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Top-List Survey With Ted Davis: Question 2

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June 12, 2010 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now
Top-List Survey With Ted Davis: Question 2

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

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.


What are the Top-Five books that have helped you to understand the relationship between science, philosophy and religion (SP&R)?

In addition to the books listed in his previous post, Davis now offers his “Top List” of books that have influenced not his early decision to study science and religion, but his current scholarship.


Books that have influenced my current scholarship:

  1. John Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (1991)
  2. David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers, God & Nature (1986)
  3. Robert Boyle, Robert Boyle: A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (1686)
  4. John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (1998)
  5. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (2006)

Brooke, Lindberg, and Numbers are longtime friends, and their work skillfully debunks the “warfare” view. My own scholarship has the same goal. I hope to help create a new history of Christianity and science that is more accurate and ipso facto much friendlier to religion. In 1981 I attended the conference that put together God & Nature, and several of the participants encouraged me to pursue a dissertation on science & religion. Much of my subsequent work has focused on Boyle. I edited a student edition of this work, a profound treatise on God & nature. No one has influenced my own views of Christianity & science more than Polkinghorne; I could have chosen several of his books. Wright’s superb defense of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is central to my spiritual and intellectual life: my views of both God & nature are shaped by my conviction that it actually happened.

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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merv - #17276

June 12th 2010

Thanks, Ted—-I for one would be one of your early customers whenever such a work of yours becomes available.

Question:  in your earlier list (last post) I was initially chagrined to realize I haven’t read a single book of the top five you listed.  But on further reflection, you called those works early influences on your career; would you still push them as recommended (even essential) foundational reading to lay people such as myself who are interested in these issues now?  I have read several of the more recent works Paul listed in his comment on your blog, (notably “The Creationists” by Numbers as well as Miller’s “Perspectives…”—- I note you listed a different work of Numbers’ here)  Do these more recent works do a decent job capturing what your earlier works may have ‘pioneered’?

If you had to narrow down to just one or two books (or authors) for today, what do you think would constitute the most “glaring hole” for somebody in 2010 who wished to be knowledgeable of foundational Christian thought?  Of course, I’m presuming as I would think all of you do as well, that the Bible is a given back-drop & foundational to all of this.


Merv - #17278

June 12th 2010

clarification to post above:  I was, of course, asking about works pertinent to “foundational Christian thought in the area of religion and science.  And I am sensitive to the fact that you probably already exercised painful selectivity to narrow down a vast base of scholarship to get these ten works—-so if you must throw down the gauntlet and leave all ten in a ‘must read’ category, I can live with that.

I’m just trying to get a sense on whether your category of ‘biggest early & recent influences on Ted Davis’ is synonymous with ‘books Ted Davis recommends for readers interested in this today.’


Bilbo - #17281

June 12th 2010

1)  The Blind Watchmaker (1984), by Richard Dawkins.  For those who find the idea of reading Darwin daunting, Dawkins provides a dandy alternative.  Whatever one thinks of Dawkins, he’s an excellent writer.

2)  Origins; a Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (1986), by Robert Shapiro.  A chemist, who admitted he would accept any naturalistic explanation for the origin of life—no matter how wildly implausible—before accepting a supernaturalistic one, proceeded to show how wildly implausible every naturalistic explanation was.  I bet it hasn’t changed much.

3) Darwin’s Black Box (1996), by Michael Behe.  Provided challenges for neo-Darwinism which still haven’t been answered.

4)  Finding Darwin’s God (2001), by Kenneth Miller.  Though I don’t think his arguments against ID succeed, he does provide a very persuasive argument for the theological acceptability of evolution, removing any theological objections I had against it.

5)  The Design Matrix; a Consilience of Clues (2007), by Mike Gene.  Provides a way to approach the design hypothesis, besides just trying to prove “gaps.”  Very original and well worth reading.

Ted Davis - #17322

June 13th 2010


Although Ramm’s book is the oldest one on either of my lists, and now finally out of print (it was in print for at least 40 years), it still has a great deal of value for any conservative Protestant reader.  The organization is clear, his attitudes (as vs his specific views) are very helpful, and the footnotes are a mine of information about (obvioiusly older) sources dealing with the Bible and science.  You would know in 10 minutes whether or not it would be worth reading entirely.

