Top-List Survey With Ted Davis: Question 1

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June 12, 2010 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Top-List Survey With Ted Davis: Question 1

The BioLogos Top-List Survey is a sociological exercise aimed at collecting lists of people’s ‘favorites’ in a variety of categories related to the mission of BioLogos, i.e. relating to the science, philosophy, and religion dialogue.

A survey question is asked of a scholar in the area of science, philosophy, or religion, who responds with their “Top-List” and, if he or she wishes, a brief commentary on why that particular list was chosen. Each new “Top-List” survey thread will be introduced by an opening Top-List from someone who is considered an ‘expert’ to friends and regular visitors, or who holds a perspective that BioLogos is promoting.

The “Top-Lists” are not a place for debate or argument. Instead, they are simply an opportunity to show and share what one values in one’s approach to the discourse of science, philosophy, and religion. By listing books, articles, quotations, figures, dates, events, links, etc. one can point to references and resources that may help others discover new thoughts, new people, and new ideas.

To keep things simple, we will restrict all “Top-List” experts to the same 1,250-character limit as imposed in the comment boxes.

This week's list was written by Ted Davis.


Some books that we read help us to gain new knowledge and build our understanding of the relationship between science, philosophy and religion (SP&R). When we read these books we are faced with many questions and are sometimes challenged about the way we see and experience the world.

Which books have you read on your intellectual and personal journey that have provided insights or answers to difficult questions or problems in SP&R dialogue? Were there certain books that you read when you were young that deeply influenced you and set you on a new path of discovery? What are the most important books that you read at an older age that helped put many things in perspective from previous works that you’d read when you were younger? Which books were more synthetic or holistic or otherwise very specifically focused that enabled you to understand the relationship between SP&R better than other books? Which books did you wholeheartedly accept or most stridently reject, that contributed to your learning about SP&R discourse?


Books of formative influence on my decision to study science and religion, and on my early views:

  1. Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (1954)
  2. Ian Barbour, Issues in Science and Religion (1966)
  3. Richard Bube, The Human Quest (1971)
  4. James R. Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies (1979)
  5. Reijer Hooykaas, Religion and the Rise of Modern Science (1972)

I encountered Ramm (an evangelical theologian trained in philosophy of science) and Bube (a Stanford physicist who taught science & Christianity for a quarter century) through the American Scientific Affiliation; without them or the ASA, I would not be doing religion & science today. Without Barbour, whom I also encountered through the ASA, there would be no academic field of religion & science in which to work. I read Moore’s book in graduate school. It convinced me that evolution could be consistent with orthodox theism and showed me how to debunk the “warfare” view of the history of religion & science: both of these influences were crucial for my career. Hooykaas, more than any other book, led to my dissertation about the influence of voluntarist theology on early modern natural philosophy.

Post your Top Five Book List in the comment box below. If you like, please also add brief commentary about why you chose them. Then see what others post, and how their Top-List is similar or different to yours. Maybe the next book you’ll read on the relationship between SP&R will come from somebody’s BioLogos Top-List.

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Paul Bruggink - #17269

June 12th 2010

My Top Five Book List (which focuses on the current apologetic aspects of the debate):

1. Perspectives on an Evolving Creation (2003), edited by Keith B. Miller, because it covers so much territory in one volume.

2. Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution (2008), by Denis O. Lamoureux, because he takes integration of science and the Bible further than just about anyone.

3. Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation (2007), by Gordon J. Glover, because he makes such a good case for accommodationism.

4. Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation (2005), by R.Stephen J. Godfrey & Christopher R. Smith, because a scientist and a pastor present a very personal and readable discussion.
5. The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (1993 but revised since), by Ronald L. Numbers, because it documents the rise of twentieth-century creationism.

Bilbo - #17283

June 12th 2010

1) Miracles; a Preliminary Study (1948), by C.S. Lewis.  Shaped my views of nature and the supernatural, science and miracles.  Should be a must read for anyone in S,P,R.

2)  Why I am not a Christian (19??), by Bertrand Russell.  First major intellectual challenge to my faith.

3)  Flatland (189?), by Edwin Abbott.  Fun and mind-expanding.

4)  Man’s Search for Meaning (19??), by Victor Frankl.  Human-ness is non-reductive.

5)  Kierkegaard.  Saved my faith.

