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Darwin and the Modern World View by John C.…

Darwin and the Modern World View (1961)

by John C. Greene

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One of the nation's foremost scholars in the history of ideas explores the impact of Darwin's evolutionary biology on the religious and intellectual thought of the past century.



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Both science and religion have a role in the world. It is symptomatic of modern time that they are pitched against each other and the discussion strives for supremacy of the one, and annihilation of the other. Religious fundamentalism leaves littlle room for science, while some scientists try to obliterate religion. In the current debate, it seems there is possibility for co-existence: the battle is for elimination. This battle if increasingly fought with simplified arguments, and seen as a black-or-white dualistic dilemma.

Darwin and the modern world view offers a balanced view and exploration of the history of ideas, in three essays. In the first essay, the author investigates the interacation between the ideas as expressed by Darwin and ideas found in the Bible or explained by religious philosophers. The second essay is devoted to Natural Theology, a term now little understood. The thirds essay explores the relation between Darwinism and the social sciences.

Human knowledge consists of a domain of facts and ideas. Facts are a type of knowledge that can be shown to be true or not true, and tends to achieve some level of permanence, once well-established. Ideas are a type of knowledge which cannot be disproved, but can be agreed of disagreed with. To fundamentalist religion, Darwin's evaolution theory is in essence unacceptable, because it contradicts divine revelation. To scientists, a supernatural power is unacceptable, because it cannot be proved. Neither is scripture acceptable, because the origin of the Bible as divine revelation cannot be proved. Natural Theology cannot be reconciled with Natural Science, because Natural Theology presupposes faith, and faith cannot be proved to refer to a reality in truth. These ideas are elegantly explored and eloquently explained in Darwin and the modern world view.

The description refers to sources ranging back to the Middle Ages, with particular focus on the interaction between William Paley' ideas on Natural Theology, as a Christian apologist, though predating Darwin, and Thomas Henry Huxley as a fierce defender of Darwin's theory of evolution, as first put forward in 1859.

By 1922, Darwin's evolution theory was widely accepted among scientists, and this acceptance has only grown since then. Darwin and the modern world view collects three essays which were delivered in 1960, but published together in 1981. This delayed publication is irrelevant. The essays present a high level of scholarship, which is as readable and topical as it was, when first conceived. Darwin and the modern world view can still make a very valuable contribution to the debate on the relation between natural science and religion, and show how each takes its place in a more tolerant world view. ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 17, 2015 |
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