The Faith of Scientists in Their Own Words edited by Nancy K. Frankenberry. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2008; 542 pages, ISBN 0-691-13487-1, hardback, $29.95.
These well-chosen selections from the writings, letters, and speeches of prominent natural and mathematical scientists allow the reader to explore many ways of looking at the relation of science to the spiritual. The first section covers scientists from the 16th to the 20th century: Galileo, Kepler, Bacon, Pascal, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, and Whitehead. The second section features contemporary scientists: Rachel Carson, Carl Sagan, S. J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, Steven Weinberg, John Polkinghorne, Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking, Paul Davies, E. O. Wilson, S. A. Kauffman, and Ursula Goodenough. The modern thinkers often refer to each other's views, and sometimes are juxtaposed to form a type of conversation or dialogue. Opinions range from the conventionally religious to atheism, mysticism, and "natural religion." As the editor says:
Far from conforming to any caricature, the twenty-one scientists surveyed here offer vivid personal accounts of their intellectual commitments and struggles for meaning, honesty, and excellence. In meeting them in their own words, readers from any faith perspective – or none – can expect to be stimulated, inspired, and instructed. – p. xv
The editor provides a profile of each person, putting their views in context and summarizing their scientific contributions, as well as listing sources of interest to the general reader who wishes to learn more about their ideas. Reading these thoughtful expressions, particularly of the modern scientists, stimulates one's own reflections on nature and its relation to what we don't yet understand, and every reader will find much to agree with, disagree with, and ponder. – Sally Dougherty (May 2008)