This past year has been a flurry of scientific discovery as well as thoughtful, theological response.
Whether it was new developments related to artificial intelligence, realizations about climate change or even the idea of life beyond planet Earth — it has been explored in books that may end up on your bookshelf in 2024. What follows is a brief list of some books that may be worth picking up this winter if you are interested in taking a deep dive into timely faith and science themes.
Sustainability and faith
Climate, God and Uncertainty: A transcendental naturalistic approach beyond Bruno Latour, by Arthur C. Petersen
Climate, God and Uncertainty is the work of University College London Professor of Science, Technology and Public Policy Arthur Petersen, who is also the editor of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science. The book is described as moving beyond French philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour’s thought to understand what climate change means for philosophical anthropology and wider culture. It asks for instance, what are the philosophical implications of climate change and its associated uncertainties? Petersen, who spent more than 13 years as a scientific adviser on environment and infrastructure policy for the Dutch government, seeks to develop a ‘transcendental naturalism’ to reinterpret the interface between science and politics in the context of climate change. Besides his work for the Dutch government, he served as chief scientist of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. The book is free to download here.
Amending the Christian Story: The Natural Sciences as a Window into Grounded Faith and Sustainable Living, by Ron Rude
We reviewed this book in April, but the book itself was published in 2021. Having spent many years as a campus pastor, Rude became fascinated with sciences such as astronomy, geology, evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, ecology. His study led him to view his faith and the Christian story in a new light. His book offers a somewhat different approach to and understanding of the relation between faith and the natural sciences, and the relation between humans and ecological earth systems in the light of faith and the sciences.
Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine: Exploring the Implications of Life in the Universe by Andrew Davison
Published in late 2023, this book connects Christian thought with a new realization of life on other planets. Author Andrew Davison is the Starbridge Professor of Theology and Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where he is also the Dean of the Chapel at Corpus Christi College and canon of St. Albans Cathedral. He is also a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Science and Theology at the Center of Theological Inquiry, at Princeton
The book seeks to offer up a vision of Christianity in terms of sharing in God and from God as he outlines at the impact of the significance of life beyond Earth may have on Christian belief.
Faith, Science and the Common Good
The Science of the Good Samaritan: Thinking Bigger About Loving Our Neighbors, by Emily Smith
What does loving one’s neighbor as oneself mean today? That’s the honest question explored by epidemiologist Emily Smith, published by Zondervan in 2023. As we all move into the new era of the pandemic, Smith writes “truly being a neighbor goes way beyond simply donating food of money… it’s also [about] changing our hearts and posture to match those deeds,” from wisely choosing “who we surround ourselves with and give our attention to.” Smith is said to recount in the book how she created a Facebook page during the COVID-19 pandemic to answer safety questions and to promote the protection of others through social distancing and other best practices. She writes of how being the neighbor Jesus talked about means sacrificing even though the cost seems high. The work looks to add faith to a discussion of social justice and global health issues to make the case for the “value of human interconnectedness.”
The Faithful Scientist: Experiences of Anti-Religious Bias in Scientific Training by Christopher P. Scheitle
Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University Christopher Scheitle has conducted a series of provocative surveys of people of faith and scientists to provide a first-hand account of how faith/science topics are approached. In this newly released book, he provides an account of what it is like to be a religious person pursuing an advanced education and career in science.
The book, published by NYU Press in 2023, is comprised of interviews and survey data from over 1,300 PhD students in the natural and social sciences. Scheitle, who also was the author of Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think, highlights that the core challenge is not with the contradictions between faith-based beliefs and scientific knowledge. However, it is in the bias that budding scientific practitioners face from their colleagues if they are religious.
“This book offers vital empirical data that provide insight into what it means to support and foster religious diversity in science,” the book’s description reads.
These books highlighted here are just a handful of great reads out there, but it’s well worth one’s time to understand the widening set of ideas when it comes to faith and science. It informs multiple viewpoints as well as provides good fodder for book club discussions!
Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.