Cover: God’s Universe in HARDCOVER

God’s Universe

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Product Details


$40.00 • £32.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674023703

Publication Date: 09/30/2006


160 pages

4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches

4 halftones

Belknap Press


Gingerich’s God’s Universe is the brief and elegant apologia of an emeritus professor of astronomy and the history of science at Harvard University. As a historian of science, Gingerich is well aware of the complexities involved in producing scientific and religious knowledge. The history of science is one in which progress is made through the ‘persuasive coherency’ of the new picture that is presented, rather than through simple knock-down proofs. It is at this general level of world pictures that Gingerich’s Christian faith generally finds its expression.—Thomas Dixon, The Times Literary Supplement

In his slim and elegant new book, God’s Universe, Gingerich finds that indeed everywhere he looks he can discern the hand of a benevolent Creator—all without compromising his adherence to a rigorous methodological scientific naturalism… Despite the fact that as an atheist I do not see the hand of God in the universe—I found myself cheering for this lucid and poetic little book… In this time of sectarian wars, when theists and atheists are engaged in increasingly hostile incivilities, Gingerich lays out an elegant case for why he finds the universe a source of encouragement for his life both as a scientist and as a Christian. We do not have to agree with his conclusions to be buoyed and enchanted by the journey on which he takes us.—Margaret Wertheim, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

Astronomer Gingerich believes in a designed universe, though not in intelligent design (ID), the anti-evolution theorizing that some evangelical Christian activists want taught in public-school science courses. His intent isn’t, however, to flay ID as Michael Shermer does in Why Darwin Matters; it is to explore a few topics in science that suggest design and a designer, God. He weighs the Copernican principle that intelligent life isn’t exceptional in the universe against the Darwinian emphasis on the uniqueness of life on earth. He probes the differences between atheist and religious scientists (this is where he dismisses ID along with evolution as a materialist philosophy as ideologies), especially over the big bang and cosmological teleology. Finally, he raises some Questions without Answers to point up the different, irreconcilable concerns of physics as opposed to metaphysics, science as opposed to religion. Utterly lacking scientific or religious triumphalism, demonstrating why both ways of knowing are indispensable, Gingerich’s highly re-readable remarks may well outlast all the brouhaha of the ID–evolution fracas.—Ray Olson, Booklist

Gingerich pleads for separating physics from metaphysics, efficient causes from final causes, how from why… In the end, he persuaded even a hardened skeptic like me that there might, possibly, be more to the cosmos than is dreamt of in my philosophy.—George Scialabba, The Boston Globe

God’s Universe is less an apology for faith in the age of science than it is a humble meditation given by a leading American astronomer on the possibility that a scientist can be a person of faith and retain intellectual credibility… Gingerich is a theistic evolutionist who is willing to confess God as Creator of the universe. He accepts the scientific datum demonstrating that we are the product of evolution and rejects intelligent design (as defined by Philip Johnson, Michael Behe, and the Discovery Institute) as an alternative scientific explanation for human origins. This rejection of intelligent design as an ideology doesn’t rule out the possibility of what he calls ‘small ‘d’ design.” His is, therefore, a humbler quest, one that looks to theology rather than to scientific theory for a sense of meaning and purpose in the universe.—Robert Cornwall, Congregations

[An] elegant little book… Attractively and accessibly written.—Sarah Coakley, Harvard Magazine

Gingerich’s work is a survey of the conflicts—and confluences—between hard science and deep faith; along the way he provides a brief but magisterial history of science that is as astute as it is original. He’s a superb writer too, handling scientific and theological complexities with equal aplomb but enlivening his account throughout with poetry, dramatic anecdote, and snippets of autobiography… Because he is also steeped in science, both as researcher and historian, Mr. Gingerich is aware of how improbable and even fantastic his Christian faith must appear to skeptical colleagues. In slipping so effortlessly into both realms—provable fact and unsearchable mystery—Mr. Gingerich reminds me of some adroit intellectual amphibian, calmly at home in contiguous but incompatible terrains… A sense of wonder animates this book, but it’s never the swooning and manipulative wonder of such showmen as the late Carl Sagan; rather, it’s the verifiable fact in its specificity, abetted by the promise of some final cause beyond all our telescopes, which informs Mr. Gingerich’s awe.—Eric Ormsby, The New York Sun

I have always felt the words should be ‘Science and Religion’—not ‘Science or Religion.’ Owen Gingerich offers both intellectual heft and spiritual stamina to back up that claim. This slim volume will pay rich dividends to the seeking mind and the longing soul.—Tim Johnson, M.D.

This little book—intelligent, provocative, and respectful of a range of views—shows how a modern scientist can support both evolution and intelligent design and, more generally, offers a meeting place for science and religion.—Alan Lightman

Writing in a style that is accessible and laced with interesting historical anecdote, Owen Gingerich uses his expertise in astronomy and its history, together with the insights of his Christian faith, to give a well-argued account of humanity’s place in the cosmos.—Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne

In God’s Universe Owen Gingerich makes the case that the probability is miraculously minute, first, that a planet hospitable to life could form after the Big Bang and, second, that once it had formed, intelligent life could develop there. Whether one agrees or disagrees, one will learn from this beautifully presented account of the relevant astronomy and physics. But that isn’t all; Gingerich’s reflections (as a liberal Christian) on the theological significance of all this are sensitive and deep. A truly fascinating read.—Hilary Putnam

This is a timely and important book. In contrast to the shrill dogmatics on both sides of the current intelligent design debate, Gingerich offers a sweeping and authoritative account of our continuing encounter with, and understanding of, the Universe of which we find ourselves a part. Meticulous in its scholarship, humane in its approach, generous in its tone, restrained in its assertions, but audacious in its scope, this little book is a solid and significant contribution to the ongoing debate.—Frank Rhodes, President Emeritus, Cornell University

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