PZ posted a link to a quick and lite (but not especially insightful or interesting) review of recent books dealing with the evolution of religion/intersection of science & religion/falsification of religion/etc. I’ve only read a handful of them, and I’ll probably get around to the rest eventually, but overall I’m not that interested in the spate of recent books by Dawkins, Harris, etc. I actually picked up a copy of The God Delusion the last time I was in Baltimore, MD and I wasn’t that impressed with it.
I have read Roughgarden’s Evolution and Christian Faith and it wasn’t terribly impressive, the last section featuring Roughgarden trying to twist Scripture around to convince Christians that homosexuals are not living sinful lifestyle (I don’t think they are, but Roughgarden’s attempts to change the meanings of classic anti-homosexual passages isn’t effective). E.O. Wilson’s The Creation is also around the house, and while his attempt to convince Christians that stewardship (not dominion) of the planet is desperately needed, I don’t feel it’s really had the impact on evangelicals the author hoped for (plus, his solution of merely cataloging biodiversity is not the answer to our current ecological crisis). In fact, the only book on the list I actually enjoyed was Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience, in which Sagan quite effectively deconstructions notions like the “Anthropic Principle” and instills in the reader the notion that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I suppose I enjoyed it so much because it seemed that Sagan wanted to know where religion came from and why we believe what we believe rather than telling the reader that they have mental problems if they believe in certain doctrines, and the Q&A section has a very enlightening exchange between Sagan and a woman who claims that there’s some sort of psychic/spiritual world.
There’s been much debate lately over “framing” and some atheists being too harsh on religion and the people that adhere to different beliefs, but I don’t really have much to contribute to the arguments at the moment. I’m actually anxiously awaiting my copies of Gosse’s Omphalos and Paley’s Natural Theology because I really am curious about when science changed from something that was supposed to edify religion (God should be visible in nature, after all) to something that now seems eternally in conflict with religion. For my own part, I hope to follow the rule that Bob Bakker states near the beginning of The Dinosaur Heresies “Be kind to colleagues, ruthless with theories…”. In fact I’m speaking to a church small group on Thursday about evolution and intelligent design and I hope to be firm with my reasoning, yet sympathetic to the audience I’m talking to, otherwise I’ll likely be reinforcing the (incorrect) notion that all scientists are often opinionated, loud-mouthed people who won’t hesitate to tell everyone else how wrong they are. Perhaps the loudest and most controversial voices will always be heard, but I don’t see that as my place and I have so much left to learn; hopefully I’ll be able to accurately and firmly convey the wonderful notion that is evolution while still being able to understand that, for some, what I’m talking about conflicts with they’ve always held to be true.