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Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew Hardcover – November 15, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (November 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521762782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521762786
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,586,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life is a trailblazing advancement of the application of scientific values to traditionally metaphysical questions."
--Christopher Land and Todd Shackelford, Evolutionary Psychology

"This book deserves a place in every atheist's library."
--Dierk von Behrens, The Australian Humanist

"This important, well-written, incisive post-doctoral work addresses the consequences - for philosophy, religion, morals and ethics - of taking Darwin seriously."
--Australian Atheist.

"A disturbing and provocative book... refreshingly honest."
--Ian Boyne, The Gleaner.

"Steve Stewart-Williams explains how evolutionary thought challenges many deep-seated assumptions about God, morality, and human superiority and raises significant questions about such things as euthanasia, suicide, and the way we treat non-human animals. While it has become commonplace for many to equate Darwin's legacy with the stripping away of the moral and the good and to replace it with unpalatable 'Darwinist' alternatives that advocate a morality, nihilism, and a world where 'might makes right', Stewart-Williams carefully and entertainingly shows that, on the contrary, the world after Darwin remains meaningful, wondrous, and intrinsically moral."
--Stephen Hill, Massey University


"This is an important, accessible, and timely book for anyone wishing to understand the implications of evolutionary theory for standard views of human nature, morality and religion."
--Stephen Boulter, Oxford Brookes University


"....If you are a broad thinker, you will really enjoy Stewart-Williams' work...."
--David W. Boles, memeingful.com


"....Stewart-Williams leverages the "God of the gaps" argument in addressing the many models that have been put forth to explain evolutionary theory within the context of a universe directed on some level by supernatural forces.... Essential...."
--J.A. Hewlett, Finger Lakes Community College, CHOICE


"....This book is clearly written and vigorously argued. It covers a lot of ground.... This book would be fine for an introductory undergraduate course. The discussion is a bit more focused and systematic than recent New Atheist books...."
--Guy Kahane, University of Oxford, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews


"...terrific tome.... If you are interested in formulating a comprehensive and defensible worldview, one that accepts our scientific understanding of how life evolved, then this book provides a sound basis for your further deliberations and quests in a wide range of disciplines.... This book deserves a place in every atheist's library." "This important, well-written, incisive post-doctoral work addresses the consequences - for philosophy, religion, morals and ethics - of taking Darwin seriously. It is the kind of holistic treatise on Darwinian (r)evolution that its author has been seeking to read."
--Dierk von Behrens


"...Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life is a trailblazing advancement of the application of scientific values to traditionally metaphysical questions. Stewart-Williams presents his arguments clearly and concisely, making the book accessible, informative, and enjoyable. While certain to spark debate, this book is a valuable step in opening up the grand questions of life to the realm of scientific inquiry and reason."
--Christopher W. Land and Todd K. Shackelford, Oakland University, Evolutionary Psychology,


"Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life is a welcome addition to the literature on belief and disbelief. It is clearly written and highly readable."
--George Lăzăroiu, PhD /IISHSS, New York, Review of Contemporary Philosophy

Book Description

Is religion compatible with evolution? Is religious faith intellectually flawed? Steve Stewart-Williams addresses these and other fundamental questions raised by Darwin's theory of evolution. Drawing on philosophy, biology and the exciting new field of evolutionary psychology, he makes a strong case for a naturalistic, atheistic view of the universe.

More About the Author

Steve Stewart-Williams is a New Zealander who moved to Canada and then to Wales, where he's a senior lecturer in psychology at Swansea University. He recently solved the riddle of the meaning of life, and wrote a book to tell the tale: Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew...

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm on December 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Ever since its inception, Darwin’s theory of evolution would inevitably enter a collision course with religious theory; and Steve’s book affirms this in no uncertain terms. I come from a religious background, having spent over fifty years listening to sermons whilst engaging the whole experiential journey of Christianity. I’ve also enjoyed my fair share of lay preaching, but am no longer able now to engage that privileged position with honesty and integrity.

Steve’s book pulls no punches, in his exposition of evolution and where it takes religious theory to task. His approach is not to antagonize, but to provide genuine explanations of the differences, and where they collide. The content of his book will stretch your mind, and to be honest you will have your doubts, and that’s to be expected. There is so much in this “theory” that adds up, if you can manage to get your head around it. There is no doubt that neither camp, will submit to the other, and the arguments will rage on for years.

