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Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  764 ratings  ·  128 reviews
From the award-winning NPR religion correspondent comes a fascinating investigation of how science is seeking to answer the question that has puzzled humanity for generations: Can science explain God?

Is spiritual experience real or a delusion? Are there realities that we can experience but not easily measure? Does your consciousness depend entirely on your brain, or does
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 14th 2009 by Riverhead Hardcover (first published 2009)
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Frank Jude
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: only those who want to bolster thier 'faith' and 'willfulness to believe.'
Well, Barbara Bradley Hagerty set out to find the evidence of God, and the Transcendent reality she hoped to find and -- guess what? She found it! She asserts she's a "journalist" and "reporter," but her awards as a "religion correspondent" tell me more that what she is is a believer looking for any evidence -- or lacking that, any justification to lower the bar for what counts as evidence -- for grounding her belief.

She often asserts her feeling that "There has to be more" than this, and her fi
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was ok
An interesting read, but ultimately disappointing. This would be a good introduction into the interaction of science and spirituality for a non-scientist. As a scientist who has read some on this topic, I found it a little shallow, not in terms of research (obviously extensive and with an honest attempt at balance), but in thinking. In the end, it didn't really tell me anything I didn't know already. ...more
Jennifer Willis
Mar 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It’s been nearly a week since I finished reading this book by NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty, on “the search for the science of spirituality.”

When I was only about a quarter of the way into the book, I sat down with two fellow writers to talk shop, and mentioned what I was reading. I surprised myself by admitting to these two ladies — whom I like and respect, but whom I don’t know very well — that I had cried my way through roughly half of what I’d already read of Hagerty’s book. In t
2+ stars. Nice effort. Author visits & interviews interesting people, who often seem as nutty as they are intelligent.

Possibly a good read if you are interested in working of the brain (layman's level), or science/biology vs religious musings. Not a bad read, but at the end I knew about as much on the subject as when I began (I've read a handful of similar books). On the plus side, FINGERPRINTS OF God helped me get to sleep.

For a similar book with a bit more humor: Spook: Science Tackles the Af
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
When I first heard of Fingerprints of God I was filled with anticipation that this might be the book I've been looking for on the search for physical evidence of spirituality in the world.

But, wow, was I disappointed!! Written by a journalist, Barbara Hagerty, this book lets you down on all fronts. Firstly, the book's title is a HUGE disservice to the core topic she was writing about. The book should have been titled 'Religion and the Brain - the Search for Physical Influences on Perceptions of
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, audio
Hagerty states at the beginning of her book that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. I agree with this. She then goes on to try to prove God through science.

She misses the fundamental principle that how much we "know" about and understand God is not a function of our knowledge or intelligence, but how closely our life is in conformance with what we know of God's will and how much we're willing to let that knowledge change us.

I enjoyed learning about the Christian Science relig
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
How does the brain function when a Buddhist monk is in deep meditation or a charismatic Christian speaks in tongues? What do scientists know about out of body experiences? Can the mind function apart from the brain? These are some of the interesting questions that Hagerty tackles. However, she does so in a way that gives both highly educated mystics and skeptics a fair treatment in voicing their interpretations of such paranormal events.

Hagerty also speaks of a new generation of scientists who a
May 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautiful nonfiction book, one of the best I’ve read. I usually like to just read nonfiction one chapter at a time, but Fingerprints of God is so conversational and engaging; it’s easy to get caught up in it like a good novel. Barbara Bradley Hagerty is the religious correspondent for NPR, and she took a year off to research this work. Hagerty is scrupulously honest about how this book is as much about her personal journey (and admits her lack of objectivity to a certain degree) as it ...more
Jun 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Hagerty sets out to explore the link between science and faith through a series of interviews and self reflection. What she finds is that ultimately you can read the data to support either a theistic or atheistic worldview and that a theistic reading of the data points to a god spoken of by apologists and loved by no one.

