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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Concept of the book is interesting, but poor argumentation., April 5 1999
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (Hardcover)
With the idea of attempting to reconcile the very different views of science and religion via a process called NOMA, the book, at first glance, seems worth the read. And it is: but only to find out that science and religion really are at odds - which is the exact opposite intention of the book.
Gould's book is well written in his characteristic style and provides some interesting historical insights, but the main premise relies on the etymological derivation of the word "religion" which is not how the term is actually used and thus defeats much of the argument. While touting the scientific method and how religion should stay away form it, Gould invokes his "amens" and "Lords" enough that one wonders if the god of religion has, indeed, been found in the scientific method in Gould's world.
The examples Gould uses to prove his point (which are too few) and the lack of the use of terms as most people use and recognize them seriously hurt the argument in my opinion. The book is meant to be a persuasive argument. I, for one, was not persuaded.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not a profound book, but delightful to read., April 4 1999
By 
lousen1@yahoo.com (Fort Myers, Florida) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (Hardcover)
Gould's "Rocks of Ages" explores the long-standing and misunderstood conflict between science and religion and offers "... a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to this apparent conflict." As he correctly points out, his basic thesis "... follows a strong consensus accepted for decades by leading scientific and religious leaders alike." Stated simply, the contributions of science (rock-hard facts and knowledge) and the contribution of religion (the "Rock of Ages" spiritual and mystical contributions to life) are both important to a fulfilled life. Nontheless, they clearly occupy different domains of inquiry which should not overlap, Gould therefore proposes to "... encapsulate this central principle of respectful noninterference ... by enunciating the Principle of NOMA, or Non-Overlapping Magisteria." He chooses the "four-bit" word "magisterium" as it represents for him "...a domain of authority in teaching." that practioners of science and religion should acknowledge and respect. If all that Gould did was to revisit the unique contributions of science and religion, the book would be only mildly interesting. What makes it worthwhile reading is Gould's historical research. Here he comes across as a fine scholar. For example, his detailed discussions of Darwin and the imapct of the "Origin of Species", the conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church and the Scopes Trial are both enlightening and fascinating. Throughout the book he quotes extensively from historical records which add to reading enjoyment. As part of his criticism of the overlapping of science and religion, Gould cannot resist dwelling at length on the legal conflicts that have raged over the teaching of evolution and the current political agenda of the "Creation Science" movement. He makes it clear that there are those who still wish to keep alive the supposed warfare between science and religion with no peaceful resolution in sight. In summary, is the book profound? No. Is it worth reading?Yes. Gould is a talented essayist and, once again, this talent shows through in his book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another nice book from S. J. Gould, March 30 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (Hardcover)
This book is an interesting discussion of the domain of science and the domain of relgion/ethics and how wisdom results from understanding the "interdigitation" and interrelation of these domains (or, as Gould calls them, "magisteria"). It is written with Gould's knack for exploring the abstact through the concrete and vice versa. I found his reflections on T. Huxley lucid and quite illustrative of the point Gould is trying to make.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Hardly as good as Gould ..., March 30 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Rocks of Ages (Hardcover)
I'm a big fan of Stephen Jay Gould, the science writer (and Stephen Jay Gould the baseball fan, and Stephen Jay Gould, guest star on The Simpsons, for that matter). I may not always agree with him (I'm more of a Dawkinsian, for what it's worth) but I always find him entertaining, enlightening and fun. So his new book is a huge disappointment. It's dry, obtuse and virtually unreadable. A far cry from his normal work. But why is that?
Gould's books are normally a collection of articles he's written for the monthly Natural History. Writing a column establishes a strong upper limit on length, which in turn helps keep his writing crisp. In this book, he's writing an essay on the relationship between religion and science. But it's a book-length essay, and Gould seems to forget everything he knows about storytelling. He's pedantic, dull and self-important, even when trying to appear humble. It reads like a specialized, academic text, rather than something for general consumption. It's not that what he says is wrong, or unconvincing, just that it's so badly said. His arguments can be followed, but it's not, generally speaking, worth the trouble.
Can't we all just get along? Particularly because nothing he says here is particularly novel. In the relationship between science and religion, Gould says there are certain things one can answer better than the other. So the two should adopt a "hands off" approach in areas outside their field of expertise. Gould calls this NOMA (for Non-Overlapping MagisteriA). And it's nothing new. Science does a better job of telling us what's happening in the heart of the sun, but religion is better at guiding our own hearts. No big surprise there, and nothing that hasn't been said hundreds of times over the years.
