Has Science Killed God? Faraday Papers on Science and Religion
edited by Denis Alexander (SPCK, £19.99)
This is a truly amazing book. Written by a team of eminent scientists, who are also believers in the reality of the spiritual, it provides a great deal of comfort to people of faith who feel assailed by the arguments of materialists.
In this context, it is always important to remember that atheism, however skillfully presented, is a belief system – many of whose tenets are at least as questionable as those of people of faith.
Twenty chapters by 17 authors explore different aspects of the nature of the material universe and its spiritual creator or guiding force. They are papers from the Cambridge-based Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. The name of the Institute commemorates the work and beliefs of Michael Faraday, one of the greatest scientific innovators and communicators of all time – and a sincere traditional Christian believer.
Founded in 2006, one of the Institute’s earliest initiatives, under the guidance of David Alexander who edited this book, was to generate a series of four-page papers written by experts in the science and religion field.
Although the authors had all distinguished themselves at the top levels in specialised fields of science, their brief was to write papers for a wide readership – many of whom would know nothing of science. At the same time the papers were to be of the highest academic standards and provided with reference lists.
These papers were published at intervals and this book is the first collection of them to appear. Each one, in the short space allotted, gives a concise account of the science involved together with the author’s conclusions on the likelihood that, besides the wonders of the material universe that they describe, there exists a creative, controlling and extremely complex spiritual force.
Christians by and large believe that this is expressed in the form of the Trinity with its scriptural basis.
Many books have addressed these topics, increasing in numbers in the course of the past two or three decades. Indeed, most of the authors of these 20 papers have published one or more of such books. They include the Editor’s Genes, determination and God, John Polkinghorne’s Science and Theology and Alister McGrath’s Dawkins’ God: Genes, memes and the meaning of life.
There are chapters on the birth and development of the universe, on the need to care for our own earthly environment, on the origins of life and so on. Effectively most of the details would be far beyond the comprehension of us ordinary mortals. Relatively few have the mathematical abilities or scientific insight to come fully to terms with the matters involved.
Nevertheless, those amongst the few, who have great skills in communication, are capable of writing meaningful summaries of the essentials of these immense topics. And that is what makes this book so exceptional. It is very readable and as easy to understand as anything of this magnitude can ever be.
The shortness of the chapters ensures that every reader can at the same time both grasp the outline and marvel at the complexity of the facts – and then put the book aside for a while without interrupting the flow.
A most valuable addition to each chapter is a reference list, again short, but clearly indicating sources for those who have the time, energy and understanding to pursue the topics in greater depth.
This is a book to read once for immediate spiritual and intellectual revelation – and to come back to again and again.