What I liked about the book is that Hagerty presents a bunch of scientific (and pseudo-scientific) studies through the eyes of her own personal quest for the truth about god. S
Lanny Carlson
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on a Pamida clearance shelf,
and it is one of the best books I've ever read on the subject.

I've read most of Lee Strobel's books,
in which a skeptical journalist investigates Christianity
though a series of interviews.
Hagerty is also a journalist,
but while Strobel has an obvious bias
and is rather selective in his interviewees,
seemingly handpicking those who will support his point of view,
Hagerty's research is much more far ranging,
her discussion much more objective,
and her conclu
Oct 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
The questions that this book poses are not so much along the line of, Is there a God?, but exploring whether Science can attest that spiritual experience and experiences are something separate than just brain synapses and physiological changes. I found this book to be quite fascinating, and one that confirmed my own gut feeling (so to speak) that there is Someone Out There Watching Over Us.

The author grew up in a very strong Christian Science tradition and grew up to become a journalist covering
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, doubt-search
A very good "intro" book to the junction of faith and science. I particularly enjoyed the studies on the meditative and psychedelic-tripped brain... which did make me want to try LSD at some later date in life. Also really loved the study on "paired" couples and their ability to effect the other over distance and with no known material connection.

The chapters on near-death experiences I found tedious. While I understand that they are life-changing for many people who have them, I really fail to
Oct 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book can't answer the Big Question: is God really communicating with people who have spiritual experiences during prayer, in spontaneous healing, or in near-death experiences? What it can do is describe some new science that studies the brains of people who have had life-changing spiritual events. Brain activity, brain chemistry, and in some cases genetics are different for people who have had what they consider encounters with the spiritual than they are from people who haven't. What's mor ...more
Ben Lee
Apr 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
I added this book to my wishlist after hearing the story about the book on NPR. Almost two years later, I finally read it. It's very interesting. You get to read about all sorts of spiritual experiences people had, like encounters with God, near death experiences, spiritual conversions... and then an explanation of what's going on from the neurological perspective. There were quite a few interesting stories. The writer shares her own spiritual experience, which wasn't quite as interesting, but r ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. Books dealing with spirituality and quantum physics - how could you go wrong? I am still fascinated by the idea of quantum physics, and the insights it would seem to provide on life. But - this book just couldn't hold my interest. the author appeared to be trying too hard to quantify spirituality, and I just don't believe it's possible. I DO believe that a lot of people are asking themselves, "Is this it?" "Is this all there is to life?" and the more you delve ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book just wasn't what I was looking for or expected. I'm fascinated by faith and those who have it, people who can believe with such certainty in something they don't see. I think it would be very comforting to believe like that and I want that. I was hoping this book would give me some sort of proof, or at least something that could be proof. The author set out to write this book, not really wanting to objectively examine a question, but to validate her own belief. So the book focused on t ...more
Jun 04, 2009 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wishy-washy lovers of Consilience
It took me a while to figure out what I disliked about this book. It's true that the author goes out of her way to offend pretty much every reader, but that's not the main problem. She does so by lumping together evangelical Christians, drug addicts, Native Americans, Sufis, parapsychologists, epileptics, and just-plain-crazy persons. For me, that's not so difficult to swallow--we are all human. What really gets under my skin is the fact that when she gets interviews with assorted elite neurolog ...more
Steve hops
Jan 29, 2010 rated it liked it
A very well- documented account of many near- death experiences. She tries very hard to be objective about the question of proof of God. My conclusion is that with so many people seeing and experiencing the same things at the time of "death", it has meaning to me. They all report an incredible peace and oneness. It did get a bit long and drawn out. Her conclusion was that she found no conclusive proof that there was a God, but certainly no proof that there is not a God. She continues to believe ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I've enjoyed the actual scientific content of this book, but I don't enjoy the way it's written and the author's personal bits mixed in. The author tends to bring the same stuff up again and again and repeat the same phrases ("dopamine is what causes runner's high" for example) and it got really annoying. For me - how it was written was at too low a level, explanations felt overly simplistic, the metaphors often used felt unnecessary. I was interested in the science more than anything, and would ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really did not enjoy the lack of information presented as well as the way the author wrote. This whole book reads like a series of web articles stitched together, often focusing more on the details of what is going on as opposed to presenting the findings. The findings also result into, "we don't really know," over and over, which I was expecting to a certain degree because of the topic matter at hand. I went into it expecting to understand more about what science has understood about spiritua ...more
Linda J
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A sincere attempt to find evidence of God in brains undergoing transcendent experiences. Much muddling of cause and effect and principles of probabilistic evolution vs intelligent design. Goes from a decent exploration for evidence of the spiritual, to a rickety house of speculation, and a search for data supporting a desired outcome (that being that external/divine inputs are received during spiritual experiences, implying that mind is more than brain). From science to pseudoscience. Author doe ...more
Drema Deoraich
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality, by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.
Riverhead, © 2009
ISBN 978-1594484629
Paperback, 336 pages. From $14.97

