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Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science Hardcover – 8 Mar 2010


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Review

'Michael Ruse has written an insightful and accessible book belonging to the genre of rapprochements between science and religion. Ruse is not only a leading philosopher of science but also an exemplary popular writer whose style is sophisticated and lucid, but not dry.' Science and Education

'Michael Ruse is considered one of the most prolific and influential authors in the study of the philosophical, religious and cultural impact of scientific theories. He is particularly well known for his studies on Darwin and evolution theory. They have had large diffusion among both specialists and the general public, and constitute a landmark on how to deal with the relationship between science and other human dimensions … Before this book, Ruse had never attempted to give any general insights on the relationship between science and religion. Science and Spirituality serves to cover this gap, offering a broad consideration of how to reconcile religion and science. He does not, however, lose the sharp and direct approach that has always characterized his work.' Metascience

Book Description

Ruse offers a new analysis of the relationship between science and religion, asserting that although science is the highest level of human inquiry, there is room for religious faith. Scientists should be proud of their achievements but modest about their scope. Christians should be confident of their mission but respectful of the successes of science.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 5 reviews
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (4.5 Stars) Quite Good! 3 Sept. 2012
By Brian J. Hendricks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is really an exceptional and necessary book considering all that has been recently said in regard to the issue of faith and science. Up until reading this book by Dr. Michael Ruse, this area of discussion felt like it revolved around the main question of, "Which side are you on, are you a Christian or an Atheist?" Most of the popular books that have been published recently seemingly fit into this mold. Most authors writing books like these attempt to refute whatever point of view that you possess and try to "win" you to their side with arguments for Christianity that have been around since the mid 300's CE. The same is true for those writers that consider themselves as members of the "scientific" and Atheist camp. Their arguments are more recent. But the objective is still the same; to win you to their mode of thought.

The problem with each of these approaches is that both sides cherry pick arguments from philosophy and proofs from science to refute either view. In reality, this does a disservice to both sides of the discussion. What we end up with is an us vs. them mentality and a watering down of two rich and very important disciplines. Luckily, we have Dr. Ruse and this fantastic text in which he tries to show a way forward. As it turns out, both sides have been getting this wrong!

Ruse does a fantastic job of first answering the questions of science and showing the different forms of understanding that people who employ and believe in the theory of evolution approach this scientific task. It is during this phase of the book that one comes to the conclusion rather quickly (with the assistance of Ruse's clear and well thought out prose) that yes, evolution is accepted by anyone doing serious science. But the thing his reader learns is that there is a varied understanding of what evolution means when we get past the understanding that this is a scientific fact. In other words not all people view evolution as brute and blind. Some are Aristotelian, others Platonic, and still others deterministic.

To rush ahead, the book's final chapters focus on the methodology that Ruse has put forward as far as what science does explain and can speak about and what it cannot and may still speak about, but perhaps should not?

This is by far the most interesting part of the book because Ruse shows his readers regardless of where they find themselves in answering this question of living in a particular worldview just how the two can and do actually coexist with each other. Some may not like that he deems evolution a fact and others may not like that he leaves some gray area in which theology and church doctrine answer the major questions of faith but also life for those people that may not be believers but still feel there is something more.

To conclude, this is a fantastic read that helps its reader to learn on two levels. We are guided through the history of thought in regard to the natural world and are also shown the way to embracing and accepting matters of faith in a world that Ruse explains will continue to progress scientifically. The beauty of the book is that Ruse shows everyone that we can progress and embrace both sides. It will require thought and patience, but there is still a way forward nonetheless.

A great read for anyone interested in this subject matter. Perhaps a necessary read for anyone whom considers themselves a New Atheist or a convicted Christian.
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Earnest efforts 10 Aug. 2010
By Paul Vjecsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I largely disagree with the author, I appreciate his willingness not to see science as the end of it all, to open the door for farther realities, and to tackle the difficulties involved. In the process, however, I find a too unquestioning commitment to the latest contentions of science. He correspondingly cites many recent thinkers, regrettably mainly philosophers, evidently because he is himself one.

