"My area of expertise is the clash between evolutionists and creationists, and my analysis is that we have no simple clash between science and religion but rather between two religions... Those of us who love science must do more than simply restate our positions or criticize our opposition. We must understand our own assumptions and, equally, find out why others have (often) legitimate concerns. This is not a plea for weak-kneed compromise but a more informed and self-aware approach to the issues. First understanding, and then some strategic moves. You now know why I wrote this book."
There it was; out of the blue. "You know now why I wrote this book." It is a good thing Ruse made that clear on the final page of his new book, for if he did not, I might have never known.
Michael Ruse has of late made a habit out of writing the same book over and over again. This is another "how we got there from here," book filled with much of the same history that he has given in past books (most notably, "Darwin and Design") with many of the same conclusions. I often caught myself wondering why he went through the trouble of writing this book when all he had to do was release an anthologized collection of excerpts from past ones.
This book, disjointed as it is, aims at showing us how the evolution/creation struggle developed from the pre-Darwin days to today. Ruse asserts that these two 'movements' stemmed from a 'crisis of faith' starting from the reformation. He tracks both how creationism became more and more fervent as a response to the growing evolutionary philosophy/science and how evolution became more fervent in response to that response.
Ruse has caught particular flack from the view, as seen in the above quote, that evolution has been and can be often taken as a religion. He trecks through the tired history of Spencer, Sumner, and the Social Darwinists, the believers in a directional evolution of the 1950s, up to todays 'true believers' in Dawkins, Dennett, and Wilson.
Ruse seems to be making the point that evolution is too easily seen as directional - teleological and when thus seen, it too easily becomes religion-like. This is a good point but I've seen it made better elsewhere by the likes of Mary Midgley, Steven Jay Gould, and even Ruse himself (in "Darwin and Design,' focusing exclusively on teleology and evolution).
Ruse is on significantly weaker ground in suggesting that religion and evolution can easily and peacefully co-exist. I used to be convinced of this but like Ruse, I now see Steven Gould's attempts at diplomacy as condescending to both sides. Point blankly: evolution simlpy contradicts one of the most sacred roles delegated to God in the Bible. Yes, Ruse points to Christians who have successfully balanced Christianity and evoluition, but only because they chose evolution over genesis (i.e., adapted the view that genesis and the bible are metaphorical and, hence, not to be taken at their word.) Ruse tries and tries but doesn't make any convincing case that one does not have to choose between genesis and evolution.
My big complaint, though, with this book is in its layout. If Ruse's above quote is right, and his point in the book was to suggest strategies for how the 'evolution problem' can be best fought, then most of the book was simply irrelevant. In his 'Conclusion' for instnace, he suggests that evolutionists need to band together in fighting ID instead of getting hung up on disagreements over detail. Agreed. But where, I ask myself, did he make that point in the book. The only answer I came to was, "Just now."
I fear that in trying to appeal to both sides of the evolution/Creation struggle, he will end up appealing to neither side. His arguments are often hasty, and most of the book (as another reviewer notes) just does not support, or even speak much to, his conclusions.
If you want a book that does make a persuasive case that evolution often passes into the 'zeaolot' category (I think this is true) read Mary Midgley's "Evolution as Religion." Or read Ruse's own "Darwin and Design."