Let There Be Science: Why God loves science, and science needs God is refreshing in being more than an apologetic for faith and science: it’s also a mission statement for science and the contemporary Church.
The authors, Professor Tom McLeish and David Hutchings, are accomplished story tellers, beginning from the perspective that one doesn’t really need to carve out a place for faith in science, because it is so fundamentally wrapped up in its history. With decades of teaching experience in school and university contexts between them they helpfully provide the historical background to the development of western science, demonstrating that the Christian context was not incidental to it or even in opposition, but rather woven into what it meant to do science.
Let There Be Science reads like a friendly conversation, drawing on many of the themes and arguments in McLeish’s Faith and Wisdom in Science, but aimed at a wider audience. This makes it an excellent introduction for an upper secondary school student with an interest in science (or an adult with a similar level of scientific knowledge). There’s plenty in there to challenge and push thinking as well as being an enjoyable and relatively light read by comparison to some of the other tomes on this topic. It is also an extremely helpful resource for those engaging with secondary school students, offering lots of material that could help young people to start exploring the ways science and religion interact, as well as provoking the reader to envision what a future for science and faith could – and should – look like.
The book does have a slight physics focus, reflecting the authors’ backgrounds. Of course, no book can cover everything, but it would be fascinating to read a biologist’s response to the themes included, with perhaps an expansion on some of the relevant stories from within their own field. This would be especially interesting since the most popular conflict narratives tend to focus on the field of evolutionary biology.
In its commitment to presenting science as having a role in the reconciling work of the Church, the book doesn’t make a clear distinction between science and technology. This raises the question of whether they should be treated as essentially the same thing, or whether they have different aims (discovery vs manipulation of what is discovered, or the questions of how did we get here and what do we do now) and therefore might interact with questions of faith differently.
Some further questions raised by the book (which present plenty of potential for rich discussion!):
- If the world is set up in a way that means we need things like earthquakes, volcanoes, animal competition and death etc to thrive, couldn’t God have set up the laws of the universe in a different way, meaning these things aren’t required?
- If science has a purpose, and that purpose fits within a Christian worldview, where does the science of free will vs determinism fit in?
- Does God intervene when science goes too far, as in the Tower of Babel narrative which David and Tom pick out? And if so why does God not intervene in some of our more destructive contemporary technology?
- While it certainly makes sense to talk about atheist scientists putting ‘faith’ in a self-ordered universe, what are the differences between religious faith and this kind of faith?
Overall, Let There Be Science is a very useful addition to the growing field of science and faith dialogue. David and Tom come across as confident in the roles science can play in faith, and faith in science, as well as having real joy in the role science has in wondering at creation and working for its good.
Let There Be Science: Why God loves science, and science needs God is published by Lion Books and is available to purchase online at major book retailers, including Eden.co.uk and Amazon.