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Calculating God

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  8,420 ratings  ·  802 reviews
An alien shuttle craft lands outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Out pops a six-legged, two-armed alien, who says, in perfect English, "Take me to a paleontologist."

It seems that Earth, and the alien's home planet, and the home planet of another alien species traveling on the alien mother ship, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at about the same tim
Mass Market Paperback, 338 pages
Published July 15th 2001 by Tor Science Fiction (first published June 3rd 2000)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  8,420 ratings  ·  802 reviews

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Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
In a bowling alley in the afterlife, Charles Darwin, Robert J. Sawyer, and The Dude sit drinking beer and discussing Sawyer’s book Calculating God.

Sawyer: So I wrote Calculating God not wanting to ridicule or dismiss those who have other ways of perceiving. We SF readers are supposed to want to explore alien minds; well, religious minds are alien to me, but I struggle to comprehend them.

Charles: So that alien idea really tied the book together.

Sawyer: Right, Calculating God was in response to th
4.5 stars. Most of this book is a solid 5 star effort that I thought was incredibly well done. The central plot involves a representative from a highly advanced alien culture arriving on Earth to review our fossil records and demonstrating to an atheist anthropologist actual proof of the existence of God. It is a well written, deftly plotted and extremely clever spin on the "intelligent design" theory and was a lot of fun to read.

The story loses one star (or at least a half star) for a very clu
Jun 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: g-scifi, reviewed

No. Seriously. Wow.

This guy? Deep.

Sawyer challenges a lot of assumptions in this book. About god, about evolution, about astronomy and about paleontologists.

"Take me to your paleontologist." Once again, Sawyer does aliens in a way that makes them alien in such perfect ways.

This book goes to the edges of philosophy and beyond and it was a very interesting and challenging ride to be on. Wow.

It does at times read like a textbook to varying subjects, there's an awful lot of science and philosop
Graham Crawford
Jul 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
Before reading this book, Robert Sawyer had been a borderline author for me. His SciFis are generally well researched, but his characters are too Middle-class-married-WASP-with-children for my taste. They obsess over themselves and their trite conceptions of "morality"- a theme Sawyer cannot leave alone, or do justice to. In "Calculating GOD", Sawyer finally shows his hand. And for me, he's no longer a borderline author - he's a card carrying foot soldier of the Christian Creationist far right. ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-shelf, sci-fi
I'm very glad I finally got around to reading this. I think I thought I might have gotten a bit tired of the whole science vs. religion debate in modern SF, so when I read the blurb, I hesitated between wanting to read more of Robert's work or having to slog through one side or another of the Evolution vs. God kerfuffle.

But, again, I'm glad! It was nothing like a slog. :) In fact, it was rather refreshing to have rational science-type aliens visit Earth and insist that God exists to all the athe
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
“‘A caring God,’” repeated Hollus.” I have also heard the phrases ‘a loving God,’ and ‘a compassionate God.’” His eyestalks locked on me.”I think you humans apply too many adjectives to the creator.”

Calculating God is an exploration of the idea of God through the lens of science and – more specifically – science fiction. You would not find many religious SF authors (perhaps Google can find a few but I can’t be bothered), certainly, the best known SF authors like Asimov and Clarke have no truck w
Mar 01, 2012 added it
I kind of hated this book.

The premise is that an alien comes to earth and asks to meet with a paleontologist. The alien is devoutly religious, and the book is mostly a dialog between the two, with the religious alien trying to convince the atheist scientist of the existence of a god (or intelligent designer).

That wouldn't be so bad, necessarily, if it was an interesting argument that relied on facts on both sides, but because it's a work of fiction the author tips the balance in favor of the i
Dec 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Great premise, terrible execution.

Calculating God proposes the question "what if we make contact with aliens and discover that they are not rationalist-atheist scientists, but true believers?" It's a provocative opening and challenge to science fiction in general, which is often though not always written by rationalist, atheist authors  who assume their readers and their imagined futures will share those values.

The problem is that Calculating God isn't a very good book on any level. The majorit
[Name Redacted]
So close to perfection and genuine insight. Yet so far...

It opens with an almost Pratchettian set-up, subtler than Pratchett (Sawyer is Canadian after all) but no less replete with humor and humanity. It's funny, insightful, touching, engaging, unputdownable. A remarkable work of satire and social criticism, reflecting on the hidebound rigidity and reactionary nature of much of modern scientific culture and its shocking betrayal of its own stated goals.

