Seduced by Science: How American Religion Has Lost Its Way

Overview

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. 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 ...
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Overview

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. 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.
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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,

"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,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814731048
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1998
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 0.82 (d)

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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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 1
2 Gene Patents and the Soul 9
3 Using the Bible as a Science Text 25
4 The Medical Power of Prayer 40
5 How Free Speech and Due Process Protect Religion 53
6 How the Free Exercise of Religion Clause Works Today 68
7 Banning Established Religion in Public Schools and Public Places 84
8 The Overlap between Religious Values and Law 102
9 Hearing Religion's Distinctive Voice 117
10 Alternative Perspectives on Religion and Science 136
11 Conclusion 148
Notes 153
Bibliography 197
Index 215
About the Author 220
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