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Evolution as a Religion (Routledge Classics) Paperback – 21 Feb 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (21 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415278333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278331
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 555,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'A graceful, refreshing and enlightening book, applied philosphy that is relevant, timely and metaphysical in the best sense.' -- The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Mary Midgley (1919 - ). A philosopher with a special interest in ethics, human nature and science, Mary Midgley has a widespread international following for her work. Her latest book is Science and Poetry. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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The theory of evolution is not just an inert piece of theoretical science. Read the first page
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Newton on 31 July 2012
Format: Paperback
This is not a book about science or even really about evolution, it is about the use of scientific thinking in non scientific ways. (If you doubt Midgeley's acceptance of evolution see the quote at the start of the book - it is actually dedicated to Darwin). Reading this in 2012, some of the references seem old and with one or two major exceptions are not books that I think have a significant influence now. It might be helpful to have newer references, but the flaws and habits Midgeley criticises are evident in many modern scientific texts. You can be a proactive supporter of science, whilst still being critical of the language and thinking of some scientists. I give the book 5 stars as it was good to read and thought provoking - surely the signs of a good book?
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is an interesting, intelligent read. It explains why it is so easy to confuse evolution with teleological stories of progress. It also traverses the boundaries between religion and science, and shows why science is not always as objective as it might seem. At the same time, Midgley is definitely not in the creationist camp. The last reviewer has clearly not read any recent philsophy of science, and has not understood the simple principle that science is not created or interpreted in a social vacuum, but is socially, culturally and historically situated knowledge. Midgely explains this clearly and with interesting examples. I would advise you read the book for yourself and be inspired!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Neutral VINE VOICE on 8 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Midgley is a vigorous opponent of scientism, reductionism and the hypocrisy of peddlars of science as truth. She identified the metaphysical pretentions implicit in the writings of Richard Dawkins, reducing him to fulminating against her having discovered the king had no clothes. Dawkins was not the only advocate of scientism reduced to intellectual nakedness by Midgley's brilliant analysis. Writing about Nobel prize winner Harry Kroto's claim that, " Science is the only philosophical construct we have to determine TRUTH with any degree of reliability" she pointedly asked, "Is it a scientific statement? No. Can it be relied upon as true. No?" Midgley's analysis showed the hypocrisy of scientists when they embark on philosophical and political crusades based on an inability to distinguish between fact and belief.

This came to a head in 2008 when Kroto, along with Dawkins and other anti-theist scientists, forced the resignation of Michal Reiss as Director of the Royal Society because Reiss was a clergyman who suggested science shouldn't dismiss pupils' views about creationism or intelligent design but should explain how such views were incompatible with science. The attacks on Reiss were not motivated by what he said but what he represented - dissent from the proposition that science and atheism are two sides of the same coin. It was an example of fundamentalist scientism at its worst and roundly condemned by all those, including Robert Winston, who value freedom of thought over imposed conformity. Although "Evolution As A Religion" was written two decades before the Royal Society revealed itself as the authoritarian dispenser of metaphysics under the guise of science, Midgley had already identified the scientism of Dawkins et.al.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 9 April 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a characteristically lucid analysis, from a well-known British philosopher, of the various ways in which a certain kind of popularist scientific writing has a tendency to make illegitimate and exaggerated claims for itself - and particularly for human destiny. Midgley argues that when science presents itself as more than just an account of the observational evidence for a given hypothesis, it begins to act like a religion. With her typically robust and detailed analysis of the assumptions and presumptions scientific writers import into their supposedly objective accounts, the author shows how we would do well to beware the `selfish' gene and the social Darwinism that so seemingly neatly follows in its train. The final chapter is an interesting appeal to a much more humble, because ecologically aware, approach to writing about science.

Would have got five stars were it not for the fact that the new edition (especially the bibliography) hasn't been updated to take account of the burgeoning literature on this topic that has appeared since the book was first published in the 1980s. Still vintage Midgley, though.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bierbrauer on 1 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Mary Midgley, a philosopher, applies her extremely sharp mind to the idea that evolution, as it is expounded in the popular science press by eager biologists, can in some ways be interpreted as a religion. By religion we mean of course the standard ones such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam etc.

Rather than actually laying out in a strictly defined way the characteristics which make up the religious view, something which is very difficult given the vast differences in the previously mentioned cases, she approaches the subject by analysing some of the typical `literature' in the popular science press on evolution which express their views in a highly dogmatic fashion: for example Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, Jacques Monod and so on. Gradually she lays bare the inherent faults in each of these texts by noting how not only that in most cases they state views which are not supported by strict science but in fact express metaphysical views which have the ring of science with all of its evidential weight. At times she shows that these opinions portray the same faults as those they wish to get rid of eg: the religious, vitalistic, animistic or metaphysical view.

Midgley has the ability to analyse very carefully what is stated and see things the general public could easily skip past in their enthusiasm. This book demolishes all of these pseudoscientific fantasies although its writing style is sometimes heavy going and is not really suited to the lay public. This book is, I believe written more for the interested scientist who has already read some of the foregoing literature and wishes to get a deep analysis of these things to fathom their relevance.
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