Short book review

John & Carol Burgeson (
Wed, 12 May 1999 18:45:55 -0400

I just finished another dreary "Science has all the answers so why don't
you religious types slink back into your holes" book.

Here is a brief review.


AND RELIGION by Chet Raymo. New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1998. 267
pages, index, footnotes. Hardcover; $23.00.

This is a sad book. The author, a noted science writer for a Boston
newspaper, and a professor of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College,
has fallen victim to a particularly pernicious form of the dyatic fallacy.
Raised Roman Catholic, with a heavy emphasis on the miracles of that faith,
he came to understand all religious expression as counterfeit and only
"science" with the power to answer the three basic questions of humanity:
Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? "For better or worse,"
he writes on page 233, this is the task of science . . . now embraced
globally as the one truly human instrument of cosmic revelation."

We are ephemeral, he asserts, there is no "immortality." We are contingent,
here in our present form and consciousness only by fortuitous accident. We
are "animated stardust cast up on a random shore, a brief incandescence."
(page 245). Raymo does write well! He lumps all religion with astrology,
the Turin shroud, UFOs and other strange belief systems; they are all just
nonsense, he claims. The usual cast of characters are on the book jacket
with endorsements, E. O. Wilson and S. J. Gould among them.

The key to understanding where Raymo went wrong may be found in a quotation
by physicist Paul Davies in his preface. Davies wrote, "To invoke God as a
blanket explanation of the unexplained is to make God the friend of
ignorance. If God is to be found, it must surely be through what we
discover about the world, not what we fail to discover." One may hardly
disagree with the first sentence. But the thrust of Davies' comment is that
God is to be found through "science." Raymo, having not found Him that way,
considers Him disproved.

Dawkins presents the case better. This book is not a keeper.

John W. Burgeson
Retired US Navy physicist
Retired IBM market researcher
Stephen Minister, First Presbyterian Church
Durango Colorado
Imago Dei