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Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (Philosophy in Action) Hardcover – 29 Mar 2007


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (29 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195314441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195314441
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 2.5 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 828,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"[Contains] useful contributions to the critique of creationism and the defense of science and evolution." --International Socialist Review

About the Author

Philip Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. An eminent philosopher, he is the author of many books on science, literature, and music, including Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism; The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities;Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Knowledge; Science, Truth, and Democracy; and In Mendel's Mirror.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sphex on 11 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All right-thinking people were relieved when Judge Jones concluded that the purpose of the intelligent design movement was religious and that ID had no place in a high school science class. For good measure, the Republican judge in the Dover trial also determined that ID was not science, and remarked upon the inanity and dishonesty of the Christians involved. Philip Kitcher doesn't want to spoil the party, but in the preface to this brilliant book he reminds us that we've been here before. Like any good plague, creationism has a nasty habit of breaking out just when you think it's gone away. Kitcher did more than most during the last big outbreak in the early eighties, giving lectures, writing a book, engaging in debate, helping to win the argument for Darwin. Then, as if parodying that which it despises, creationism mutated into intelligent design and off we go again.

However successful the prosecution, what counts as science should not be decided in the courtroom. Kitcher's approach is to treat ID "as its leaders characterize it, as a hypothesis put forward to identify and account for certain natural phenomena." This may seem too charitable to some and too much like hard work to others, but one of the benefits of such an approach is how it scales up to the bigger questions. While Behe myopically peers down at his precious flagellum, Kitcher sees Darwinism as part of the "enlightenment case against supernaturalism." The line of argument he develops "throughout this essay shows Christianity in retreat." Extinction may be too much to hope for, but this is hardly good news for the godly. Behe the devout Christian might wish he'd climbed inside Darwin's black box and kept his mouth shut.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 5 Sept. 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's a bit depressing, seeing a man of global outlook having to produce a book of such limited audience. It's even more depressing to realise that audience has expanded to the UK. Kitcher's philosophical study is an excellent summation of the false ideas forwarded by anti-Darwin forces in the US. His approach is a needed one, that "creationists" of various stripes there must be addressed in rational terms, and on their own ground. He accomplishes the task with extraordinary skill and reserve. It's a badly-needed book, but it's a pity is that this is so. It's to be hoped Kitcher's well-reasoned techniques applied here will reach a significant portion of that targeted readership.

His approach is to categorise the themes of creationist writers as regards the value of the "science" they purport to espouse. He puts creationists in three basic forms: "Genesis" - the biblical "literalists"; "novelty" - special acts of creation by some supernatural interference; and the "anti-selectionists" - composed of the newer "Intelligent Design" advocates. "Anti-selectionism" has found a niche by contesting the concept of the Tree of Life, the graphic representation of gradual change in organisms over time to produce new forms. It isn't evolution itself these writers contest, but the details not readily explained by what we know now. Aimless mutations aren't enough to explain the complexity of some elements in certain organisms, they argue. Some undetectable "force" must be involved. The first two forms are adhered to by sincere, if dogmatic followers. The third is one that must be considered on the evidence under study. That consideration must adhere to the rules of scientific investigation to be valid.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Clarke on 3 Sept. 2012
Format: Paperback
I agree with the other reviewers that this is a skilfully written book. It attacks not only creationism and ID, but all forms of supernaturalist religion. As one might perhaps expect in a book by a philosopher, it is rather light in scientific data; for example the evidence that natural selection provides a sufficient motor for evolution is limited to two rather vaguely written pages (78-79). There is also no mention of molecular genetic data, but only chromosome banding. But the lack of data is compensated by vigorous argumentation throughout the book, and a fairly broad historical perspective.

Rather than going over the same ground as the other reviewers, I prefer to focus on one particular point that I consider weak. In the final chapter (5. A Mess of Pottage, pages 124-131) Kitcher tries to argue that Darwinism is incompatible with the existence of a benevolent "providential" deity. His argument depends almost entirely on the problem that evolution involves immense suffering. Well, fair enough up to a point. The existence of suffering is indeed a classical problem to theism that has been intensely debated. But for this to justify Kitcher's claim that Darwinism refutes all forms of supernaturalist religion would require that animal suffering pose a greater problem on the hypothesis of Darwinian evolution than on alternative hypotheses such as special creation or ID. To take an example that worried Darwin, the idea that God should allow evolution to generate ichneumonidae that devour the insides of live caterpillars may seem problematic for theism, but would the alternative postulates of special creation or ID of ichneumonidae reduce the problem? Presumably not, in which case evolution becomes largely irrelevant to Kitcher's argument.
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Amazon.com: 24 reviews
49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
I.D. is no match for evolution science and faith must be struggled with. 23 July 2007
By David R. Cook - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a thoroughly faithful 21st Century Christian with no problem with evolution or science in general. My faith is life long and I let go of any of the supernatural problems with religion over many years. This book interested me because the author endeavored to address "faith" as an integral part of the arguments over Darwinian theory. As well, the book is valuable because it is a great primer on the theory of evolution and natural selection on the one hand and a fine and sympathetic, but devastating, critique of the "non-religious" alternative of Intelligent design. All this written by a self described "secular humanist." Kitcher, as such, is remarkably empathetic toward the faithful who are threatened by Darwinian theory. And finally, he asks the faithful a key question as to just what would differentiate them from secular humanism if they gave up supernaturalism as essential to that faith. I am in this category and am satisfied that my understanding of life as essentially sacred and living as a sacramental act is a difference between Kitcher and myself that makes a difference. This is a thoughtful little book well worth reading if any of the issues it addresses bother you or which you are curious about.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Finding the true path 5 Sept. 2007
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's a bit depressing, seeing a man of global outlook having to produce a book of such limited audience. Kitcher's philosophical study is an excellent summation of the false ideas forwarded by anti-Darwin forces in the US. His approach is a needed one, that "creationists" of various stripes there must be addressed in rational terms, and on their own ground. He accomplishes the task with extraordinary skill and reserve. It's a badly-needed book, but it's a pity is that this is so. It's to be hoped Kitcher's well-reasoned techniques applied here will reach a significant portion of that targeted readership.

His approach is to categorise the themes of creationist writers as regards the value of the "science" they purport to espouse. He puts creationists in three basic forms: "Genesis" - the biblical "literalists"; "novelty" - special acts of creation by some supernatural interference; and the "anti-selectionists" - composed of the newer "Intelligent Design" advocates. "Anti-selectionism" has found a niche by contesting the concept of the Tree of Life, the graphic representation of gradual change in organisms over time to produce new forms. It isn't evolution itself these writers contest, but the details not readily explained by what we know now. Aimless mutations aren't enough to explain the complexity of some elements in certain organisms, they argue. Some undetectable "force" must be involved. The first two forms are adhered to by sincere, if dogmatic followers. The third is one that must be considered on the evidence under study. That consideration must adhere to the rules of scientific investigation to be valid.

Kitcher understands that the challenge of the anti-selectionists isn't based on scientific, but on cultural, values. He recognises that the real agenda of "Intelligent Design" is to give religious people a way to grasp Darwin's concept within a framework of supernatural forces. They have been forced to concede that "young-Earth" biblical creation is untenable. They also recognise that "special creations" aren't supported by the fossil or genetic record. The only way to allow their deity a means of keeping its hand in is to give some tampering power. Bacterial flagella and some internal functions of the body argue against Darwin's "descent with modification". Building up certain proteins to perform the tasks they do today cannot be sustained, they contend. Kitcher responds by noting that while the "anti-selectionists" can make this arguement due to lack of hard fossil evidence for how these functions evolved, neither do the Darwin-detractors offer any evidence for divine tampering to establish them.

The author's classifications may be novel, but the issues involved have been presented often. What makes this book important and necessary is Kitcher's resistance to sinking into wearying invective. His prose is bright and conversational, his lining out of evidence firmly dispassionate and his conclusions irrefutable. He makes no unwarrented claims, and fully recognises that gaps in our knowledge remain to be filled.

Another gap, however, must also be contended with. What to do about those who feel that "faith" is a human necessity? The author offers an historical synopsis of what the Enlightenment contributed to our view of the supernatural. Of all the challenges to Christian belief, it was Darwin's that was the most devastating. It was one thing to displace the Earth from the centre of the universe. It was quite another to remove any supernatural element from life's workings. In particular, it's devastating to some to learn that humans are not the subject focus of divine attention. Kitcher's answer is that a new form of "faith" must emerge, and be encouraged. That "faith" will not resist natural selection, but embrace it. That new religion will combine a form of Darwinist humanism with a sense of the spiritual as a social mucilage. There will be no "god", but there will be a drive to reduce pain and suffering so far as possible. It won't be easy to establish such a concept, particularly in a nation with such vocal forces objecting to natural selection having a role in human affairs. But success depends on the withdrawal of artificial objections to Darwin's ideas. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Short and Sweet 2 Jun. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished this book last evening. It is an easy read being a synoptic treatment of the evidence supporting darwinism and the modern intelligent design criticisms. Kitcher takes us through the historical discoveries that undermined the biblical creation stories. For example, the earth is clearly much older than the bible indicates. There is no evidence for a worldwide Noah's flood. The evidence was so overwhelming that christian scholars, such as the Reverend Adam Sedgewick whom Kitcher quotes, had to admit that the biblical view was wrong. Biblical literalism was untenable after this point.

Kitcher takes ID seriously but ultimately finds that it is just the argument from design. ID has much to say against natural selection, but nothing positive to say about an alternative process. It is dead science having been buried long ago.

I was suprised by some other reviewers mentioning the 'Jesus Seminar'. Kitcher does not base anything on this group. In fact, they are not even in the index. They are only mentioned in two places. One, were he quotes their opinion on the effect of Mark's Ecce Homo scene where Pilate presents jesus to the mob. Let me quote it. "That scene, although the product of Mark's vivid imagination, has wrought untold and untellable tragedy in the history of the relation of Christians to Jews. There is no black deep enough to symbolize the black mark this fiction has etched in Christian history."( page 100 ). He quotes this where he is discussing the 'sitz im leben' of the gospels' composition. The other place is when Kitcher refers back to this quote on page 162. Kitcher makes no use of them for anything. He relies instead on older scholars such as Wellhausen and others who did the early work on figuring out how the bible was written. In fact, by 19th and early 20th century standards of biblical criticism, the Jesus Seminar is a very conservative group. A critical scholar like Joachim Jeremias ( not mentioned by Kitcher ) would say that the 'abba' saying by jesus is the only thing we can trace back to jesus with any confidence. Everything else he said or taught can be found in non-biblical sources.

Of course, as the old saying goes, you can't argue someone out of something that they weren't argued into. Creationists don't believe what they do for intellectual reasons but for emotional reasons. Kitcher ends up discussing what it might mean to be a christian if you do take the book seriously. It is what I call a 'post-critical naivete'. One knows that the stories are just that. In the community of fellow christians, one finds support, hope and a sense of transcendence.

If you want a short book dealing with these issues then this is your book.

There is no lack of books on this topic, but for those wanting to dig deeper into the critical scholarship of the bible you might want to consider some of the following books.

_Who Wrote the Bible_, Richard Friedman

_The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of Its Problems_, Werner Kummel

_The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture_, Bart Ehrman

_Misquoting Jesus_, Bart Ehrman

_The Historical Jesus Question: The Challenge of History to Religious Authority_, Gregory Dawes

And the classic of all classics

_The Quest of the Historical Jesus_, Albert Schweitzer
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
After Darwin, a nonsupernatural faith? 1 Jan. 2009
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin is one of the better discussions of the current battle between creationism and evolutionary theory. Much like the on-going feud about sexuality in Christian denominations, the creationism/evolution tussle is about much more than just the front line issues. It involves a bona fide worldview clash between naturalists and supernaturalists.

To Kitcher's credit, he seems to recognize the narrow and comprehensive levels of the debate. He addresses the former in the first four chapters of this book. Arguing that creationism/ID has several varieties, he focuses on what he calls "Genesis creationism," which denies the ancient age of the earth; "novelty creationism," which claims that at least certain species are acts of special creation, thereby denying the one tree of life foundation of standard evolutionary theory; and "anti-selectionism," which argues that selection isn't a sufficient explanation for certain transitions, either from one species to the next in the development of "irreducibly complex" organs or organisms. Patiently and logically, these positions are addressed, respectively, in chapters 2-4.

What I found most intriguing in Kitcher's book is his effort in the final chapter to reflect on the more comprehensive worldview clash that fuels the more specific ones between ID and evolution. Kitcher argues that evolution destroys the possibility of divine design in the universe, and that textual analysis and comparative religion studies destroys faith in the literal truth of sacred scripture. Supernatural religion, then, is as dead as ID. But the "music of faith" (p. 158) is still something we yearn for. To fill that need, Kitcher recommends "spiritual" rather than supernatural religion, with the former being very much what John Dewey defended in his A Common Faith: an embrace of the religious experience without ascribing to it culturally fashioned notions of the supernatural.

This is a commendable argument. But it's one that leaves me dissatisfied for three reasons. First, it seems to me that Kitcher has illegitimately jumped from science to metaphysics--from a methodological naturalism, if you will, to a metaphysical one--in his conviction that evolution destroys the possibility of supernaturalism. Second, while it's absolutely the case that theology and God-belief needs to come to terms with (rather than denying) the Darwinian evolution, it's not at all clear that the only way to do that is by self-erasure. John Haught, for one, has worked on a consistent and sophisticated post-Darwinian theology. Finally, it's not clear to me that the human malaise which Kitcher thinks spiritual religion will ameliorate are just symptoms of social and economic injustice (which Kitcher believes). This account seems to me to ignore deeper questions of what might be called existential despair or loneliness with spiritual religion may simply not be equipped to deal with.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Another Round in the Darwin-Intelligent Design Wars 29 Aug. 2007
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this to be a very helpful addition to the literature on the continuing conflict between evolutionists and those supporting intelligent design. Unlike some other books on this topic, the author does not try to dispose of ID by declaring it unscientific; rather his view is to demonstrate that it represents "dead science," discarded in 1859-1870, much like alchemy. In other words, the scientific "basis" for ID has not progressed since the days of Paley's "Natural Theology" (1826), while the scientific evidence supporting Darwin has grown tremendously in depth and reach. It is also helpful that the book covers the entire history of creationism, since the author addresses "genesis creationism," "novelty creationism", and "anti-selectionism." The author effectively demonstrates in language generally understandable to the layperson why each of these three approaches is defective in analysis and foundation. His discussion of how DNA and modern genetics support evolution is particularly effective and helpful.

Along the way, he poses some tough questions for those advocating ID. For example, when does "intelligence" act, and how does it affect life. The author's discussion of the "concrete case" argument, i.e., how could complex structures such as the human eye be the result of evolution, and what he terms the "computational argument" that invokes mathematical probabilities as an argument against evolution, casts much welcome light on these contentions. Kitcher is quick to admit there are gaps in the fossil records, and that as of the present some important dimensions of evolution have not yet been proven. But in his view the direction science is going suggests that more and more of these issues will be resolved in the future.

The final chapter, "A Mess of Pottage," focuses upon a key point. For the author, there really is no way Darwinism can be compatible with religion that posits supernatural dimensions. For him, it is either Drawin or God, and there is no way to compromise. There is certainly room to disagree with the book on this point. Instead, the author suggests that there is still room for what he terms "spiritual religion." Much like the author's "Abusing Science: The Case Against Creatinism" (1982), this book is very well written, and at 186 pages fairly compact, including 19 pages of helpful notes. Whichever side one is on in this debate, this book is challenging and worthy of consideration.
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