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When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? Paperback – May 16, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (May 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006060381X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060603816
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

We're closing in on the 150th anniversary of Darwin's Origin of Species, but clearly not closing in on any resolution of the debates that the book stirred up between science and religion. In this slim volume, physicist and theologian Ian Barbour summarizes his own decades-long accumulation of knowledge in these two arenas. Writing with clarity and a scientist's eye for organization, Barbour takes on the scientific and theological significance of the big questions: the big bang, quantum physics, Darwin and Genesis, human nature (the question of determinism), and the relationship between a free God and a law-bound universe. In each chapter, Barbour recognizes four possible ways of responding to the dilemmas posed by these topics: conflict, represented by Biblical literalists and atheists, both of whom agree that a person cannot believe in both God and evolution; independence, which asserts that "science and religion are strangers who can coexist as long as they keep a safe distance from each other"; dialogue, which invites a conversation between the two fields; and integration, which moves beyond dialogue to explore ways in which the two fields can inform each other. Barbour notes that his own sympathies lie with dialogue and integration.

Barbour won the 1999 Templeton Prize for his role in advancing the study of science and religion. "No contemporary has made a more original, deep, and lasting contribution toward the needed integration of scientific and religious knowledge and values," John Cobb has written of Barbour. This book is perhaps the best entry point into Barbour's work. --Doug Thorpe

From Publishers Weekly

This concise introduction to science-and-religion issues provides impressively well-balanced coverage of an increasingly complex family of topics in a single, accessible volume. As one of the better-known authors in the field, even prior to winning the 1999 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Barbour has shown an almost unique ability to coax a "field" out of an unruly bunch of theologians, philosophers and scientists whose arguments often resist summary and synthesis. But this is exactly Barbour's goal as he guides readers through a four-fold typology of the science/religion relationshipDConflict, Independence, Dialogue and IntegrationDthat will be familiar to readers of his Religion in an Age of Science. Barbour's own sympathies are markedly on the side of dialogue and integration, but he makes an unusually successful effort to represent other perspectives in a fair light. Although the book's overall focus is on questions of method, it also manages to introduce readers to most of the topics of current science/religion dialogues. These include four areas based in the religious implications of specific sciences (cosmology, quantum theory, biological evolution and the sciences of "human nature") as well as the more general question of the relationship between God and nature. Barbour navigates with confidence through what has become a very wide literature, balancing coverage of essential "classical" sources (from Augustine to Kuhn) with the background necessary for reading more recent contributions to the field. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Frank Paris on August 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
To my mind, Ian Barbour writes more clearly about the relationship between Christianity and science than any other published author I'm acquainted with. He is fully aware that Christianity is not the only path to God and salvation, but he is most comfortable talking within the framework of his own Christian background, so this book is really about the relationship between Christianity and science, not religion in general and science. But that is okay, because he allows that other religious traditions can also be paths to God. It's just that to give the book more focus and relevance to its English-speaking audience, he discusses the Christian encounter with science. Barbour presents a remarkably well thought out survey of this topic, always making it clear where he personally stands on the issues, and why.
Barbour treats his subject matter in two-dimensional matrix format, with one axis portraying the degrees of cooperation between science and religion and the other axis the various branches of science. Barbour identifies four fundamental ways in which his topic is treated by interested parties. These are Conflict, Independence, Dialog, and Integration. He then outlines the major positions in each of these categories across the major branches of science: astronomy, particle physics, evolution by natural selection, neuroscience, and finally the natural world in general (as described by science).
Biblical literalists and scientific materialists are in irreconcilable conflict on the issues of science and religion. Barbour thinks we can do much better than that, and makes quick work of both sides of the issues dealt with at the Conflict level. Neither is Barbour much impressed by the next level, Independence.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Dave Kinnear on August 12, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Science Meets Religion is the winner of the Templeton Prize for advancing religious understanding. As a humanist, this topic is always of interest to me, and I found Barbour's view on process theology most interesting. The typology of the book was such that four "topics" were discussed in each chapter with respect to the "view" being discussed: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration. So, for instance Astronomy and Creation are "analyzed" from those four points, as are the other major sticking points between science and religion.
Barbour seems to treat each position with respect and objectivity and clearly states his own position so that the reader is not required to "guess" where he is coming from in his own thinking. For example, in chapter five (Genet6ics, Neuroscience, and Human Nature) Barbour states clearly the "I will defend an integral view of the person as a psychosomatic unity, which I believe is closer to both the biblical view and the evidence from contemporary science." And so it goes through all the major topics of the book. And, in the next to the last paragraph, we have this conclusion: "Finally, I find the concepts of process philosophy particularly helpful, but I am aware that a single coherent set of philosophical categories may not do justice to the rich diversity of human experience."
In the end, Barbour has not convinced me to leave off my Humanist views, but he has indeed given me the framework I need to understand the need for others to use a religious model to express their sense of unity with all the Cosmos. As he so eloquently explains, all models are limited and partial, and none gives a complete or adequate picture of reality.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Howard Taylor on September 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ian Barbour is a major contributor to the fast growing subject of Science and Religion in Interface. (He tells us that in the 1990s 211 books per year were published on the subject.) Recently he was a winner of the prestigious Templeton Prize for progress in Religion. (Tom Torrance was the first to win the prize) This is one of Barbour's smaller books which is meant to give an overview of the various beliefs, discussions and arguments that are most important for the subject. However a new comer to the subject would be advised first to read a simpler introduction such as John Polkinghorne's `Quarks, Chaos and Christianity', and then turn to books such as this.
What is it all about?
For millennia philosophers and theologians have attempted to address such questions as:
1. Is the universe eternal or did it begin?
2. Does the rational structure of the universe mean it must be the product of a great Mind?
3. Is there any purpose to human existence?
4. What is life and how has it developed?
5. Can the experiences of consciousness and self-awareness be reduced to the properties of the brain or do they imply the existence of a soul?
It is in the latter part of the 20th Century that some scientists have tried to get to grips with these most fundamental of fundamental questions. The discussion continues in the 21st Century and hence the increasing interest in the subject.
Ian Barbour is well known for his four models of the science-religion relationship namely:
¨ Conflict (Galileo, Darwin, Dawkins, Young Earth Creationism etc)
¨ Independence (Stephen Jay Gold: they both address genuine issues but there is no overlap between them).
¨ Dialogue (science raises questions that it can't answer - questions that religions usually address).
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