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The God Experiment 1997–1998

Russell Stannard

Table of Contents

In The God Experiment, Stannard attempts to provide a coherent framework of evidence for the existence of God. Drawing on information from the classical arguments for God’s existence and exploring them in relation to considerations from modern science, he attempts to challenge some prejudiced assumptions about God, science and the universe. Ultimately, Stannard intends to invite the reader to ask whether the evidence provided for God’s existence makes more coherent sense toward the assumption that there is, rather than is not, a God.
Jon Cameron
• • • • •
The God Experiment begins with an investigation into the effectiveness (or otherwise) of prayer. Stannard examines ‘the prayer experiment’—a scientific experiment designed to test the power of prayer, looking briefly at some possible outcomes and interpretations of such an experiment as well as its limitations. Stannard sees the prayer experiment as just one piece of a bigger jigsaw puzzle, ‘The whole of life—every aspect of our experiences—has to be drawn into what I call: the God experiment.’ Chapter 2 explores the topic of miracles and whether they occur; after defining miracles, Stannard looks at some biblical accounts and the miracle story culture before asking and answering whether miracles can be ruled out as impossible. In chapter 3, he investigates some issues surrounding the notion of life after death. The chapter considers for the most part the notion of resurrection. Chapter 4 further elaborates on the ‘miracles’ discussion by examining whether God acts in the world. In this regard, Stannard looks at God as the ground of existence, ourselves as agents, free will and determinism and quantum ‘wholeness’. Exploring how we (as agents) act in the world might help us understand how God operates (if at all) within it. Chapter 5 looks for evidence of God in the mind. The discussion centres around two eminent psychologists: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. For many people, religious experience provides the most compelling evidence for God’s existence. Chapter 6 begins to explore the relationship of man to God/God to man; much of the chapter is taken up with the notion of progressive theology. Chapter 7 looks at the problem of evil, addressing various approaches to understanding the problem while retaining a belief in God and God’s goodness. Some of the issues raised include the goodness of suffering, God’s involvement in suffering and where justice lies. Chapter 8 explores man’s place in the scheme of things. Stannard looks at what we have learned from Copernicus and Galileo before introducing his notion of the thinking reed and speculating on the significance of any notion of extraterrestrial life. Chapter 9 returns to the origins of the universe, asking how it began. The discussion focuses on the big bang theory, asking about its cause and the source of the laws that enabled it to occur before giving an account of the origins of space and time. The chapter also looks at the creationist story as presented in Genesis. Chapter 10 looks at the origins of man, asking how God created man and examining the account given by science (evolution) and the biblical account (myth) surrounding Adam and Eve. In this chapter, Stannard also explores the doctrine of original sin in relation to evolutionary theory and examines some competing interpretations of Genesis. Through his exploration, he wishes to show that science need not conflict with religion over the issues of biblical origins. Chapter 11 furthers the exploration of the notion of evolution. Discussing genetics, altruism, responsibility and extraterrestrial life, Stannard contends that evolutionary theory needn’t conflict with religious investigation. Chapter 12 looks at the notion of design (in the universe), in particular discussing the anthropic principle and the understanding of the cosmos as a reflection of God’s nature. Chapter 13 discusses God in relation to time. Stannard examines our commonsense notions of space and time, Einstein’s relativity theses and implications, the idea of four-dimensional space-time and the idea of a block universe before relating these accounts to some implications for religious belief and returning to some concerns surrounding God’s relationship to these understandings. The book closes (chap.14) by considering the ultimate nature of God through a summary of the various evidences the book provides and the relation of the God experiment, yielding these evidences to the proof of God’s existence.
Jon Cameron
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Templeton Press