A practical guidebook for scientists interested in reconciling their spiritual lives with a modern conception of reason.
Debut author Hamer says that he’s experienced the tension between science and religion in a deeply personal way. After finishing a graduate degree in electrical engineering, he says, he confronted the fact that his technical training inadequately prepared him for how to live a meaningful life, particularly as a husband and father. He concedes that science and spirituality aren’t perfectly compatible—they’re not only driven by different methods of investigation, but also use different language and conceptual architecture—but he asserts that they do share common ground. Most crucially, he says, both spring from the experience of wonder and awe at the vast universe—and even the magic of its inscrutability: “Science and spirituality can share a common quest for a deeper experience of mystery.” In this book, Hamer provides an accessible, synoptic history of the modern scientific revolution and argues that the turf war between religion and science isn’t an essential part of it; along the way he offers an especially intriguing account of Galileo’s conflict with religious authorities. Nevertheless, he insists that modern science can’t capture the fullness of human life—love, beauty, the profound experience of transcendence, and purposeful meaning. The author recommends that readers find a spiritual practice and provides practical, largely nonsectarian advice about how to find one. This book’s orientation is predominately pragmatic; Hamer ends some chapters with relevant exercises, as a workbook would. His prose is refreshingly clear and never burdened with gratuitous jargon, and he displays deep respect for the claims of both science and religion. That said, this isn’t an exceedingly rigorous contribution to the debate—although, in the author’s defense, he does warn readers that he won’t detail the “minute, intricate nuances of an issue.” Also, the discussion of spirituality in practice can be vague, and the exercises often seem similar to those in a 12-step program; for example, the value of repeating “I am loved” remains unclear.
A thoughtful account of the divide between faith and science coupled with shopworn self-help counsel.