Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

Darwin's Black Box: A Must Read

Let me first say that science would not exist unless it where for Christianity.  In the history of Western Civilization, one has to ask themselves, ‘the Greeks were really really smart, why didn’t they invent the scientific method?’  The answer is simple, following Platonic and Neo-Platonic thinking, they did not think this world was real or intelligible.  It was not until Christianity presented a world created, ordered, and directed by a sovereign and benevolent triune God that the scientific method sprouted.  The consensus view in the history/philosophy of science is that science required the fertile soul of Christianity in order to grow.  Christianity took this world seriously.

1.  Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe  [l, e, p, s]

In my view, this book destroys the Neo-Darwinian (scientific rationalism) story of how life exists.  This book is a must read.  See also this previous blog post.

2.  Pensees by Blaise Pascal  [y, l, e, p, s]

Although not explicitly about science and Christianity, Pascal presents an epistemology that includes science, reason, and faith.

3.  Personal Knowledge by Michael Polanyi  [e, p, s]

Polanyi rightly challenges the objectivity and impersonality of the scientist.  Polanyi is very important in philosophy of science and is a worthwhile read.

4.  When Science Meets Religion by Ian Barbour  [l, e, p, s]

Barbour presents four possible relationships that science and religion might have.  Balanced read.

5.  The Soul of Science:  Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton  [l, e, p, s]

Great critique of naturalism.  Pearcey is solid as usual.

6.  Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson  [y, l, e, p, s]

Is there enough hard evidence to prove Darwinism correct, were it to be put on a public trial?  Creative and damning question.

7.  The Edge of Evolution:  The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe  [l, e, p, s]

More Behe.  Good stuff.

8.  Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton  [l, e, p, s]

Most think that this is the book that started the Intelligent Design movement.

9.  The Reason for God by Tim Keller  [c,y l, e, p, s]

Although not explicitly on the subject of science, like Pascal, Keller presents a third way between pure science/reason and pure faith.

10a.   The Language of God by Francis Collins  [l, e, p, s]

A look at DNA, from the director of the human genome project, and an evangelical Christian.

10b.  Inventing the Flat Earth:  Columbus and Modern Historian by Jeffrey Russell  [l, e, p, s]

Russell confronts the myth that people (esp. Christians) believed in a flat earth.  Pretty damning to an annoying and ignorant argument:

On page 1 of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae (that is, in the first article of the first question of the first part), he casually mentions the round earth on the way to proving something doctrinal: “the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round: the astronomer by means of mathematics (i.e., abstracting from matter), but the physicist by means of matter itself.”  (via Between Two Worlds)

Honorable Mention:  Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells  [c, y, l, e, p, s]

I cannot stand behind anything else he has written, but Icons shreds the silly pictures commonly put in the textbooks you had growing up, demonstrating how they do not show Darwinian macroevolution.

(c=children; y=young adult; l=lay leader; e=elder; p=pastor; s=scholar)

ensees by Blaise Pascal

15 Responses to Top 10 Books on Science and Christianity

  1. backoffscience says:

    Is this right?

    “He presents his notion of irreducible complexity and claims that its presence in many biochemical systems indicates therefore that they must be the result of intelligent design rather than evolutionary processes” from Wiki?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_Black_Box

    You know that’s concepts he found there, not God, don’t you? Concepts based on certainties. That’s what the brain does. Of course they are irreducibly complex, in the sense that complex systems are entirely held up by their own connections. If you want religion to survive its got to back of science and make its own place.

    Pascales argument is over simplistic. He argues that good human-created narratives should be accepted as real for their effect. His argument cannot pick out a specific God. Indeed, once he has said these things outloud it becomes our responsibility to try and get the best narratives in place. You would think that one that lives happily with science would be a better option, and there are plenty to choose from.

    • I think science and religion need to be in dialogue with one another and not in separate spheres. There is overlap in the Venn diagram of their subject matter that they discuss, hence they should talk to one another. Facts and values do have relationships with one another, they are not separate spheres (Enron or Bernie Madoff). For the record, I am a big fan of science. My main beef with Neo-Darwinian macroevolution has more to do with I think it’s bad science than interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2.

      I am not sure what is your objection to Pascal. Can you clarify for me?

      I am also unsure of what you mean when you say certainty? Can you define certainty for me?

      Thanks,

      Mike

  2. backoffscience says:

    I don’t think science and religion have overlapping ven diagrammes. I think religion, if it is going to have any functionality, has to put its beliefs where science already knows the factual case. The god of the gaps, or the god of “its all a metaphor” doesn’t really work, i don’t think. If science and religion are to have a dialogue, it cannot be a public dialogue, because relgion cannot publicly argue for science to leave some areas alone. That presumes that what is being put in those spaces is made up. You can’t believe in myths, myths is a term that only makes sense in reference to others or to history.

