Review of Dixon, “Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction” -- By: Mark Pretorius

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 13:1 (Mar 2012)
Article: Review of Dixon, “Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction”
Author: Mark Pretorius

Review of Dixon, “Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction”

Mark Pretorius

Dixon T 2008. Science and religion: a very short introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.


I have read many books on the theme of the science and religion debate. Some have enthralled, while others have disappointed. This book, however, is one of the more delightful and informative introductory books I have read and reviewed on the subject. This particular book is part of the Very short introduction (VSI) series printed by Oxford University Press. All the subjects in the series (which number a few hundred) are written by experts in various fields, with the purpose of giving a brief, but fairly concise introductory synopsis of a particular subject. It seems that the authors endeavor to make the information accessible to lay people, helping them grasp the basics content of the particular subject.

In the case of this book in the series, the author’s insight and historical background to the intriguing interaction between science and theology are, simply put, a wonderful breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, there are many books written on the subject of science and religion which do not highlight and comprehend just how complicated and politically motivated these debates have become. More often than not, books on the subject tend to concentrate on the arguments—creating in the

process their own arguments—rather than on the ‘why’ of the argument.

Dixon, a senior lecturer in history at Queen Mary University of London, and a member of the International Society for Science and Religion, skillfully unpacks the debate (as best he can in such a short volume), and focuses on issues pertaining to the motivation and intentions of the science and religion arguments. He then repacks it in a way that even a layperson, with little knowledge of the subject, can grasp the fundamental issues, and why the debates are often so emotionally charged.

1. Chapter 1: What Are Science-Religion Debates Really About?

The opening chapter immediately answers the question that is, in my view, often missed in the science and religion debate, namely, what is the debate really about? In other words, what is each group arguing about, and what is the motivation behind the often heated arguments on the subject? From the outset, one must understand that this book focuses more on the history of the argument (with many test cases explored), rather than the arguments themselves. Having read several reviews of this book, I found that most criticism centered on the author’s non-criticism of the debates themselves. However, the bo...

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