Customer Reviews

33
4.2 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2004
I bought this book because I was looking for material that discusses the supposed link between Christianity and the development of modern science. In my class on western thought and culture my professor said that Christianity was the foundation for the modern scientific method. I was extremely skeptical about this claim, and I started searching for literature on the subject that I could really trust. I was pleasantly surprised when I found this very well-documented and readable book. This is easily the best treatment of the topic I have ever found. And yes, it did convince me that Christianity really is the mother of science.
1010 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Most of the books I read, I read because I delight in them and think I'll enjoy them. There are other books I read merely because I think they will contain some information that will be useful to me in life or in ministry. Then there are some books which are flat out difficult for me to read. Yet I read them to stretch myself and broaden my horizons.

Such is the book The Soul of Science by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. It's not the book is any way deficient, as can be seen by the endorsements of the book. Phillip E. Johnson says this is a "brilliant book that deserves a wide readership." J. P. Moreland says it would be an excellent text for courses on science and religion. James W. Sire says that "this book should destroy for all time the persistent myth that Science and Christianity have always been at war with each other."

Truly, this is a great book, but it was difficult for me to read, being a non-scientist. And when I say that I am a non-scientist I am giving myself far too much praise and credit as a scientific scholar. I have always done poorly in science. I somehow survived all of the biology classes I had to take in High School and College and nearly bombed out in chemistry. The fact that I passed a required chemistry class in college, I attribute to either the generosity of the professor or that he was in a drunken stupor when he was handing out grades. I went to college hoping to be an engineer but abandoned all hope of such a career when I took my first physics class. The only time in my life I can ever remember having a complete mental block in a subject was when I took that physics class - I just couldn't get it. Two weeks into the semester I dropped the class and changed my major.

So, I read this book as a non-scientist and want to share a few thoughts on its value to non-scientists like me. For a good review from a technical standpoint you'll have to look elsewhere. The book has lots of interesting information about biology, mathematics, quantum mechanics and DNA, to which the most intelligent response I can give is "wow . . . hey, . . . that's um . . . interesting, . . . that's really groovy man." In other words, it all sounds pretty neat but I don't understand much of what I read.

What I did understand though, and what makes this book valuable to a scientific ignoramus like me is that all science has an underlying philosophy. Science is supposed to be one field of study where you just deal with bare facts, where the facts speak for themselves, where empiricism rules the day. Yet, the project of science itself depends on certain philosophical underpinnings.

The project of science begins with a presupposition that the world around us is real and understandable. This is not something native to all societies and Pearcey and Thaxton point out what many historians agree on - that Christianity is the native soil out of which the scientific enterprise grew. The Christian worldview says that there is a God, a God of order, who created a world of order. Thus the earliest scientists sought to understand the world that God created, to think His thoughts after Him. Science was a means of knowing God and giving praise to Him.

Thus, the notion that there is some kind of hostility between science and Christianity is false. The hostility that arose between science and Christianity arose as scientists abandoned Christian presuppositions for atheistic presuppositions.

However, it is not as if there is a "Christian philosophy of science" and an "atheist philosophy of science." Pearcey and Thaxton demonstrate that, historically, there have been three dominant philosophies of science. All three have morphed at times, but the basic philosophies are Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic and Mechanistic.

Aristotle pictured the world as a vast organism. He believed that all forms of motion or change are accomplished because of an objects built in purpose or goal. Aristotle described things using metaphors of living organisms, not machines. Aristotelianism was rationalistic, viewing God as a rational mind whose thoughts are known by logical analysis. The development of living organisms was driven by some kind of internal pattern that assured they fulfilled their goal or purpose.

The Neo-Platonists were similar to Aristotelians in that they believed the world was a living organism. However, they differed in that how they explained this: "In explaining natural processes, it appealed not to rational Forms but to the creative power of spiritual forces. These forces were often regarded as divine, or at least as avenues of divine activity in the world.

The mechanistic worldview rejected Aristotelianism and Neo-Platonism in that it didn't see the world as a living organism, rather as a machine with God as the chief engineer.