He also speaks amply of historical figures and their deeds, although I was early in the book discouraged by careless inaccuracies. He writes (pp.12-13): "The Egyptians...knew that a 3, 4, 5 triangle is right-angled. It was Pythagoras or someone in his group who generalized it to all right-angled triangles (the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides)..." But the "it" only speaks a right-angled triangle, not mentioning squares. Worse, the author then describes Euclid's fifth postulate (he also oddly applies "postulate" to "common notion") as stating that "parallel lines never meet". This is the definition of parallel lines; the postulate states that certain lines meet.

Notwithstanding such weaknesses, the author takes us through numbers of progressions in scientific, philosophical and spiritual thought, the progressions in my view not always constituting progress. Here I will concentrate on alluded to recent views and arguments the author concurs with and I find decidedly faulty.

The author cites (pp.138-9) philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland as making "some very good points" about us being "hung up on folk psychology. We think that what we believe today must be the absolute bedrock of inquiry. Our sense of consciousness must be untouched. However, they argue that that is not the way things go in science".

The belittling "folk psychology" is familiarly claimed by these philosophers. But they misunderstand "the way things go in science". Science has known that indeed "Our sense of consciousness must be untouched" in that "we must save the appearances". We are hopelessly dependent in all knowledge on the form in which things appear in our consciousness, and if we learn more (through consciousness) about things our senses first disclosed, it must comport with those disclosures.

The author writes: "as we come up with new findings and theories, so our bedrock beliefs [perceptions] have to be...changed, and sometimes discarded", quoting Mr. Churchland regarding light: "From the standpoint of uninformed common sense [belittling again], light...seemed to be utterly different from...", continuing with a litany of that philosopher's understanding of electromagnetism, and saying: "that is exactly what light turns out to be".

But initially "light" means exactly a visual sensation, opposite to darkness. If after connected physical findings it is decided to name the electromagnetic spectrum "light", including "invisible light", then "light" has been redefined, rather than misunderstood.

Dr. Ruse then turns to Mrs. Churchland's "pathetic story" of her onetime science teacher: "a happy vitalist [proposing a life force distinct from other forces] he. But he was wrong! Who today would deny that the concept of life has been explained fully? We know about the DNA, about the cell, about physiology, and much, much more... Molecules in motion are what we find, and molecules in motion are all we need... The story of vitalism is salutary... I will agree with the Churchlands that life has been reduced to molecules in motion".

But it is their salutary story that is wrong. The DNA, the cell, the physiology, and all the molecules in motion are merely means utilized in life processes, as are means to our purposes all physical factors utilized in our own actions. All those molecules are in motion aimed at life's preservation, this aim of the process signifying life itself, which ends with the end of the process. That is to say, there indeed exists a force aimed at life's preservation, beside the forces made use of for achieving that aim.

