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Skeptics and True Believers: The Exhilarating Connection Between Science and Spirituality Hardcover – June 1, 1998

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Responding in part to the rise of millennial-driven New Age spirituality, Raymo (Honey from Stone: A Naturalist's Search for God) writes along the tender edges of mystery that bind off objective science from religious faith. Using a light journalistic style, Raymo seeks to find some common ground upon which to construct mutual appreciation between science and religion. Sources diverse as John Donne, Charles Darwin, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Albert Einstein enliven the discussion. Raymo begins with a brief autobiographical sketch of his early life in Roman Catholicism. He moves on to his college-aged discovery of the satisfaction in the complete, verifiable and reproducible, if limited, answers that science affords. A scientist through and through, Raymo yet maintains an appreciation for the ineffable in life. While the author does not disguise his scientific preferences, it will take readers some time to see that this is not an evenhanded discussion. By lumping astrology, UFO enthusiasts and fundamental religionists together, Raymo's intellectual prejudices and disdain for what he calls "True Believers" finally becomes apparent. The work lacks proper responses by contemporary philosophical theologians, as well. Still, Raymo's book will prove worthwhile for those curious about science as the myth of the modern age. Rights (except world English, translation, audio): Palmer & Dodge.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Declaring himself a "Skeptic who believes that words like God, soul, sacred, spirituality, sacrament, and grace can retain currency in an age of science...," noted science writer Raymo argues for a reconciliation between science and religion.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802713386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802713384
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,509,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Chet Raymo has always been one of my favorite authors. I read his "365 Starry Nights" with a fascination that I have had for few books. After reading Kenneth Miller's "Finding Darwin's God" I was quite receptive to getting Raymo's take on the interface between science and religion in his book "Skeptics and True Believers." I was not disappointed. Raymo's thesis is that there needs to be a connection between religion and science that does not contradict solid scientific results and concepts. Raymo is clear in his writing and, among other things, rightly attacks the muddled postmodern concept that all ideas are equal. You cannot argue that Ptolemy's construct of epicycles is as good an idea as Copernicus' sun-centered system. This is utter nonsense. Science at its best does seek the closest approximation of "truth" at a given time and is also at its best a self-correcting system. Thus you cannot really have a conservative or liberal science. The Nazis tried to have an Aryan science and the Communists in the former Soviet Union tried to have a Socialist science, but they both failed miserably. This inability to be ultimately used for political purposes is one of the main strengths of science and what separates it from absolute belief systems.
Raymo also takes on strict reductionism, which is (as he points out) pretty close to a faith-, a faith that you can explain the universe in a final relatively simple theory of everything. Even Stephen Hawking has apparently given up on this idea (although he espoused it quite emphatically in his "A Brief History of Time.") The problem is the mind-boggling complexity of the universe and of the development and structure of life. Still, reductionism has served us well in the laboratory- it just does not take on the biggest problems easily.
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Format: Paperback
The tone and 'shape' of the writing are deeply influenced by the author's job. To write the science column for Boston Globe, what i didn't know was he is also a college professor in physics and astronomy, his primary fields from which his examples are drawn. The writing's tone is: exuberent, visionary, pushy, colorful, short and choppy, all at once. It is meant to be rememberable, quick illustrations, pithy organizing principles repeated throughout the book, literally the best writing for newspapers, and maybe for college students. I suspect he is a very good prof, and well received by his students, his care, his devotion to science is obvious, deeply felt, and real.
"A vital religious faith has three components: a shared cosmology (a story of the universe and our place in it), spirituality (personal response to the mystery of the world), and liturgy (public expression of awe and gratitude, including rites of passage). the apparent antagonism of science and religion centers mostly on cosmological questions. What is the universe? Where did it come from? Where is it going? What is the human self? Where do we fit in? What is our fate?" p 2
This is his minor theme, repeated in different contexts, until the end where it becomes a major tying together motif. Quotable and useful organizing principle.
" These two postures represent a fault line in our culture, and attitudinal chasm more profound than differences of politics or religious affiliation.
We are Skeptics or True Believers."
This is his major theme, obviously the book's title, he however, despite my initial misgivings does not align: religion=true believers, science=skeptics, he is much more subtle and as a result more convincing than this simple pairing would have been.
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Format: Paperback
Chet Raymo grew up Catholic, as did I. Through his life of studying science, he valued the scientific search for Truth. That brought him, as many scientists, to face the apparent dichotomy between science and religion.
Raymo interestingly takes that "science vs. religion" apart, and reconstructs it as "Skeptics vs. True Believers", and in doing so, examines the human aspect of the conflict as well as the more ubiquitous aspects. The whole creation vs. evolution argument has gotten worn out, and it's replacement, "intelligent design" vs. evolution has gotten equally abused. Raymo makes his case briefly (thankfully), and goes on to face *why* people seem to have the need to be either Skeptical (doubtful despite evidence) or True Believers (faithful in spite of contrary evidence).
Raymo came to what I call a "full basket" moment with his Catholicism -- either he had to buy the full basket, accept and believe it all, or he could believe none of it. For other people, readily acknowledged by Raymo, the full basket moment is not an all-or-nothing. For some of us, it is, instead, a turning point. This is why I mention "those in between" in the title of this review.
For those of us who cringe at the negative connotations of the "Skeptic" title, and cringe equally at the naivete implied in "True Believers"; for those of us who don't buy the full basket of the beliefs of our church and religion, but still find great value in that religion -- this is a valid place to be. Raymo does not ignore that, and that is specifically the human aspect of the dichotomy that mixes the black and white to live in the gray area. Perhaps "avoids" rather than "mixes".
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