UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Fingerprints of God

Barbara Bradley Hagerty reviews the science of spirituality

By Ambury Stuart

Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality
By Barbara Bradley Hagerty
(Riverhead Books) $33.50



My discernment committee’s position was simple enough: “You can’t be a minister, Stuart, because scientists don’t believe in God.” It’s a common assumption. Thousands of people buy books like The God Delusion, in which the famous atheist Richard Dawkins uses science to argue that God is an evolutionary adaptation that allows us to build community, isolate and kill aliens, and deal with death.

Fingerprints of God is a review of the emerging “science of spirituality,” the attempt by scientists to understand the nature of religious experience. As the religion correspondent for National Public Radio in the United States, author Barbara Bradley Hagerty describes scientific studies on such disparate topics as the brain scans of contemplatives, out-of-body and near-death experiences, and the search for the “God gene.” She interviews scientists who claim that something non-physical is going on, and others who contend that these events can be explained by traditional scientific materialism that precludes anything supernatural.

Throughout her book, Bradley Hagerty adheres closely to the journalistic virtues of fairness, accuracy, thoroughness and clarity. As a result, Fingerprints of God is an accessible, up-to-date assessment of the growing scientific understanding of religious experience.

Unlike Dawkins, however, Bradley Hagerty approaches her subject as a seeker. Raised in the Christian Science denomination, she was very devout as a child, lost her traditional faith as an adult, but retained a curiosity for faith issues. Fingerprints of God also contains her own reflections on what she is discovering about the nature of God as she continues her spiritual quest. Her attempts to reconcile her growing knowledge of the science of spirituality with her developing concept of God will resonate with questioning Christians, agnostics and other seekers who read the book.

Her conclusion is that belief in God is a choice. It is possible to look at all the scientific studies and see the hand of God behind them — or to look at the same studies and decide that everything can be explained without recourse to a deity. Either path can result in a sustainable, consistent world view. So, to answer my discernment committee of 10 years ago, it is possible for a scientist to believe in God.


Rev. Ambury Stuart is an environmental scientist and minister at Glebe Road United in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image