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The Big Questions in Science and ReligionThe Big Questions in Science and Religion

Keith Ward

Narrated by Simon Vance

Available from Audible

audio sample
This file is 2.7 MB.

Book published by Templeton Press

Can religious beliefs survive in the scientific age? Are they resoundingly outdated? Or, is there something in them of great importance, even if the way they are expressed will have to change given new scientific context? These questions are among those at the core of the science-religion dialogue.

In The Big Questions in Science and Religion, Keith Ward, an Anglican priest who was once an atheist, offers compelling insights into the often contentious relationship between diverse religious views and new scientific knowledge. He identifies ten basic questions about the nature of the universe and human life. Among these are:

Does the universe have a goal or purpose?

Do the laws of nature exclude miracles?

Can science provide a wholly naturalistic explanation for moral and religious beliefs?

Has science made belief in God obsolete? Are there any good science-based arguments for God?

With his expertise in the study of world religions, Ward considers concepts from Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Christianity, while featuring the speculations of cosmologists, physicians, mathematicians, and philosophers. In addition,Ward examines the implications of ancient laws and modern theories and evaluates the role of religious experience as evidence of a nonphysical reality.

Writing with enthusiasm, passion, and clarity, Keith Ward conveys the depth, difficulty, intellectual excitement, and importance of the greatest intellectual and existential questions of the modern scientific age.

Keith Ward is a fellow of the British Academy, the Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford, an ordained priest of the Church of England, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He has doctorates of divinity from Cambridge and Oxford Universities. He has lectured at the universities of Glasgow, St. Andrews, Cambridge, and London, where he was professor of history and philosophy of religion, and written more than twenty highly acclaimed books. Comparative theology and the interplay between science and faith are two of his main topics of interest. He lives in Oxford, England.

Simon Vance (narrator) is the winner of numerous Earphones Awards (AudioFile), an Audie Award (Audio Publishers Association), three Audiobook of the Year Awards (AudioFile), and the profession's highest honor, a Golden Voice (AudioFile).


“Anyone curious about the interrelationship between science and religion would be well advised to put this book at the top of their reading list. Keith ward has succeeded where many others have not in producing a first-rate text that gets to the heart of many of the questions troubling the dialogue between science and religion. Moreover, his exposition of the scientific concepts achieves a rare clarity combined with depth. Ward writes with fluency and rigor. His attention to the classics helps to position his arguments within a tradition of thought that will appeal particularly to those in the humanities. His representation of scientific research is well informed, the fruit of years of conversations with experts and background research across a broad range of sciences.”

Times Higher Education

“Ward, an Oxford theologian specializing in the history and philosophy of religion, presents an impressively insightful and well-balanced survey of major questions for science-and-religion dialogue. Ward takes on a wide a range of topics, reasoning that if God is "the ultimate cause of absolutely everything—we might think that the existence of God must make some difference to how things are." The beginning and end of the universe, the origins and nature of consciousness, and human religious experience all become contact points for discussion between scientific and religious perspectives. Writing as a scholar of world religions, Ward discusses multiple traditions in a level of depth and detail that exceeds the normal standards of the science and religion literature. Atheist and agnostic perspectives also receive a fair hearing, recognized as parties to the conversation rather than merely as rhetorical foils. Throughout, Ward shows a keen ability to recognize variations and distinctions within traditions, while still drawing helpful generalizations such as his conclusion that "to believe in God is primarily to believe in the objectivity of value and purpose.”

Publishers Weekly

“A new book by Keith Ward is a welcome addition to any theological library.”

Journal of Theological Studies

“[A] rich and comprehensive exploration. [I]t would be hard to find a more expert guide to the questions than this erudite Oxford theologian.”

Enighten Next

“This is an excellent book and, in view of current attacks on the reasonableness of religious belief, a timely one.”

