Barbara Bradley Hagerty
Riverhead Books, 2009
Fingerprints of God came to my attention when I listened to parts of an interview of Hagerty on Doug Fabrizio’s Radio West show. I ran into the book at a sale and decided I’d let synchronicity play its dubious part.
The book is a modern day journalistic/memoir exploration of how science and religion or spirituality intersect. Hagerty gives a brief description of her childhood as a Christian Scientist, her adult relationship to it, and a spiritual experience that was an inspiration for writing the book. After years of interviewing religious people and scientists (who occasionally are the same) she concludes “science cannot prove God–but science is entirely consistent with God.”
She spends time on the many definitions of God and experiences or “doorways” into belief and mysticism. Hagerty tells us of interviews with mystics who claim sudden insight from a single experience that they claim changed them on a cellular level, she examines the stories of monks who spend years in quiet meditative lives away from society, and a variety of people in many fields.
Her issues include how prayer works, the effect of surrendering in defeat, and where seemingly simple, everyday desire to improve oneself fits. I enjoyed the description of similarities between ceremonies of the Catholic Church and the Diné people in the Southwest United States who use peyote. Throughout the book Hagerty finds similarities in experience and structure though church affiliation and religious history seem worlds apart.
The early part of the book is a chicken soup look at spirituality and its ever-continuing part of human life. Once that appears to be out of the way, she begins introducing more scientific history, methods, studies and questions. What are similarities between Moses seeing a burning bush and temporal lobe seizure? Is God a master electrician who has wired humans to feel spirituality and tossed in a few genes that predispose religious experience and belief? How is the brain changed from meditation? What is the mystery of similar near-death experiences world-wide?
The description that was most intriguing to me was of Dean Radin’s hypothesis of “entangled minds,” that he developed as a scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Hagerty explains how that idea has evolved in science, seemingly from Albert Einstein’s ideas in quantum theory that he called “spooky action at a distance.” The question is asked, “Could this be a start toward proving the existence of God?”
Science has not come to any solid conclusion, but it also is not completely disregarding the idea of God as it has in the past. There is turmoil in the ranks of scientists which makes the future of this subject all the more interesting.