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Darwin and God [Paperback]

Nick Spencer
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Feb 2009
'A very helpful discussion of a neglected and important subject' Mary Midgley. Nick Spencer draws on Darwin's autobiography, manuscripts, notebooks and letters - as well as his world-famous publications - in exploring Darwin's view of design, purpose, morality, the universe and the human mind. The author argues that, although Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection did undermine his Christian faith, it was the age-old problem of suffering - first in theory, then through the dreadful loss of his favourite child - that caused it to break down. Darwin and God is the first full-length account of Darwin's religious beliefs to be published in the UK. Meticulously-researched, it presents a moving, compelling and tumultuous story of one of the world's greatest scientists.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK (19 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281060827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281060825
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 540,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"* 'A very helpful discussion of a neglected and important subject' Mary Midgley * 'This fascinating and readable book fills a big gap in the Darwin literature and provides a well-researched overview of Darwin's religious struggles.' Denis Alexander, Director, The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion * 'When misconceptions abound concerning Darwin's religious views, it is good to read such a sensitive, reliable and absorbing account.' John Hedley Brooke, Emeritus Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford"

About the Author

Nick Spencer is Director of Studies at Theos, the public theology think tank. He has written a number of books, most recently (with Bob White) Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living, and is the author (with Jonathan Chaplin) of God and Government (SPCK, forthcoming).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and balanced 11 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are a number of very good points about this book.

It is quite short. All the content is relevant, there is no padding
It has a clear scope and sticks to it. It seeks to review how Darwin's own thinking and Faith developed through his life, and how it was influenced by the evolution of his scientific theories and thinking.

You get what it says on the tin.
It clearly sets the historical context. While mentioning the infamous incident between Huxley and Wilberforce, it gives the wider cultural context and sets out how many Christians (such as Kingsley and Temple) embraced the theory while many scientists did not.

It is not Christian Propaganda. The author is a director of Theos. There might be a worry that a distorted view would be given. I do not think that this is the case, as the book certainly does not play down the fact that Darwin did indeed lose his faith. Of course this is explained, but the explanation given is thoughtful and respectful. I had the feeling that the writer is a big Darwin fan!

It considers sensitively how Darwin came to lose his faith. Unlike some recent t.v. programs which blithely tell us that, because of Natural Selection "there is no need for God" the book does highlight some genuine difficulties for believers to grapple with. I do not say that these difficulties are insurmountable, but they seem too often to be treated too lightly. It was refreshing that these points were highlighted - and then not explained away.

It gives an insight into Darwin's Character. I have always thought him a great scientist and thinker. I now have much more sympathy for him as a man (and father) as he wrestled with the implications of his work, but also with the reality of suffering.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facing reality 22 Aug 2009
By Dr. H. A. Jones TOP 500 REVIEWER
Darwin and God by Nick Spencer, SPCK, 2009, 160 ff.

Facing reality
By Howard A. Jones

`For a man who eschewed religious controversy, Darwin has probably had more impact on religious thinking than anyone else born in the last 200 years' - so opens a section of the Introduction that tells us why this book was written. It is not about evolution. It explores specifically Darwin's personal relationship with his God, how this changed over his lifetime and the emotional anxiety that his scientific discoveries caused him because of the impact he knew these ideas would have on religious belief, especially as his wife was a devout Christian.

In his student years Darwin contemplated a career first in medicine and then in the ministry. But when he returned from the voyage of the Beagle in 1836, his career as a naturalist rather than a clergyman was set. It was Darwin's reading of Lyell's Principles of Geology on the voyage that convinced him that biblical stories of Creation and of the Flood were myths.

Darwin's own beliefs thus evolved from a sound Christianity, to a period of many years of agonising doubt about the truth of the Christian religion (a period brought vividly to life by Spencer through Darwin's own words), to a state of open agnosticism about the role of God in his final years. There is no suggestion here that any time he became an atheist; rather, like John Locke with whose works Darwin was thoroughly familiar, he was an anti-Trinitarian.

There is a glossary of names at the end of the book, followed by several pages of notes and references, suggestions for further reading and a useful index. This book is thoroughly recommendable.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Laodicean 5 April 2010
This is a slim but informative book on Darwin's religion- Darwin began as a Unitarian whose ideas, like those of many educated persons in his time, were based on William Paley's 'Natural Theology' of benevolent design. Consequently, the discovery that design did not appear all that benevolent had a thinning effect on a blood of faith that did not flow particularly strongly in his veins anyway. The cruel death of a favourite child seems to have had a final, chilling effect. But the evidence is that he was never much interested in spiritual questions, and was always something of a Laodicean. Read more ›
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