Ramm was an “old-earth creationist”; he liked to call his view “progressive creation,” a term that some (wrongly) seem to think that he invented.  He also took a strongly teleological approach to all of natural history.  Thus, he can be seen as “ID-friendly,” though ID per se did not exist when his book was written.  I mention this b/c it relates to an irony.  I have sometimes found ID advocates criticizing evangelical advocates of TE for holding views on theology and the Bible (and not just early Genesis) that are too “liberal,” yet ID advocates get a pass b/c they don’t talk about the Bible or theology at all—officially, at least.  (See below for more.)

Ted Davis - #17323

June 13th 2010


However, my sense is that many ID advocates would agree with a lot of what Ramm says, concerning possible interpretations of many biblical passages related to science; and, Ramm was highly influential on many TEs I have met from my generation or the previous generation.  In other words: I suspect that many IDs would actually agree with many TEs on how to approach quite a few biblical passages, if they had to talk about them.  I don’t think that the “gap” between ID and TE is nearly as large, on these issues, as some want to say that it is.  But, until IDs start talking more about the Bible (as Bill Dembski has done in his recent book, “The End of Christianity”), esp passages outside of early Genesis (such as the long day of Joshua or the exodus or Jonah), this “gap” will continue to be seen as larger than it actually is.  IMO.

Bilbo - #17327

June 13th 2010

Hi Ted,

I’m sticking to your rule and not discussing any issues.  But you’re tempting me. 

RJS - #17347

June 13th 2010

Hard to pin down to 5 - so I’ll cheat a little.

1. NT Wright: Jesus and the Victory of God and Resurrection of the Son of God
2. Francis Collins: The Language of God
3. John Polkinghorne: Belief in God in an Age of Science and Quarks Chaos and Christianity
4. Ron Numbers: The Creationists
5. George Marsden: Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism and American Culture

Wright laid to rest my fear that all the good arguments were on the skeptics side.
Collins and Polkinghorne “get” the science (an understatement I realize).
Numbers and Marsden put much into perspective which helps with the moving forward.

I’ll probably change my mind on the most significant as soon as I hit submit.

Rich - #17363

June 14th 2010

I suspect that Steve Fuller’s *Dissent over Descent* (2009) will prove to be one of the more important books in the science/religion area of the last 10 years, and the next 10 years.

Michael Denton’s *Nature’s Destiny* is important, as a potential bridge between ID and TE positions, affirming design, naturalism and evolution as part of a total vision.

Capra’s *The Tao of Physics* reminds us that there are religions in the world other than Christianity, and that “religion and science” is quite a different discussion from the Eastern perspective.  I find that much of what is discussed by ID, TE, YEC and atheists alike is distressingly culturally provincial.

AHH - #17381

June 14th 2010

These books are ones I particularly like covering (at various levels) the science/faith relationship generally.  So excluding books that are more specifically about Biblical issues and/or scientific issues related to these discussions.

1) Origins, by Deborah and Loren Haarsma (best introduction in my view)
2) Rebuilding the Matrix, by Denis Alexander
3) The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross, by George Murphy
4) Belief in God in an Age of Science, by John Polkinghorne
5) Putting it All Together: Seven Patterns for Relating Science and Christian Faith, by Richard Bube

Joshua Woo - #18969

June 25th 2010

1) Science of God - Alister McGrath
2) Faith in Science - W. Mark Richardson and Gordy Slack (ed).
3) The Order of Things - Alister McGrath
4) The Shaping of Rationality - J. Wentzel van Huysteen
5) Religion and Science in Context - Willem Drees

Ted Davis - #19155

June 26th 2010

Please keep the lists coming; they are interesting.  I note that “Uncommon Descent” is paying attention and has started a similar thread.  No reason why anyone posting there couldn’t post here, and vice versa; but, keep the lists coming.

Merv - #19465

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.


(re-posted here, as well as in part 1)

Rich - #20070

July 2nd 2010


For some other reading suggestions in the religion/science area, check out:


Merv - #20856

July 7th 2010

Thanks, Rich.

I noted that near the top were a couple of suggested books that the blogger touted as providing a more nuanced corrective to Hooykaas’ “overly enthusiastic revisionist history”.  Having just finished the Hooykaas book on Ted’s list, I think I know where the blogger is coming from, though I learned a lot from Hooykaas who I think was contributing his own corrections to an already existing revisionist history out there. 


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