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Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion Paperback – April 4, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. According to the physicist-priest Polkinghorne, "If the physicists seem to achieve their ends more successfully than the theologians, that is simply a reflection of how much easier science is than theology." Without abandoning his general standpoint as both a scientist and a theologian, Polkinghorne's essays pursue a wider set of interests, acknowledging terrain where theology becomes difficult and uncertain work. Reflections on issues of space-time, quantum mechanics and chaos theory—familiar from Polkinghorne's previous books—are joined by essays on human nature, the problem of evil, the historical Jesus and the relationship between Christianity and other faiths. Polkinghorne's basic approach remains consistent: he is a friend of science, but a foe of scientific reductionism, arguing that "nothing [science] can tell us requires us to deny our directly experienced human capacity" to act responsibly and seek meaning in the universe. Surveying human aptitudes for self-consciousness, language, rationality, creativity, moral awareness and the "slantedness" of human life that theologians call sin, Polkinghorne concludes, "how strange it is that many biologists... claim not to be able so see anything really distinctive about Homo sapiens." Balancing intellectual modesty with openness about his own Christian faith, Polkinghorne's reflections will engage both thoughtful believers and inquirers into issues of faith and reason. (Nov. 29)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Booklist

In the latest of his ongoing reflections on the connections between faith and science, Polkinghorne ponders the limits of an empirical approach to reality, persuasively arguing that human experience comes fully into focus only in religious belief. Thus, readers contemplate distinctively human attributes--language, self-consciousness, morality, spirituality--that resist neo-Darwinian explanations yet harmonize with scriptural doctrines about the divine image impressed upon our species. Probing further, Polkinghorne illuminates the human need for hope that transcends the grim cosmic predictions of astrophysics. He finds that hope in the resurrection of Jesus, but he concedes that neither science nor religion can yet resolve the doctrinal disagreements separating Christianity from other world faiths. But the shared metaphysics that already leads Moslems, Jews, and Christians toward similar scientific perspectives emboldens him to believe that patient interfaith dialogue will in time unite now-divided religionists as they confront the challenges of twenty-first-century bioethics. A book to stimulate the thinking of skeptics and believers alike. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (April 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300122675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300122671
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,115,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wolvie05 VINE VOICE on June 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
John Polkinghorne is one of the most gifted and eloquent writers in the science-and-theology field, and this is by far the best introduction to his thought in general. Though much of it is familiar from previous works, here he weaves together a consistent, spiritually and intellectually satisfying approach to reality as a whole. It touches on all the bases, including the challenge of evolution, the historicity of Jesus' life and resurrection, theology, the problem of evil, God's action, etc. Polkinghorne carefully balances his commitment to orthodox Christian belief (esp. the literal resurrection of Jesus) with the need to revisit articles of faith in light of new knowledge (such as belief in an immortal soul). The chapter on human nature is especially illuminating, while the 'concluding unscientific postscript' is a delightful romp in metaphysical speculation. The second chapter is perhaps the weakest, in which Polkinghorne tries once more to flesh out his approach to divine action through quantum mechanics and chaos theory, which I find less than convincing. It is best, I think to let divine action be divine action, the one blazing, invisible mystery like the sun through which we see and understand everything else. In any case, the book as a whole is a delight, combining rigorous scholarship with earnest faith seeking understanding. A must read.
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Format: Paperback
I've read several of Polkinghorne's books and I don't think that this one is particularly outstanding. But he doesn't avoid the topic's toughest problems, in fact he has sought them out and proceeds to make most of his points cleanly; so it's not a bad book either.

Polkinghorne should be no stranger to those interested in the interface of science and religion. [For the reader who is unfamiliar with him] he is a Cambridge quantum physicist turned Anglican cleric and has published extensively on issues of interest in both theoretical physics and theology. These are his topics again, with a chapter on ethics as well. . .

"It has turned out that it is our mathematical abilities that have furnished the key to unlock deep secrets of the physical universe. Once more one encounters a mystery impenetrable to conventional evolutionary thinking. Survival needs would seem to require no more than a little arithmetic, some elementary Euclidean geometry, and the ability to make certain kinds of simple logical association. Whence then comes the human ability to explore non-commutative algebras, prove Format's Last Theorem, and discover the Mandelbrot set? These rational feats go far beyond anything susceptible to Darwinian explanation. p52

"Sociobiology seeks to explain human ethical intuitions in terms of inherited patterns of behaviour favouring the propagation of at least some of an individual's genes. Once again, one may acknowledge a source of partial insight. No doubt ideas of kin altruism (the mutual support extended between those who share in the family gene pool) and reciprocal altruism (favours done in the expectation of favours later to be received) shed some Darwinian light on aspects of human behaviour.
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Format: Hardcover
Reality: is anyone as well equipped to tackle such an all-'encompassing subject as John Polkinghorne? Following a 25 year run as an accomplished particle physicist, Polkinghorne studied theology and became a priest in the Church of England. A result of this somewhat unique bi-vocational career is that Polkinghorne has become perhaps the most prolific writer on the intersection of faith and science. In Exploring Reality, Polkinghorne alternates between physical and metaphysical approaches to his subject matter. In this interweaving of hard science with the "softer" realms of theology, Polkinghorne has given us an engaging introduction to his view of reality.'' Regular readers of Polkinghorne will find familiar discussions of subjects like quantum mechanics, relativity, evolution, and how these speak to questions of ultimate reality. For me, however, the value of the book was in Polkinghorne's forays into such subjects as the Trinity, evil, the historical Jesus and the nature of time.''

In the chapter titled "Evil", Polkinghorne summarizes his "free process theology" approach to the problem of evil (page 144): "A theologian would say that what is involved in the occurring costliness of creation is the divine permissive will, allowing creatures to behave in accordance with their natures. Bringing the world into being was a kenotic act of self-limitation on the Creator's part, so that not all that happens does so under tight divine control. The gift of Love in allowing the genuinely other to be is necessarily a precarious gift. I believe that God wills neither the act of a murderer nor the incidence of an earthquake, but both are allowed to happen in a creation given its creaturely freedom.
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John Polkinghorne does it again. We benefit from his scientific knowledge and see that coupled to Christian faith in a unique manner. THis book is something you ought to read, whether you are a believer or not.
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