International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion

edited by Christopher Southgate

Introductory Essay by Robert J. Russell

In the scholarly interdisciplinary field of science and religion what has been seriously lacking, amidst such outstanding single-author research contributions as the Gifford Lectures many high-level edited conference preceedings, is a dependable, broad, and teachable multi-authored “textbook” for students on college, university, and seminary campuses. Christopher Southgate and his seven editorial colleges have wonderfully filled this void with their outstanding textbook, God, Humanity and the Cosmos. Now in its second paperback edition, this textbook serves to introduce the non-specialist to the waterfront of issues in science and religion while it also takes the serious reader to the forefront of current research.

God, Humanity and the Cosmos is divided into five “books”. Book One includes an introduction to science and religion with three historical examples of tensions between them, and a discussion of truth and reason in science and theology ranging from logical positivism to postfoundationalism. Book Two presents the theological implications of the new physics (relativity, quantum mechanics, Big Bang cosmology and the Anthropic Principle), evolutionary biology (reductionism, ‘made in the image of God,’ and sociobiology) and psychology (neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and Freud). Book Three describes various models of God in relation to ecology both within and outside of the Christian tradition. It then provides a test case: the question of divine action in light of science with special focus on the writings of Arthur Peacocke and John Polkinghorne. Book Four includes a variety of diverse topics: science and education, Islam and science, technology and Christianity, and biotechnology and ethics. Book Five points to future questions and issues in science and religion.

Among its unique characteristics, God, Humanity and the Cosmos presumes little background knowledge and yet it gives the reader reasonably easy access to the frontiers of the debates. It draws on the expertise of eight different authors working together, all of whom are experienced researchers and teachers. Each chapter includes brief questions that draw the reader into a deeper conversation with the text set in grayed boxes for easy identification. Each begins with a succinct and intriguing introduction and ends with a crisp conclusion and a list of suggested further readings. According to Arthur Peacocke, “it is both the book for students we have been waiting for and also a refreshing survey of the field for those currently engaged in it.” In support of this I can attest that I have used God, Humanity and the Cosmos in a variety of graduate courses both for seminary students and for doctoral candidates at the Graduate Theological Union. It has served as a primary text in M. Div. / M. A. level courses and as a highly recommended background text in more topically-focused doctoral seminars. In all cases it has proved invaluable in discussing a wide variety of topics at the introductory level and in providing much-needed background material for more specialized research.