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Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship Paperback – February 19, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Polkinghorne's life project is to show that science and religion are two rational structures between which there are significant homologies. It is most fascinating in "Quantum Physics and Theology "to observe him demonstrate this thesis."--Miroslav Volf, Yale Divinity School --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS, is fellow and retired president, Queens' College, Cambridge University. He was founding president of the International Society for Science and Religion and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize. He is the author of many books, including the following published by Yale University Press:  Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion; Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality; The God of Hope and the End of the World; and Belief in God in an Age of Science. 
 
 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300138407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300138405
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Jon Sellers on June 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In this slim well written volume Polkinghorne gives us a succinct comparison of the rational processes of inquiry required in both quantum physics and Chistian theology. As he says in his preface if you're looking for a book on quantum physics he has written a different work treating that subject specifically. He has also written elsewhere about his Christian faith and theology. This book's real value lies in its encouragement towards further reading.

Polkinghorne reaffirms his commitment to "critical realism" largely derived from Michael Polanyi. He then takes us on a fascinating journey of the intellectual history of quantum physics and theology. He draws a series of parallels in the two disciplines. Starting with a discussion of how science uses experience and understanding in the process of discovery he explains how the relationship between theory and experiment played a part in Einstein's development of the theory of relativity. That is paralleled by a discussion of how Christology is shaped by the historical record of Christ found in the Gospels. That supports his adoption of "bottom up" theology. This format is followed throughout the book - first discussing an aspect of the history of science and quantum physics followed with a history of some aspect of theology. Overall, this makes for some fascinating reading, if at times a little confusing as to exactly how these different histories are paralleled.

Some of the scientific subjects covered are: the development of relativity, quarks, atomic structure, waves and particles, quantum indeterminacy and quantum field theory. The theological subjects include Christology, the historical Jesus, the incarnation, the doctrine of two natures, doctrine of the Trinity, miracles and eschatology.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Geoffrey Tetley on May 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
John Polkinghorne is one of the most complete theologians in the Anglican Communion - if not in the whole Christian Church. Using the Church's long established three way approach to understanding scripture, he reads his bible, considers,seriously, the history of its interpretation and thinks profoundly about what it all can mean. All though the essay uses complex issues im both physics and theology it provided me a major helping of food for thought. It is one of those texts that can be read again and again.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By rowley32256 VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Polkinghorne has written many books combining ideas from his two areas of expertise: science and religion. In this small volume, he juxtaposes ideas from up to date quantum physics with some of the aspects of Christianity that seem baffling to many scientists. In doing so, he achieves his purpose of showing how critical realism can bridge these two seemingly opposed disciplines. But he also recommends a deeper study: "Perhaps this proferred hors d'oeuvre might encourage some to sit down to a more substantial meal."

With his characteristic precision, Polkinghorne sets out the difference between scientific and other types of inquiry: [the natural sciences] "enjoy possession of the secret weapon of experiment, the ability to put matters to the test, if necessary through repeated investigation of essentially the same set of impersonal circumstances. This enables science thoroughly to investigate a physical regime defined by a definite scale ... and to make an accurate map of it. ... By way of contrast, in all forms of subjective experience - whether aesthetic enjoyment, acts of moral decision, loving human relationships, or the transpersonal encounter with the sacred reality of God - events are unique and unrepeatable, and their valid interpretation depends ultimately upon a trusting acceptance rather than a testing analysis."

Polkinghorne uses a technique he calls "comparative heuristics" - basically the comparison of similarly constructed models as opposed to direct analogies. This enables the rationale to be evaluated regardless of the validity of a priori assumptions; thus Polkinghorne is able to address such a controversial topic as "miracles" without partisanship.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Prof Peter M. Gill on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
John Polkinghorne has written a book that will surprise and challenge many of its readers. In a neatly written and cogently argued case, he shows that there are many more similarities than one might have suspected between the goals and methods of the quantum physicist and those of the Christian theologian. He writes as an expert in both disciplines and his text is free of wild overstatement and contrived polemic. This is a book that charms and inspires and conveys a sense of authentic wonder at the astonishing creation of which we are a part.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By bookscdsdvdsandcoolstuff VINE VOICE on November 12, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a wonderful little book!

This short little book is not the easiest read, but it is certainly manageable for anyone who has a basic familiarity with theology or science so long as they are willing to read slowly and carefully. The book juxtaposes two systems of inquiry designed to lead to a truthful description of reality. That theology is a discipline with rigorous controls and review and rules for inquiry seems to surprise many materialists, but it is a fact.

I have spent some time here at amazon and in the world dialoging with those who hold a materialistic view of the universe, and I am shocked at the level of disdain given to the disciplines of philosophy and theology. As the author of this book points out, the word "theological" is often used pejoratively to denote an unexamined or untested bias or belief. I too take umbrage with this usage, and I find myself wondering if the decline of traditional liberal education in the West marks the end of literate and competent discourse and debate in our society.

I am impressed by this book's economy, even while I was challenged by some of the vocabulary and concepts. I was relatively unfamiliar with the history of quantum physics, and I found this book very edifying as a result. The sections on Christology, the historicity of the resurrection, and the parallels between scientific and theological inquiry were concise, challenging, and largely convincing.

One point the author could have hit a little harder, in my opinion, is the history and philosophy of science, and why scientific inquiry of a high level is largely a product of Western Civilization.
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