Lifelong Christian Science devotee Barbara Bradley Hagerty, inspired by a spiritual encounter she could not explain, spent years exploring the nature of God. Fingerprints documents her journey through the labyrinth of stories from people who’ve experienced a transcendent connection with something Other that changed them forever, and Hag
Anthony Cleveland
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible work that will make you think and think some more regarding what is true about the universe, humankind and the Creator. Hagerty investigates the boundary between science and spirituality with her search ultimately offering logical and rational reasons for belief in God. A God who is perhaps outside our complete understanding and yet has wired us for intimate communion. As a scientist, I found the book balanced, analytical and thought provoking. As a believer, I found the book a con ...more
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having a scientific background this book explores the science behind spirituality/God. Yes, they are two different aspects. Being spiritual does not imply Godliness. I am more curious about the Spirit than God or religion. Ultimately the author succumbs to the religion aspect and leaves out the spirit as floating. I highly recommend reading this to digest the vast amount of scientific/medical endeavors to examine the relation between spirit, mind, God, religion etc. Then I am open to discussion ...more
Blaine Morrow
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Hagerty investigates and reports on the evidence of mystical or spiritual experiences, ala William James's Varieties of Religious Experience (to which she refers several times). She focuses on changes to the brain that might signal or "prove" that a spiritual realm exists and can be studied or quantified, and she cites a surprisingly large number of sources (for and against the God notion) who offer helpful insights. This won't satisfy everyone with ardent views on the subject, but it will fasci ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I had a very hard time reading through this book. Not because it wasn't well written, at least I don't think, but because I kept thinking, what's the point for me in this? I honestly skipped several chapters and read the last one and then thought... "EXACTLY! Exactly how I feel." Not sure I'd recommend this to anyone but for the right person on a journey of faith with a lot of questioning going on at the time - it could be useful. ...more
Kimberly Simpson
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“I can still believe because my faith rests not on quantum physics or mathematical equations but on an internal witness: a whisper that the story I have chosen is true, that it explains the world. It tells me that the universe is stitched together not just by infinite intelligence but also by love and justice and beauty. These qualities emerge from an elegant Being who revels in things above and beyond the orbit of the planets and the consciousness of man”
Esta Doutrich
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another book in my study of the neuroscience of prayer. There was only one chapter really applicable to that, but I admired the author for the extensive look she did into the science of spirituality, although some of her conclusions were different from mine.
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed. I was expecting a scientific approach to the subject of Spirituality -as the title suggests it, but I did not find any scientific material. Perhaps it is is a good book for someone starting a quest into Spirituality but, for me, it was too basic.
Matthew Green
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Much of the first half felt like Hagerty had trouble figuring out what she wanted to say. The last 100 pages had some decent content that felt a little more concrete. It's an okay introduction to neurotheological issues, but if you've already explored some of that, this won't add anything, really. ...more
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