Pearcey and Thaxton point out that there are many nuances within these basic worldviews and the worldviews are applied somewhat differently in different disciplines. Further, these are rough groupings and some scientists would be hard to categorize. But, for Pearcey and Thaxton, these worldviews are portrayed as the grid through which almost all scientific disciplines are pursued. They also point out that, historically, each of these worldviews have been used in service to both Christianity and non-Christianity. Hence, the obvious implication is that there are certain faith commitments that form an even deeper sub-strata beneath the philosophies themselves.

I say that I didn't understand most of the more technical stuff in the book, but there were some nuggets that got through my thick skull. There is a fascinating chapter on the fall of mathematics from its pinnacle as the ultimate source of empirical certainty. And the chapter on DNA is wonderful. The complexity and volume of information contained in DNA gives wonderful testimony to the existence of a creator and to the notion that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But the bottom line value of the book is that it will help us look beyond the facts in discussions about Christianity and Science. Very often, Christian apologists seek to go head to head with non-Christian scientists in regards to evidences. The Christian piles up a stack of evidence that he says proves the existence of God or the Christian worldview, and the non-Christian piles up a similar stack of evidence against him. They both attack the others stacks of evidences and defend their own. The outcome sometimes looks like an office where both stacks of paper have been blown around the room resulting in chaos.

We need to look beyond the "bare facts" (there is no such thing as a "bare" fact) to the philosophical foundations behind them. In that regard, the Christian worldview provides a remarkable foundation for science.

"The Soul of Science" affirms the words of Max Planck who says "Over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: 'Ye must have faith.'"
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2006
A metanarrative has become ingrained in our culture which states that science is the means by which we threw off our religious superstitions and entered a brave new world of reason and progress. Does this metanarrative itself need to be overthrown? In this work Discovery fellows Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton explain how Christian theism has played a vital role in the historical development of science. Moreover, the next scientific revolution may bring science back to a point where it will reconsider the possibility that life was designed.

First, Pearcey and Thaxton shed light on the fact that the "Dark ages" were not quite so dark. While the medieval scholars lacked much of our accumulated knowledge, medieval scientists like Jordanus de Nemore anticipated the work of subsequent scientists through his work on statics. When the scientific revolution swung into full force, early scientists like Newton were devoutly religious and motivated by religion. As one historian they quote put it, "God had designed the universe, and it was to be expected that all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. One mind designing a universe would almost surely have employed one set of basic principles to govern related phenomena." (pg. 129) Even today, they find that "the DNA code originated from a cause similar in relevant aspects to human intelligence." (pg. 244)