    As for certainty, its hard to define. There is talking and thinking about things, and then we act. In action, our beliefs about the world are not up in the air, are not the subject of debate, they are certainties, we act on them. Action is the stopping point to the epistemological arguement. As Wittgenstein would say “this is what we do.”

    And Pascal. Its not an objection. I think his argument is right – basically just a consequentialist argument about faith (although there are obviously many layers of subtelty here which I’m trampling on).

    It is worth while believing in God if believing in God makes you have a better life. He’s right, of course, but there are many belief systems that fulfill the place of god here. Humanism, for example, would fit. All he is saying is that the meaning in our lives come from concepts. The leap of faith is into a conceptual reality, not into any particular one.

    I’ve mangled that a bit, but its the best I’ve got for now.

    • Perhaps we are talking in circles a bit. I am not a fan of religion, per se.

      My most basic presupposition is that the Triune God exists and that He has revealed himself (generally in creation and specially in the Scriptures). If I were not a Christian, I would be an atheist. I think Nietzsche’s account of the world is the next most consistent behind Christianity.

      I do not think that believing in false things is a good thing, even if it produces superficially “good” results. In other words, I don’t think religion is a good thing if the tenets and precepts are false.

      Christianity is the only “religion” that is not based on human effort, in order for salvation/justification/the-good/the-ultimate/oneness is to be attained. All other religions are anthropocentric in their account for how man overcomes his own brokenness. Christianity is utterly unique in that it says that man cannot overcome his brokenness and that it requires God to take initiative to atone for what man wrought.

      I am a huge fan of science. Both science and Christianity seek the truth in describing our world and reality. Science cannot be defined as ‘that which is correct.’ That is a logical fallacy. Science is the formulation of a hunch followed by the mainly inductive observation of datum to test that hunch. Science begins with a belief – the hypothesis, then that hypothesis is tested by inductive reasoning. The epistemology is the same for me with Christianity. I read the words of Jesus, I wrestled if they were true, I believed, then for the rest of my life since I have thoroughly vetted and sifted Christianity (Reformed). I went studied religious studies and philosophy from some of the most ardent detractors of Christianity and I continue to read broadly from those in disagreement.

      I am still uncertain of what your objection happens to be. Perhaps you can clarify for me. I could care less about any religion where man is self-justifier. I patently and categorically reject this.

  3. backoffscience says:

    Of course christianity overcomes the difficulties it proposes itself – who says humankind is broken, I certainly don’t?

    Anyway, I like your argument. I think it works ok, but its no use to me. From where I am, it looks like the christian beliefs are parked on impossible facts. But I can see that from were you are, the facts are very useful indeed. So lets let sleeping dogs lie.

    My concern is mainly for a non-christian belief system that includes both value and other people. I find Neitsche too hard to spell, and he misses an obvious fact. A single man does not create value, we all do it together. What grand narrative do you suggest for those unable to see what you do in christianity but who still want shared meaning and values?

    • >What grand narrative do you suggest for those unable to see what you do in christianity but who still want shared meaning and values?

      You cannot have your cake and eat it too. I think that either Christianity is correct or Nietzsche is “correct.” We are either carbon and water held together by skin, with no meaning, no purpose, and no morality OR we are created in the image of God, for the purpose of displaying God’s glory through Christ’s work. Most people don’t have the balls to live consistently in their rejection of Christianity. Grand narratives (or worldviews) must account for EVERYTHING in the Universe. I see only two worldviews that even come close to accounting for everything in the universe: radical atheism (as best espoused by Nietzsche) and Christianity (as best espoused by the Protestant Reformers). The big problem with Nietzsche’s atheism is that it is so hard to live out consistently. Insofar as I am concerned only Michel Foucault tried to live the Nietzschean worldview. He took Nietzschean nihilism and power seriously. Foucault died of AIDS from the egregious number of homosexual S+M encounters he had during his stint in Southern California.

      >I find Neitsche too hard to spell, and he misses an obvious fact. A single man does not create value, we all do it together

      Nietzsche doesn’t care about meaning. We don’t have a purpose. The only possible purpose for Nietzsche is for humanity to have the balls to move beyond humanity towards the overman. The overman is to humanity as humanity is to the ape.

      >Of course christianity overcomes the difficulties it proposes itself – who says humankind is broken, I certainly don’t?

      Murder, Rape, War, Slavery, Sex-trafficking, Genocide… you cannot seriously believe that everything is peachy with humanity. We are broken.

      >it looks like the christian beliefs are parked on impossible facts.

      Can you be specific? I would obviously disagree with this statement and would love to rebut… :)

      Your thoughts?

