Philip's Reviews > Religion and Science

Religion and Science by Bertrand Russell
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's review
Mar 26, 2011

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Read in January, 2008 — I own a copy

In one of his shorter books, logician and philosopher Russell briefly explains the history of conflict between faith and reason, and his exacting train of thought (as you'd expect from a mathematician) in concluding that science is the domain better based in rational thought, and the more conducive to human progress. Russell is popular among students of philosophy young and old for his readability. More than many other, equally prolific authors, he rehashes the ancient points of debate in a clear, accessible voice. This makes "Religion and Science" a good steady book for introductory students of philosophy - taken, perhaps, with a grain of salt. He tends not to remind us that faith and reason aren't always mutually exclusive.

See, Bertie definitely has his points to make - ones also outlined in "Why I Am Not A Christian" - and in summing up the long chronicle of Western philosophical tradition, details and discussion are necessarily sacrificed. I feel that, while his history is well researched, good sense is made in the arguments presented against the metaphysically absolute character of both determinism and free will (and, as mentioned, the arguments are well and interestingly stated), and the chapter "Cosmic Purpose" contains a useful summary of the argument from design, Russell does not sufficiently explain or counter a few important theological concerns. The several versions of the cosmological argument as described by Thomas Aquinas are hardly touched upon at all. Russell is very careful to point out when he is taking a stance and when he is merely playing devil's advocate to things he finds odd, but nonetheless his opponent seems a bit underrepresented.

Read this book as a statement of Russell's position rather than an impartial history of the warring camps, and I think both the experienced reader of philosophy, and the uninitiated but intrigued, will eat it up.
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