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The Big Questions in Science and Religion

Templeton Foundation Press
$24.95 RRP

Review 1.

At a time when Professor Richard Dawkins, (The God Delusion) seems to have been doing his best to perpetuate the myth of conflict between Science and religion, it is wonderful to find a someone with credentials as impressive as Keith Ward’s willing to tackle ‘the big questions’ facing both science and religion with clarity and accessibility.
Far from seeing a conflict between science and religion, Keith Ward seeks to explore the big questions such as “How Did the Universe Begin?”, “Do the Laws of Nature Exclude Miracles?”, “Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete?” and many more, drawing insights from both science and religion. (Not just Christianity)
Keith Ward has sought to make this book accessible to those who are not professionals in either fields of research. While I found I was stretched to appreciate some of the subtleties of the arguments presented, I don’t think that the author could have made the content simpler without being simplistic or superficial. I also found that it a book that didn’t need to read from cover to cover. Each chapter was reasonably self-contained, so I was able to pursue the issues according to my interest and allow myself space to reflect upon each question before tackling another.
I think that this book will be appreciated by those with some knowledge of theology and scientific thought and who are serious about tackling important issues that face our world. Most readers will find themselves having to reflect deeply on some cherished ideas and prejudices, but will be enriched if they are willing to persevere. I think that it is a book I will return to regularly.
Reviewed by Rev. Bruce Johnson, Broadwater Road Uniting Church

Review 2

Issues related to science and religion have been very much in the public eye of late. Supporters of the recent Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill often gave the impression that their primary opposition came from religious reactionaries determined to hinder the progress of science. Richard Dawkins and his disciples have similarly preached the incompatibility of science and religion. Across the Atlantic, our American cousins have engaged in court battles (as they are wont to do) about whether “Intelligent Design” is more properly science or religion. Much of this discussion, regrettably, has reinforced the common misconception that religion and science are natural enemies.

It is refreshing in this context to read a book that offers a considered and constructive view of contemporary science-religion relations. As the title suggests, this book is organized around ten ‘big questions’, and it unflinchingly tackles such topics as whether the universe has a purpose; whether the messiness of the evolutionary process is consistent with the goodness of God; whether free choice is consistent with scientific accounts of causation; whether science leaves room for the human soul.

Few authors are better equipped to deal with these questions than Keith Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford. Ward has long been interested in these issues, and is exceptionally well informed on scientific matters. His writing is characterized by theological sensitivity combined with philosophical competence and clarity. A distinctive feature of the approach taken in this book is the inclusion of a range of religious traditions. This broadens its scope beyond the more usual discussions of Christianity and science.

In short, although challenging in places, this is an engaging, insightful and readable book which provides an excellent introduction to some deep and important questions.

Peter Harrison, Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford