Playing God


RRP £19.99

A fascinating exploration of what it means to be human in the light of eight burning questions raised by science – including AI, aliens, gene editing, the science of immortality, animal personhood, the treatment of mental health, mass vaccination and unborn children.


Nick Spencer & Hannah Waite


Could science one day ‘defeat death’?
What would alien contact mean for humanity?
Has medicine finally found a cure for sadness?
Will AI replace us?

For too long, the ‘science and religion’ debate has fixated on creation, evolution, cosmology, miracles and quantum theory. But this, argue Nick Spencer and Hannah Waite, is a mistake. Religious belief has survived, and thrived, under many different models of the universe. It was never intended to be a competing explanation for the science of any age. Where science and religion really do come together – sometimes furiously, sometimes fruitfully – is over the status and nature of the human. And that has never been more important than today.

Whether it’s the quest for immortality or the search for alien life, the treatment of pandemics or ‘animal personhood’, AI or mental health, abortion or genetic editing, science is making advances that are posing huge questions about what it means to be human, whether we should change ourselves, and how far we should ‘play God’.

These developments are only going to grow in significance. Playing God brings readers up to date with the latest developments but also draws out their moral and religious dimensions. In so doing, it shows how the future of science and religion is inextricably tied up with the future of humanity.



“Playing God is a powerful and very readable survey of the confrontation between science and religion. The authors refute the claim that science has somehow defeated religion by repeatedly showing the idea is a form of superstition that ignores the true complexity and depth of our existence. For people who have ever found themselves in the midst of this argument, this is an essential read.”

– Bryan Appleyard CBE, author of The Brain is Wider than the Sky

Playing God could not be more timely. It shifts the question of where science and religion intersect and sometimes collide away from the traditional and rather sterile arguments over creation and cosmology to the pressing debates about cutting-edge technologies that blur the boundaries of the human and which pose urgent ethical and societal dilemmas. Open-minded, thoughtful and humane, the book shows how religious perspectives can genuinely contribute to public dialogue on science and technology – and vice versa!”

– Philip Ball, author of How To Grow a Human

“On this deeply polarised issue the norm is crude generalisation. In contrast, Playing God sheds light and brings nuance. An insightful book on a deeply important topic.”

– Philip Goff, Professor of Philosophy, Durham University

“An accessible, engaging and satisfying engagement with some of the big questions of our time.”

– Alister McGrath, Senior Research Fellow, Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion, University of Oxford

“It is sometimes said that debate on life’s big questions boils down to anthropology. What is it to be human? And which of the available accounts of our nature in the marketplace of ideas is most robust?. . . Accessible as well as shrewd, Playing God deserves a large audience among believers and secularists alike.”

– Rupert Shortt, author of Outgrowing Dawkins

“Nick Spencer has made a timely and powerful contribution to the Science versus Religion debate by rebutting the dogma that they are opposite ways of knowing about the world. Rather they address two different but overlapping aspects of human existence: its material basis and its purpose. Not only do most people not perceive a binary opposition between science and religion, even today, but it breaks down philosophically as soon as one asks the question not who created the world, but what humans are for.”

– Robert Skidelsky, FBA, author of The Machine Age: An Idea, a History, a Warning

“Playing God is a compelling exploration that ventures beyond the conventional discourse into the realms where science and faith converge, clash, and coalesce. With clarity and insight, the authors navigate the intricate dance between two of humanity’s most profound endeavours. . . Whether you are a person of faith, a science enthusiast, or simply someone who ponders the big questions of existence, Playing God is a richly rewarding read.”

– John Swinton, FBA, FRSE, co-author of Struggling with God

“A highly intelligent, well-informed and perceptive analysis of the frontiers of science-faith conversations in the 21st century. The authors provide an accessible, nuanced and theologically grounded analysis of the implications of scientific advance challenging traditional understandings of what it means to be human.”

– John Wyatt, co-editor of The Robot Will See You Now