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 Christmas are 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. (Kirkus Reviews)
"Provides the reader with a lucid and accessible entre to the
contentious issues surrounding the role of religion in American
--" Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies"
"A readable book that will be a valuable addition to university
libraries and useful reading in courses on science and
--"Religious Studies Review"
"Insightful and penetrating."
"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
"--Journal of Church and State"
"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
"--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."
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
In the United States, science has extraordinary influence and
respect. American religious leaders seeking prestige for their
point of view regularly couch their responsesto 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.
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