From the Publisher
“With honesty, discernment, humor, grace— and an enormous amount of reporting—Barbara Bradley Hagerty takes on one of the fiercest controversies of the last 500 years: Can we measure faith? Fingerprints of God reads like an elegant mystery story as Bradley Hagerty launches a search for evidence of God within us and the universe as a whole. People of faith and science will be grateful for the chance to join her on her quest."—E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Souled Out and syndicated columnist
“Barbara Bradley Hagerty has done something truly remarkable here. She has brought her considerable reporting skills and wonderfully wry writing to the question of who or what is God. By meticulously documenting scientific studies and interspersing them with the experiences of a number of individuals, including herself, she opens doors to those answers. Fingerprints of God is its own scientific and spiritual journey, one well worth taking.”—Cokie Roberts, author of Ladies of Liberty and news analyst
“Fingerprints of God is a courageous and immensely enjoyable book. In Barbara Bradley Hagerty's investigation of the science of spirituality, I found answers for questions I've pondered for years. Many people will find themselves in these pages.”—Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz
“What a book! The pages crackle with fresh insights into the nexus of faith and science. Striking just the right balance between skepticism and open-mindedness, Bradley makes for the perfect guide on this journey of discovery. Read this book. It'll inform and entertain – and just might change the way you view the world.”—Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss
“You can find God in many places, from the condemned on death row to the deepest folds of the human brain. In this groundbreaking book on the emerging science of faith, Barbara Bradley Hagerty discovers the links between science and spiritual experience. Fingerprints of God will provoke you, intrigue you, and inspire you.”—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
In this moderate, thoughtful book, award-winning National Public Radio religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes about what recent scientific research reveals about human spiritual experiences. These studies are far-reaching, covering not only the mental activities of Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns but also faith healing through directed prayer and near-death experiences. In interviews with several of the world's leading scientists, Hagerty probes what science can tell us and not tell us about faith and spirituality. Talking about the ineffable; a believer's honest search for truth.
In another writer's hands, much of the material in this book might have become fodder for ridicule…But throughout the book, one is struck by the humility Hagerty brings to her subjectsomething lacking in many contemporary debates over the meaning of faith and the existence of Godand her skepticism about the science offered up as proof of spiritual experience…Hagerty's engaging book poses a provocative challenge to anyone who has ever wondered where faith comes from, and what it can do forand tous.
The Washington Post
In her first book, National Public Radio correspondent Hagerty acts as a tour guide through the rocky terrain of scientists who study religious experience. Is there a so-called "God gene"? Why do some people have mystical experiences while others never see the so-called light? Right up front, Hagerty reveals that this is not an entirely objective exercise. As a Christian, she wants to understand her own mystical encounter with the divine and why she believes when others do not. Yet to each interview, whether with a world-renowned neuroscientist or a back-road mystic, she brings a suitably skeptical eye. Along the way, she manages to explain some pretty cutting-edge science-psychoneuroimmunology, anyone?-and unravel some people's pretty hard-to-comprehend religious experiences without sacrificing depth or complexity. Then, with equal aplomb, she dances off to peyote ceremonies, church services and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. The real beauty of this book lies in watching Hagerty gracefully balance her own trust in faith and science and, in the end, come down with one foot planted firmly in both. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Articles about research on spirituality and the brain are usually written from the point of view that religious experience can be understood from a purely scientific perspective. Hagerty's (religion correspondent, NPR) book does not have this naturalistic or materialistic tendency. Rather, as both a reporter and a religious person, she seeks insight on spirituality and science while being open to the possibility that spirituality may still have a transcendent component. The book is interesting to read because the author has interviewed many scientists as well as many people who attest to having mystical or near-death experiences. In a way, the reader feels like a participant in Hagerty's own encounter with the various pieces of information and evidence, struggling with her to make sense of it all. Highly recommended.
A deep spiritual quest from NPR religion correspondent Hagerty. After renouncing Christian Science, the stoic religious heritage of her New England upbringing, Hagerty remained a spiritual seeker. She writes that she experienced numinous episodes in which she physically felt the presence of something not of this world. The author's debut is an attempt to straddle two schools of thought: reductionist materialism (voiced in the extreme by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens et al.), which denies the validity of natural phenomena yet to be explained; and organized religion (James Dobson, Pat Robertson et al.), which discourages serious inquiry into science's understanding of the brain, mind and consciousness. Hagerty offers neither church sermon nor secular argument. This is a serious journalist's courageous, ambitious investigation into what science says about "a spiritual world . . . that eludes physical sight and hearing and touch?" Hagerty weaves together interviews with scientists, psychologists, neurologists and dozens of people who share her metaphysical experience, including mystics, or "spiritual virtuosos." She also explores the so-called God gene, drug-induced vision quests, the neurochemistry of faith, out-of-body experiences and the psychological aftermath of near-death experiences. Ultimately, the book ends where it began, echoing psychologist and pragmatist William James, who said that science can't prove or disprove God. At best, science is agnostic. While this may be comforting for believers, Hagerty's conclusions may prove ordinary for dedicated students of science and philosophy. A commendable, witty attempt to ground spirituality in established fact that will providedeeper understanding to people of faith but few surprises for nonbelievers.