Then it hits the halfway mark and all of t
I quite looked forward to this book due to the intriguing concept, but It didn't live up to its potential. The book's premise, as I understood it, was a theistic alien and an athiestic palentologist debating the existence of God. The problem was that all the arguments he used for the existence of God were made up (examples being that every planet in the Galaxy has had 5 extinctions, and every race has the same DNA). The discussions become boring since they are entirely fictional in all the detai ...more
Apr 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A courageous novel that asks questions not normally posed in SF novels (or mainstream books, for that matter), such as: What is the nature of the being we can call "god"? What is the basis of our belief or unbelief in God - faith, science, or something else? How would such a being manifest himself/herself/itself and interact with us in this life and universe?

The book had a personal connection for me as its main character is dying with cancer at the time that my life partner also was. The process
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
Two and a half stars. 2 = I read it and wished I hadn't, 3=fine if you've got nothing better to do. So yeah, I feel mildly like I wasted my time.

Sawyer as an author takes the big idea and then sets up his characters to be affected by it. In this case the idea is really big: god.

Frankly, I find the whole god/not god argument rather tedious. It's mostly about just pushing people's buttons on one side or the other, and shooting stereotyped fish in a barrel with the obligatory stupid southern fundam
Jun 28, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book is the author's private soap box for preaching creationist garbage like:
* Gaps in the fossil record
* Missing links
* There's no proof of evolution, it's just a theory
* Inadequacies in natural selection
* We've never seen a new species form
* Fine-tuning is evidence for a creator

The plot revolves around an alien who comes to Earth looking for got. He is shocked by human atheists, and tries to share the "the scientific fact of god". The "evidence" provided is something about the marvelous p
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This one is a very insightful, thoughtful, serious, and humorous look at intelligent creation and religion applied from a rigorously scientific methodological viewpoint. That sounds like a lot to swallow, no matter your personal beliefs, and it certainly is, but Sawyer pulls it off quite well in a challenging and thought-provoking manner. There are a lot of philosophical discussions and hard-science speculation broken up with humorous action bits that don't hold quite as well. It's one of those ...more
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, alien
While it is true that science and religion often seem at odds in western culture, I have often experience much joy in science fiction genre that boldly deals with religious and philosophical thought. To illustrate I've posted a link to one of my favorite list on Goodreads.

Calculating God achieves near perfection in this area. Regardless of your worldview, you will appreciate the depth of thought in this entertaining story about an alien scientist, who is a
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fiction, funny
Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. More to come.
Lynda Engler
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It seems readers either loved or hated this book, all based on how they perceive Sawyer's treatment of religion (read: Christian viewpoint on religion) vs. atheism. I'm in the LOVED IT camp. Matter of fact, I've reread it 3 times. And I'll tell you why:

Sawyer takes the viewpoint of aliens who believe in a creator rather than the perceived human POV that when aliens (who are scientifically advanced enough to travel through interstellar space) finally arrive, they will OF COURSE be non-believers.
I’m not rating this book, because it’s a BIG FAT DID NOT FINISH for me.

This book is very reminiscent of the Three Dialogues of Hylas and Philonous to me. And, if you don’t know what that piece of literature is, than you aren’t a philosophy student, and you are probably making more money than me, and are making a plethora of other, better life choices. Congratulations. Any ways, I also have a History and a Classics Major, and I do stand by those, but I digress.

The point being, this is a book whe
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book really surprised me. I picked it up as an Audible Daily Deal and was it a bargain! I thought the premise would be interesting, but I didn't realize how much this book would get my brain (and heart!) working.

The premise is this: what if aliens came and they believed in God and were talking to a scientist who did not? The Audible copy I had also came with an introduction by the author in which he said he was trying to discuss the issue of fundamentalism and how it's not just the religiou
Jul 31, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi
Robert J. Sawyer just never quite does it for me. His ideas are fairly pedestrian, even if they are occasionally clever. This book was a thinly veiled argument that the universe was intelligently designed. I'm not sure why I read the whole thing, except I wanted to see if it was really that bad. and it was.

