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Darwin's Pious Idea (Interventions) [Hardcover]

Conor Cunningham
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jan 2011 Interventions
According to British scholar Conor Cunningham, the debate today between religion and evolution has been hijacked by extremists: on one side stand fundamentalist believers who reject evolution outright; on the opposing side are fundamentalist atheists who claim that Darwin's theory rules out the possibility of God. Both sides are dead wrong, argues Cunningham, who is at once a Christian and a firm believer in the theory of evolution. In Darwin's Pious Idea Cunningham puts forth a trenchant, compelling case for both creation and evolution, drawing skillfully on an array of philosophical, theological, historical, and scientific sources to buttress his arguments.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 563 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (1 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802848389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802848383
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.1 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

[This book] is nothing short of magnificent. Every now and then Providence sends a book to save the day. Darwin's Pious Idea may be one of those books. - Andrew Davison, The Church Times Despite its length, Darwin's Pious Idea is a very readable book, engaging and often acerbically witty. It has some serious and original things to say about what always threatens to turn into a sterile debate between rather fictionalized and trivialized versions of science and religion. . . . The sheer exuberance of the presentation is a delight. . . . Certainly the most interesting and invigorating book on the science-religion frontier that I have encountered. - Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Times Literary Supplement 'Even those sympathetic to the recent wave of evolutionary attacks on religion cannot help feeling that something is missing there: Dawkins and company lack a minimum of understanding of what religion is about, of how it works. Cunningham's book is thus obligatory reading for all interested in this topic: while fully endorsing the scientific validity of Darwinism, it clearly brings to light its limitations in understanding not only religion but also our human predicament. A book like Cunningham's is needed like simple bread in our confused times.' --Slavoj Zizek 'Cunningham is not shy about pulling the ontological pants of materialism down to its ankles. He supplies an unremitting attack on the scientific and philosophical views of Dawkins and his ilk in the course of his first four chapters. The level of scientific sophistication on display is remarkable for a theologian; his reading and his ruminations have been extensive, more than sufficient to provide a devastating critique of the narrative stories and metaphors of Dawkins not just with respect to religion, but also with respect to evolutionary biology itself.' --Michael Rose, The Quarterly Review of Biology 'Conor Cunningham's book is a vigorously written and a marvelously engaging work. It is highly informed and hugely informative with regard to both scientific theory and theological reflection. It is constantly judicious in the manner it lifts current debate to a genuine level of seriousness, beyond the sometimes thoughtless, even shrill rhetoric associated with recent debates on God and evolution. Conor Cunningham engages those with whom he disagrees with properly respectful consideration, not lacking in frequent touches of deft humor. It is a most welcome contribution to these current controversies. First rate and very highly recommended.' --William Desmond, Professor of Philosophy, University of Leuven, and University of Villanova

Cunningham is not shy about pulling the ontological pants of materialism down to its ankles. He supplies an unremitting attack on the scientific and philosophical views of Dawkins and his ilk in the course of his first four chapters. The level of scientific sophistication on display is remarkable for a theologian; his reading and his ruminations have been extensive, more than sufficient to provide a devastating critique of the narrative stories and metaphors of Dawkins not just with respect to religion, but also with respect to evolutionary biology itself. --Michael Rose, The Quarterly Review of Biology

Conor Cunningham's book is a vigorously written and a marvelously engaging work. It is highly informed and hugely informative with regard to both scientific theory and theological reflection. It is constantly judicious in the manner it lifts current debate to a genuine level of seriousness, beyond the sometimes thoughtless, even shrill rhetoric associated with recent debates on God and evolution. Conor Cunningham engages those with whom he disagrees with properly respectful consideration, not lacking in frequent touches of deft humor. It is a most welcome contribution to these current controversies. First rate and very highly recommended. --William Desmond, Professor of Philosophy, University of Leuven, and University of Villanova

About the Author

Conor Cunningham is the assistant director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Nuanced and Witty 21 July 2011
Format:Hardcover
Darwin's Pious Idea is not an easy read, as already noted in other reviews; but it is a book worth all the time and effort you can give to it. If you're looking for quick tweet-size demolitions of this or that position on the issues raised by the theory of evolution, this book is not for you. Stick to your Dawkins or other fundamentalist pamphlet.