Rich - #17314

June 13th 2010

Ted Davis’s column is a refreshing change of pace. 

Several early influential readings, not all ones that I endorse now, and not all of which directly address “religion and science”, but all of which set me on the path which would lead me to think critically about “religion and science”:

Warfare hypothesis, crystallizing the connection between modern science and “chance”:

    1.  Bertrand Russell, *A Free Man’s Worship*

Molecules to man (God causally redundant):

    2.  Sagan and Shklovskii, *Intelligent Life in the Universe*

Critique of Darwinian evolution as modern creation myth:

    3.  C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry?”

Critique of progressivist religions/ideologies disguised as the latest deliverances of natural, social, psychological or economic “science”:

    4.  E. F. Schumacher, *Small is Beautiful*

Critique of totalitarian, science-driven societies:

    5.  Aldous Huxley, *Brave New World* and *Brave New World Revisited*.

Gregory - #17333

June 13th 2010

1) The Book of the Cosmos (2000) – Dennis Danielson
Beautifully interweaves primary source voices & contemporary commentary.

2) Philosophy: Who Needs It? (1982) – Ayn Rand
Know your opponent:
“[R]eason and altruism are incompatible. And this is the basic contradiction of Western civilization: reason vs. altruism.”

3) The Prophet (1923) – Kahlil Gibran
On Teaching

4) The New Sociological Imagination (2006) – Steve Fuller
Will be discussed & debated for many years.

5) Biology of Ultimate Concern (1967) or Biological Basis of Human Freedom (1951) – Theodosius Dobzhansky
One of MES’s main contributors. Though wrong @ ‘universal evolutionism’, still he addressed topics others wouldn’t dare.

“The question which presents itself is whether the cosmic, the biological, and the human evolutions are three unrelated processes, or are parts, perhaps chapters or stages, of a single universal evolution.” (1967)

“When philosophy occupies itself with the animal man it ceases to be a philosophy of man and becomes a philosophy of animals, a chapter of zoology dealing with man.” – P. Chaadaev (1829)

Merv - #19421

June 29th 2010

Having not read a single book on Davis’ list of five above, I determined to pick up Bernard Ramm thinking it would be a good historical venture—-take a time machine to the fifties and see up close and personal what these issues looked like to them in virtually ‘Pre-DNA’ realms of cultural exchange. 

It was well worth it.  Some of his views were dated, yes.  But I was amazed at how much of his text is still pertinent, indeed still carries a stinging bite or a cutting edge into this controversy right now.  I guess that would be a sign that either our culture moves slowly on this or that Ramm’s message & his more recent heirs still have a big job to do.

I was fascinated over his discussion about the Catholic approach to this whole issue as opposed to various protestant reactions.  Here seems to be yet one more potential ‘I told you so’ from the universal church regarding the perils of decentralizing all authority and placing Scripture in the common man’s hands.  I’m thoroughly protestant in all

Merv - #19422

June 29th 2010

this, don’t get me wrong.  But that doesn’t stop us from sober reflection on how one papal decree (regarding a cogent philosophy of science) does what perhaps will never be done in the arena(s) of diverse and splintering protestantism.

My next foray will to be to hop back into my time machine and set the dial 20 years forward from Ramm to look up Hooykaas’ book which was quoted (quite profoundly, I thought) in another more recent thread by Ard about Miracles.

Thanks Ted, for this contribution. 


Merv - #19464

June 29th 2010

Have you ever been reading along and found such a beautiful gem that you silently wished “so & so who sees things differently than you” was reading the same thing?  He’s probably reading something else wishing the same on your behalf.  The paths of our literary experience fail to cross and we both indulge in our own confirmation bias.

Wouldn’t it be neat if ......

There was a ‘book-recommendation exchange’ at a site like this where those who feel threatened by typical Biologos presuppositions could bring their best list of Christianity & Science works (that in their opinion represent the most fair, coherent, level-headed presentations defending their own turf) and thus have their list alongside lists like Ted’s or others above.  The concept would work among bloggers here that:  ‘I’ll read ’ x ’ of your choice, if you read ’ y ’ of my choice.  Such a thing probably isn’t feasible within the scope of this site’s mission.  I probably just need to root around the web for myself & try to discern the best authored ‘counter-sentiments’ out there.


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