Additionally, there was a sexism problem. The protagonist meets an alien who is a scientist, like himself. He assumed the alien is a male. And when he finds out that he's a she, he decides no
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Usually, if I sense an alien coming, I run. In movies or books, anyway. Beasties with six legs and eyes on wands, flying saucers and such... not my thing. But good writing, in any genre, is always my thing. There is so much to learn and understand in solid reality that I wish no escapism, the latter wasting precious real time for matters of value and substance ... but when science fiction keeps enough of its six legs firmly planted in issues we face in substantiated reality, even as it waves its ...more
Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton
Mar 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: sci-fi fans, science geeks
Shelves: science-fiction
[An updated review]

I lucked out when I found Calculating God. It was one of those I’m-bored-and-I-have-nothing-to-read-so-I’ll-browse-the-shelves-and-randomly-pick-something finds.

I was in for a treat. Winner of the Nebula Award, Robert Sawyer presents an interesting thought experiment: what if Earth were discovered by an alien race, or rather, TWO alien races, and they informed us that, contrary to popular scientific belief, the universe and everything in it indicates that there is a god, a cre
Aug 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
The first few pages were fantastic, but nothing much happens after that. Rather the book is a creative opportunity for the author to postulate on science and god. The alien visitors supposedly have scientific proof that God exists, however this is primarily based on their discoveries of a fifth universal force and other fabricated science (such as that big bang/contraction cycles could not have happened more than eight times)--I'm sorry but its not all that interesting to make up science and the ...more
Is it possible to calculate God? Can science demonstrate the existence, or absence, of God?

I'm a firm believer that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of "God" in the sense that most people use the word. The God of the Bible, the God of the Koran, the pagan gods of Greek legend – they are beyond the scope of science.

But maybe science could prove, or at least evaluate evidence for, the existence of an entity that is so advanced and so powerful that it might as well be a "god" from our
There are zero fresh or original ideas in this book. It's as if Robert J Sawyer (who in his extraordinarily condescending intro to the audiobook says only young earth creationists and people who aren't true scientists won't enjoy what this book has to say) decided to "write the controversy" and then at the end realized that he needed to get a little trippy (hint: (view spoiler)).

The 2nd half would have been interesting if it wasn't pr
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This is a reread and re-review for me.
This is such an interesting book. The main characters of Hollus and Tom could not be more different, as on is a human and one is a Forhilnor. (Sorry, the spelling is probably wrong, I was listening to the book.) But since they are both scientists, they have much in common, except for their views on whether god exists. I have covered this before, but I just want to say that the philosophical arguments that they have are wildly enterta
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Most novels, in my experience, seem to start out great and quickly fizzle... This one, started with a fizzle and then got great. If you liked the work of Arthur C. Clarke, you will probably enjoy this as it is an intelligently written, well thought out work, packed with grand philosophical ideas and decent interesting characterization. And most important, it is entertaining. I highly recommend it and wish there were more like it.
So, I Read This Book Today
Jan 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
I tried to finish the book, I really did. However, there really wasn't any 'there' there. It reads as nothing other than the ramblings of a man who learned sound bites about science so that he could convince thoughtful persons to purchase a book that he then uses as a soapbox for obsessive ravings.

I expected to find sound science to be the basis of the book, with some interesting theories on the possibilities of intelligent design. Some comparative paleontology, interesting theories on the devel
Beth Cato
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, 2019
This book addresses a complex topic, and my reaction was likewise complex. The premise is quite extraordinary: an alien lands in front of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and asks to speak with a paleontologist. This scientist happens to be Tom Jericho. Tom and the alien strike up an odd sort of friendship as they debate shared histories of mass extinctions on their home worlds and why that might be. It turns out, this species of alien and others agree that the complex nature of life means th ...more
Modern Major General
A very thought-provoking book.

I very much enjoyed some of the more philosophical questions raised and discussed regarding the nature of god, creationism, and intelligent design, even though I'm a die-hard atheist. The author, through the characters, presented a lot of interesting ideas to which I had not really spent much time thinking about, or had ever really occurred to me. Some nice food for thought, although it didn't change my mind.

Three things, I didn't like about the book: firstly, its i
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in

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It’s time to turn your attention to something dark and twisty, to a story (or two or three) so engaging, the pages just fly by. In short, it’s...
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“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.” 2307 likes
“There is no indisputable proof for the big bang," said Hollus. "And there is none for evolution. And yet you accept those. Why hold the question of whether there is a creator to a higher standard?” 43 likes
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