Religion in an Age of Science

by Ian Barbour

Ian G. Barbour is Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Carleton College, Northefiled, Minnesota. He is the author of Myths, Models and Paradigms (a National Book Award), Issues in Science and Religion, and Science and Secularity, all published by HarperSanFrancisco.

Published by Harper San Francisco, 1990. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) An excellent and readable summary of the role of religion in an age of science. Barbour’s Gifford Lectures — the expression of a lifetime of scholarship and deep personal conviction and insight — including a clear and helpful analysis of process theology.


  • Preface

    What is the place of religion in an age of science? How can one believe in God today? What view of God is consistent with the scientific understanding of the world? My goals are to explore the place of religion in an age of science and to present an interpretation of Christianity that is responsive to both the historical tradition and contemporary science.

  • Chapter 1: Ways of Relating Science and Religion

    A broad description of contemporary views of the relationship between the methods of science and those of religion: Conflict, Independence, Dialogue, and Integration.

  • Chapter 2: Models and Paradigms

    This chapter examines some parallels between the methods of science and those of religion: the interaction of data and theory (or experience and interpretation); the historical character of the interpretive community; the use of models; and the influence of paradigms or programs.

  • Chapter 3: Similarities and Differences

    How might we respond to the challenge of religious pluralism today? (1) the character of historical inquiry, (2) whether objectivity is possible if it is recognized that all knowledge is historically and culturally conditioned and (3) can we accept relativism if we abandon absolute claims.

  • Chapter 4: Physics and Metaphysics

    Twentieth-century physics has some important epistemological implications and some modest metaphysical ones. The downfall of classical realism is described. In its place, some interpreters have defended instrumentalism, but the author advocates a critical realism.

  • Chapter 5: Astronomy and Creation

    Within a theistic framework it is not surprising that there is intelligent life on earth; we can see here the work of a purposeful Creator. Theistic belief makes sense of this datum and a variety of other kinds of human experience, even if it offers no conclusive proof. We still ask: Why is there anything at all? Why are things the way they are?

  • Chapter 6: Evolution and Continuing Creation

    The contingency of existence and of boundary conditions is consistent with the meaning of ex nihilo, while the contingency of laws and of events is consistent with the idea of continuing creation. Theism does provide grounds for the combination of contingent order and intelligibility that the scientific enterprise presupposes, though these are limit-questions that do not arise in the daily work of the scientist.

  • Chapter 7: Human Nature.

    What biology and the biblical tradition have to say about human nature. The basic question is whether evolutionary biology and biblical religion are consistent in their views of human nature.

  • Chapter 8: Process Thought

    Process philosophy has developed a systematic metaphysics that is consistent with the evolutionary, many-leveled view of nature. Here are developed ways in which Whitehead applies various categories to diverse entities in the world — from particles to persons — and an evaluation of the adequacy of process philosophy from the viewpoint of science.

  • Chapter 9: God And Nature

    Ways in which God’s action in the natural order is currently portrayed and an evaluation of these interpretations in the light of previous conclusions, including an exploration of several answers to these questions within the Christian tradition.