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Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life Paperback – February 26, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034545040X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345450401
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 4.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Revered and eminently readable essayist Stephen Jay Gould has once again rendered the complex simple, this time mending the seeming split between the two "Rocks of Ages," science and religion. He quickly, and rightfully, admits that his thesis is not new, but one broadly accepted by many scientists and theologians. Gould begins by suggesting that Darwin has been misconstrued--that while some religious thinkers have used divinity to prove the impossibility of evolution, Darwin would have never done the reverse.

Gould eloquently lays out not "a merely diplomatic solution" to rectify the physical and metaphysical, but "a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds," central to which is the elegant concept of "non-overlapping magisteria." (Gould defines magisteria as a "four-bit" word meaning domain of authority in teaching.) Essentially, science and religion can't be unified, but neither should they be in conflict; each has its own discrete magisteria, the natural world belonging exclusively to science and the moral to religion.

Gould's argument is both lucid and convincing as he cites past religious and scientific greats (including a particularly touching section on Darwin himself). Regardless of your persuasions, religious or scientific, Gould holds up his end of the conversation with characteristic respect and intelligence. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Gould is at his brilliant best... A truly convincing performance Guardian Convincingly argued and thought provoking-Gould must rank as one of the leading scientific essayists of his generation and, as ever, he is in total command of his subject matter. He steers a deft route through contentious waters, but manages to retain a humorous edge, that keeps the book both engaging and highly entertaining. Gould provides the literary magic to deliver a light-hearted read Irish Times Concise, eloquent and passionate. It is a marvellous work. Gould speaks clear, sound sense, and Rocks of Ages should be required reading not only for scientists and religious people, but for anybody who cares about the quest for meaning Independent This marvellous extended essay should have been the real lost book of the New Testament. Gould, arguably our greatest living popular science essayist, has many joyful enthusiasms. Among them are eternity, Charles Darwin and baseball-Gould has such insatiable and infectious enthusiasm for the intellectual challenge and fascination of being a mere speck in a vast universe Scotsman Rocks of Ages is easy and enjoyable to read. It contains many charming illustrations and interesting insights Sunday Telegraph

More About the Author

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Professor of Geology at Harvard University. He published over twenty books, received the National Book and National Book Critics Circle Awards, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

The book is very well written and thought provoking.
Charles Perkinson
Gould is dismissive not only of "creation science" (as are many religious people) but of any religion containing more than an uncaused cause.
Hawkeye
Just as religion can't decree geocentrism or oppose the theory of evolution, science cannot decree human values or ethics.
Ashtar Command

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By M. Brooks on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Gould reconciles the separate and equally important domains of religion and science using the life, times and perspectives of some of science's great thinkers. His message of tolerance and understanding is made from an open, yet skeptical, perspective. His thumbnail biography of Charles Darwin is so touching that it can bring almost anyone to tears. As one who does not yet know enough to know the truth with respect to belief systems, I found much harmony with Gould, Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley. It is a compact book (222 5" by 8" pages of large type with large margins) and easily read in a day. It is a satisfying read that, by its very nature, leaves you ready for more.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on January 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Gould (I admit) is probably my favorite writer of science. His breadth and scope and odd comparisons combined with a witty, erudite literary style make for excellent reads. But here we are tackling the great Bugaboo - science and religion. Considering all that could have been said and has been said about the subject, SJG admirably rises to the occasion.

Gould points out that despite his own theological doubts, Darwin never used evolution to to crusade for atheism or the non-existence of God or, I should add, a political agenda. He, like Gould, was a liberal who thought coexistence was possible between the two spheres. Gould defines something called Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) - that provides for separate arenas of activity. As long as they do not venture into each others fields they can not only exist but flourish. His own views tended toward the agnostic/atheist but he shows a wise appreciation for not only the strenght but role of religion in society.

This idea is naturally rejected by what Gould calls the Fundamentalist Darwinians - Dawkins, Dennet, Smith, et al, who see no need for any kind of spiritual sphere in human existence. Indeed Dawkins calls on readers not to respect religious ideas - the very opposite of the tolerance Gould (and Darwin) preach. The "Fundamentalists" view morality, emotions and psychology in deterministic terms, as nothing more than mechanical outcomes of the interaction of genes guided by natural selection. The fact that Gould is a non-believer and frequently uses religious terms and imagery is all the more galling to this group.

Inside, we have the usual essays wherein he dispenses with creationists, literalists and fundamentalists.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Tatsuo Tabata on October 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Gould treats the long-standing problem of the relation between science and religion in this book. The author explores the contemporary principle he calls NOMA, which is an acronym of Non-Overlapping Magisteria. A magisterium represents a domain of authority in teaching. The NOMA principle is that the magisterium of science and that of religion do not overlap, because the two magisteria cover different realms of empirical facts and moral value. This might seem to some readers almost self-evident. Describing the historical and psychological bases extensively, however, Gould elaborates the above concept so deeply and persuasively that even such readers will find the reading of this book rewarding. Especially this is a must read for those who are on either side of the debate of evolution versus creation in education.
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57 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Danno VINE VOICE on April 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Stephen Jay Gould was a giant of evolutionary theory who, throughout the 1980s, was probably best-known to the general public as an anti-Creationism crusader. It was largely due to Gould's writings and testimony that Creationism is not treated as an equal alternative to Darwinian theory in many school districts around the country. He was a great scientist, but was also exceptionally political. Therefore, to those who knew him only from his public battles, "Rocks of Ages" came as a total shock. The book argues for an equal-yet-different importance of organized religion for our everyday lives. Throughout the book, Gould provides examples demonstrating that many of the so-called conflicts between science and religion are really conflicts of an entirely political nature.

I've occassionally recommended the book to students in my biology and history of psychology classes, and it always provokes a loud debate coupled with disappointment.

In order to understand this book, the reader needs to know that Gould was not only dying of cancer at the time, but was also married to a new wife in the arts. We can attribute his softened stance to these factors, as well as the relative sloppiness of his writing and the weaknesses of his central argument.

Gould's argument is likely to leave die-hards on both sides very unhappy. His position that religion and science are complimentary and equally valid is likely to work only within the confines of a liberal, secular culture in which religion is not interpreted as being literally true. Certainly, this is not a position many Fundamentalists would share, nor is it one that many scientists with axes to grind would agree with.
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