Science & Christian Belief

“Big questions tend to be complex and controversial, and Keith Ward has not shirked the difficulties. By focusing on ten of them in a book of nearly 300 pages, he has given himself the space to explore them at considerable depth. The result is a well-grounded discussion of important scientific, philosophical, and theological interrelationships, which demands, deserves, and repays serious study, and challenges many popular preconceptions. It would be helpful, though, for readers to have some background knowledge of the field. The rewards are great, despite the intellectual effort required to follow some of the arguments. The big questions of the time cover such great topics as the beginning and end of the universe, evolution, miracles, the nature of time and space, the soul, scientific explanations of religion, and divine action. There is a refreshing open-mindedness about Ward’s approach to them. This is in sharp contrast to that of some of his Oxford colleagues, who recently appear to have been more interested in scoring debating points than in the patient exploration of what religious statements actually mean, and of how they can help to interpret different realms of experience. To those familiar with other, more conventional books on science and religion, some of the most interesting and unusual features of his general argument are likely to be the insights drawn from different religions. Buddhism, for instance, makes no claims about God, but entails a profound exploration of human spiritual experience, and is thus a good antidote to the excessively rationalist approach to religion which is all too prevalent in Western culture. By drawing on a variety of faiths, Ward also makes it clear that this awareness of a spiritual dimension to life is not an oddity, but a universal phenomenon that all religions, and the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, have in common. Also significant is the central position he ascribes to consciousness. For beings such as us, human consciousness is the touchstone of reality. Though it is dependent on a physical organ, the brain, it is not reducible to the electrical and chemical changes that form the basis of the brain’s activity. Nor is it unreasonable to suppose that something so fundamental to our perception of the world should give us insight into the true basis and origin of existence, and thus act as a main clue to the nature of God. Furthermore, the world perceived by consciousness is not just a world of mathematical regularities of the kind that are the main concern of the sciences. It is a world of conscious values and purposes, to which the different religions testify, and which can be seen as having their origin in the cosmic consciousness we know as God. Religious diversity, as compared with scientific uniformity, should not be a surprise or a stumbling block, because it accurately reflects the diversity of human experience. Such speculations are well worth pursuing; and Ward has provided many valuable starting-points for further exploration.”

Church Times

“Issues related to science and religion have been very much in the public eye of late...It is refreshing in this context to read a book that offers a considered and constructive view of contemporary science-religion relations. As the title suggests, this book is organized around ten ’big questions’, and it unflinchingly tackles such topics as whether the universe has a purpose; whether the messiness of the evolutionary process is consistent with the goodness of God; whether free choice is consistent with scientific accounts of causation; whether science leaves room for the human soul. Few authors are better equipped to deal with these questions than Keith Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at the University of Oxford. Ward has long been interested in these issues, and is exceptionally well informed on scientific matters. His writing is characterized by theological sensitivity combined with philosophical competence and clarity. A distinctive feature of the approach taken in this book is the inclusion of a range of religious traditions. This broadens its scope beyond the more usual discussions of Christianity and science. In short, although challenging in places, this is an engaging, insightful and readable book which provides an excellent introduction to some deep and important questions.”

—Peter Harrison, Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford



1. How Did the Universe Begin? (Is There an Ultimate Explanation for the Universe?)

2. How Will the Universe End? (Does the Universe Have a Goal or Purpose?)

3. Is Evolution Compatible with Creation? (How Can the “Cruelty and Waste” of Evolution Be Reconciled with Creation by a Good God?)

4. Do the Laws of Nature Exclude Miracles? (Are the Laws of Nature Absolute?)

5. What Is the Nature of Space and Time? (In What Sense Can Temporal Actions Be Free?)

6. Is It Still Possible to Speak of the Soul? (Does Science Allow the Possibility of Life after Death?)

7. Is Science the Only Sure Path to Truth? (Can Religious Experience Count as Evidence?)

8. Can Science Provide a Wholly Naturalistic Explanation for Moral and Religious Beliefs? (How Does Morality Relate to Religion?)

9. Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete? (Are There Any Good Science-based Arguments for God?)

10. Does Science Allow for Revelation and Divine Action? (Does Quantum Physics Put Materialism in Question?)

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks