Good Science and Religion Texts
April 15, 2008 — 11:53

Author: James Beebe  Category: Books of Interest Teaching  Comments: 16

I’m going to teach a course on Science and Religion in the fall for the first time. The course presupposes no (or very little) prior background in philosophy. I was amazed at the number of interesting books that resulted from a search on Amazon using the keywords ‘science’ and ‘religion.’ It’s hard to know where to begin to sort them out. If some of you could recommend texts on science and religion that you think are excellent, I would appreciate it.
James Beebe

  • Matt A.

    The Religion and Science class that I am in now uses Ian G. Barbour’s “Religion and Science: Historical and Contemporary Issues”. It might be a starting point.

    April 15, 2008 — 12:34
  • if you’re looking for something with a very in-depth look at the cognitive science of belief, “Why God Won’t Go Away” by Andrew Newberg, Eugene D’Aquili and Vince Rause is a great book. it’s more of a science piece, but not overly technical and definitely would serve as a good backdrop for discussions about the relationship between belief and epistemological concepts.

    April 15, 2008 — 13:03
  • Jonathan

    Do you want philosophy, theology, or both? Your title suggests theology or both, while your statement notes only philosophy.
    Another question – is the course going to explore the works of scientists ABOUT religion, the intersection of philosophic and religious thought and scientific thought (similarities and differences), the intrusion of science into philosophy and theology (scientism)…or?
    Some recommendations:
    1. Works by Fr. Michael Heller – example here from his Templeton Prize discussion –
    2. Anything by other Templeton Prize winners –
    3. C.S. Lewis’s work Miracles, and this work on Lewis’s book –
    4. Roger Scruton’s book – An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Philosophy –
    5. Alastair McGrath – Science & Religion: An Introduction –
    And of course, one should consult various ancient Greek mathematicians and scientists, since they considered those topics as variations on philosophy (as did, following, the medieval Scholastics).

    April 15, 2008 — 14:01
  • Aurelius

    I have found the following helpful:
    (1) McGrath, Alister E. _The Foundations of Dialogue in Science and Religion_. Malden: Blackwell Pub., 1999. An excellent general reference that surveys the relationship b/t religion and science using Xianity as a case study.
    (2) McGrath, Alister E. _A Scientific Theology_ 3 vol. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2001-3. A sustained argument that tries to establish the natural sciences as an ancilla theologiae.
    (3) Susskind, Leonard. _The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design_. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 2005. Argues that there is a Darwinian-like mechanism that produces universes conducive to life (like ours) and that this provides a naturalistic account for the apparent design of our universe and, thus, there is no need for an intelligent designer. This is geared more toward a critique of the teleological argument, but provides insight into how new scientific theories relate to theology.
    And, of course, there are the classics by Ian Barbour (_Religion in an Age of Science_), Stephen Jay Gould (_Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life_), and Nancy Murphy (_Theology in the Age of Scientific Reasoning_).

    April 15, 2008 — 14:15
  • I’d second Alistair McGrath’s really nicely written book, Science & Religion: An Introduction.

    April 15, 2008 — 14:26
  • Raymond W. Aldred

    I’d say “The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science” edited by Philip Clayton and Zachary Simpson, is one of the best and most complete compiled work on the subject, but it’s also the priciest at $180.
    Philip Clayton wrote a very good book that has come to be a standard approach to the subject called “God and Contemporary Science”.
    J.C. Polkinghorne makes several good contributions to the subject so “Science and Theology: An Introduction” might be a good introduction.
    Also, i’m told, Ian G. Barbour’s “When Science Meets Religion” is good as well.

    April 15, 2008 — 16:44
  • Matthew Mullins

    Out of curiosity, what is it that distinguishes a course on “Science & Religion” form one on “Faith & Rationality”? It might seem that much of what gets discussed under one heading might be discussed under the other as well.

    April 16, 2008 — 11:46
  • Vlastimil

    Plantinga’s SEP entry is good:
    But I’d recommend L. McGrew’s as a counterbalance to §4 of the entry.

    April 17, 2008 — 6:21
  • I would highly suggest the works of Rev. John Polkinghorne. He is a Cambridge particle physicist who was also an Anglican parish priest. He has written extensively on the intersection of religion and science and most of his work, in my experience, is straightforward and very manageable. He also won the Templeton Prize in 2002. His website is: and you can also learn more about him on his Wikipedia page.

    April 17, 2008 — 8:37
  • Thanks to everyone for the suggestions offered so far. Let me answer a few questions of clarification. The course will be taught in a philosophy department as a low-level undergraduates course.
    Matt, I think a course on Faith and Rationality would bring in many issues from epistemology that a course on Science and Religion would not. I would have to talk about the nature of rationality in general, various sources of justified belief, proofs for the existence of God, etc. Such a course would typically only focus a little bit about the relationship between science and religion. I want a course that is all about the latter.
    There are a lot of ways I could go with this course. Here’s one plan I’m thinking about:
    Part I: Cosmology and the Cosmological Argument
    Part II: Evolution and Intelligent Design
    Part III: Explanations of Religious Belief from Cognitive Science
    This plan probably does not fit the typical layout for a course on Science and Religion, but it seems to be something worth thinking about.
    Please let me know if anyone has any further suggestions on texts for a more standard Science and Religion course or suggestions for the alternative layout described above.

    April 17, 2008 — 9:56
  • Michael S.

    Al Plantinga has a number of articles in this neighborhood, many of which appear in edited volumes, and some of which can be found online for free. Two of the more accessible pieces:
    “When Faith and Reason Clash” [Free]
    “Divine Action in the World” [JSTOR]
    Ratio. XIX 4 Dec 2006

    April 17, 2008 — 19:03
  • Enigman

    The following are introductory, for Part II:
    Lewens, T. [2007]: Darwin. London: Routledge.
    Sarkar, S. [2007]: Doubting Darwin. London: Blackwell.

    April 19, 2008 — 17:39
  • Jonathan

    BTW, if you get a chance, for some reason the comments / permalink for your latest posting on computer thought seem to be broken / down…

    April 19, 2008 — 19:49
  • Joshua Thurow

    Hi James,
    I just noticed what looks to be a nice set of papers that overlap substantially with the subjects for your class. They are called the Faraday papers and are sponsored by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. The following website contains the papers:
    I haven’t read these, so I don’t know if they are at the appropriate level, but they are probably worth examining.

    April 28, 2008 — 21:37
  • James Beebe

    Thanks for recommending the Faraday Papers. They look like wonderful resources for the course I will be teaching. Also, congratulations on the Young Philosophers Lectures and your new job. I hope the lectures went well.

    April 29, 2008 — 12:21