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Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Paperback – April 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over the past two decades, science and religion have been seeking common ground through ongoing dialogue. The contributors to this volume provide a dimension to the conversation that has seldom been heard. Most of these essays originated as papers delivered at a 2001 conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Center for Inquiry, which is committed to the use of science and reason to conduct free inquiry into all areas of human interest. The very simple thesis of the collection is that science and religion can never be compatible. Rich and suggestive essays by such well-known thinkers as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and Arthur C. Clarke range over topics from intelligent design to sociobiology and creationism. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg opens the book by declaring that a dialogue between science and religion cannot be constructive, for science has made it possible for people to be not religious. Botanist Massimo Pigliucci argues that the newly popular theory of intelligent design is a kind of "neocreationism" trying to get into public school curricula by the back door. Finally, philosopher and editor Kurtz (Skeptical Odysseys, etc.) contends that science and religion are minimally compatible, for where science has provided an understanding of the vast and mysterious cosmos, religion is "dramatic existentialist poetry," a product of humankind's creative imagination designed to overcome fear and uncertainty with hope and love. Although some will dismiss most of the essays as arrogant and contentious, they nevertheless present important and provocative voices too often drowned out by the move to assert complete compatibility between science and religion.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"...provocative..." -- Science & Theology News, November 2004

"...reader-friendly...provide[s] diversified views on topics of much interest today." -- Albuquerque Journal, June 29, 2003

"...this collection is timely, and welcome." -- Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2004

"An enjoyable buffet for interested readers. . . Recommended." -- Choice, November 2003

"Every possible argument about this question seems to be here...stimulating and possibly subversive to some." -- New Scientist

"This is strong stuff...An important counterweight to the accommodationism that has dominated recent discourse." -- Times Literary Supplement, August 1, 2003

"will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in the roles of science and religion in the modern world." -- Freethinker (UK)

"…provides a wide ranging overview of a complex and challenging topic of interest to many." -- Australian Humanist, Summer 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591020646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591020646
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,240,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 59 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I attended the "Science and Religion" symposium held in Atlanta in 2001 and it was excellent. But this book is much more than a mere summary of the symposium. The book also includes many contributions by authors who did not attend, such as a chapter on Nonoverlapping Magisteria by the late Stephen Jay Gould and a chapter on Intelligent design by William A. Dembski.
At issue is whether religion and science have anything to say to each other and what happens when they tread on each other's turf. It has been argued that science has no business intruding into the realm of religion. But the nature of "science" is poorly understood by many people. It is not a body of knowledge, but rather a means of acquiring knowledge. Some religious claims cannot be be addressed by science because no means are available to investigate them. But on those issues where a means does exist, science has consistently forced religion to retreat and revise itself.
This book should be required reading by any school granting degrees in science, and it should be placed in every high school library.
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50 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Dr. William R. Harwood on April 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
Science and religion are NOT "Nonoverlapping Magisteria." Religion does make claims that science can neither rebut nor even investigate. But it also makes claims that can be and have been disproven. Either the transportation of a Catholic saint/goddess directly to the sky without passing GO and without collecting $200 was a verifiable fact of history, or it did not happen. The dogma that a god played a role in the origin of the universe is religion, and as such is not subject to scientific investigation. The claim that the universe is less than ten thousand years old has nothing to do with religion. It is bad science.
But dogmatic religion is one thing. The belief that the universe was intelligently designed, but not necessarily by the god of religion, is something else. Arguments for Intelligent Design are presented by believers, and rebutted by scientists.
Why is belief in religion so much higher among the less educated, and so much lower among natural scientists? More than one author offers a credible answer.
Other books have considered the question of whether science and religion are compatible, but never so effectively. While "Science and Religion" will not cure incurables, it will give the pragmatically religious something to think about. Buy it or borrow it, but read it.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tanya Sharon on January 19, 2009
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I am not a Christian but I still was offended by the one-sidedness of this collection of essays, most of which first appeared in Skeptical Inquirer. The volume is titled "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?" but a more honest title would be something like "Scientists' Views of Religion: How to Leave it Behind". Out of the 39 essays, I counted barely a handful that defended religious views. There is a place for such a collection, but editors should have been more honest about their bias. That said, the essays did provide insight into the 'science overcomes religion' perspective. Especially helpful was Gould's essay presenting his famous 'non-overlapping magisteria' argument (that religion and science are not incompatable because they preside over entirely separate domains of values vs facts), and a rejoinder by Dawkins.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By John Felkel, M.D. on June 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
A MUST READ for anyone interested about magisteria of science and religion. Well written essays (as one would expect with Kurtz as the editor) presenting both sides of this discussion. Never more relevant than today when religionists are making the claim about "biblical science", "creation science" (an oxymoron) ad infinitum. America can be a strange land where mythology and fact are allowed to mingle in some minds. This book will make you THINK.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 27, 2008
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Nearly all the essays in this collection are either transcripts of papers read at a "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?" conference or reprints of essays that originally appeared in either the "Skeptical Inquirer" or "Free Inquiry." As such, they're addressed to an educated, nonprofessional audience. But for the most part, they're rigorously argued pieces that challenge the reader to take a close look at the relationship between scientific and the religious worldviews.

The minority opinion among the authors, most famously expressed in Stephen Jay Gould's essay (pp. 191-203) defending his NOMA (nonoverlapping magisteria) thesis, is that science and religion aren't incompatible because they ask separate questions, science dealing with facts and religion with values. Paul Kurtz argues (pp. 351-59) for a different kind of compatibility, one that recognizes that religious language is aesthetic but wholly mythical, and thus offers no serious challenge to religion. But most of the authors collected here tend to agree to one degree or another with Jacob Pandian's ("The Dangerous Quest for Cooperation between Science and Religion") suggestion that academic departments of religion be renamed "departments of superstition (p. 171), or Steven Weinberg's ("A Designer Universe?") claim that he's "all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment" (p. 40).
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