Monday, February 26, 2007
Darwinism and Its Discontents
Philosopher Michael Ruse is one of RSR's favorite writers. We haven't read his latest, Darwinism and Its Discontents yet, but after reading Richard Bellon's review in American Scientist, we're going to push it to the top of our reading list. Bellon writes that Ruse has produced a "constant stream of innovative, provocative, informative, witty and entertaining scholarship. No other contemporary writer has Ruse's knack for seamlessly weaving together history, philosophy, theology and science."
In his latest salvo, Darwinism and Its Discontents, Ruse turns his good-natured pugnacity to a robust and comprehensive defense of the theory of evolution by natural selection as elaborated by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species (1859). Ruse's emphasis on Darwinism—which he defines as "natural selection as the chief causal process behind all organisms"—widens the book's scope beyond a conventional critique of creationism. He confronts the full range of people who treat Darwin's theory with suspicion, squeamishness or malign neglect. This includes secular thinkers who would indignantly reject the creationist label but nonetheless, in Ruse's view, "stand virtually back to back with the religious critics" when it comes to natural selection. He also seeks "to defend Darwinism from false (or misguided) friends," those who bastardize or misapply Darwin's ideas to advance their own cultural agendas. This is a book for anyone interested in what Darwinism can tell us—and more important, what it cannot tell us—about such profound and profoundly divisive issues as the literal interpretation of the Bible, the reality of free will, the existence of purpose and direction in the universe, the origin of life, the foundations of human ethical behavior, and the moral and political implications of human