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Can a Darwinian be a Christian?: The Relationship between Science and Religion [Paperback]

Michael Ruse
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 6 2004 0521637163 978-0521637169 1
Can someone who accepts Darwin's theory of natural selection subscribe at the same time to the basic tenets of Christianity? Adopting a balanced perspective on the subject, Michael Ruse argues that, although it is at times difficult for a Darwinian to embrace Christian belief, it is not inconceivable. Ruse has produced an important contribution to a sometimes overheated debate for anyone interested in seeking an informed and judicious guide to these issues. Michael Ruse is professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He is the author of many books on evolutionary biology. In addition, he has published several hundred articles and many book reviews. He is the editor of the Cambridge Series in the Philosophy of Biology and founding editor of the journal IBiology & Philosophy. Hb ISBN (2000): 0-521-63144-0

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You will have to look hard to find a better explanation of the relationship between basic Christian tenets and the Darwinian theory of evolution than Can A Darwinian Be A Christian? by Michael Ruse. The author, a professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, writes with bracing candour ("Let me be open", he begins, "I think that evolution is a fact and that Darwinism rules triumphant") and sophisticated sympathy to Christian doctrine ("if one's understanding of Darwinism does include a natural evolution of life from nonlife, there is no reason to think that this now makes Christian belief impossible"). Writing this book, he also clearly had a hell of a lot of fun (disarming sceptical Christian readers at the beginning, he asks, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?").

