email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny
Michael Ruse is one of today's leading authorities on the philosophy of biology in general and the history and philosophy of evolutionary theory in particular. He has written or edited about forty-five books on these topics, making him an obvious choice to author the Evolution and Religion volume for Rowman & Littleman's New Dialogues in Philosophy series.
The dialogue is framed in terms of five episodes of a fictional public-television talk-show called Eternal Questions. Besides Redvers Fentiman, who serves as moderator, there are four participants in the discussion panel, each of whom more or less represents a different position in the quartet of modes for relating science and religion that was first invented by Ian G. Barbour: Prof. David Davies is an atheist evolutionary biologist whose disdain for religion is reminiscent of the real world Richard Dawkins. He represents the "conflict" model, which holds science and religion to be incompatible. Martin Rudge is an historian and philosopher of science who represents the "independence" model, which holds that science and religion need not conflict because they are not really dealing with the same questions. Reverend Emily Matthews, a rather liberal-minded Episcopalian priest represents the "integration" model; she adopts ideas from outside the mainstreams of both evolutionary theory and Christian theology in an attempt to fashion a unified scientific-religious world view. Finally, Reverend Harold Wallace is the head pastor of a Southern Baptist megachurch and has received some training in physics before he turned to religion. He represents the "dialogue" position, which holds that religion and science have something to say to each other. As a "young earth" creationist, he seems to feel that religion should do most of the talking.
Ruse has the characters slug it out with each other as they discuss practically every major issue in the evolution-religion debate, including intelligent design, "young earth" creationism, the origins of life, non-Darwinian elements in contemporary evolutionary theory, the puzzle of the "Cambrian explosion" of life, the meaning of divine intervention, and the political uses and implications of evolutionary theory. He also treats one issue not properly belonging to biological evolution: the "strong anthropic" or "fine-tuning" argument, which tries to prove the existence of a Creator from the nature of certain basic parameters of physics. Ruse tries to let each of his characters both score and lose points in the argument, but Reverend Matthews seems to lack intellectual rigor, and it is pretty clear that (despite his best efforts) Ruse cannot really take Reverend Wallace's extreme creationism seriously.
How does this book shape up as a primer on the Religion-Evolution debate? It is clearly written and it does cover a lot of ground from various viewpoints. It is, however, a rather short book -- only 136 pages including endnotes -- and occasionally Ruse introduces ideas without granting them enough space to be properly explained. In the middle of the discussion of the "fine-tuning" argument, for instance, the unprepared reader is suddenly confronted with the claim that, "To make carbon from helium, you need a huge energy state above normal -- in fact, about 7 million electron volts (MeV) above normal" (p. 73). Similarly, more discussion would be needed to give the reader a reasonable idea of what Process Theology is all about.
The dialogue format may make the book fun to read, but it also leaves it without the kind of clear-cut logical structure that would make it easier to find references to particular topics and concepts. That lack of structure is especially unfortunate given the publisher's incomprehensible decision not to equip the book with an index, a move which seriously detracts from its usefulness as a text for undergraduate courses. It is also disappointing that the book contains no illustrations, charts, or diagrams. Perhaps the author or publisher thought that such graphic devices would have disrupted the impression that the book simply records unrehearsed conversations, but they also would have greatly improved its effectiveness in vividly communicating scientific and philosophical ideas. Nevertheless, this book does provide an amusing way to become acquainted with the basic positions in the evolution-religion controversy, and its endnotes offer many useful bibliographical suggestions for further exploration.
© 2009 Berel Dov Lerner
Berel Dov Lerner teaches philosophy at the Western Galilee College in Israel.
Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology.
We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and
We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.
Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'
Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send
review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank
you for your support!
Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these
announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click
Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers
for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.
Metapsychology Online Reviews
Promote your Page too
Metapsychology Online Reviews