Undoubtedly, Gould's position as a pre-eminent science writer will help sell the book. But that's a shame. Rocks of Ages is destined to be the next A Brief History of Time ... the second most-bought, least-read book in history (after The Bible). Well, don't fall for it. The book isn't worth your time or your money. Better by far to buy a copy of Bully for Brontosaurus or Wonderful Life and enjoy Gould when he's at the top of his game. For the rest of my reviews, visit my web page at exn.net/printedmatter
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ok, but repetetive and dull, May 16 2004
By 
R. Laybourne (Martinez, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
This book, ROCKS OF AGES, was ok, but repetitive and simplistic in its evaluation of the problem to religion offering a duh solution without any way to work out the problem in real life. Gould also seems full of himself as well as boring, making for a rather unpleasant reading.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He tries, but just doesn't get it, Dec 30 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
This book is certainly worth reading, but Gould writes from the (very rational and intellectual) standpoint of a scientist who admires and yet does not hold Faith. A self-avowed "wise agnostic" has no more credibility in dictating the relationship between science and religion than would a bishop lacking any scientific background. He continually treats religion as nothing more than a system of moral teachings meant to comfort people. The only God that Gould can conceive of is the Deist notion of a cold and aloof "watchmaker" -- but there are very good reasons why Deism died out two centuries ago. Furthermore, Gould rejects even the possibility of miracles, and thus casually dismisses many of the founding premises of the world's major Faith traditions.
In short, this is certainly worth reading for people of science, religion, Faith, or all of the above. Yet understand that Gould writes purely as a skeptic and as a SCIENTIST, and a true conception of Faith eludes him. This book is best read if you mentally replace every instance of the word "religion" with "philosophy." Still, at least Gould tried.
For a far, far superior discussion of science and religion, pick up Polkinghorne's GOD OF HOPE AND THE END OF THE WORLD. Polkinghorne is not only an Anglican priest, but he held the Cambridge Physics Chair. Polkinghorne, unlike Gould, truly understands both aspects of his subject matter.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware of the NOMA trap, April 29 2004
By 
Jonatas Machado (Coimbra Portugal) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Paperback)
The NOMA concept defended by Sephen Jay Gould in pages 47 ss. is a trap that no serious christian should fall in to. By now Stephen Jay Gould must have realized how wrong it is.
The NOMA concept assumes that science is objective and rational, and that religion is subjective and emotional. It assumes that science is about statements of fact, and religion is about value judgements.
In its apparent plausibility, this notion couldn't be more naíve. Perhaps naive is not really the best word, since Stephen Jay Gould chose is words carefully so as to promote his naturalistic agenda.
The fact of the matter is:
1) Evolution is itself interpretative, speculative and fideistic. In evolutionary theory, conjectures are much more important than the empirical data as such, because all the empirical data available (v.g. absence of intermediate forms in the fossil record and molecular biology, DNA information; catastrophism in geology; molecular machines; fine-tuning of the universe; mathematical improbability of evolution) points towards criation, not evolution. Evolutionary theory has not yet proved the casual origin of life, the existence of the prebiotic soup, the existence of the needed intermediate life forms, nor has it identified the evolutionary mechanism. On the other hand, the Big Bang theory has not yet explained the Big Bang itself, the inflation of the Universe, the origin of galaxies, stars, the solar system, the sun and the moon. So when Stephen Jay Gould says that evolution is based on objective empirical data, I really don't understand what he is talking about.
On the other hand,
2) The Bible clearly speaks of instantaneous creation ex nihilo, of the fall, the curse, and the flood. It also speaks about the comming of the Messiah. Lets talk about this last aspect for a while. Is there any historical evidence of the comming of the Messiah? Well, there is plenty. Jesus Christ was simply the most important single person that the World has haver known. So the Bible is about historical facts, not value statements. In the case of Jesus Christ, there is abundant circunstantial evidence that God rose him from the dead, thus creating life from inorganic matter and inteligently designing a new and glorious body in a few seconds, not billions of years. This historical fact is more than enough for us to believe in the factual and objective ability of the Creator to create the world in six days. I understand that this may seem incredible, but the fact is that it is not blind faith. There is good empirical evidence for that, such as the fine-tuning of the Universe for life, the incredible ammounts of DNA information, the extremly complex proteins, molecular machines, cells and biological systems. In facto, the needed simultaneous presence of millions of nucleotides precisely sequenced to specify extremly complex biological structures and functions speaks more about instantaneous creation than about evolutionary gradualism or saltationism. The fotosynthesis mechanism is an example of an extremely complex structure that must be put in place at once or else it wont' work, and I don't see how gradualism or saltationism can solve that, nor does any scientist, not even all of them together.
Much more could be said about the objective nature of christian religion, as in the case of the curse, the flood, Babel, etc.
Some religions, along with many scientific theories of origins, are no doubt subjective and speculative and even counterfactual. But Biblical faith is as solid, objective and factual as anything else can be.
The whole notion of NOMA makes no sense. The Bible is magisterial and science can only be ministerial. NOMA is a naturalistic trap in which, alas, many christians of good faith and bad arguments have fallen. It is not so much about Bible v. Science. It is abou the possibility of acquiring real knowledge about the origins, the meaning and the destiny of our lives. Contrary to commom held beliefs, faith in the Bible leads to Homo Sapiens. Faith in evolution produces Homo Ignorans.
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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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