinghorne explains to the writers in this biography, it is anything but.

A very refreshing, nuanced discussion about the relationship of science and faith, and how one very smart scientist is also a very faithful minister. Polkinghorne's own books can sometimes be a little daunting for non-scientists, this book is a little bit more 'accessible' and gives a nice overview of his thoughts on the relationship between science and religion.

Side note, if you google 'Faraday institute' you can find quite a few audio recordings (Free) of lectures by Polkinghorne, he comes across as a pleasant,intelligent, reasoning man, as he does in the pages of this book.

one note on the first paperback edition:the typeface can be difficult to read at times becausesomeonedidnotcheckthespacing :)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill on January 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm rating this book higher than I might otherwise because it introduced me to the writing and thoughts of John Polkinghorne. Taken on its own merits, it resembles a student dissertation, which is surprising given that the authors are an award-winning journalist and a physics professor respectively. But there is something so compelling in the meeting of this man that I have chosen to be lenient with the messengers (pretending for a moment that rating systems are systems of punishment or reward, and that leniency is my decision to make).

Polkinghorne's thoughts filled a place in my soul, that one that grapples with uncertainty, bleakness, and nihilism, but still clings to the faith that won't abandon it. There's an important distinction in what I just said, and it's also one that Polkinghorne makes with his own faith--my faith hasn't abandoned me, as his didn't abandon him. It remained where it is, regardless of what he was thinking, reasoning over, or reflecting--no matter what terrible events occurred in his life. Even despair doesn't cause it to flee. This is the foundation of the book's general thesis, and one I found refreshing.

Over and over, I got the sense that the world may be a complex place (the complexity drives me absolutely batty at times), but there are simple underlying principles that one can cling to, such as the resurrection of Jesus. That is the crux of Christian faith--literally--that Jesus died and rose again. Through this miracle, we are saved. By contrast, Polkinghorne makes sense of suffering in a simple, understandable way that is a reverse of the previous miracle--nature works as it was created to work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By rossuk on November 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a book for those of you who enjoy the interaction of science and religion. John Polkinghorne is a mathematician, a particle physicist and an ordained minister of the Church of England. He is a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge University and a fellow of the Royal Society.

This book will give some relief from the rhetoric of the New Atheists, who offer us a false dichotomy between science and religion. Polkinghorne is an example of how this is not true, one can be both a scientist and a theist, and be true to oneself.

The book is endorsed by Dr Owen Gingerich, Alister McGrath, Philip Yancey and Charles Townes. And one of the co-authors Karl Giberson is a professor of physics, and co-authored the book `The Language of Science and Faith' with Frances Collins.
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