When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, Or Partners?
By Ian Barbour
HarperSanFrancisco, 192 pages
Books on the often uneasy relationship between religion and science have tripled during recent years, offering a bewildering array of perspectives. Scientists have offered thoughts on religious questions, while religionists, such as the prolific Ken Wilbur, have dabbled (mostly unsuccessfully) in science. To date, only John Polkinghorne's elegant "Belief in God in an Age of Science" has been able to elucidate the religion-and-science territory adequately, probably because Polkinghorne is both an internationally renowned theoretical physicist and an ordained priest.
Like Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour boasts bona fide credentials in both fields, and was the 1999 recipient of the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Barbour's latest book demonstrates both the depth of his expertise and his ability to present complex ideas in digestible formats (no doubt honed during years of teaching undergraduates at Carleton College). "When Science Meets Religion" is short and to the point, making it perfect introductory material for general readers or students.
Barbour uses four models to explain how science and religion interact: conflict (what happens when just one religious or scientific theory is tenaciously propounded), independence (the total separation of religion and science), dialogue, and integration (Barbour's own position). He tackles five scientific issues, closely examining the theological ramifications of the Big Bang theory, quantum physics and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, evolution, genetics, and God's role in nature. Concerning genetics, for example, Barbour discusses the tricky theological implications of how much human freedom can be found within the confines of genetic inheritance. Throughout, the book is evenhanded, informed, and compelling, standing alongside Polkinghorne's outstanding 1998 title as a must-read introduction to the intersections of science and religion.