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Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – August 1, 2008

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Science and Religion: Questions for Consideration and Discussion

  • If you think that scientific and religious forms of knowledge are fundamentally different, can you define the essence of that difference?
  • Why has Richard Dawkins's brand of scientific atheism proved so compelling to millions of people in the twenty-first century?
  • Can miracles happen? And how can science help us answer that question?
  • If you think that it is possible to combine science with religious faith then what do you think is most difficult about that combination? Are there any scientific findings that could or should give a religious believer pause for thought?
  • Is "Intelligent Design" a scientific theory? If not, why not?
  • Review

    A rich introductory text...on the study of relations of science and religion. R. P. Whaite, Metascience A marvellous book that should be required reading for dogmatic fundamentalists of every persuasion. Patricia Fara, British Journal for the History of Science Dixon shows great skill in composing a book which combines coherence and clarity with a strong forward momentum... The interested reader need not hesitate. Michael Fuller, The Expository Times Bracing initiation Observer. The relationship between science and religion, past and present, is much more varied and more interesting than the popular caricature of conflict. Thomas Dixon gives us the richer picture, and he does it with clarity and verve. This is an ideal introduction to a fascinating subject. Peter Lipton. University of Cambridge Thomas Dixon has made a delightful contribution to this OUP series of Very Short Introductions. Church Times
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    Product Details

    • Paperback: 144 pages
    • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 1, 2008)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0199295514
    • ISBN-13: 978-0199295517
    • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.2 inches
    • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
    • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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    Customer Reviews

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    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    Thomas Dixon's Science and Religion is, I believe, one of the very best volumes written thus far in the Oxford Short Introduction series. In it, Dixon moves beyond the Enlightenment-generated simplistic model that sees science and religion as opposing poles (a position that, ironically, is embraced by many of today's religious fundamentalists) to offer a much more nuanced analysis of the relationship between the two.

    Dixon argues that casual observations about the war between religion and science ought to take several points under consideration. First, it's not at all clear that it makes sense to talk of either science or religion simpliciter. Both are extremely complex terms that accommodate a large number of interpretations. Second, it's not at all clear what the boundaries of either science or religion are. Neither falsification nor testability are, by themselves, sufficient criteria to designate science from pseudoscience, and defining religion is even more problematic. Finally, what frequently gets interpreted as a clash between religion and science is frequently a deeper social or political clash that's opportunistically fought on the science/religion battlefield. It is true that science/religion conflicts, when they can be identified, are disagreements about epistemic authority. But even that is complicated.

    To flesh out these claims, Dixon examines the Galileo incident (chapter 2), the reaction of Victorian England to Darwinism (chapter 4), and the current U.S. phenomenon of Intelligent Design (chapter 5), demonstrating how each is much more involved than merely a battle between theists and scientists.
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    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    While not perfect, this book serves as an excellent introduction to this subject. Dixon proves to be well informed of the issues and manages to cover quite a lot of ground, and he's also sufficiently fair and balanced in presenting the competing arguments.

    Perhaps the broadest lesson one can glean from the book is that science and religion have always had a messy multidimensional relationship, with many areas of potential agreement and disagreement. Part of the reason is that both science and religion are unavoidably framed in sociocultural and historical contexts, dialectically both affecting those contexts and being affected by them. Moreover, science and religion both have fuzzy boundaries, and both face many similar epistemic difficulties with respect to justifying their beliefs (despite the common but mistaken notion that science is purely objective whereas religion rests purely on faith and subjectivity).

    The book lays all of this out with the help of many examples, and thereby gives a sense of how complicated matters are, but doesn't provide any final answers. This gives the impression that some disagreement and tension will probably always exist between science and religion, despite whatever progress might be made in finding reconciliations. However, if one wishes to be optimistic, there is still the prospect of finding (creating?) more and more common ground between the two, possibly resulting in worldviews which increasingly draw on the strengths of both, and of course there's already much precedent for this.
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    Format: Paperback
    This is another in that excellent series of introductory monographs by Oxford University Press, many of them republications of an equally successful series of Past Masters published in the 1980s. Here Dr Dixon, Senior Lecturer in History at Queen Mary College, London University, uses his expertise in the history and philosophy of science to give us a highly readable and balanced view of the interaction of science and religion.

    Dr Dixon suggests that the science and religion `conflict' is really a debate about the politics of control rather than philosophy. In this context Dixon discusses the Scopes `monkey trial' in America in 1925. The first scientists like Newton and Galileo were natural philosophers trying to establish how God made the universe work - they were not trying to remove the need for God. Similarly, Enlightenment philosophers like Thomas Paine wanted `not an end to religion but the replacement of Christian religion by a rational religion based on the study of nature.'

    The Intelligent Design concept, which claims to find scientific validation for scriptural text, is simply the most recent attempt to re-establish creationism or anti-evolutionism with a scientifically respectable façade. ID is rejected by scientists as groundless and unscientific and by theologians as portraying a continually meddling God. ID makes no novel predictions and there is no unequivocal experimental evidence. But then many scientific theories are not directly testable or falsifiable, so these are perhaps not entirely satisfactory criteria for scientific validity. Conformity with an established paradigm is also an important criterion.

    Most of our knowledge comes from other people; only relatively little from our own direct experience.
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