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Science and Religion by Paul Kurtz

Science and Religion (1931)

by Paul Kurtz (Editor)

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A number of the essays included in this volume were taken from lectures given at a conference held by the Center for Inquiry, a skeptics' organization, and many of the rest were originally published The Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This is not, by and large, a crowd that's particularly well-disposed towards religion, so it's probably not much of a surprise that most of these pieces, if they really address the question in the book's title at all, seem to conclude that the answer is that no, they're not compatible, and that science is (or should be) the clear winner in the conflict between them. There are, however, a few token entries by religious believers from both in and outside the skeptical community, as well as contributions from those who maintain that religion begins where science's ability to answer the very biggest questions ends, or that science and religion are (or should be) completely separate domains, one dealing with facts and one with morality.

It's a mixed bag of a collection. There are a number of articles -- mostly, I think, the ones that really grapple with the big philosophical issues -- that are eloquent, profound, provocative, and very much worth reading. Others, however, are disappointingly superficial. A number seem to be mostly variations on fairly standard arguments in favor of atheism, some of which take a rather dismissive tone about the whole thing. Many don't deal with the big-picture questions at all, but instead focus on some specific factual claim made by religious believers, often a small subset of religious believers, and whether it can be proved or disproved by science. (There is, for example, an entire section on Intelligent Design creationism.) And while those topics are no doubt worth talking about, I have to say that when I picked this book up, I wasn't exactly hoping for yet another creationism debate or a discussion about the Shroud of Turin. Also somewhat disappointing -- although in retrospect it probably shouldn't have been a surprise -- is the way that so much of it focuses so narrowly on Christianity. There seems to be to be something a little off about the idea of a book purporting to be about "science and religion" that barely acknowledges that non-Western religions even exist.

Rating: It's very hard to rate this one. The best stuff in it is very good indeed, but largish chunks of it really were just not at all what I was hoping for. I think I'm going to give it a slightly stingy 3.5/5. ( )
2 vote bragan | Apr 5, 2014 |
The author does a good job of describing the controversies between science and religion, but is too quick to dismiss the reality of the disputes, and the difficulty of resolving them. Adopting standard accomodationist rhetoric, he takes the position of NOMA, but his arguments are unconvincing. ( )
  Devil_llama | Apr 17, 2011 |
Different authors takes on how science and religion conflict with each other. An in depth look on different scientific studies that show evidence that life as we know it evolved without any help from a spiritual entity or God. A look into bettering ourselves without religious influence on man. ( )
  vibrantminds | May 1, 2010 |
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New Scientist review: Every possible argument about this question seems to be there. Stimulating & possibly subversive to some.

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