A nonfiction book reconsiders the problematic relations between science and faith with a view to a future armistice.
The perennial and often polemical debate between science and religion is “outdated,” Tyler controversially declares. In fact, the real issue is the manner in which the warring parties can refashion themselves against the challenge of postmodernism and its charge that “both sides have built solemn temples from baseless fabric.” The author attempts to provide the basic framework for the rehabilitation of both and more: a pathway for not only the mutual coexistence of the two, but a meaningful and maybe necessary collaboration as well. Science, Tyler argues—and it should be noted he’s a trained scientist—is wonderful but limited. It is essentially reductive, necessarily incomplete, and incapable of comprehending the human need for and experience of meaning. And in its search for totality, science often rejects the elemental subjectivity of human life and the “magic” of the universe’s creation and organization. Religion, too, suffers from its own epistemological failings, in particular its frequent, dogmatic dismissal of scientific discovery. With impressive nuance and philosophical lucidity, the author examines the virtues and vices of both and how each needs the other. Tyler covers an extraordinarily expansive swath of intellectual terrain with concision, discussing diverse topics such as consciousness, religious experience, evolution, and Jung’s interpretation of the Bhagavad-Gita. In addition, the author movingly situates his search for truth within the horizon of tragedy: the sudden death of his son, Gregory, which “shattered my illusion that the world is a rational, explainable place.” In the final analysis, Tyler recommends a narrative that combines both religion and science into a “transcendent unity,” a proposal that isn’t quite unprecedented—he makes no claims to originality—but is presented with clarity and rigor. For those looking for a break from the tiresome contest between faith and science, this is an exceedingly stimulating place to start.
This exploration of science and religion offers a rare combination of intellectual meticulousness and depth.