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Fingerprints of God

NPR reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty uses journalism’s tools to explore the intersection of spirituality and science.

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Using the reporting and explanatory skills of a talented veteran journalist, Barbara Bradley Hagerty has written a compelling account of her quest to answer an age-old question: Is this all there is?

The result is Fingerprints of God, a book that sails the roiling waters between religion and science and is unlikely to make quick friends among either evangelical Christians or those in the scientific community who conclude that God cannot exist. But for readers who consider themselves to be spiritual seekers, Hagerty treads some fascinating territory.

Rather than dismissing science as the enemy of spirituality, she engages with it, seeking out scientific pioneers, the outliers who are doing intriguing work on the nature of the brain and consciousness. She also talks with ordinary people who’ve had extraordinary personal encounters, such as near-death or out-of-body experiences, that have changed their views of themselves, reality, and on the existence of an afterlife.

Hagerty, the religion correspondent for National Public Radio, comes to a less-than-startling conclusion: Science can neither prove nor disprove these great questions. But she also sees hints of a “paradigm shift” in science now under way – akin, perhaps, to the early 20th century when the work of Einstein and others took a quantum leap away from a universe based solely on 18th-century Newtonian physics.

“Hard science does not mean petrified science,” Hagerty posits. “The paradigm to exclude a divine intelligence, or ‘Other,’ or ‘God,’ to reduce all things to matter, has reigned triumphant for some four hundred years, since the dawn of the Age of Reason,” she continues. “Today, a small yet growing number of scientists are trying to chip away at the paradigm, suspecting that its feet are made of clay.”

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