Robert Pollack, a molecular biologist at Columbia University, once faced a tough choice: Should he attend a department meeting scheduled for Rosh Hashanah? He decided not to, and fired off a note to his colleagues: "No, I'll be celebrating the 5,758th anniversary of the creation of the universe that day, and can not be at the meeting." To Pollack's chagrin, his rabbi later reminded him that Rosh Hashanah is really the anniversary of the sixth day of creation-not the creation of the universe per se, but the appearance of human beings in the world.

With this mistaken reading of Genesis began Pollack's exploration of the difficult relationship between natural selection and religion, two different explanations of the creation of humanity--a contrast between an approach to the world which treats it as an object of study and rational deliberation, and one which considers it in terms of wonder.

Tales about the travails of being faithful in academe comprise only a small part of the book; most of it deals with the philosophical quandaries involved in being a man of science and one of faith at the same time. Pollack is at his most beautiful and convincing in his description of medical practice, the way the most mundane work of the doctor touches ultimately on the divine.

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