Can A Darwinian Be A Christian? answers its title question with heady confidence--"Absolutely!"--but the book journeys towards that answer with circumspect integrity. Covering territory from the Scopes Monkey Trials to contemporary theories of Social Darwinism to the question of extraterrestrial life, Ruse applies an impressive wealth of knowledge that encompasses many disciplines. Readers may or may not be swayed, but they can't help but be challenged and edified by this excellent book. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For those dissatisfied with the tenor of the evolution vs. creationism debate, or who simply long for a more moderate intellectual engagement, Ruse (philosophy and zoology, Univ. of Guelph, Canada; Mystery of Mysteries) offers another perspective here: one designed to help rationalists come to terms with religion. Written from the viewpoint of a scientist willing to engage Christian literalism on its own terms, he systematically compares historical Darwinism and Christian beliefs and sensibilities, finding surprising parallels in both methodologies as they search for the meaning of life. While the author can be faulted in spots for minor misinformation (Augustine was not raised a Christian but underwent a conversion in midlife), he succeeds in offering as basic and thoroughgoing an engagement of biology and belief as one might hope for. And his honesty is noteworthyDa Darwinian can be a Christian, but, as Ruse notes, nobody claims that that's an easy path. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DSandra Collins, Duquesne Univ. Lib., PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars not persuasive Jan. 27 2004
Generally when one is asked whether one has read such-and-such a book, the implication is that the interlocutor has read the book and was persuaded by its arguments, so the challenge really is:
"are you persuaded by the arguments that persuaded me?"
And it may be very irritating to discover that others are not as persuaded as we are.
For example, I'm not persuaded that a consensus among experts necessarily reflects the truth - as far as I'm concerned it merely indicates agreement. Neither am I persuaded that, because there are many different speculations attempting to show spontaneous generation of life, this proves that life did generate spontaneously. It just shows me that people are imaginative.
Nor do I consider faith a proposition which must not court any risk of rebuttal, a kind of pull-your-head-in and count prudence as the better part of testimony: when we have prudently waited for all the proofs, and seen for ourselves the fulfilment of some proposition, there is no room left for faith - only acquiescence if we are not to appear stupid.
I certainly do not accept Ruse's statement on page 66 that "nothing terribly important rests on this scientific matter, either way." If that were so, Michael Ruse would not have gone to the trouble of writing this book.
To those who genuinely seek reconciliation between science and religion, this book will be a disappointment. The oft tried ruse of redefining the terms to be reconciled may satisfy a shallow desire to hold onto a philosophical investment in the face of conflict, but it only fools those who already have made their committment and who have no intention of changing their mind.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Yes Sept. 4 2003
There. I just saved you twenty bucks. Seriously, I don't think Ruse ever really comes close to solving the problem and ultimately this book will leave you more confused than when you started. Something that he never completely explores (and a fellow reviewer didn't consider when he deemed this problem "insoluble") is the idea that Genesis 1 and 2 are in fact a mixture of symbolic truth combined with actual theological truth. If you consider that the point of Genesis is to show "who and why," not "when and how" (which is the actual case with these chapters and in other extra-biblical writings of the same time period) then it is well within the realm of possibility that God did insert his image into man at some point, thus making him different from the rest of the animal kingdom. This allows for a fall of man and doesn't contain the need for God to create Adam and Eve from dust in order to do it.
This is just one possibility that I don't think was properly explored, and ultimately no viable option is presented. I'd recommend Kenneth Miller's "Finding Darwin's God" as a much more informative source, a book that actually provides answers and has the courage to challenge longstanding theories and theorists.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alone in the demilitarized zone June 24 2003
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Someone should buy Michael Ruse a new dictionary. The term "polemic" doesn't appear in his. He doesn't engage in polemics, and pours balm on those that occur. The "war between science and religion" is something he deplores. His subtitle sets the tone of this book in describing "The Relationship Between Science and Religion", deftly eschewing conflict at the outset. In reconciling the discipline of science with the dedication of faith, Ruse follows the labyrinthine path of Christian teachings. His Quaker upbringing and background in the history of science has prepared him well for this torturous task. His sense of wit allows him to achieve this without becoming ensnared in arcane theological questions or sectarian strife. Few, if any scholars have accomplished this level of detachment with such charming style.
Ruse establishes his credentials promptly, offering a succinct account of "Darwinism" [a term i loathe]. He explains the history and mechanisms of evolution by natural selection with aplomb. The book is valuable for this summation, if nothing else. He explains various forms of evidence such as the similarity of animal body structures [homology]. He continues with various dialogues between Christians who view evolution as a threat to morals, society, ethics and the other tired arguments and why they have no basis.
Finally, Ruse states the obvious: many scientists are and have been, successfully practicing Christians. Whether or not they've made the effort to rationalise this disparity, he saves them the effort in examining how the reconciliation can be achieved. For centuries, he reminds us, the study of Nature was in order to glorify a deity. He uses Augustine frequently in support of the view that Nature deserves serious study.
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It is a surprising book. It is mild in tone, polite and nice to revealed religion. He obviously did his homework, understanding Christianity, probably better than the man in the pew, maybe without believing it. He doesn't have the anguished tortured sounds that a believer does when he encounters the conflicts in the faith or between the faith and the world. He make no profession of faith, nor does he profess no faith on the other hand, in the book, so i accept his words as an interested party, a friend of the court, amis curiae. What the book is not: it is not a poor substitute for either Darwinianism or Christianity, for he does justice to both positions, evenhanded throughout. It is not a wax nose for either position, pushing and pulling either to make it fit a preconceived position. He doesn't leave out the nasty bits, those little family secrets that everyone hides from company. But rather trots them out for inspection by all: determinism, freewill, the soul, theodicy. All in all the book is best seen as a nice introduction to several philosophic themes as handled by two different kinds of thought systems.
I'm not convinced of anything in particular, the book doesn't strive to convert the borderline, nor does it preach to the choir, converting the already saved. Which is in itself interesting, how to approach a loaded gun subject and come off as a discussion amougst buddies rather than a bloodbath.
pg 59 "Our powers of sense and of reason are given to us by God-they are crucially involved in what it means to say that humans are made in God's image- and to turn our back on such firmly established science is theologically unacceptable.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Watered down for the Serious Christ-Lover
In this work, Michael Ruse presents a slew of propaganda for why a fundamentalist Christian can also be a Darwinian. Read more
Published on April 1 2009 by JATL
3.0 out of 5 stars Asks but doesn't answer all the questions
I was looking for ways to explain my pro-evolution stance to fellow evangelicals and was a little disappointed. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002 by UseAPencil
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberal Christians can be Darwinians
Asked in reverse order, "Can a Christian be a Darwinian?", Ruse's answer is really two-fold. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2002 by Will Jerom
4.0 out of 5 stars Why shoud a Christian be a Darwinist?
Christians shouldn't compromise their faith with the "wisdom" of this world. Christians who compromised their faith with platonism, neo-platonism, aristotelism,... Read more
Published on May 16 2002 by Jonatas Machado
5.0 out of 5 stars "Never" is a very long time.
A correction for the reviewer of this past March, who wrote, apparently in haste:
"However, science has never demonstrated that organic molecules could come from... Read more
Published on April 18 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars Kudos for seriously addressing the subject
Michael Ruse deserves alot of credit for seriously tackling the subject of the compatibility of Darwinism and Christianity. Read more
Published on April 18 2002 by David C. Read
2.0 out of 5 stars not bad, but too many problems
Michael Ruse is a Darwinist and a Christian. This book is his attempt to remove the barrier between Darwinism and Christianity. Read more
Published on March 14 2002 by Ben Holcomb
2.0 out of 5 stars Well-intentioned, but...
I appreciate Ruse's attempts to find common ground between religion and science, and I agree with him that evolution (of a type) more than likely is God's creating mechanism. Read more
Published on Oct. 18 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Creationist Sour Grapes
Ruse does an excellent job showing that science and the Bible are indeed compatible. He clearly shows why the scientific evidence is clear and overwhelming. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2001
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