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5.0 out of 5 stars The "NOMA Declaration"
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...
Published on Jan. 26 2003 by Marc A. Schindler

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much new material
This book was not the great for me, mainly because most of the materials covered are addressed in his books like Ever Since Darwin, Bully for Brontosaurs, and It's a Wonderful Life. If you have not read some of those works then this would be great.
Gould finally shows some emotion when he comes right out and says creationists have never contributed anything to...
Published on March 25 2004 by Ben Holcomb


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not much new material, March 25 2004
By 
Ben Holcomb (Wichita) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
This book was not the great for me, mainly because most of the materials covered are addressed in his books like Ever Since Darwin, Bully for Brontosaurs, and It's a Wonderful Life. If you have not read some of those works then this would be great.
Gould finally shows some emotion when he comes right out and says creationists have never contributed anything to science and are not scientists. He has mentioned similar epithets elsewhere, but not to this degree. I wondered though, while reading those quotes how Gould accepted that one of his best students, Kurt Wise, is not only a creationist but a YEC. Gould comments about Darwin and his views up until his death and how Darwin's view remained, as far as anyone knows, intact. Further I wonder, though, if Gould ever had any second thoughts about his views before his death.
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2.0 out of 5 stars sdklfsd, June 6 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (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. In general, the book is an interesting read on a thought provoking subject that has been around for several centuries. Gould makes his solution pretty simple, and overall gets his point across about the matter of religion and science. However, the manner that he does this in is very dry, and at times, just flat out boring to tell the truth. To conclude, I would probably Rocks of Ages a C+ or B- just for the valid points and suggestions that Gould brings up, but it could have been done a lot better in my opinion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable popularization, Jan. 27 2004
By 
Alan Nicoll (real name) (Lake of the Woods, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
This would be a valuable book for anyone who is not well versed in philosophy of religion. I found it so good on listening to the audio book version that I got the hard copy from the library and read it straight through.
Other reviewers here have provided summaries so I won't take the time to do that. For me the book was most valuable in reinforcing and clarifying my own thinking about the relationship between science and religion, and the universal "need for religion" in the sense that everyone needs clarity about his/her own values and meaning. It is also useful to have "NOMA" as a word for the useful concept of the non-overlapping nature of science and religion.
I especially liked the quotes from Darwin and Huxley and the review of the Scopes trial and William Jennings Bryan.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Gould: great scientist, writer, humanist, BUT no philosopher, June 13 2003
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (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. This vocation introduced an inextricable bias. Understandably, we cannot expect a bona fide scientist to declare his or her own occupation to be utter hogwash and advocate total deference to theology, but rarely are we even able to find scientists willing (or able) to recognize the methods and subject matter that science shares with religion. Gould was no exception. As a member of the scientific community, try as he might, Gould was unable to look at science itself objectively, bound to be defensive of his bread and butter. Second, Gould was not a theologian, nor had he any special training in religion. This alone certainly does not disqualify him from valuable investigation into religious subject matter, and theologians are no more particularly qualified or unbiased on this topic than are scientists. But lacking an intense personal knowledge of the modus operandi and viewpoints of theology certainly created a disequilibrium when comparing it with the sciences which Gould obviously knew intimately. Third, and I assert most importantly, Gould was not a philosopher. He lacked the conceptual devices and techniques required to properly dissect and compare the methods and logic of science vis-a-vis those of religion. It would be more appropriate for someone extensively trained in both science and theology, e.g., anti-creationism author Denis Lamoureux, to attempt a comparison of the two. For the fullest comparative study, however, it is necessary that the author be a philosopher, e.g., Ian G. Barbour, author of Religion and Science (1997). Gould, a gifted scholar to be sure, was nonetheless under-qualified for the task of recognizing the similarities between religion and science.
One wonders why Gould wrote this book at all. It does not present anything novel, and Gould even concedes that the position he takes in it "follows a strong consensus accepted for decades by leading scientific and religious thinkers alike" (3). He does not even take an extreme stance at either pole, neither portraying an inevitable and constant war in which superstitious religion constantly works to impede the irreverent juggernaut of science (Barbour's "Conflict Model" and embodied in physicist Steven Weinberg), nor advocating any boundary-breaking or unification (Barbour's "Integration Model"). Gould anticipates the questioning of this work's motives and merits when on the first page of the book he claims only "some inventiveness in choice of illustration." But Gould was a scientific insider looking out, seeing everything through a specialized lens. His view is always contained and constrained by the bubble of science. His writing is as engaging as ever, but the author did not and could not perceive the fundamental similarities between religion and science, the discovery of which requires a philosophical study. Gould admits in a lengthy footnote that his book offers only generalizations of philosophical debates in which he was not qualified to draw conclusions (55-7). Therein he describes his volume as a "broad-scale treatment" of "central principles," a text not designed for "intense focus on wiggles at the borders" by experts. This is an indication of Gould's intended audience. This book will satisfy two types of people: (1) generally intelligent people who are interested in the debate but have no specialized training in philosophy, and (2) people involved in science who already think (or feel) that religion and science should not be in conflict. For the general audience, Gould's arguments will seem convincing because he does not dive deep into the philosophy of religion and science, where overlap in method and content become apparent. For the scientists, Gould's conclusions will resonate with their preconceptions, and these will be strengthened by the endorsement of so preeminent a sponsor as Gould. Those readers familiar with the philosophical comparison and deconstruction of religion and science will find Gould's treatment superficial and naïve.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The "NOMA Declaration", Jan. 26 2003
By 
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars "The NOMA Declaration", Jan. 26 2003
By 
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Thank God for Gould!, Jan. 20 2003
By 
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
It's great (and incredibly rare) to hear from a prominent Scientist who isn't blue in the face, banging a drum or writing as a Social, Political and Moral Guru.
