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Dawn: A Proton's Tale of All That Came to Be [a review]

It is not just that science and religion are often pitted against each other as irreconcilable; it's that they are radio transmissions on two completely separate wavelengths. They are songs sung in different keys in different languages tuned to different temperaments. One is a lecture about the universe as a neat and tidy system that must only be analyzed enough to be understood, and the other is a mishmash of literary genres telling the story of a supernatural God creating and sustaining and redeeming a universe compiled by different times and cultures and locations and spoken languages.

How will they ever see eye to eye?

This is not a new question. The finest of theologians and scientists and philosophers have all examined this problem. Some suggest that theology is the queen of the academy and the solution is merely for science to bend the knee. Others suggest the opposite, that theology and religion are outmoded concepts that humanity has grown out of, and that we need only to lay it to rest. Still others suggest that there is some kind of harmony to be found. I have read these books and they are all interesting enough in their propositions, but I do not think I have ever read a book that has sought to get behind all this debate and present them both as pieces of one coherent narrative.

That is exactly what Dawn: A Proton's Tale of All That Came to Be (written by Cees Dekker, Corien Oranje, and Gijsbert van den Brink and translated into English by Harry Cook) does. It is a memoir (of sorts) of a proton created just moments after the Big Bang and all the momentous events it happens to experience through its lifetime across the universe, from the creation of atoms and molecules and light and stars and planets to the birth of humanity and our fall to the life of Jesus to the near future of humanity among the stars.

To describe such a project as "ambitious" hardly does it justice, yet it strikes me as such a good and helpful and even novel contribution to the conversation. I do not mean to belittle or undercut the importance of philosophical inquiry as to the compatibility of science and theology—it has its place—but when I speak to individuals who are struggling personally with the question, there is often simply a disconnect between two ways of telling the story of the world. And telling the story like this provides no room for a disconnect. Again, it's not that you will walk away from this book having every last one of your questions answered1, but that you'll have been given a plot line where both science and theology could at least in theory reside together. To all the authors out there, more books like this, please!

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.


  1. Will every last one of your questions ever be answered in your lifetime?

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