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Science & Religion: Behind the Ham-Nye Rye Sandwich

Roger Jones

Artur Rosman - published on 02/09/14

If you want real dialogue, here’s something for you to snack on…

Don’t let yourself be sandwiched between Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Their debate was a circus sideshow rather than a real debate about where the dialogue between science and religion stands.

Getting involved in the false dichotomies set up by these second rate minds is like being sandwiched between Hitler and Stalin: unenviable. It’s like being stuck in Poland during the 20th century, that is, inhabiting the worst piece of real estate around.

The debate was a symptom of the homonym problem which usually haunts most science versus religion debates. That’s why it wasn’t a real dialogue. Let me explain. These debates are mostly the doings of two fringe groups talking past each other using the same words (“science” and “religion”), but intending distinctly different meanings with these words. The debate, if there really is one, needs more definition and a lot more maturity.

What follows is a list of books and their publisher blurbs that answer a friend’s question about why there isn’t more creative scientific and philosophical work being done by religious people. The answer is, “There’s plenty, if you want to hit the books.”

Hopefully, my categories are self-explanatory: Cosmology, Evolution, Medicine, Epistemology, Cultural Ramifications, and Literature.

If this isn’t enough there are several books (by Larry ChappConor Cunningham, and Michael J. Buckley) in a previous Top 10 that ought to be on this list. I ran out of space and time and didn’t want to repeat myself.

If you want real dialogue, here’s something for you to snack on…


Cosmology

Karsten Harries,Infinity and Perspective

“Much postmodern rhetoric, suggests Karsten Harries, can be understood as a symptom of our civilization’s discontent, born of regret that we are no longer able to experience our world as a cosmos that assigns us our place. But dissatisfaction with the modern world may also spring from a conviction that modernism has failed to confront the challenge of an inevitably open future. Such conviction has frequently led to a critique of modernity’s founding heroes. Challenging that critique, Harries insists that modernity is supported by nothing other than human freedom.But more important to Harries is to show how modernist self-assertion is shadowed by nihilism and what it might mean to step out of that shadow. Looking at a small number of medieval and Renaissance texts, as well as some paintings, he uncovers the threshold that separates the modern from the premodern world. At the same time, he illuminates that other, more questionable threshold, between the modern and the postmodern.Two spirits preside over the book: Alberti, the Renaissance author on art and architecture, whose passionate interest in perspective and point of view offers a key to modernity; and Nicolaus Cusanus, the fifteenth-century cardinal, whose work shows that such interest cannot be divorced from speculations on the infinity of God. The title Infinity and Perspective connects the two to each other and to the shape of modernity.”

George V. Coyne SJ, Wayfarers in the Cosmos

“With the embarrassing Galileo condemnation far, far behind them, the time is ripe for a book by Vatican officials about how the Official Church sees the staggering developments in modern astronomy. Coyne and Omizzolo take readers through the history of human understandings of heavens to arrive at a deep understanding of what many secular physicists are themselves saying about the cosmos: that a loving Creator stands behind it all.”

Fr. Michael Heller, Creative Tension: Essays on Science and Religion

“The voice of a renowned professor of philosophy in Poland, who is also a Roman Catholic priest, is introduced to the United States in this collection of his provocative essays on the interplay of science and religion. Michael Heller progressively outlines systematic steps that might lead to a peaceful coexistence of these traditionally separate fields of study. Some essays have their roots in the author’s work in physics and cosmology, while others present his theories on the language of God, creation, and transcendence, inspired by his work in the applications of so-called noncommutative geometry, an emerging field of study.”

Robert J. Spitzer, New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy

“With the incredible popularity of recent books championing agnosticism or atheism, many people might never know that such books almost completely ignore the considerable evidence for theism uncovered in both physics and philosophy over the past four decades. New Proofs for the Existence of God responds to these glaring omissions. From universal space-time asymmetry to cosmic coincidences to the intelligibility of reality, Robert Spitzer tackles a wealth of evidence. He considers string theory, quantum cosmology, mathematical thoughts on infinity, and much more. This fascinating and stunning collection of evidence provides solid grounding for reasonable and responsible belief in a super-intelligent, transcendent, creative power standing at the origins of our universe.”

Arthur Peacocke & Philip Clayton (eds.), In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World

“Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the doctrine of panentheism – the belief that the world is contained within the Divine, although God is also more than the world. Here for the first time leading scientists and theologians meet to debate the merits of this compelling new understanding of the God-world relation. Atheist and theist, Eastern and Western, conservative and liberal, modern and postmodern, physicist and biologist, Orthodox and Protestant – the authors explore the tensions between traditional views of God and contemporary science and ask whether panentheism provides a more credible account of divine action for our age. Their responses, which vary from deeply appreciative to sharply critical, are preceded by an overview of the history and key tenets of panentheism and followed by a concluding evaluation and synthesis.”

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