The author thus relies unjustifiably on many contemporary pronouncements. While admirably not wanting to exclude spiritual and theological matters from consideration in the search for knowledge, he writes (p.238): "great care must be taken to see that the theological conclusions are infused with the findings of really up-to-date science". This is quite questionable. Not only because "up-to-date science" may turn out false science, but also because of the possibilities, traditionally associated with natural theology and dismissed by the author too lightly, of resolving theological and similar issues by the application of reason coupled with fundamental experience, like that of purposeful life discussed.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Science versus Religion issue 20 May 2013
By Paul E. Schmid - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Michael Ruse presents an elegant trace of the scientific method and metaphors through the years and then compares this realm of reasoning with that ascribed to religion, Christianity in his case. I really liked his low key "just facts" approach that has only the intent to inform rather than to convert the reader. Ruse clearly states the great progress science has made in the physical world while carefully defining the boundaries properly addressed by a spiritual world. Faith is not presented as an answer to what science may yet resolve through laws such as the Quantum Theory but rather leading to a belief in a moral law based on "God given" higher values. Over the years I've been involved (read member) of various Christian religions which chronologically include Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic. For me formal religion is still an open issue. This book allows such an option. Richard Dawkins book " The God Delusion" totally precludes the faith option which I feel is half right. Paul E. Schmid PhD EE.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it 4 Jun. 2013
By AR - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is one of the Ruse's philosophical series book on science and spirituality. love it. highly recommended for those who like philosophy.
10 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Science and spirituality, or Darwinism and Christianity 10 Mar. 2010
By John C. Landon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an odd book: it teters on the verge of being a good book, nearly bringing a new perspective to a tired debate, and then it skids off and loses its focus. The reason is simple: you can't be a Darwinian true believer, defending ad infinitum the meataphysics of natural selection, and deal with the topics the book raises, or rather--it seems, someone else raised, and which Ruse almost dishonestly takes up and discusses as if this was his material. In fact, as with the Kant issues picked up in the account a great deal of recent Internet discussion and critique of biological theory in the light of Kant has recently appeared (among other places in the work and blog of this reviewer). It would seem that Ruse wishes to intone from on high with academic grandeur to fix these questions without any reference to the original discussions. This is professorial arrogance at its worst. The bibliography of this book actually, amazing since it is usually censored, has a reference to Timothy Lenoir's The Strategy of Life, with its account of the the teleomechanists and their Kantian take on biology. It seems no Darwinian commentator would cite this work unless it had already been raised in discussion and its issues needed to be neutralized.
At any rate this is a warning that this is, sadly, a dishonest book, with a curious agenda against many who are and will be powerless to respond. A philosopher as confused as Ruse can't seem to realize that Kant is a great threat to Darwinism, in the way he raised in classic fashion the issue of the teleological antinomies lurking in biological theory and all discussions of the organism. Ruse's purpose in life is apparently to return the Darwinian fold to the second-rate scientism that came into being in the generation after Kant, the Hegelians and Naturphilosophie. Ruse is supposed to be a specialist here, but is uncomprehending of his own topic. Such is the harm done by bad scinece, and Darwinian biology, to generations of students. Don't let Ruse et al. fix public opinion here. There deceptive tactics are a way to hide the real debate, and to suppress the clear critique of biology (however antiquated its form) in Kant, a critique at no point answered by scientists, or biologists.

As to the mainline topic of the book, science and spirituality, it is still another useless effort to bridge the Divide here, doomed to failure if by science and spirituality you mean Darwinism and Christianity. The two are not compatible and to say they are is to promote further confusion in an already too muddled subject. In part, Ruse is reacting to the New Atheists whose irritating tactics can make one react against them, as here, with an attempt to reconcile impossible opposites.
It simply makes no sense to proceed in this vein: Darwinism and its sibling reductionist scientism cannot (and here Ruse's Kant discussion has simply buried the problems with sophistry) handle human consciousness, issues of will or morality, and stands in start opposition to the watered down belief systems of current so-called science.
The irony is that the works of Kant show the real way to resolve this divide with a new perspective on science. But Ruse's useless (but polished and deoderized) synthesis simply covers over the abyss between Darwinian propaganda and Christian dogma.
We should note in passing that there is a universe of religion beyond the equation of spirituality and Christianity. The failure to examine the greater universe of religion makes all these discussions almost pointless and incoherent.
There are many discussions of Kant, science, teleology, and biology on the Internet. Don't let Ruse monopolize this question with such a poorly thought out Darwinized response to the issues raised by Kant and his successors, the teleomechanists.
There is no easy resolution to the 'dialectic' created here, and the pat on the back effort to make a unified muddle that believers can adopt to calm their nerves is an exercise in propaganda, and a point score to the New Atheists, fairly or not.

Here's the info on Lenoir's book here at Amazon:

The Strategy of Life: Teleology and Mechanics in Nineteenth-Century German Biology
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