Test of FAITH
Resources for Churches from The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

Skip Navigation

R.J. Berry (Ed), Real Scientists Real Faith (Monarch, 2009)

RSRF cover£8.99, 288 pages

Buy from: http://www.lionhudson.com/detail.php?product_id=1919596

Author details: http://www.jri.org.uk/index.php/about/people/sam-berry


Real Scientists Real Faith is a collection of stories written by senior scientists, telling how their Christian faith has affected their science, and vice-versa. It is a new version of the book Real Science Real Faith, also edited by RJ Berry, which was published in 1991. The updated version introduces a new set of scientists but is in a similar format, with an essay from the late Donald Mackay to close. Most of the scientists are from the UK, with several from the US (including Francis Collins, the new director of the US National Institutes of Health), and one New Zealander. 

Each person contributing to this book has brought their own unique perspective to it: there are some quite different interpretations of the brief, which makes for an interesting read. Some of the chapters are more readable than others, which is to be expected, but overall this is a very good and readable collection of stories.

The book includes a number of engaging life stories, where the writers tell how they came to faith, and how they came to be scientists. Denis Alexander describes how as a young scientist he worked in Turkey and Lebanon for fifteen years, before being evacuated with his family from Beirut during the Lebanese civil war in the 1980s. Simon Conway Morris gives a very witty and interesting account of his early work on the Burgess shale, and his own reasons for belief.

Many of the chapters in this book give quite an original take on science-faith issues. Mike Hulme describes the challenges of coping with climate change, and asks, ‘What sort of climate are we aiming for?’ Gareth Jones describes his pioneering work on bringing new areas of medical ethics into the academic arena, and Andrew Gosler shares how his own research played a part in his coming to faith well into his scientific career.

For inspiration, Calvin deWitt - an enthusiast and inveterate list-writer - describes in detail how he has lived life as an academic: from family life to teaching, and everything in between. Alister McGrath gives some excellent arguments for faith based on his previous responses to Dawkins’ writings, and Simon Stuart gives his reasons for hope in the face of the current global ecological crisis.

Not everyone will agree with every viewpoint expressed in this book. Clinical psychologist David Myers’ chapter, which includes his reasons for supporting gay marriage, is particularly controversial, but this is nevertheless an extremely helpful book. It should be essential reading for science students, and highly recommended for any scientist who wants to think more deeply about how their faith and science relate. Non-scientists will also find the book approachable: it is relatively jargon free, and the science is explained well. Overall the book achieves what its editor sets out to do: to show in a very practical way how real science and real Christian faith impact each other across the whole range of scientific disciplines.

Contributors: Alister McGrath, Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education, King's College, London; Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute, Cambridge; Derek Burke, Former Vice-Chancellor, University of East Anglia; Gareth Jones, Professor of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago, New Zealand; Andrew Briggs, Professor of Nanomaterials, University of Oxford; Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia; Ian Arbon, Chartered Engineer and Environmentalist; David Myers, Professor of Psychology, Hope College, Michigan; Wilson C. K. Poon, Professor of Physics, University of Edinburgh; Robert White, Professor of Geophysics, University of Cambridge; Simon Stuart, conservation biologist; Andrew Gosler, Chair of the Institute of Human Sciences, Oxford University; Joan Centrella, Chief of the Gravitational Astrophysics Laboratory, NASA; John Wyatt, Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, University College London Hospital; Simon Conway Morris, Professor in Evolutionary Palaeobiology, University of Cambridge; Calvin B. DeWitt, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin- Madison; and Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health.

Difficulty: Intermediate