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Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears (Routledge Classics) Paperback – February 21, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0415278331 ISBN-10: 0415278333 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (February 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415278333
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415278331
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,351,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Midgley is one of the most acute and penetrating voices in current moral philosophy. Her great gift is clarity, both of thought and, especially, of expression. . To follow her reasoning . is like watching a ballet dancer walking in the street: there is a litheness, a gracefulness, an ease of articulation, which attests to years of learning lightly worn.
–John Banville, The Irish Times

A graceful, refreshing and enlightening book, applied philosophy that is relevant, timely and metaphysical in the best sense.
The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Mary Midgley (1919- ) A philosopher with a special interest in ethics, human nature and science, Mary Midgley has a widespread international following for her work. Her latest book is Science and Poetry.

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Customer Reviews

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Which is ironic, since she does not seem to be too versed in it.
Eugene Arenhaus
This is the only Midgley book I have read; my exposure to philosophy is somewhat limited, but I found this book fascinating.
Scotty A
Midgely circles around this question, but she never really confronts it.
A Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Frank Bierbrauer on November 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Mary Midgley, a philosopher, applies her extremely sharp mind to the idea that evolution, as it is expounded in the popular science press by eager biologists, can in some ways be interpreted as a religion. By religion we mean of course the standard ones such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam etc.
Rather than actually laying out in a strictly defined way the characteristics which make up the religious view, something which is very difficult given the vast differences in the previously mentioned cases, she approaches the subject by analysing some of the typical `literature' in the popular science press on evolution which express their views in a highly dogmatic fashion: for example Richard Dawkins, Edward O. Wilson, Jacques Monod and so on. Gradually she lays bare the inherent faults in each of these texts by noting how not only that in most cases they state views which are not supported by strict science but in fact express metaphysical views which have the ring of science with all of its evidential weight. At times she shows that these opinions portray the same faults as those they wish to get rid of eg: the religious, vitalistic, animistic or metaphysical view.
Midgley has the ability to analyse very carefully what is stated and see things the general public could easily skip past in their enthusiasm. This book demolishes all of these pseudoscientific fantasies although its writing style is sometimes heavy going and is not really suited to the lay public. This book is, I believe written more for the interested scientist who has already read some of the foregoing literature and wishes to get a deep analysis of these things to fathom their relevance.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on January 24, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_Evolution as a Religion: Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears_, republished by Routledge in 2002, is a revised edition of a book by philosopher Mary Midgley which attempts to reveal the excesses and overbold prophecies of certain biologists (and other scientists) in their attempt to turn evolution into a religion. Midgley begins by noting that "I had been struck for some time by certain remarkable prophetic and metaphysical passages that appeared suddenly in science books about evolution, often in their last chapters. Though these passages were detached from the official reasoning of the books, they seemed still to be presented as science." Before going further though, it should be made clear that Midgley does not appear to be against the theory of evolution (properly formulated); indeed, she dedicates her book "To the Memory of Charles Darwin Who Did Not Say These Things", but rather to certain irresponsible statements and inferences drawn from it by certain scientists. Furthermore, Midgley is certainly not advocating Creationism (the belief in a literal "seven days") or Intelligent Design. (She references the work of the early Christian father Origen in this respect, showing the problematic in taking the account in Genesis to indicate a literal "seven days".) What this book is is simply reflections on some of these confusions made by scientists themselves and musings on the various philosophical underpinnings and implications of the theory of evolution. For a more detailed and convincing attack on the Darwinian account, one should consult the works of the Australian philosopher David Stove, particularly the book _Darwinian Fairytales_.Read more ›
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David Kennedy on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
My own convictions are both religious and rational, so I picked up this book with a little trepidation. The issue of evolution (and its wider social and philosophical significance) has been captured by both irrational creationists and pseudo-scientific dogmatists, each with their own axes to grind, and I find their polemics tiresome. This book is a welcome relief. Creationists looking for comfort will be disappointed, but Midgely also identifies the implicit and often ridiculous assumptions that underpin pseudo-scientific proposals for human improvement being advanced under the guise of biology, and puts her finger on the risks of placing science at the service of unscientific social engineering. These proposals corrupt both science and society, and will ultimately undermine public support for the real good that bioscience can do. She puts this problem down to the the narrowness of modern scientific training, and the failure of many scientific proponents of these schemes to understand the philosophical and social dimensions of their proposals. Paradoxically, this narrowness has also made scientists more susceptible to creationist ideas than their counterparts in the humanities (including theology). It's a thought-provoking investigation of the problems that excessive specialisation and intellectual arrogance has brought about. So how should our education systems be altered to fix it? I don't know, but I hope that will be the subject of another book as good as this one :-)
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Scotty A on January 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
'Evolution as a Religion' was written in response to the extremism of popular science that has risen from the evolution/creation debate. Midgley is concerned with the clearly dogmatic views that some scientists hold, often resulting in worldviews that are compelling, but do not have the force of data behind them and should not be presented as science. Midgley deftly points out these failings, and along the way she brings up many philosophical implications of evolution.
While its title and theme may scare off evolutionists who prefer pro-evolution literature, I point out that Midgley's purpose is not to prove or disprove evolution. She never steps into the realm of actual evidence concerning evolution; her purpose is to expose the 'bad science' that has become a plague in the scientific community. Hence, I believe the book serves as a tool to keep scientists' feet firmly planted on the ground, and not get carried away with the fallacies on both sides of the debate.
This is the only Midgley book I have read; my exposure to philosophy is somewhat limited, but I found this book fascinating. I agree with the previous reviewer that the writing is heavy at times, so its slim appearance is deceiving--it may take some time to finish. But its density results in a thought-provoking and enriching experience. It is well worth your time, no matter what your beliefs.
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