Book Review
Pruett, Dave, Reason and Wonder – A Copernican Revolution in Science and Spirit
(Praeger: Santa Barbara, California 2012) ISBN 978-0-313-39919-0 $58. As reviewed
October 13, 2012 by Walter Shropshire for WesNex.

        This is a significant major work for the science and religion dialogue. In seventeen
concise and well-written chapters the author has summarized the history of the
enlightenment which led to the practice of science. The major scientists involved come
alive with anecdotes of their personal behaviors and interests.

         Citing an observation of Sigmund Freud, the author argues that human
self-perceptions have undergone three profound changes, designated as Copernican
revolutions. The first was the Copernican revolution in cosmology in which the earth
orbits the sun; the second  revolution was Darwin’s publication of the Origin of Species
in which “humans are relegated to a branch of a tree of life”; and third, a revolution
“now in infancy, [which] hints at a thaw in the science-spirit relationship, raising the
possibility of a new, integral, and hopeful self-image for humankind.” These three
revolutions all brought about major paradigm shifts in which the human image of self as
claimed by religious truth was drastically challenged and altered. These shifts
unfortunately have led to a commonly held pervasive stance of conflict between science
and religion.

         Part one is a very readable and informative summary of the cosmological
revolution. Next, part two outlines the biological revolution with an emphasis upon the
role of time and the necessity of “deep” time for evolution to take place. The author
concludes that individual belief, as a private matter, against the overwhelming evidence of
evolution, is no longer justified and “denial is peril for all, not just for those in denial.” In
part three, consisting of two succinct chapters, the stage is set for the transforming third
revolution, psychology/spirituality.   

         This third revolution, described in detail in five concluding chapters, is a hopeful
one. It has been presaged by religious mystics over the centuries and is best foreseen by
the writings of Teilhard de Chardin, beginning in his 1959 book, “The Phenomenon of
Man.”.

         Finally, in a powerful and exciting epilogue the author draws these diverse threads
together to conclude “Consciousness (spirit) is not a byproduct of evolution; it is the
purpose of evolution.” And from the insights of Teilhard, “Enlightened awareness comes
not by choosing sides between science and religion but by embracing wholeheartedly
their complementary aspects.” And, “As humans, who occupy the pinnacle of the tree of
life, we have a sacred obligation to participate responsibly in evolution.” He also argues
that our current scientific name Homo sapiens sapiens should become Homo sapiens
spiritus.

         This book is an excellent one for small group discussion. The extensive notes and
bibliography encourage further exploration into the science and religion dialogue.

Review by Walt Shropshire, October 2012.