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Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life Paperback – Feb 26 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (Feb. 26 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034545040X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345450401
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.4 x 20.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #412,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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Revered and eminently readable essayist Stephen Jay Gould has once again rendered the complex simple, this time mending the seeming split between the two "Rocks of Ages," science and religion. He quickly, and rightfully, admits that his thesis is not new, but one broadly accepted by many scientists and theologians. Gould begins by suggesting that Darwin has been misconstrued--that while some religious thinkers have used divinity to prove the impossibility of evolution, Darwin would have never done the reverse.

Gould eloquently lays out not "a merely diplomatic solution" to rectify the physical and metaphysical, but "a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds," central to which is the elegant concept of "non-overlapping magisteria." (Gould defines magisteria as a "four-bit" word meaning domain of authority in teaching.) Essentially, science and religion can't be unified, but neither should they be in conflict; each has its own discrete magisteria, the natural world belonging exclusively to science and the moral to religion.

Gould's argument is both lucid and convincing as he cites past religious and scientific greats (including a particularly touching section on Darwin himself). Regardless of your persuasions, religious or scientific, Gould holds up his end of the conversation with characteristic respect and intelligence. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Gould is at his brilliant best... A truly convincing performance" Guardian "Convincingly argued and thought provoking-Gould must rank as one of the leading scientific essayists of his generation and, as ever, he is in total command of his subject matter. He steers a deft route through contentious waters, but manages to retain a humorous edge, that keeps the book both engaging and highly entertaining. Gould provides the literary magic to deliver a light-hearted read" Irish Times "Concise, eloquent and passionate. It is a marvellous work. Gould speaks clear, sound sense, and Rocks of Ages should be required reading not only for scientists and religious people, but for anybody who cares about the quest for meaning" Independent "This marvellous extended essay should have been the real lost book of the New Testament. Gould, arguably our greatest living popular science essayist, has many joyful enthusiasms. Among them are eternity, Charles Darwin and baseball-Gould has such insatiable and infectious enthusiasm for the intellectual challenge and fascination of being a mere speck in a vast universe" Scotsman "Rocks of Ages is easy and enjoyable to read. It contains many charming illustrations and interesting insights" Sunday Telegraph

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By A Customer on June 6 2004
Format: Hardcover
I had to write a review for this for my Biology class so I thought I might as well post it here.
Overall, even though the book has a strong thesis and idea, I felt that the book was pretty dry and almost redundant at times. There were a few enjoyable moments where Gould's voice really stood out, but other than that the book was extremely boring about a topic that shouldn't be. Gould's intentions are pretty clear over the course of the novel, but I think that he should have undertaken them in a different way. There are also times in the book where he seems to drift on and just throw in irrelevant information that leaves you wondering, "Where did that come from?" At times it seems he beats around the bush and doesn't get to his main point of what NOMA is. Although I am more or less bashing the book, some of the accounts in Rocks of Ages were pretty interesting, including the Christopher Columbus and William Jennings Bryan portions of the book. For example, I learned that back in the 1400's, it was not perceived that the world was flat. Instead, this was just an overblown exaggeration that went along with the story of Columbus discovering the Americas. The problem about my liking towards these sections of the book is that they are not really the basis and meat of Gould's argument. Also, another problem that I have with this book is the construction of sentences. There are times in the book where it is almost torture to read the amazingly long, run-on sentences. On top of this, the author adds in thoughts or other tidbits of information mid-sentence, making the already dizzying text even harder to get through. Gould is definitely a skilled writer but I believe that he misuses his talents at times in this book.
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Format: Paperback
Stephen Jay Gould was a separatist. This statement is not an attempt to impugn the late Gould's deserved reputation as a humanist, but rather is an accurate description of his predictable attitude towards the relationship between the endeavors of religion and science. Renowned scientist and essayist Gould presents a book-length examination of the roles of each, and prescribes a supposedly moderate stance that finds no need for conflict, but he also admonishes against integration. Gould recognizes that complete human wisdom-the "fullness of life" of his title-consists of both the scientific and the spiritual, "each covering a central facet of human existence," but in championing the integrity of both science and religion, he is unable (or unwilling) to identify any similarities or shared territory between them.
While Gould rightly sees that the expansive pool of human understanding is fed by (at least) two founts, his book stays in the shallows, where the waters indeed don't mix much, and he never plunges into the deep-end, where powerful undercurrents commingle. Furthermore, Gould does not discern that this turbulent pool is a cycling wellspring which is itself the source of ostensibly disparate fountainheads. He had not the proper equipment to fathom these dark depths, for the necessary tools of illumination are those of philosophy, and Gould, a man of many talents and specialties (paleontology, evolutionary biology, history of science, and baseball statistics), alas, was not a philosopher. In short, Gould is in over his head.
We must assess the appropriateness of Gould's authorship in order to understand its limitations. First, Gould was a scientist. Yes, he was erudite and prolific, but as he often reminded his readers, he was not a polymath, but a working scientist.
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Format: Hardcover
"fie on the creationists and evangelizing atheists alike!"
Reviewer: Marc A. Schindler from Spruce Grove AB
One can tell how much I enjoy a book by how many pages I turn over. Usually a spontaneous literary tic on my part, it's a sign that there's something thought-provoking, something I want to follow up on, or merely a mile marker on the highway which shows where I had an "ah ha!" experience. Many pages were folded over in this relatively short and very easily readable book which nevertheless manages to convey some very deep concepts. This is the book where the late Harvard palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, an admitted agnostic of secular Jewish background, defines - re-defines, really - an approach to reconciling science and religion which he calls Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA). This is the "NOMA Declaration," as it were.
Reconciling science and religion is a passion of mine, and when I find something that helps me, I'm enthused. I'm even more enthused when it's a book I can recommend to practically anybody to help them understand something I feel very strongly about: a) ultimately all knowledge is part of a greater truth, but while we are in this mortal existence we have certain limits placed upon our abilities to gain and understand the most transcendent truths; b) science and religion both address questions of knowledge, and they sometimes appear to conflict; c) the key isn't in trying to express one type of knowledge in terms of the others - that leads to the square pegs and round holes of fundamentalist creationism and atheistic scientism - but in learning about the meaning of the questions that each "magisterium" (realm of inquiry, as Gould defines it) poses.
And this book does that very, very well.
Reading level required: Grade IX AP (it helps to have had at least introductory high school biology, and will be easier for those with 2nd year high school biology).
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