A Mission to Convert

H. Allen Orr in the New York Review of Books:

Orrphoto_1Scientists’ interest in religion seems to come in waves. One arrived after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859. Another followed in the 1930s and 1940s, inspired by surprising revelations from quantum mechanics, which suggested the insufficiency of conventional physical theories of the universe. And now scientists are once again writing about religion, apparently provoked this time by the controversy surrounding intelligent design.

During the last year, a number of popular books on religion by scientists or philosophers of science have appeared. Daniel Dennett kicked things off with his Breaking the Spell (2006), an investigation into the possibility of a science of religion. Reviewing evolutionary, psychological, and economic theories of the origin and spread of belief, Dennett covered much ground but reached few conclusions. In the last few months, three prominent scientists—all biologists—have published their own books on belief. Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, has given us The God Delusion, an extended polemic against faith, which will be considered at length below.

More here.