Another book I recently read for review was Synergy: Science Reasons With Atheists. By the title I had thought this would be a book dealing with natural theology in arguing against the atheist position, but it is something different and worthwhile.
The author takes 50 common questions about science and faith and answers them from the Catholic point of view. It simply presents accurately what the Church teaches in regards to theology. It is not combatant in any way when dealing with these questions and thus is a book that might even to appeal to an atheist of good will. I know that when I was an atheist I would have been intrigued by this book that shatters so many of the myths of reason being an antonym for faith.
The book is peppered throughout with quotes from scientists about God with the majority of them being from Catholic scientists. While I have done a good deal of reading on this topic I came across a lot of intriguing quotes I had not seen before. The subject of the Catholic scientist is one I so enjoy in part to my previous ignorance of the subject since famous scientists are usually stripped of their faith when presented in textbooks. I especially liked the section regarding the Galileo controversy and other myths of persecution by the Church against scientists. His discussion of Copernicus, Galileo and others shows the truth that the persecution of so many scientists and in fact scientists who were Catholic was for the most part done by the University System. I already knew that Copernicus was afraid to publish his book because of the reception by the universities and that it was a Cardinal who encouraged him to publish anyway. What I didn’t know is that this was not a unique occurrence and something that repeated itself.
We constantly hear about the Galileo incident, yet Antoine Lavoisier who has been called the Father of Modern Chemistry and was killed during the so-called Enlightenment as a traitor for speaking up for the rights of foreign-born scientists. The judge in the case said “The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice can not be delayed.” Ignaz Semmelweis the Catholic and Hungarian Physician who introduced hand-washing to limit the spread of disease before germ theory was totally ostracized by the medical profession and reduced to poverty. The fact that he reduced the deaths at a maternity ward by half did not matter to them. There are other examples in the book of similar happenings.
The book though is not just about phony faith vs. science, but attempts to answer many other questions in what I thought to be sound both theologically and from a scientific point of view. There was much that I liked in this book and certainly a book I would recommend to those dealing with atheists.
There are some slight quibbles I had with the book. He repeats several times that our DNA and monkeys are 99% identical. Well I am not quibbling that the oft-used figure is 98.4%. The problem is that humans and mice also share a similar percentage and the fact that complete genomes of both species is showing a deepening chasm because of the greater differences in what was once called junk DNA. The oft quoted figure is becoming less and less meaningful. [resource] Though I really liked that authors explanation on evolution and the fact that a soul can not evolve and is given directly by God.
I found the section on “Why do religious people believe in prophecy” to confuse prediction based observation with actual prophecy as part of God’s supernatural providence. Describing scientific prediction based on observations as a close cousin to prophecy is not a very good comparison in my opinion. Scientific induction is not prophecy and I would have liked to see an actual Catholic view on prophecy spelled out here.
My last quibble is with the section which asked “Why did Thomas Jefferson think a wall of separation between church and state was needed?” This section seemed to me contrary to what Jefferson actually wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptists the only time he used this phrase. They were afraid the state would interfere with the church and Jefferson assured them that this was not the case. The phony court view that the state must be separated from religious influence was made out of whole cloth. Maybe I misconstrued what the author was writing here, but to me it did seem to project the modern view onto Jefferson.
It is much easier for me to call out quibbles than to remark intelligently on the contents of this book and the fact I read the majority of the book with no such quibbles.