Steve tackles religion’s insistence upon intelligent design, noting that religion works purposely to avoid its own demise, inclusively aligning itself with evolutionary theory, within the prevailing intellectual environment. According to religion’s supporters, wherever science stumbles, God fills in all the gaps. He is considered to be the mastermind behind the exclusive goldilocks zone, in which we are fortunate enough to exist. And it is suggested He would have guided evolution, thus becoming the indispensable constant within an evolved universe. But as Steve’s arguments reveal, evolution becomes a concept in which God plays no part at all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By john messerly on April 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
(from reasonandmeaning.com)

Stewart-Williams argues that evolution bears significantly on the issue of the meaning of life. Humans have a perennial interest in the question of life’s meaning, advancing religious and secular answers to the question but, as Stewart-Williams notes, there are difficulties with all the proposed solutions even before we take evolutionary theory into account. This causes him to look more closely at the implications of evolution for the question of the meaning of life.

Why are we here? We are here because we evolved. But the purpose of our existence is not to survive, reproduce, or propagate genes; the fact that we evolved to do these things does not tell us what our purpose is. In this sense evolution is not relevant to questions of meaning, but it is relevant to questions of meaning in another way. To see how we must understand that evolutionary theory offers historical explanations, not teleological ones. Teleological explanations explain apparent design, like the giraffe’s long neck, in terms of purposes—they have long necks to feed on tall trees. (Aristotle’s explanation of water running downhill to reach its natural resting place is another example of a teleological explanation.) Modern biology tells us instead that giraffes have long necks because in the past the genes that caused long necks helped them survive, reproduce and transmit their genes. In modern biology adaptations have historical, not teleological explanations.

But explanations for why we’re here—get to heaven, be happy, help others, reproduce—are all teleological explanations. In evolutionary theory these are the wrong kinds of answers because in biology, there are no teleological answers only historical ones.
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hilary Tait on January 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a brilliant, and thorough, analysis of the implications of evolutionary theory. It shows how atheism does not imply that we are left without morality.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Renato Baserga on September 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
it is a book written in support of evolution. I have been an evolutionist since I was 16 years of age, but this book made me think I had been wrong all the time, so badly written it is. Most of the evolution (not all of it) is based on fossils record and the genetic code (the same throughout), but the author just mentions them, then he goes to great length discussing....nothing. I am not quite sure why he wrote this book, perhaps trying to convince himself he should believe in evolution. I have and had no problem with evolution, it is clear, and I find Intelligent Design not intelligent at all, eyes and blood clotting did not appear all of a sudden, but slowly, one piece at a time, and some of the proteins used in eyes and blood clotting have other functions. The author is shooting a dead horse. Leave the criticisms of evolution alone in 2013, evolution has occurred, we need no reminding of truth. An old truth.
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27 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Cebes on March 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
New Atheist books are a dime-a-dozen these days. Stewart's work is not the best of this type of books, but by no means the worst. To his credit, he is more widely read in philosophy than are most of the writers in the New Atheism school (though that isn't saying much); the overriding fault in general of the genre is those who think that simply being a physicist or a biologist is sufficient to allow one to finally dispose of all the great philosophical questions, such as the nature of truth, free will, morality, and the existence of God. Stewart earns a solid `B' in that regard; he at least has read some philosophical background and tries to enter into the debate at a somewhat more sophisticated level. Still, he seems to believe that you can settle the problem of evil or free will or moral objectivism in just a few pages, thanks to Darwin. But Darwin's theory does not solve philosophical problems; nor does science in general resolve metaphysical problems. Those who think that it does simply end up doing bad philosophy.

Consider his argument against moral objectivism. Stewart believes, following the predictable pattern in these books, that since ethics is the product of evolution, then morality has no objective basis, and we can do whatever we want. Let us leave aside the fact that, contra Stewart, there is no solid evidence that ethics is the product of evolution (at most there is a series of mutually inconsistent, speculative theories about how morality might have evolved). Also leave aside that even Stewart himself admits that morality is only partly a product of evolution, at best. But even if morality were a product of evolution, it is a logical non sequitur to hold that ethics cannot be objective. After all, science is a product of evolution too.
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