Carl Sagan’s Cosmos came out while I was an atheist, and I thought it was a wonderful TV series. I loved the state-of-the-art graphics, and, of course, Sagan was a master documentarian. I know now that there was quite a bit of anti-religious propaganda in the script, but at the time it didn’t bother me, because, well, I was an atheist, so I didn’t notice it, and it wouldn’t have bothered me if I had noticed it. I believe it was quite mild compared to the in-your face anti-theism so prevalent today.
In fact, when Neil deGrasse Tyson announced he was doing a remake, I thought it was quite exciting. There was certainly plenty of new science in astronomy and cosmology to catch up on. This time, though, as a Christian I was keenly aware of the potshots and distortions of history and theology that were beamed out to the public in the name of science.
But my goal is not to review the Cosmos TV show. Instead, I want to discuss a new book recently published that is a marvelous antidote and a gentle rebuttal to the tone of Cosmos. The book is called The Story of the Cosmos, edited by Daniel Ray (an online friend) and Paul Gould. The chapters are all about cosmology, astronomy and related sciences, but there is not much about biochemistry, so I read it as an educated layman.
The Story of the Cosmos is a joy to read. The quality of the writing and the impeccable scientific content of the essays make this book a wonderful counter-argument to the Sagan/Tyson narrative of a meaningless, purposeless, Godless cosmos. The individual authors, all expert authorities in their fields, tackle subjects as diverse as black holes, fine-tuning, binary stars, meteorites, and the history and literature of the scientific study of the universe, all from a Christian theistic worldview. This book is all about declaring the glory of God by studying the heavens.
As would be expected, the different authors employ a variety of styles in their chapters, but all of them are eminently readable for the non-specialist (like me) and full of interest and insights. Educational and entertaining, this book would make a marvelous gift for a student of any age who is interested in learning about the science of cosmology without the tired anti-religious propaganda that pervades so much of popular scientific literature and media.
While I found every chapter to be intriguing and informative, I especially enjoyed Consolmagno’s humble and straightforward accounts of his laboratory work on meteors, Salviander’s story of black hole denialism, and Gonzalez’ treatment of a subject of great interest to me–exoplanets and astrobiology. William Lane Craig, the famous apologist, theologian, and philosopher, has an outstanding chapter that summarizes many of his familiar apologetic arguments and goes into new areas stimulated by newer findings. The other chapters are equally beautifully written and interesting, and you might be hard pressed to choose your own favorites. Congratulations to editors Daniel Ray and Paul Gould for a magnificent job on this volume, which I believe will be essential reading for anyone interested in science and Christian faith.
I originally intended to post a review on the book’s Amazon page, but I was prevented from doing so. Apparently, something in my profile triggered a rejection of my review, because it reflected information in another reviewer’s profile. Huh? After a few attempts to correct this error, Amazon basically told me that the decision stands. The good news is that the book is selling well, despite the lack of a review from me. Here is the link to the Amazon page for ordering the book, or, of course, you could patronize your local bookstore. Either way, I strongly recommend obtaining a copy. It’s a great reference, and a pleasure to read. Order it here.
Many thanks Sy. I am now also interested is seeing Tyson’s remake of that Carl Sagan documentary. Tyson seems to be rejecting being classified as an atheist, so I would love to see how an agnostic views the subject.
To those who insist that agnostics are atheists, my answer is that in the mind of the ordinary man a distinction exists. To the ordinary person, atheists say there is no god, but agnostics say that it has not yet been proved either way.
BTW, you wouldn’t be able to arrange for me to debate with Tyson on that subject, could you? I think we’d both love it 😀
Dennis. Sure, I’ll call my buddy Neil and set it up!! Seriously, I have no more chance to speak to Tyson than you do. Maybe less. 🙂
Did you buy your copy of this book via Amazon? If not – or if you were GIVEN a copy by your friend the editor – this would itself be a reason for Amazon not to publish your review. I discovered this recently when trying to add a review of a book. IT didn’t use to be the case – I used to review books quite frequently on Amazon, some of which I’d bought through Amazon but others I’d got from local bookstores, or even the library, and never had a problem posting the review – but they seem to have changed their policy. A shame. It’s annoying when you see some earlier review that says something that you strongly disagree with, or even contains misleading or inaccurate information, and can’t add a “correction”. And after all, an enthusiastic review on Amazon will encourage its readers to buy the book, probably FROM Amazon, even if the reviewer happened to have acquired his own copy from some other source.
Great review, Sy! Sorry about the Amazon issue; that’s strange. I didn’t have any trouble leaving one but I know Amazon’s fickle about their review policy.
I contacted Amazon. They told me that my profile had lots of similarities to another profile of someone who had posted a review. When I replied that was mistake, they said the decision stands and they wont discuss it further. I just posted a review of Philip’s book, and so far its still being processed. If they reject that one also, I will need to talk to someone.
I worked at NYU in Sterling Forest back in the early 80’s. So I saw you around and a few of your graduate students: Andy Hood and Anne Hochwalt. Anyway I ordered the book through bookfinder.com which can sometimes be cheaper than Amazon. Anyway, I’ve been checking out your website for at least a year now and have enjoyed your posts very much.
Hi John. Glad to see you here, and to hear that you have been following me. Off the bat, your name is not familiar to me, but my memory is not what it used to be (along with a lot of other things). Were you a student? Which group were you in? What have you been doing recently. You can write to me at email@example.com. Oh, and thanks for buying the book. When you get it, let me know what you think. All the best.
I just finished reading “The Story of the Cosmos”. The pictures in the book are phenomenal. I only wish the book were larger. What struck me the most was a chapter near the end of the book that talked about how we the “Smartphone Generation” are disconnected from God’s works and so miss the majesty of his creation. I am blessed because I experience them with my eyes and other senses. My wife and I when we first married would refer to our walks outdoors as “nature church”. We’ve extended this to also include bird watching, camping and star gazing with or without children.