Philip Clayton is the Dean of Claremont School of Theology and Provost of Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds the Ingraham Chair at CST. Clayton earned a joint PhD in Religious Studies and Philosophy from Yale University and has held visiting appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich. He has published over 20 books and hundreds of academic and popular articles.
Over the course of 25 years of teaching and researching, Clayton's interests migrated gradually from philosophy through the science-religion debate to constructive theology. Explanation from Physics to Theology: An Essay in Rationality and Religion (Yale 1989) and several dozen articles explored similarities and differences in how knowledge and explanations function across the disciplines. The Problem of God in Modern Thought (Eerdmans 2000) and a series of accompanying articles explored the fall and rise of theistic metaphysics in the modern era. Clayton then moved into a variety of leadership positions in the international debate on the science-religion relationship, including Principal Investigator of the Science and the Spiritual Quest program. He has been an outspoken advocate for multi-cultural and multi-religious approaches to the field. Clayton has written or edited over a dozen books in this field and spoken on the topic in almost every continent. Recent works include Adventures in the Spirit (Fortress 2009), In Quest of Freedom (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2009), The Predicament of Belief (Oxford 2012, with Steven Knapp), and Religion and Science: The Basics (Routledge 2012).
A series of events precipitated the most recent turn: leading the Ford Foundation grant "Rekindling Theological Imagination" with Marjorie Suchocki; lecturing around the country on emergent Christianity; organizing the "Theology After Google" event; and launching the "Big Tent Christianity" movement with Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Tripp Fuller, and others. Transforming Christian Theology: For Church and Society (Fortress 2009) argued that seminaries should help prepare Christian leaders for an unheralded transformation in the church, which has already begun in our culture. Soon thereafter the invitation came to help lead Claremont School of Theology as it becomes the Christian member of an interreligious consortium of schools known as Claremont Lincoln University. The offer was too tempting to refuse.
Evolution and Ethics examines the burning questions of human morality from the standpoint of Christian thought and contemporary biology, asking where the two perspectives diverge and where they may complement one another. Representing a significant dialogue between world-class scientists, philosophers, and theologians, this volume explores the central features of biological and religious accounts of human morality, introducing the leading theories and locating the key points of contention. Central to these discussions are the questions of whether human actions are ever genuinely selfless, whether there is something in the moral life that transcends biological function, and whether one can sensibly speak of an overall purpose to the course of evolution. Evolution and Ethics offers a balanced, levelheaded, constructive approach to an often divisive debate.
Of interest in this volume are articles by Jeffrey P. Schloss and Discovery Fellow Joseph Poulshock. Poulshock recognizes that Darwinian explanations like "kin selection" can account for altruism within groups of closely related individuals. However human social interactions clearly require explanations which go far beyond Darwinian explanations. That is, nearly every major religion has proscriptions similar to the "Golden Rule." For instance, Christian notions of being the "good Samaritan" and Hebraic moral codes calling for kindness to foreigners, require explanations beyond reference to "selfish genes."
Poulshock explains that social groups with strong moral codes eventually become governed by those codes. Thus it is ideas--communicated through written and spoken language--which seem to have the greatest impact upon human ethics.
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This book is a terrific overview of the questions concerning the ULTIMATE SOURCE of moral values. Have values developed as part of human socio-cultural evolution? Are they nothing but the outer manifestation of the innerworkings of "selfish" genes? Is "morality" just a particular type of discourse used for conveying personal emotions about certain activities? Or do they arise from our "intuitions of the divine?" (Or perhaps some combination of these?). Highly recommended for anyone interested in current trends within the science/religion dialogue, and anyone interested in evolutionary psychology.
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The author's suggestion of "evolutionary ethics" is seriously confused. T. H. Huxley in the 1890s wrote a valuable essay, evolution AND ethics. That work has been republished by Princeton University Press with sociobiologist George Williams' epilogue. Unlike the book under review, neither Huxley nor Williams confuse IS for OUGHT, or OUGHT for IS.
It's one thing to find VALUES compatible with FACTS, it is a logical fallacy to claim a FACT is a VALUE, or a VALUE is a FACT. The Fact/Value Divide, implicit in Aristotle, was made explicit in Hume's Treatise (1740) and G. E. Mooore's Principia Ethica (1903), which the present author ignores to everyones' detriment.
Crime is a fact. Do we value it? Of course not! Love is a value? Does that make it a fact? Of course not! Something SO basic as the Fact/Value Divide is not basic to this author or his book. His entire edifice collapses because he stretches facts into values, and values into facts.
Whether insights are valuable or not cannot be determined with so much confused thinking and writing. Some call it "contamination" and "pollution" so toxic not even metaphysicians can make it pure. All I know is that he cannot make facts into values, and values into facts. So what does he make?