  4. backoffscience says:

    We are not broken, as that presumes our creation in the image of god. If there is no fall, that the idea is just tool, then we are just humans, working fine, doing human things – which include all the horrors you describe.

    Your impossible fact – virgin birth, resurection of christ, all the miricles.

    I’m not sure Neitzsche is quite that simple. Once there is no external value giving God, doesn’t that just mean we have to make up the values ourselves? I don’t really understand, when there are clearly shared ideas, cultures, beliefs and practices, why everything would then come down to the individual.

    I just find it a bit over the top. A bit dramatic. Like Camus’s options for facing our absurdity. I mean its interesting philosophy, but it doesn’t really help that much. There’s plenty of space for non-contradictory belief systems which don’t rely on either a personal god or making yourself into a god.

    • >We are not broken, as that presumes our creation in the image of god. If there is no fall, that the idea is just tool, then we are just humans, working fine, doing human things – which include all the horrors you describe.

      I think you are in the minority on this. Regardless of whether you subscribe to Christianity/theism or man made in God’s image, this world is pretty screwed up and people are pretty messed up to. Our propensity to addiction, self-medication, escapism… above and beyond the aforementioned atrocities all point to some serious deficiency to humanity.

      >Your impossible fact – virgin birth, resurection of christ, all the miricles.

      Consider the following:
      1. God exists
      2. The nature of God necessitates that He can do anything within His character
      3. It is within God’s character to incarnate, resurrect Himself, and suspend or alter physical laws that He created.
      4. Therefore, the virgin birth, resurrection of Christ, and miracles are logically possible.

      >’m not sure Neitzsche is quite that simple. Once there is no external value giving God, doesn’t that just mean we have to make up the values ourselves? I don’t really understand, when there are clearly shared ideas, cultures, beliefs and practices, why everything would then come down to the individual.

      Meaning cannot be rooted in thin air. I feel like your definition of meaning is flaccid and fleeting. Meaning cannot be created. Meaning is imbued by something bigger than ourselves and humanity itself. Its not just value either, it is also morality. We cannot just pick and choose what is moral or immoral. These are foundational concepts that require necessity not contingency. Otherwise you are left to some kind of moral relativism, where if you have a large enough community to agree with you that sex slavery is moral, or raping children is moral, or child sacrifice is ok… therefore it is moral. It sounds nice in theory to say that we derive meaning, value, and purpose through shared ideas and culture, but when the veracity of this is tested, it holds as much water as communism or eugenics.

      >I just find it a bit over the top. A bit dramatic. Like Camus’s options for facing our absurdity. I mean its interesting philosophy, but it doesn’t really help that much. There’s plenty of space for non-contradictory belief systems which don’t rely on either a personal god or making yourself into a god.

      Nietzsche can seem over-the-top at first glance. But in reality he is presenting a consistent form of atheism, taking all of its presuppositions to their radical ends. I have more respect for a Nietzschean atheist than anyone besides a Christ-like Christian. Think about it: there is no God, no morality, no transcendent truth, no meta-narrative, just my own personal survival. When properly deconstructed, what you have left is the necessity to wield power or be oppressed. The ones who are strong will assert their will and seek to move humanity beyond religion, morality, and truths that have only kept us from moving past humanity. Nietzsche presents a consistent but hard path. At the end of the day, I think it is unlivable and points us exactly to the opposite of what he is rejecting – the transcendent truth of Christianity…

      Your thoughts?

      • backoffscience says:

        “I think you are in the minority on this.”

        And yet later you argue that value is founded on more than majority opinion. Make up your mind. For every horror there is majestic beauty. For every year of war, a year of peace. For every child suffering a child cared for. The picture is ambiguous, we use it to serve our own ends.

        “Meaning cannot be rooted in thin air.”

        Meaning is rooted in what we do. Our meaningful acts cannot be interpreted away. The ground is not “in the air”, it is not up for discussion. The ground is certain, the ground is human certainties.

        “These are foundational concepts that require foundations”.

        No they are concepts, that require what concepts require. They require certainty, that is all. It goes no further than that. There are lots of ways things become certainties, some cultural and some scientific. But none of them are non-human (except for some of them to exist at all you have to maintain come what may that they are indeed non-human).

        Who says I’m reading Nietzche at first glance? (and i’m pretty sure that the way he writes doesn’t lead to that kind of conclusion). Truths and meta-narratives never relied on the existence of one particular God. Neitzche’s conclusion (if that is what it is) was wrong. There are lots of ways we create truths and meta-narratives, and different people, both in groups and individually, have to find and create theirs in different ways. If Neitzche suits you, all good, but I’m not so inclined.

        I agree with you that those are the things you have to believe if you want to keep your faith. It isn’t really an argument to say 1. assume god exists. 2. God exists.

        But thats good. Its the kind of thing you have to do for god to exist, for the meta-narrative and truth that make your life what it is to exist.

