Credit: Photo by Ed Wheeler

he International Society for Science and Religion (ISSR) is the world’s leading learned society in its field. It has embarked on a project to establish a foundational library of the most important texts dealing with science and religion. This core library will be composed of 250 books, selected by a rigorous process to represent the most authoritative writing scholars have produced on this subject.
“We’re now a few months into the project,” says Dr. Pranab Das who is directing the program, “and we have developed a tiered selection process.” This exhaustive procedure began with the compilation of a master list of works nominated by members of the Society as well as by other colleagues and organizations through the medium of an extensive website.
That resulted in a pool of 1,300 books which the membership was then asked to cull, nominating outstanding works they thought deserving of a place in the library. “We have nominated 300 texts so far. I look at each of the nominated books and move some of them to the category of finalist. We are now up to about 65 finalists.” The monthly meetings of the editorial board decide the fate of each title, before considering more finalists a month later. In this way, a kernel of approved texts is gradually growing.
The project will also recruit around 20 contributing editors with expertise in such areas as consciousness studies, biology, Eastern spiritual traditions, etc. They will provide suggestions for books that will serve as support material, beyond the immediate focus of science and religion. These will supplement the core library, providing scholars and students with essential background in many related disciplines.
When the final selection of 250 books has been made, Society members will write brief critical essays on each title and these will be collected into a volume to be called The ISSR Companion to Science and Religion which will be made available to the public through a commercial publisher.
slugThe process of creating the set of uniform volumes that will constitute the library is being conducted with an eye to economy. “What we are doing is buying the books at substantial discounts from publishers in paperback, then rebinding them in a uniform ISSR library cover so that they will be one coherent group of very handsome, hard-bound, and durable books that we can then make available to libraries,” explains Das.
In 2009, the Society will publish a competitive RFP inviting university libraries and other centers, especially in the developing world, to apply for a complete set. One hundred and fifty will be awarded. “To think that collectively this group will be able to put together a new foundational library for science and the human spirit is tremendously exciting.”