HOW does God, as creator, interact with this rich and complex
world - a world that can now be described and explained by science
with such apparent clarity? This has become a critical question for
The relationship between science and religion is bedevilled with
myths, in particular the "conflict myth". A new brand of militant
atheism would have us believe that religion has always opposed
developments in science, preferring ignorance and superstition to
enlightenment and truth. Gillian Straine reminds us that many of
the greatest names in the history of science, such as Galileo,
Newton, Boyle, or Descartes, were driven by theology to
investigate, understand, and interpret the world for their
The author, trained as a physicist and now a priest, helps the
reader to see the noisy polemic used by both militant atheists and
religious fundamentalists for what it is: in each case, a one-sided
misunderstanding of the other, shouted in the echo chamber of a
closed mind. She writes clearly, with informed authority, for the
The negative "conflict" myth is traced back to the 19th-century
writings of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, with a
surprising minor contribution by Washington Irving, author of "Rip
Van Winkle"! Straine then uses a three-part framework, suggested by
the theologian Ian Barbour, to examine the various ways in which
the realms of science and theology can relate in positive rather
than antagonistic ways.
The least demanding of these is the one of mutual
independence: each realm politely recognising the other as
a different way of talking about the world, but with no overlap of
language. The great science writer Stephen Jay Gould espoused this
view; mutual respect but with the distinct warning "Don't stray
into my realm."
The second way recognises that there can be a useful dialogue
between science and religion, while the third goes further, aiming
for complete integration, creating a coherent world-view in which
science and religion work together to describe this dynamic
evolving creation as the theatre for the spiritual growth of
mankind. The author then uses these three approaches to explore
four hot topics: cosmology and the Big Bang; Darwinian evolution;
quantum mechanics; and finally the emergence of consciousness and
It is in the emergence of human consciousness, the "final
frontier of science", that we confront what is arguably the most
fruitful subject for the thorough integration of science and
religion. For this to be successful, theology needs to be able to
handle the difficult topics of chance, suffering, and uncertainty
in an emerging evolving process.
DAVID FERGUSSON, in his concise work Creation, focuses on
the history of theological questions about the relationship between
God and creation.
He begins with early church debates about whether the material
universe is eternal (a Greek notion) or created ex nihilo
by the divine will. By the second century, it became a matter of
orthodoxy to believe that the world was created out of nothing. We,
along with all the stars and galaxies, are totally dependent for
our day-to-day existence upon God, who both creates and
Fergusson believes that "The created world is integral to who we
are and how we live with our companions." A theology of creation
has to do with more than just "how things got started", but
concerns the nature of God and our identity as human creatures. It
is a branch of theology which has begun to emerge from the shadows
in recent times because of our growing awareness of the fragility
of planet Earth, its ecosystem, and the damage being caused by the
expanding human population.
We urgently need a strong theology of nature, recognising that
God's act of creation is a work in progress in which we have a part
to play - a part that has to be seen in terms of pastoral care
rather than dominion or control.
Creation also contains a useful annotated bibliography,
giving thumbnail sketches of more than 100 works of contemporary
theology which explore our relationship with God and the
TIMOTHY WILKINSON's Tetralogue: I'm right you're wrong is
a very different sort of book concerned with truth. Some of the
best works of philosophy since the days of Socrates have been cast
in the form of a dialogue; here we have an entertaining encounter
on a train between four opinionated passengers.
They begin by discussing claims for truth in witchcraft and
science and quickly segue into the escapist position of relativism.
Tempers rise, and the reader is hooked.
This small volume would make a great present.