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Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong Kindle Edition

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Length: 580 pages Word Wise: Enabled Matchbook Price: $2.99 What's this?
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Editorial Reviews


Michael Rose -- The Quarterly Review of Biology "Cunningham is not shy about pulling the ontological pants of materialism down to its ankles. He supplies an unremitting attack on the scientific and philosophical views of Dawkins and his ilk in the course of his first four chapters. The level of scientific sophistication on display is remarkable for a theologian; his reading and his ruminations have been extensive, more than sufficient to provide a devastating critique of the narrative stories and metaphors of Dawkins not just with respect to religion, but also with respect to evolutionary biology itself."

"[This book] is nothing short of magnificent. Every now and then Providence sends a book to save the day. Darwin's Pious Idea may be one of those books."
— Andrew Davison, The Church Times

"Despite its length, Darwin's Pious Idea is a very readable book, engaging and often acerbically witty. It has some serious and original things to say about what always threatens to turn into a sterile debate between rather fictionalized and trivialized versions of science and religion. . . . The sheer exuberance of the presentation is a delight. . . . Certainly the most interesting and invigorating book on the science-religion frontier that I have encountered."
--Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, Times Literary Supplement

"Writing with engaging humor that betrays an extraordinary energetic intelligence, Conor Cunningham shows us why, given the Christian God, an evolutionary account of life is necessary. . . . This theological account of creation, I believe, will become a classic."
-- Stanley Hauerwas

"This book attempts to connect the debate about the nature of Darwinian evolution to the Christian theology of creation. . . . Cunningham shows that the picture of God as the great Designer of artifacts, espoused by Paley and common to both ultra-Darwinians and Creationists, is profoundly at odds with Christianity."
-- Charles Taylor
McGill University
author of A Secular Age

"Even those sympathetic to the recent wave of evolutionary attacks on religion cannot help feeling that something is missing there: Dawkins and company lack a minimum of understanding of what religion is about, of how it works. Cunningham's book is thus obligatory reading for all interested in this topic: while fully endorsing the scientific validity of Darwinism, it clearly brings to light its limitations in understanding not only religion but also our human predicament. A book like Cunningham's is needed like simple bread in our confused times."
-- Slavoj Žižek

"Cunningham brings a formidable and illuminating intelligence to a topic all too often hidden amid clouds of prejudice, polemic, and ideology. This is a splendid book!"
-- David Bentley Hart
author of Atheist Delusions

"This is an excellent book! Very well informed and written in an accessible style, it will be easily understood by lay readers, especially thanks to the beautiful, simple examples, stories, and quotations that Cunningham employs. In addition, his interpretation of genetic science is faultless. I learned a great deal from this book!"

-- Michel Morange
Center for the Study of the History of Science, Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris

About the Author

Conor Cunningham is the assistant director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4671 KB
  • Print Length: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (December 3, 2010)
  • Publication Date: December 3, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B2A59KI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #935,003 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Conor Cunningham is assistant director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham, England, author of Genealogy of Nihilism, and coeditor (with Peter M. Candler Jr.) of the Interventions series. Cunningham also wrote and presented the acclaimed BBC documentary Did Darwin Kill God? which originally aired in March 2009.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Weedar on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Don't be discouraged by negative reviews by people who haven't even bothered to read the book. In the very beginning of the book, the author points out that he has gotten help from biologists all over the world, most of whom are atheists, in writing the book. The book is written to demonstrate that evolution and christianity are not only compatible, but that christianity makes better sense in an evolutionary world.

The term "ultra darwinist" is not created by the author, as he points out when he introduces the term. Atheists and ultra-darwinists themselves use the term, which is common, and describes those who believe evolution can explain every aspect of reality. If evolution isn't merely an (important) aspect of reality to you, but a metaphysical worldview then you are an ultra-darwinist.

