Seduced by Science: How American Religion Has Lost Its Way

Seduced by Science: How American Religion Has Lost Its Way

by Steven Goldberg
     
 
"Insightful and penetrating."
—Science

"This interesting book makes a strong demand on religiously inclined readers . . . warning not to justify things of the spirit by signs material. . . . Goldberg's warning is one to take seriously."
—The Christian Science Monitor

"An original, forthright argument that American religion

Overview

"Insightful and penetrating."
—Science

"This interesting book makes a strong demand on religiously inclined readers . . . warning not to justify things of the spirit by signs material. . . . Goldberg's warning is one to take seriously."
—The Christian Science Monitor

"An original, forthright argument that American religion has sold its soul to science. . . . A well-reasoned counterweight to recent science-worshipping titles."
—Kirkus Reviews

American religion, Steven Goldberg claims, has fallen into a trap. Just at the moment when it has amassed the political strength and won the legal right to participate effectively in public debate, it has lost its distinctive voice. Instead of speaking of human values, goals, and limits, it speaks in the language of science.

In the United States, science has extraordinary influence and respect. American religious leaders seeking prestige for their point of view regularly couch their responses to technological developments, or defend their faith, in scientific terms. They claim, for instance, that medical studies demonstrate the power of prayer, that science validates the Bible, including its account of creation, and that patenting the genetic code is dangerous because genes are the essence of who we are.

But when ministers, priests, and rabbis expound on double-blind studies and the genetic causes of behavior, they do not elevate religion, Goldberg maintains, they trivialize it. Seduced by Science examines how, by allowing scientific discourse to set the terms of the debate, American religious leaders facilitate religion's move away from its more appropriate and important concerns of values, morality, and humility. Science can tell us a lot about what is but precious little about what ought to be and our religious leaders often miss the chance to add an important voice from a faith-based perspective to the public debate that follows scientific advances.

Discussing the most recent and pressing collisions between science and religion-such as the medicinal benefits of prayer, the human genome project, and cloning-Goldberg raises the timely question of what the appropriate role of religion might be in public life today. Tackling the legal aspects of religious debate, Goldberg suggests ways that religious leaders might confront new scientific developments in a more meaningful fashion.

Author Biography: Steven Goldberg is a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author of Culture Clash: Law and Science in America, winner of the Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award, also available from NYU Press.

Editorial Reviews

Journal of Church and State
Goldberg's expertise in the legal system, science, and contemporary social issues allows him to frame public debates in their proper perspectives. His presentations of the relations between law and religion offer insights that tend to be ignored and he convincingly shows that religious values have a central place in today's controversies.
Robert C. Cowen
This interesting book makes a strong demand on religiously inclined readers....Goldberg is right in his warning not to justify things of the spirit by signs material.
The Christian Science Monitor
Kirkus Reviews
An original, forthright argument that American religion has sold its soul to science. A spate of recent books have complained that religion has not paid enough attention to science and should adapt itself to "dialogue" with scientists. Legal guru Goldberg (Law/Georgetown Univ.; Culture Clash: Law and Science in America, not reviewed) offers precisely the opposite, argument, that religion should maintain its "distinctive voice" and stop trying to prove itself using science's methodologies and truth claims. Goldberg notes the irony that just when American religion has established itself as a powerful political force, its leaders seem to have nothing valuable or unique to contribute to national debates. He examines three key issues—cloning, "creation science," and the healing power of prayer—which religious leaders have failed to address in a religious manner. Concerning prayer, for example, ministers have seized upon medical studies demonstrating that prayer does help in healing chronically or terminally ill patients. By their insistence that these studies prove the power of prayer, Goldberg says, ministers and other leaders trivialize prayer as "just another therapy." The book's second half explores religion's role in public and political life, maintaining that religion has embraced science so thoroughly in order to gain a long-sought legitimacy in the public eye. Goldberg notes that the Constitution is designed to protect religion from being trivialized, even (especially?) by its most ardent and vocal advocates. (Prayer in school, for instance, would make religion a rote matter, like the saying of the Pledge of Allegiance, and government-sanctioned holidays like Christmasare almost wholly secularized) These sections lose the book's ostensible focus on religion and science, though they are valuable in themselves. One problem throughout is Goldberg's heavy bias toward Christian examples; the book is less about American religion in general than one religion in particular. Overall, a well-reasoned counterweight to recent science-worshipping titles.

From the Publisher
"Goldberg's expertise in the legal system, science, and contemporary social issues allows him to frame public debates in their proper perspectives. His presentations of the relations between law and religion offer insights that tend to be ignored and he convincingly shows that religious values have a central place in today's controversies."

-Journal of Church and State

"A readable book that will be a valuable addition to university libraries and useful reading in courses on science and values."

-Religious Studies Review

"Provides the reader with a lucid and accessible entre to the contentious issues surrounding the role of religion in American public life."

-Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

"Insightful and penetrating.”

-Science

"This interesting book makes a strong demand on religiously inclined readers . . . warning not to justify things of the spirit by signs material. . . . Goldberg's warning is one to take seriously."

-The Christian Science Monitor

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814731048
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
12/01/1998
Pages:
230
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.69(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Goldberg's expertise in the legal system, science, and contemporary social issues allows him to frame public debates in their proper perspectives. His presentations of the relations between law and religion offer insights that tend to be ignored and he convincingly shows that religious values have a central place in today's controversies."

-Journal of Church and State,

"Provides the reader with a lucid and accessible entre to the contentious issues surrounding the role of religion in American public life."

-Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies,

"A readable book that will be a valuable addition to university libraries and useful reading in courses on science and values."

-Religious Studies Review,

"Insightful and penetrating."

-Science,

"This interesting book makes a strong demand on religiously inclined readers . . . warning not to justify things of the spirit by signs material. . . . Goldberg's warning is one to take seriously."

-The Christian Science Monitor

Meet the Author

Steven Goldberg is a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author of Culture Clash: Law and Science in America, winner of the Alpha Sigma Nu Book Award, also available from NYU Press.

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