SCIENCE, RELIGION, AND THE SEARCH FOR GOD
After the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, many people assumed that science and belief in God are irreconcilable. Yet even now, a century and a half later, with stunning advances in physics, biology and the fields of chaos and complexity, scientists themselves are divided as to whether belief in God can sit comfortably alongside scientific knowledge.
This is not a question only for scientists, philosophers, and intellectuals. What can any of us know, and what remains unexplained, perhaps unexplainable? Can we find God . . . or a scientific theory that will erase the notion of God? Can even human reason that goes far beyond present science ever hope to answer the ultimate questions, or must the answers lie partly in imagination, poetry and metaphor, or come from evidence unavailable to science?
I wrote The Fire in the Equations as a journey of exploration, not knowing where the journey would take me or where it would end. My present views on science-religion issues were not in place when I began the book. They were forged in the writing of it. If you are surprised at some of the twists in the line of argument, so was I. This was no attempt to discover or forge reconciliation between science and religion.
My exploration was not even based on the assumption that reconciliation is lacking or needed. I thought the best approach was to go determinedly to those areas where the heart of the conflict was reputed to lie, and find out for myself whether the reputation was correct.
I invite you to join me on this adventure through science, philosophy, theology, and grass-roots belief, and draw your own conclusions from arguments and evidence I have presented as fairly, straight-forwardly, simply and accurately as I know how. I will not tell you what to decide.
• • • • • • REVIEWS • • • • • •
“Splendid book . . . one of the very few I feel I can unreservedly recommend on the subject of science and religion. The Fire in the Equations has well and truly cleared the ground. It seems to me to rule out any need, in the immediate future, for further ground clearing. It also definitively shreds the tiresomely persistent, but facile, arguments that science has disposed of religion. Hopefully this will allow less hostile explorations of the models of reality that theology and science together might build upon the cleared ground. For many folk the message that will emerge from this book is simply that an open-minded belief in God is entirely possible without any intellectual dishonesty. I also get splendid reinforcement for my own perception that many open-minded agnostics are closer to the mind of Christ than are many vociferous, but dogmatic, believers.
— Henry Disney, Field Studies Council Fellow, University of Cambridge Zoological Museum
“Ferguson’s book is helpful because it is written by a person who has a sympathetic understanding of science and its methods, which she combines with a naturally religious – perhaps mystical – disposition. She is neither a religious nor a secular dogmatist. The Fire in the Equations is a very good introduction to what science has been up to in our century, and it is written in a language and style that does not send you off in search of the headache pills.”
— Peter Mullen, The Yorkshire Post
“[In his A Brief History of Time] Hawking asks the fundamental question: “What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” Kitty Ferguson takes up the challenge. Her research has been thorough, and the reader will quickly come to trust her judgment and to appreciate the clarity of her writing. She seems thoroughly at home in the vivid metaphorical landscapes of cosmologists. Her analogies are carefully chosen and clearly developed . . . . Whether writing about physics, biology, or chaos theory, Ferguson does an excellent job in highlighting the limits of science, revealing the unexplained assumptions it has to make . . . . Her views are realistic, rational, and readable.”
— Adam Ford, Church Times
“Of the three, Kitty Ferguson’s The Fire in the Equations is the least pious in tone and, therefore, the most likely to appeal to general readers and the religiously uncommitted. Starting from Stephen Hawking’s goal of reading the “mind of God,” she entertainingly surveys the new physics and new biology, chaos and complexity theory . . and concludes that “God, though perhaps not ruled in, is certainly not ruled out.” Ferguson is an engaging stylist and argues her points persuasively.”
— Theodore Roszak, The New Scientist (from a review article discussing three recent books)
“Nothing is taken for granted. Alternative views are lucidly presented and their plausibility or otherwise discussed with candour. Indeed, the author assiduously avoids nailing her colours to any masts, unless the facts permit no other options. She gives sufficient reference to more detailed writings to satisfy the scholar, while avoiding the pitfall of producing such a detailed treatise that few ordinary people would want to wade through such a tome. Her lightness of touch, and desire to communicate, mean her book should allow a wide audience to grasp the current state of play with regard to the encounters between science, philosophy, and theology.”