There's no question that this book is written for Richard Dawkins and his followers - the Bible-belt of the anti-religious. SJG was rightly tired of his tub-thumping colleagues proclaiming God's death again and again in book after book - a philosophical notion which is completely beyond the realms of scientific inquiry and only serves to highlight the lack of basic philosophical investigation on its representatives behalf.
The point made in this book - that true Science and true Religion can never verify each other or disqualify each other is kids stuff for Philosophy/Theology undergraduates but is apparently never taught to Scientists. Gould's book is filled with interesting stories and good humour and this combined with the simplicity and importance of the argument means that it could only be truly disliked by someone still affiliated to the ignorant and arrogant fanatics on the two edges of the Science-Religion debate.
Sensible people everywhere find it easy to dismiss the Creationist Crazies who believe God created everything except metaphorical and allegorical language but sometimes it feels more difficult to dismiss someone with a Professorship and huge book sales. Hopefully Rocks of Ages will make it a bit easier.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Goofy Stuff!, Nov. 25 2002
By 
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
Sometimes he made sense other times I think he had a bong sitting on his writing desk. The irony is the whole book falls under the "magesterium" of Philosophy, not Science! Based on the premise of this book, Gould should not have laid a finger on this subject. But, I'm glad he did. Now, thanks to NOMA, I better not ever here you (ahem) "Freethinking" Naturalists even mention Ethics. Ya heer me! It's not yo "turf". Stick to your cricket [feces] and bacteria. Leave the big questions for the adults who choose to look a little deeper than (GULP!) caterpillar eating wasps (OH, the horror!). C'Ya.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Goofy Stuff!, Nov. 25 2002
By 
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
Sometimes he made sense other times I think he had a ... sitting on his writing desk. The irony is the whole book falls under the "magesterium" of Philosophy, not Science! Based on the premise of this book, Gould should not have laid a finger on this subject. But, I'm glad he did. Now, thanks to NOMA, I better not ever here you (ahem) "Freethinking" Naturalists even mention Ethics. Ya heer me! It's not yo "turf". Stick to your cricket turds and bacteria. Leave the big questions for the adults who choose to look a little deeper than (GULP!) caterpillar eating wasps (OH, the horror!). C'Ya.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Nonsolution for a "Nonproblem", Oct. 21 2002
By 
Jonathan L. Widger (Ocean View, DE United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
Stephen Jay Gould died this past May at the age of 60 of metastisized lung cancer. He really needs no introduction. He was, among other things, the famous Harvard professor of zoology and geology. He was also a prolific and gifted science writer. In Rocks of Ages, however, his topic is not science but, rather, promotion of "the potential harmony through difference of science and religion, both properly conceived and limited" (43). However, who shall hand down to us science and religion "properly concieved and limited"? Gould, of course.
Ironically, he insists there is no real conflict between science and religion. He refers to it as "the supposed conflict," "a debate that exists only in people's minds" (3), "the false conflict" (6), "the great nonproblem of our times" (92), "false and simplistic" (103), "the false model of warfare" (111), "this false dichotomization" (117), "the polemics of ill-conceived battle," and "a thoroughly false model" (209). Thus, he has written 222 pages to solve a "nonproblem"!
Gould offers as a "wonderfully workable solution" (92) the old idea that "science studies how the heavens go, religion how to go to heaven" (6). He names this solution "NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria...(from the Latin magister, or teacher)" (6). "NOMA," says Gould, "also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions residing properly within the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world's empirical constitution" (9-10). However, his principle of NOMA is problematic.
In this "solution," religion acquires two problems. First, its magisterium will be limited to ethics and meaning. However, as Gould openly acknowledges, ethics and meaning require no validation via "appeals to religion" (57) and, furthermore, "need not invoke religion at all" (60). Secondly, he openly acknowledges that NOMA deprives religion of the miraculous, thus, imposing a "limitation on concepts of God" (85). Moreover, he states that "if you believe that an adequately loving God must show his hand by peppering nature with palpable miracles,...then a particular, partisan...view of religion has transgressed into the magisterium of science by dictating conclusions that must remain open to empirical test and potential rejection" (94).
In spite of his assertion that most of the "professional clergy and religious scholars" are defenders of NOMA (129), the majority of lay-religionists around the world are not ready to give up belief in some kind of miracle-working, personal deity. This fact completely refutes his assertion that the battle between religion and science is a "false and simplistic" model. On the contrary, what is false and simplistic is the notion that religion and science can be neatly divided into non-overlapping magisteria without religion being damaged by losing authority to make the miraculous claims that have been integral to religious experience and doctrine.
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Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould (Paperback - Feb. 26 2002)
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