At any rate, the book is a heavy read. This is no simple introduction to the subject, but it is a valuable resource if you want to understand the relationship between science and christianity.
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62 of 81 people found the following review helpful By G. Kyle Essary on February 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Bentley Hart and Conor Cunningham did not need to enter this debate. They did not need to write responses to the incoherent worldview of Dawkins. Any high school student having learned the difference between potency and act can dismantle the "arguments" of Dawkin's The God Delusion. In fact, if pages 100-103 of Dawkins' book are any indication of his philosophical prowess, then the high schooler knowing such a basic philosophical distinction will already prove to be Dawkins' philosophical superior.

Still, we should be thankful that they did enter the debate, because amidst their rebuttals they provided us with two excellent works. In response to the sophistry and revisionist history contained in the works of the Four Horsemen (as Dawkins has called them), the erudite David Bentley Hart entered the discussion in 2009 with Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. In the work, he echoed Nietzsche in showing how Christian metaphysics underpin some of our most cherished Western ideals, historically were the source of them and how we reject them to the detriment to our society. Institutions as diverse as the university, the hospital and even science, were motivated and supported by theological assumptions. Western values such as "personal dignity," and "human rights" are likewise grounded in the Christian metaphysic. Hart made the point that these ideals cannot be sustained when their undergirding assumptions are pulled out from underneath. They cannot float in midair without some grounding in reality.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Derrick A. Peterson on December 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
*Note: This review was originally published in Cultural Encounters: A Journal For the Theology of Culture Vol.8 No.1 2012: 144-148. I have been given permission to reproduce it here. For full disclosure, I also received a free review copy of the book.*

Contemporary theology has many “afters” for which it must account: theology “after Auschwitz,” or “after Wittgenstein,” or “after the Death-of-God.” Yet none of these “Afters” ever are so unhappy as that theology which must speak of “God after Darwin,” (to steal John Haught’s recent book title). Despite the very widespread and public antagonism between evolution and Christianity, “In these pages,” writes Conor Cunningham, “we present Darwin’s theory in such a way that—far from opposing religion generally and Christianity specifically—it is of great service to Christian religion” (xvi). To misappropriate another book title (this one from Wentzel van Huyssteen), Cunningham is insistent there is a much better story to be told of Christianity and evolutionary theory, one where they are in a “Duet,” rather than a “Duel.” Evolution does not disenchant the world, but can show its intrinsic meaning: This is Darwin’s pious idea. And Cunningham tells the tale with clarity and a sense of humor, showing himself to be a master of interdisciplinary sources unequalled by any similar offering currently available. On the back cover amongst the encomium of blurbs, the atheist philosopher Slavoj Zizek stands out by noting Cunningham’s work is like “simple bread in our confused times.” As Cunningham attributes the genesis of what came to be his recent opus magnum to a friendly debate over a few frosty mugs of Guinness, perhaps the book could equally be said to invite conversation like a fine brew.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ed on July 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Extremely informative, an easy read in a lot of ways, on a highly controversial & highly technical subject area.

Unlike other reviewers, I especially appreciated the "embedded quotation" style of the book, because it brings masses of technical information into the conversation in a naturally conversational and meaningful way. I learned a lot very quickly, about Darwin, Darwinism, and current views/trends/warfare in "evolution" science and as a critical subject to our world. Discovering the scientific appeal to "commonsense" that's actually happening in some high-powered circles of the scientific community and academia, was totally unexpected and refreshing.

Cunningham's often combative style, both engaging and enjoyable, did take some digesting; and by the penultimate chapter, on Naturalism, I was beginning to feel like I'd been in a bar fight. A less exhaustive treatment in earlier chapters, or a more inclusive overview earlier in the book, and additively throughout the work, would have been helpful in hanging in there through later rounds.

The closing chapter, in which the author enters the domain of his "orthodox" christian beliefs, though, was a massive disappointment. There was so little effort expended to correlate orthodox christian teaching with the insights and conclusions about evolution that were, for me, established throughout the rest of the book.

Many of the statements tendered in that final chapter, then, come across as just as unsubstantiated and wish-fulfilling a "Just So Story" as anything concocted by the Ultra-Darwinism, atheism, or fundamentalist Christianity that Cunningham takes so thoroughly, (and successfully, in my view) to task in the rest of the work.
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