        On the theological point all I can say is this. Christians have been believing life wretched for two thousand years and it is out of christian culture that many of the horrors have emerged. If you believe life an amazing thing that has the potential to be better, I personally believe you are likely to do more about it.

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  6. >And yet later you argue that value is founded on more than majority opinion. Make up your mind.

    Forgive me for the pardon of speech. I in no way want to say that meaning is constructed through consensus.

    >For every horror there is majestic beauty. For every year of war, a year of peace. For every child suffering a child cared for. The picture is ambiguous, we use it to serve our own ends.

    I agree with you on this. It was Blaise Pascal who said:
    “Man’s greatness and wretchedness are so evident that the true religion must necessarily teach us that there is in man some great principle of greatness and some great principle of wretchedness. It must account for such amazing contradictions. To make man happy it must show him that a God exists whom we are bound to love; that our true bliss is to be in him, and our sole ill to be cut off from him. It must acknowledge that we are full of darkness which prevents us from knowing and loving him, and so, with our duty obliging us to love God and our concupiscence leading us astray, we are full of unrighteousness… Let us examine all the religions of the world on that point and let us see whether any but the Christian religion meets it,” (#149 Penguin Classics Edition).

    Christianity accounts for man’s ability to be both great and wretched.

    Our conversation up til this point has left me really wanting a definition from you on the word “certainty.” I feel that in many ways we will talk in circles until we have a clear definition of what you mean. I feel that we have two very different epistemologies and they keep talking past each other.

    >On the theological point all I can say is this. Christians have been believing life wretched for two thousand years and it is out of christian culture that many of the horrors have emerged. If you believe life an amazing thing that has the potential to be better, I personally believe you are likely to do more about it.

    This bugs me too. There have been many foolish and unChristian things done in the name of Christ. Point blank, this is wrong. I care tremendously that Christianity be a blessing to the world and culture. I feel strongly towards this end because God feels strongly for this end.

    Get back to me on a definition of “certainty” or at least explain your epistemology (pick whichever one you can be most clear and cogent).

    Mike

    • backoffscience says:

      Its strange, that question. What’s your epistemology, as if it would change what I knew in a flash. I know what I know. I can use the word know correctly. In the end, philosophy is not something that has life under its command. The sceptic doubts the existence of other people, and then is hit by a car. The foundation of our lives are concepts which exist because we are certain of them, we act on them. Once we inspect them, or criticise them, or argue over them, they are no longer certain, they are up for debate, so the certainties in that particular situation lie elsewhere. In the Wittgenstinian metaphor, you can’t cut off the branch on which you are standing. I guess its a cop out compared to imagining you have comprehended the entire system of human thought, but from where I’m looking from, that all looks like a vain waste of time. Do you see what I mean by certainty? Something unquestioned, i guess is a definition.

      • >The sceptic doubts the existence of other people, and then is hit by a car. The foundation of our lives are concepts which exist because we are certain of them, we act on them.

        There are some things that are ‘properly basic’ that require no proof. Things such as: I exist, other minds exist, and as Alvin Plantinga has very soundly argued – God exists (see my category tag on Plantinga on his brilliant argument before immediately dismissing it).

        >Once we inspect them, or criticise them, or argue over them, they are no longer certain, they are up for debate, so the certainties in that particular situation lie elsewhere.

        I think there is some merit to the Scottish commense sense epistemology. In many ways Plantinga has employed this in his Warranted Christian Belief and his idea of properly basic. However, what you are espousing is problematic. Epistemology is critical. To not have an epistemology is an epistemology… and a very poor one at that.

        >Do you see what I mean by certainty? Something unquestioned, i guess is a definition.
        No I do not. Unquestioned by whom? By you OR a majority OR a locality OR all of humanity? Whether you, a majority, locality, or all of humanity… all create serious problems. I can personally unquestion lots of things that are not only not knowledge but also patently false. A majority can unquestion something incorrectly – think American politics and how often the majority has unquestioned incorrectly. A locality can unquestion something incorrectly – say for example from history – child sacrifice. Clearly this is morally wrong (I would argue from Scripture as why it is wrong, while most others would argue from life forgone or utility). I am not sure what would fall into the last category of something unchallenged by all of humanity – perhaps, personal existence, the existence of other minds, and language. Do we really want to call knowledge some of the ridiculous things that other people unquestion?

        Perhaps I am presenting your epistemology as a bit of a straw man. But from where I stand, everything seems to be knowledge if I feel like calling it knowledge. You want to defend science but yet your epistemology fails to account for science and leaves something to be desired.

        Perhaps you can flesh out the epistemology a bit more and make more clear your presuppositions. Also correct me where I am misunderstanding and/or misrepresenting what you have said.

        Mike

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