Calculating God

January 18th, 2005 Comments Off on Calculating God

An alien shuttle lands in front of an important museum, located in Toronto. Out comes the proverbial alien. However, instead of asking to speak with the local authorities, taking over the world, or something like that, the alien wants to see a paleontologist. The visitor’s objective? Complement the information demonstrating the ways through which Gods acts in the Universe.

This is the premise behind Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer, one of the most acclaimed science fiction writers today. Unfortunately, given the genre, Sawyer’s books are not easily found here in Brazil. This is the first book I’ve ever read by him, and it’s certainly an excellent piece of work.

The book starts with the aforementioned scene. Aliens from two different worlds, in a joint mission, reveal themselves to Earth, after observing the planet for a long time. One of them, Hollus, seeks the help of a local paleontologist to find more evidence of the methods that God uses to exert his will in the Universe. According to Hollus, the existence of God is a scientific fact that can be easily deducted from the observation of the natural world. In fact, Hollus reasons that the objective of modern science is to find why God works the way he does.

The paleontologist that Hollus meets, Thomas Jericho, is a rationalist who prides himself in the fact that there’s no room for faith in his world. He is surprised to discover that Hollus doesn’t consider the question of the existence of God a matter of faith, but of science, of tangible facts. The book follows the development of the relationship between Hollus and Jericho as they confront their worldviews and talk about issues ranging from theology to quantum mechanics, and from biology to philosophy. Jericho, as we find in the first pages, is terminally ill, with only one year of life left to him — a situation reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s life. That is also forcing him to consider his own life in the light of what Hollus has told him.

Far from banalizing the issue, Calculating God seeks to think seriously of the questions involved, focusing of scientific proof. As Hollus says in the first chapter, nothing is outside the scope of science, not even God’s existence. That makes the book a long discussion about the subject, with relatively little action. However, this narrative option is masterfully realized, and the book is able to keep the reader’s attention from beginning to end.

As a Christian, I have a definite opinion about the subject, but I liked the way Sawyer presented his arguments. In fact, I agree with much of what he says. The book entertains, and doesn’t shy away from the difficulty of the questions being asked. Although entertaining its readers is the book’s primary goal, it will certainly lead its readers to think about what they believe with regards to God.

In short, Calculating God is a very recommended reading.

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