–Guest post by Prajwal Kulkarni
Like the last shelfie by Patrick Halbrook, I’m also atypical. I’m a non-religious (but also not an atheist!) former scientist who has much sympathy for creationists. I count numerous evangelicals among the people I care about deeply. Here are a few of the books that have influenced me deeply over the years as well as what’s on my summer reading list. Finally: Thanks Adam for giving me a chance to post my shelfie!
Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion (2010) – If you have to read one book science and religion, make it this one. Or rather, Herrnstein Smith explains why these abstract categories don’t do justice to the rich, varied experiences of people’s lives. Deeply, deeply affected my thinking and writing. She helped me articulate why it’s important to focus on scientists and religious people rather than science and religion.
Philip Kitcher, Science, Truth, and Democracy (2003) – Philosopher Philip Kitcher asks us to consider whether the pursuit of scientific truth is always valuable, or whether it entrenches and reifies existing power structures. What I most appreciated is his insistence that this question is empirical as much as it is philosophical.
Sandra Richter, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (2008) – Sandra Richter weaves together a beautiful metaphor of a disorganized closet to help Christians better understand the Old Testament. It will explain and clarify a lot about the Old Testament for both believers and skeptics. You should consider reading it just to experience her marvelous analogous and lucid explanations. Two things I always struggled with when teaching! My main criticism is that at times she assumed too much background knowledge on the part of her readers.
What I’m reading now:
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (2013) – I got this book from a friend, and I’m (sort of!) enjoying it so far. Strobel collects an impressive body of research that could have better organized into a more coherent story. His findings are presented as informal interviews with a number of scholars. Despite these misgivings, I am learning a lot.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera (1985): You can’t expect me to only be reading serious books, can you? My wife and I are reading Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece together. One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of my favorite novels, and I look forward to this one as well!
Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values (1956) – Bronowski’s classic work is almost required reading for anyone interested in science and society. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I haven’t read it yet! While admitting science’s capacity for both good and evil, Bronowski nonetheless aims to show that science can ultimately advance human dignity.
Jason Rosenhouse, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line (2012) – Unlike so many writings on this topic, Rosenhouse spends time getting to know actual creationists. This book is the result of over ten years spent attending creationist conferences and gatherings. Though I suspect he’s much more negative than I would be, I appreciate his approach.
Ronald Numbers, The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design (2006) – Numbers (who happens to be Adam’s former thesis advisor!) has written perhaps the single authoritative history on creationism in America. I’ve been told you’re not really in the club until you’ve read this book. I hope to get my membership card before the summer’s over!
About the author: Prajwal Kulkarni holds a PhD in Applied Physics from Stanford. He blogs about creation, science, and reason at Do I Need Evolution?