The book does not give quick and easy answers but this is not, I think, a fault of the author. Cunningham has gone to extraordinary lengths to survey the best of recent thinking in biology, philosophy and theology. You might not agree with the conclusions he eventually reaches (though I think he is definitely pointing in the right direction), but it is plain wrong to claim (as Mr Ussery does above) that Cunningham `[does] not grasp the basics of science' and probably `believes in magic crystals'. On the contrary, Cunningham arguably understands `science' as a real human practice better than most scientists (who are prone to wearing their ignorance of philosophy as a badge of honour, and can be heard declaiming like opinionated sixth-formers - I'm looking at you Steve Jones -that all philosophy is pointless and vacuous). But more than this, in the first part of the book Cunningham looks in great detail at what contemporary evolutionary science is saying, and, as far as I am concerned (and in the opinion of many leading scientists who have reviewed the book), he understands evolutionary theory very well. Cunningham does not give quick and easy answers because the issues are not the kind that lend themselves to quick and easy thinking...
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Our generation's leading Apologist? 1 April 2011
By LAC
Format:Hardcover
Let me begin by stressing that this book is not an easy read. It requires time, dedication and concentration. This is why I have not given it five stars, it doesn't strike me as being universally accessible.
However, universally accessible or not it is still a fascinating and entertaining read.
Cunningham takes his abstract philosophically deep arguments and applies everyday analogies in order to make such baffling concepts understandable.
I am not going to claim that Conor Cunningham is a leading biologist, however he has clearly done some deep research into his field and comes out with some pearls of wisdom and intriguing research in the Biology field because of this.
Conor Cunningham's fields are Theology and Philosophy. And it is when he uses these ideas that this book comes into it's own and can make the reader a lot wiser from it.
In a field where a lot has been said over the last couple of decades Cunningham has here provided a definitive and necessary read to anyone who wants to understand this field better. I defy any Dawkins-esque atheist not to have the very integrity of their views challenged by this compelling book.
More than worth the time, dedication and concentration that this book demands.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard going but fantabulous 9 April 2012
Format:Hardcover
This book is hard work -- the author is familiar with multiple academic disciplines (philosophy, biology, theology) and the reader has to concentrate hard to follow the discussion. I am not a biologist so I found the biology the more demanding aspect of the discussion (though I learned a lot about current debates in biology).

But the pain is well worth it.

Cunningham takes both ultra-Darwinists and creationists to the cleaners and watches their arguments dissolve like dirt in the washing powder.

I have read masses of books on creation and evolution issues and this is by far the most philosophically sophisticated.

If you are prepared to work hard this book is well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paint it black 8 Jun 2013
By Andrew
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What's Darwin's pious idea? In short, it's easier to believe in evolution if you believe in the Christian God. The alternative to evolution and God is nihilism. And whilst nihilism may sound cool you can't take it with you.

This pious idea is at odds with conventional wisdom on evolution and Christianity; and what seems to unite ultra-Darwinists and Creationists is that they're both convinced you can't have one with the other. But this isn't all that unites them, says Cunningham. To paraphrase Chesterton, the ultra-Darwinist and the Creationist are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard creation as physical not metaphysical. Hence Intelligent Design is a species of the same mistake. And this kind of thing gives rise to the rather banal 'God hypothesis' or the 'God of gaps' stuff, as if arguments about the existence or non-existence of God pertain to our ability to explain physical phenomena with or without reference to the intervention of a god. This is a mistake Cunningham calls 'Zwinglian metaphysics'; a reference to the Eucharistic debates during the Reformation era. The point he is making is a good one but he is doing a disservice to Zwingle.

Zwingli argued that the Lord's Supper was enacted as a memorial of Christ's death. The bread and wine are just bread and wine. Symbols. Christ is not bodily present in the elements as the Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans believe. The bread and wine are mere matter, nothing divine about it. By analogy so too the world around us. The supernatural, if there is such a thing, is an extra. For the ultra-Darwinist an entirely worthless extra, for the Creationist an extra to die on a hill for.
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