Trilogy: Science and the World's Religions


Science and the World’s Religions consists of three volumes of new essays, written by experts specifically for this project, and targeted for the educated public. Each essay addresses a vital existential, moral, or metaphysical issue that many thoughtful people ponder—an issue on which satisfying progress requires integrating scientific and religious insights. Educated people in many parts of the contemporary world struggle to unite their spiritual instincts and their scientific knowledge. Most people do not have the time and opportunities required to decide how to weave all of these threads of knowledge and belief together into a tapestry that can help describe and guide their lives. These volumes are aimed directly at this audience. They function as workbooks for such readers, full of ideas to digest slowly, as they consider how to think through the challenge of integrating science with their religious beliefs and spiritual practices.

The first volume is Origins & Destinies. This focuses on issues ranging from the origins of religious beliefs and practices to the questions of meaning and purpose that most people ask about their own lives as well as about human history and the universe as a whole.

The second volume is Persons & Groups. This focuses on issues surrounding human nature, the ways religion is entangled in both the problems human beings face and the solutions they seek to construct, and the roles of religion in the human life cycle.

The third volume focuses on Religions & Controversies. The educated lay reader is sharply aware of problematic issues at the junction of science and religion but struggles to find accessible presentations of the issues that both achieve intellectual depth and rise above mono-traditional parochialism. These issues arc from the compatibility of religion and evolution to interreligious competition, and from the standing of science and religion as forms of knowledge to questions about human responsibility in face of racing technology.

Distinctive Features

Virtually every major area of scientific work is discussed at some point in these volumes. The essays also engage diverse religious perspectives, drawing from traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions. The integration of scientific and religious perspectives is carried off with the highest quality and demonstrates impeccable responsibility in the handling of both scientific and religious details, while remaining accessible to the intended readership.

The organizing principle of each essay is not one science’s take on a religious question, or one religion’s take on a scientific question, both of which are overused genres of science-religion writing. Rather, each essay is an integrative reflection on a vital existential and practical issue, drawing on at least two sciences and engaging at least two religious traditions, and exhibiting a bio-cultural approach to the subject matter—that is, an approach that unites biological perspectives and cultural analysis. The editors appoint a writer for each chapter, and that writer is free to make private arrangements to obtain help from others, either as consultants or as co-authors. But the editors contract with only one author of each chapter.

Table of Contents

Science and the World Religions, volume 1: Origins & Destinies

Part I: Origins

The origins of religion
Religion and the origins of good and evil
Religion and the origins of social and political orders
Religion and the origins of cultural and economic orders
Religion and the origins of art and technology
Religion and the origins of mythologies
Religion and the origins of the sciences
Religion and the origins of the universe

Part II: Destinies

Meaning and purpose in cosmic evolution
Meaning and purpose in biological evolution
Meaning and purpose in human history
The ultimate meaning of the human project
The ultimate meaning of the universe 

Science and the World Religions, volume 2: Persons & Groups

Part I: Human Nature

Religion and the brain
Religion and the self
Religion and sexual identity
Religion and spiritual experiences

Part II: Human Problems and Solutions

Religion, cruelty, and empathy
Religion, war, and peacemaking
Religion, initiation, and social identity
Religion, sacrifice, and scapegoating
Religion, disease, and health

Part III: Human Life Cycle

Religion and childhood
Religion and adolescence
Religion and adulthood
Religion and old age
Religion and death

Science and the World Religions, volume 3: Religions and Controversies

Religion and the authority of sacred texts and leaders (is religion authoritarian?)
Religion and women (is religion sexist?)
Religion and fanaticism (is religion dangerous?)
Religion and the reliability of beliefs (is religion trustworthy?)
Religion and spiritual supremacy (is one religion superior to the rest?)
Personal Gods, non-personal Gods, and non-theistic religions (is religion one thing?)
Religion and evolution (is religion consistent with biology?)
Religion and magical thinking (is religion a delusion?)
Religion and social control (is religion oppressive?)
Religion and poverty (is religion economically helpful?)
Religion and the future of the ecosphere (is religion eco-friendly?)
Religion and the future of medicine (is religion health promoting?)
And No Religion Too: Secularity and the future of religion (is religion always relevant?)