Issues in Science and Religion by Ian G. Barbour

There are some pretty crude notions washing around in the Western world such as ‘science has debunked religion’. Rather than dying away, religion seems more resurgent than ever (especially, it is interesting to note, in the most technologically powerful nation on Earth). On the other hand the vast majority are woefully ignorant about the power and achievement of science. What are we to make, then, of the relationship between science and religion in the modern world? I recommend turning firstly to Ian G. Barbour (

The author practically carved out the discussion area of ‘science and religion’ with this 1966 work Issues in Science and Religion. That is not to say that there had not been plenty of discussion on these matters before. From that point on, though, it became more formalised in University study.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is concerned with the history of science and religion, the second with the methods of science and religion, and the third with the issues themselves. Barbour provides introductions to several schools of philosophy in order to give the reader knowledge enough to understand how relations between science and religion look from these distinct viewpoints. The book also includes several specific, non-philosophical areas of science are employed in its discussion. Several specific concepts and objects are brought up in the discussion generally along with summaries of significant criticisms.

Follow up with Barbour’s 2000 book When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers or Partners?   (

If pressed for time pick up the tidy little Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction by Thomas Dixon (2008, As Dixon shows in this balanced and thought-provoking introduction, many have seen harmony rather than conflict between faith and science. He explores not only the key philosophical questions that underlie the debate, but also the social, political, and ethical contexts that have made ‘science and religion’ such a fraught and interesting topic in the modern world, offering perspectives from non-Christian religions and examples from across the physical, biological, and social sciences. Along the way, he examines landmark historical episodes such as the trial of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1633, and the famous debate between ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ Thomas Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce in Oxford in 1860. The Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ in Tennessee in 1925 and the Dover Area School Board case of 2005 are explained with reference to the interaction between religion, law, and education in modern America.

For some further stimulation go to Brooke, John Hedley., Science And Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991, (

For a more in depth approach reach for Harrison, Peter, The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (Cambridge, 2010).(

Listen to the excellent discussion on the R4 ‘In Our Time’ episode (45 mins) from the link  With Stephen Jay Gould, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology, Harvard University; John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy, University of St Andrews and Stanton Lecturer in Divinity, Cambridge University; Hilary Rose, sociologist and Visiting Professor of Social Policy, Bradford University.

For a lifetime immersion in issues of science and religion follow the bibliographies at

470 pages in SCM-Canterbury Press Limited paperback edition

ISBN 978-0334007371

Ian G. Barbour
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