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Science and Belief
The Big Issues
by Russell Stannard
This is an impressive must-read book for all thinking people, atheists and believers alike. It succeeds in making it reasonable to be both scientific and religious, to be up-to-date in both fields, to hold a chair in physics and be a lay minister in the Church of England. Russell Stannard has the gift of expressing complex science in very accessible language, in a book that is based on his twelve-episode video series in DVD format now in 40% of UK secondary schools and in 7,500 churches. In only 173 pages, he covers a lot of scientific ground with chapters on evolution, intelligent design, morality, creation, the anthropic principle, extra-terrestrial intelligence, psychology, and miracles.
Here is a rich buffet of ideas, not dogma, and we are encouraged to take our pick. He writes ‘throughout this book I have tried to keep my own opinions in the background. Not always successfully I know’. Indeed, from time to time he asserts that ‘the defining characteristic of God is that he is a God of love’ (p106), but that is not self-evident so he admits ‘the basic unfairness of the evolutionary process’ without analysing sufficiently the problem of suffering and the ‘cruel death of his Son on the cross’ which for Stannard is the way ‘we know God loves us’ (p33).
Stannard is aware that ‘fundamentalists’ will take issue with him in his evolutionary approach to both science and theology. In his sections on creation and the anthropic principle (his two hardest chapters for secondary schools) he verges on the God of deism rather than theism, despite asserting ‘God as Sustainer’ (p57). Nevertheless his theology is usually interesting, and his communication of science so outstanding in its clarity and plausible links with religious beliefs, that it deserves to be a best seller to rival Dawkins. Instead of conflict or independence between science and religion, Stannard illuminates how there can be interaction and some integration.
Reviewer: John Morris (25/08/12)