The authors begin by observing that "the idea of a war between science and religion is a relatively recent invention--one carefully nurtured by those who hope the victor will be science." (pg. 19) After reviewing all of the contributions which theists, the church, and Christianized societies have made to science, they conclude, "The Christian religion, hand in hand with various philosophical outlooks, has motivated, sanctioned, and shaped large portions of the Western scientific heritage." (pg. 248)
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2005
In this book, Pearcey and Thaxton lay bare the foundation and motivation for science: philosophy. They reveal how science is pushed along by philosophy, and how philosophical views lead to scientific theories (see esp. the chapter on interpretations of quantum mechanics). Before reading this book I had not realized just how strong the influence of philosophy was upon science, but this book opened my eyes. They also do an excellent job of showing the relationship between science and theology, though if this you are looking for anything beyone a basic introduction to this subject, better books are available (try John Polkinghorne and Stanley Jaki, though be warned that they are not easy reads).
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2000
This is a pretty good, fairly balanced discussion of the role of Christianity in science. The authors discuss the influence of philosophical ideas on science, and vice-versa, from the ancient Greeks to modern DNA research. Their approach is primarily historical, in that they discuss scientific theories in the context of the people who developed them, rather than striking out on their own into research, or even discussing much that remains scientifically controversial until the final chapter. The history they are giving will be new to many, especially skeptics who have been trained to think that science escaped from Christianity like Odesseus from the cave of the Cyclops. This book should be in every church library or pastor's study precisely because that argument is so popular among modern skeptics.
Some of the ideas Thaxton and Pearcey introduce in this book were new to me -- the idea that there is some problem about mathematics "working," for example -- and I am still mulling them over. I suspect they may at times be obscuring the difference between "What is true?" and "What can be proven to be true from first principles?" just a little bit.
I also had some problems with the last chapter. Their discussion of information theory and the formation of the first cell was too long-winded and short on details. They also relegated what appeared a strong counter-argument -- that primitive RNA may have been able to make use of evolution even before the cell was formed -- to part of a footnote, and then failed to answer it. Perhaps that's what you get when historians pronounce on topics that scientists are still picking over. Still, in that chapter they do give a healthy challenge to materialistic science: "Several decades of origin-of-life experiments have already revealed consistent trends. . . Today we can say quite definitely what atoms and molecules will do when left to themselves. . . and what they will not do is spontaneously organize themselves into the complex structures of life. . . The contemporary design argument does not rest on gaps in our knowledge but rather on the growth in our knowledge . . ." This may not be the final word, but it whets my appetite to continue following the discussion.
author, Jesus and the Religions of Man d.marshall@sun.ac.jp
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2002
This was a solid presentation of the history of Science in the context of the rest of human experience. It did an excellent job of refuting the positivist mythos that we grow up with in Science classes. It also was a good discussion of the origin and evolution of ideas, the metaphysical context of scientists, and the biases that we all bring to determining what is truth/what is verifiable in the world around us. The last chapter felt somewhat weaker, but I got the sense that it was because scientists in the topic addressed were still wrestling with the issues and no majority consensus on the concepts had yet been established. I highly recommend this for academics and laypeople alike. It was the first time that I ever saw the basic mathematical logic that brought Einstein to his theory of time dilation. It was so simple and obvious (rather than obscured by a sensationalized example like the Twin Paradox) and the explanation was straightforward. An excellent read; stick with it, it's worth it.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2003
This is a terrific book on the nature and history of science from a Christian perspective. Pearcey and Thaxton specifically reveal the myth present in much of modern science - that the objective, non-religious approach is the only reasonable way to conduct scientific study. They show how nearly all of the major scientists throughout history were actually motivated by Christian or other religious purposes, and that Christianity - not atheism - contains the appropriate presuppositions to support science. After this fascinating historical study, they highlight prominent aspects of modern science that have some serious philosophical problems - most notably, evolution. They wrap up with some explanations and critiques of non-Euclidean geometry, quantum theories, and others from a Christian perspective.

The book is a bit difficult to follow at some points due to the complicated jargon, but overall they do a stellar job making things clear. There are dozens of endnotes throughout, and they are usually relevant and interesting - it just gets annoying sometimes flipping back and forth between the notes at the end of the book and the actual text; notes at the bottom of each page are easier to use.
Good content, good readability: great buy.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2001
A truly scholarly and excellent work! A must have for any serious Christian and/or scientist who is interested in the role Christianity played in fostering the western/modern science. I like the chapter 1 in particular as it gives a well-organized, rational, consise and methodical account on the histroy of science. I agree with one reviewer, though, that this book might seem to be a little bit ponderous for some readers, but it is a must have so you can read it over and over as a good classical textbook. I am a Christian and I hold a Ph.D from Caltech in Electrical Engineering with minor studies in Applied Physics and I am becoming a lecturer in UC San Diego's ECE department next year. If I ever teach a class on the history of science in a university in the future (I am already doing some of that for my church's Sunday school class), this book will definitely be one of my textbook.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 1999
and perhaps to the surprise of most the predominantly metaphysical framework where it developed was Christian. The book traces the major schools of christianized thought, namely the neo-Platonian, the Aristotelian and the Mechanistic, through the history of science till today. The authors showed that the major controversies where more metaphysical in nature and origin than led to believe by (post-)modern secular education. In fact, the main motivation to do and develop science was, for many scientist, their Christian faith. Easy to read, including the chapter on relativity; full of great kernels of good knowledge. You won't be disappointed. It is also a good reference book.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Many books on Christianity and Science are rarely about both - either the scientist is weak on his theology or the theologian is weak on his science. This book is excellent in that the authors comprehend both (as far as my limited intellect can discern). This book gives a fascinating look at science and how Christianity has influenced it. It also seems much less strident about trying to "prove" Christianity - as if Christians are afraid of science and keep needing assurance in the matter. It gives an excellent perspective on how to understand science.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

An Easy-to-Understand Guide for Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds
An Easy-to-Understand Guide for Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds by Phillip E. Johnson (Paperback - August 7, 1997)
$13.29

 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations