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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: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,041 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

Stephen Jay Gould is a great essayist.
pilgrimsprogproj
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

49 of 56 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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15 of 16 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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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Rocks of Ages reads essentially like... Well, any of the recent Stephen Jay Gould books. It consists primarily of material rehashed from his previously published essays, it is built around a simplistic idea, and it provides succinct bulleted lists from which it strays constantly.
On the upside Gould is an extrodinarily eloquent writer, the book is chock full of interesting historical factoids -- and it's short (say, an evening to read).
Gould's theory makes enough sense to me, being an agnostic type who's always loathed philosophers that derive ethical systems on basis of natural law. But I can certainly see a few problems with the theory as a whole.
Gould tells us that empirical and normative studies shouldn't tresspass on each other's turf -- they should just play nice in the sandbox and engage in the occasional discourse for good measure. This is the obvious rational (not to mention pragmatic) conclusion. Unfortunately, rationality is the basis of science, hence science's preferential treatment in Gould's seperate but equal scenario. If science advances into the hinterlands of a topic that had previously been relegated to the world of religion (say, neurobiology and why people sin), religion must curtsey and back away. Religion gets stuck with second fiddle.
Presuppositions arn't a bad thing by any means, but why is a rational-functional model necessarily superior? The query is outside the scope of the book I realize; arguments like that often degrade into "what is reality," etc., but worth thinking about none the less.
Overall, it's certainly worth a few hours of your time to read, a good springboard to move on to (and synthesize with) other areas like education.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is an extended presentation of an argument that Gould has thrown into his essays for years, that science and religion do not conflict and should be kept separate.
On the one hand, Gould has underestimated the scope and ambition of religion. It is not merely a source of moral teaching. For all religions -- and Gould really should learn something about non-Judeo-Christian religions before pretending to characterize "religion" as such -- the basis for their claim to moral authority is the truth of their description of the way the world works. If there is no God who created the heaven and earth, then why are we to follow his commandments? If there is no "force" of karmic harmony determining our status in our next life, then why follow the dharma (which means duty) imposed upon us by our birth and caste?
On the other hand, Gould seems to be arguing that there can be no moral quality without religion. If I do not believe in a God, I am, by Gould's definition, automatically an immoral person. Certainly the laws of physics or biology are not direct guides to morality. Yet there are those, like F.A. Hayek, who talk about the "evolution" (in an explicitly Darwinian sense) of moral and social rules.
There is, indeed, a real conflict between religion and science -- or rationalism, if you please. It's just not one that people should be killed, shunned, or harmed over, and that's the real challenge.
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