Faith in the Age of Science: Atheism, Religion, and the Big Yellow Crane

Silversides, Mark
Sacristy Press (2012)
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There seems to be no end to the post Dawkins industry which must infuriate the great man as his intention surely cannot have been to ignite Christian fervour; and I've read my fair share but nothing has approach this lovely book by Mark Silversides for breadth and humour.

What makes this book fascinating is the amalgam of very fine pen portraits of philosophers, an analysis of major scientific trends which just about keeps the lay person in control of the text, an astounding quantity of dizzying quantities, a fine knack of synthesis and a set of conclusions about life's coherence and significance which seem inevitably and gently to crystallise from a complex set or arguments; and there are some very funny bits and the handling of conventional topics from unconventional angles.

Silversides, a scientist and former parish priest, is in a better position than most to marry the two sides of his experience whereas, as he rightly points out, Dawkins is no theologian and, I'm afraid to say, much of the polemic against him has been conducted by theologians who are rather hazy about science. I wouldn't want to give the game away but the core of the argument is that the process of natural selection can't be unconditionally invoked to explain how we are what we are: the improbabilities are too great and the time scale required would also be too great. Atheists, it turns out, aren't very good at science, nor are they much good at atheism!

I occasionally remind friends that Alfonso XI of Spain, "The Wise", and Hildegard of Bingen both knew that the earth was round and didn't have to wait for Renaissance learning; only crib sheet theologians can think that Saint Thomas Aquinas wasn't a more than capable scientist and much of what was chewed over in the “Middle Ages” is still being chewed over now; and if Silversides and me had to choose between them and the current crop of “New Atheists”, we know which we would choose, not because of what each believes but how good they are at logic. In the end, Silversides says, almost sadly, atheism has become its own, blinkered, religion, reaching its conclusions out of belief rather than scientific method.

This is a tremendously good read if you haven't been caught up in the Dawkins storm; but, even if you have, just one more, this one more, will do you good!