God, Humanity and the Cosmos: Textbook in Science and Religion
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
Publisher: Trinity International
Author: Christopher Southgate (also the Coordinating Editor),
Celia Deane-Drummond, Paul D. Murray, Michael Robert Negus, Lawrence Osborn,
Michael Poole, Jacqui Stewart, and Fraser Watts
Mirroring this interest within the wider culture, adult education groups in an widening circle of congregations of all faiths discuss the viewpoints of science and religion in such areas as health and healing, nature and stewardship, and genetics and ethics. God, Humanity and the Cosmos represents an important contribution toward promoting an ease and fluency in the current science-and-religion discussions. While it will find use primarily in undergraduate and seminary-level courses, this book is quite suitable for individual and parish reading, particularly those with some prior experience in thinking about and discussing such matters.
A number of factors recommend it for wide usage. First of all, it is eminently readable, owing to the careful (and gender-inclusive) writing of an excellent group of authors, who also serve as editors for each other. Coordinating Editor Christopher Southgate, who himself is trained in both biochemistry and theology, has gathered a team of writers, all of them British, and most with dual training in theology and one of the social or natural sciences. The often deadly theological lingo–a proven repellant for scientists venturing into discussion with theologians–is deftly avoided. Neither do the authors assume any special scientific vocabulary and training in their readers. This is a team with sound teaching skills; it includes science educator Michael Poole, known for his lavishly illustrated, anything-but-dry books and pamphlets on science and religion for an inquisitive lay audience.
Secondly, the thorough index and use of cross-referencing allow readers to start anywhere their interest takes them. The first section provides historical and philosophical overviews, but readers might wish to plunge right into the discussions about “Dolly” and cloning. Any concept covered earlier or later in the book is marked with a section number to guide the reader to help, if desired.
Finally, the authors have built in a versatility to enable to book to be used in a variety of settings. The material is divided into four main sections, each of which can stand alone for the convenience of those teaching mini-courses or leading short-term discussion groups. Following the first section of introductory material, Section Two includes examples of how physics, evolutionary biology and psychology interact with religious claims. Section Three holds particular importance, as it surveys contemporary thought–Christian and that of other faiths–about God’s relationship with the earth and cosmos, and with humankind, in particular. It provides good resources for individuals and congregations formulating Jubilee (or other faithful) responses as to the crisis of the planet’s health. Section Four examines science’s place in society: science education and values, Islam and science, technology in the light of theology and ethics.
This argument is central: for the sake of the health of the creation God loves, humankind included, religious thought cannot be considered to occupy some cultural compartment of its own, isolated from science and technological development. They have interacted for ages, and, to quote Wentzel van Huyssteen (Princeton Theological Seminary) from his Foreword, religion continues to unfold “in new and creative ways as a direct response to a culture so definitively shaped today by science and technology.”