— Henry Disney, review published in a number of British periodicals
“Never attempts to define God. Ferguson is at her best when she is describing the complex ideas of such scientists as Stephen Hawking or Richard Feynman in terms that a non-specialist can both understand and enjoy.”
— Karen Armstrong, The Sunday Times Books (London)
“The author writes clearly, interprets ina scrupulously unbiased fashion, appears to be thoroughly competent when it comes to natural science, and is always respectful of different beliefs.”
— Friedrich Andrae, ekzInformationsdienst (review of the German language edition)
“An enlightened and readable exploration of the theological questions that inevitably arise out of reflection of this century’s physics and astronomy.”
— The Washington Times
“Like listening to a highly intelligent and enthusiastic lecturer who is bursting to impart pearls of wisdom. It is fascinating and well worth picking up.”
— Birmingham Post
“Kitty Ferguson weaves together science, philosophy and theology with verve and clarity.”
— John Polkinghorne, President of Queens’ College, Cambridge
“I can imagine what Hume would say about this book: ‘Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’ I cannot agree with Hume on the flames. To burn it, you would have to buy it.”
— Frank J. Tipler, Nature Magazine
“Highly intelligent . . . explains very well the ideas of interesting, talented figures like Wheeler and Feynman.”
— Don Cupitt, Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge, The Evening Standard
“The author tackles a theme of enormous relevance, without lapsing into the current jargon of the discipline.”
— Wir und die Wirtschaft, Cologne (review of the German language edition)
“A thought-provoking book.”
— Chic Magazine
• • • • • • TABLE OF CONTENTS • • • • • •
1. “They Buried Him in Westminster Abbey.”
2. Seeing Things
Is the Rational Universe an Illusion?
“In Natures infinite book of mysteries . . . “ can we read very much at all?
Is objective reality a mirage?
Are we really free agents”
Is the universe a uni-verse?
3. Almost Objective
Where is fancy bred?
The spectacles behind the eyes?
The muse of science: Is truth beautiful?
Does truth surpass proof?
The elite of science
The spirit of the times
The essential Godlessness of science
At the limits of scientific truth
First steps beyond the mind’s-eye view
Is there anything else?
The insidiousness of God
The morality of science: Is truth good?
4. Romancing the Creation
The uncomfortable concept of a beginning
The Gordian knot of singularity
The magic of imaginary time
The pulsing universe and the arrow of entropy
The mysterious wobbling of nothingness
“Reality (whatever that may be)”
Reality in the absence of apples
What place for a creator?
The third candidate
The mother of all chicken-and-egg stories
5. The Illusive Mind of God
God as the embodiment of the laws of physics
A presence behind the process
The leap to purpose: The God who wishes to drink tea
The universe as a “put-up job”
Second Gordian knot: The anthropic principle
Hacking at the second Gordian knot
The inflationary universe
Baby universes to the rescue!
Not the ether again!
The longing of Johannes Kepler
The fiddler on the roof
6. The God of Abraham and Jesus
The hard edge of legalism
The soft underbelly of legalism
The death of the God of the Gaps
Chaos meets Control
When truths collide
The ultimate self-confirming hypotheses
The masterful use of parallel perfect fifths
Who is the “I” in “I AM”?
7. Inadmissible Evidence
Public vs. private knowledge
The spectacles-behind-the-eyes revisited
The cloud of witnesses
A game of “I Doubt It”
The Lucy problem
“I should not believe such a story were it told me by Cato!”
“The Invincible Ignorance of Science”
“For the Bible tells me so” The evidence of Scripture
Is there proof in the pudding? The evidence of results
Armchair truth: The argument from reason
The argument from explanatory power
The argument from nature
The argument from availability
8. Theory of Everything . . . Mind of God
Notes, bibliography, and index.