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The Evolution-Creation Struggle Hardcover – June 30, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

Review

No philosopher of science has exerted a greater practical influence--or written more volumes--on the creation-evolution debates than the irrepressible Michael Ruse. This thoughtful, opinionated book gives the literate public a welcome chance to meet the master. (Ronald L. Numbers)

Ruse, a philosopher of science, has supported evolutionary biology for decades with perceptive accounts of the cultural factors involved in the very human effort to understand the origins of life. This volume's strengths lie in Ruse's detailed explanation of the common origins of evolutionism and creationism in the Enlightenment's crisis of faith and in his description of the Victorian social forces before and after the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species. He provides a brief history of fundamentalism and of the establishment of evolutionary biology as a professional science during the 1930s and 1940s. Ruse brings the struggle up-to-date by describing the roles of such partisans as evolutionist Richard Dawkins and 'Intelligent Design' proponents. Finally, he makes the case that while creationists misunderstand science, some scientists have made evolution into a 'secular religion' and that both these factors are sources of cultural tensions. Like Karl W. Giberson and Donald A. Yerxa's Species of Origins, this book takes a nonpolemical approach, which is rare. Highly recommended. (Walter L. Cressler Library Journal 2005-05-01)

This book gives a new perspective on an important contemporary debate, and clarifies many of the issues involved. (Alan Batten Globe and Mail 2005-06-25)

[An] accessible, skilfully written book. (Karen Armstrong New Scientist 2005-07-30)

A rich, thoughtful overview. (Jerome Weeks Dallas Morning News 2005-09-04)

By concurrently investigating evolutionary and creationist histories, and their interrelationship, Ruse seeks to bring light to our confusion and perspective to what is actually taking place. (Wayne A. Holst Catholic News Service 2005-10-07)

[This is] a carefully researched and cogently argued examination of this long-standing controversy by noted philosopher of science Michael Ruse. An observer of and participant in the debate on the topic for the past three decades, Ruse offers his readers historical and philosophical insight into the issues and ideas involved. (George E. Webb American Scientist 2005-11-01)

A prerequisite of progress in this cultural struggle is that we should recognize the metaphysical assumptions underlying dogmatic forms of scientific naturalism, and be willing to investigate the concerns that motivate criticism. Ruse has done his best to reveal both. (John Hedley Brooke Nature 2005-10-06)

Michael Ruse is a well-known philosopher who has spent his professional life analysing clashes over evolution and contributing to the debate on the side of science. This excellent and accessibly written book is based on his deep and sympathetic appreciation of both sides. I learnt a lot from it...Anyone who wants to understand the debate should read this book. (Harry Collins Times Higher Education Supplement 2005-12-09)

Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University, is one of the most stimulating writers on the never-ending cultural debate over evolution. Here, this self-professed 'ardent Darwinian' arrives at a surprisingly sympathetic view of the anti-Darwin crowd. They may be wrong, but they're not quite as crazy as we smugly imagine. (Jim Holt New York Magazine 2005-12-19)

Ruse sweeps readers through three millenniums of evolutionism and proto-evolutionism, starting with the Old Testament, which introduced the idea of historical change into a world where time had been changeless. He passes through Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and the Reformation before stopping for a long visit with Charles Darwin. Darwin believed in a Designer until he discovered natural selection, the continual culling of less fit forms of life that drives evolution forward. Even then, he didn't reject God altogether. He became a deist, arguing that a God who operates through impersonal laws has more grandeur than one who constantly meddles. But evidence of divine indifference (and, some say, the death of his 10-year-old daughter) eventually drove him to agnosticism. (Judith Shulevitz New York Times Book Review 2006-01-22)

The argument between evolutionists and creationists, Michael Ruse says, is not a debate between science and religion, but one between rival religions the origins of which go back to the Enlightenment. 'Evolutionism' and 'creationism' denote complexes of ideas that surround the concepts of evolution and creation themselves. Ruse has bravely written a book that could offend all parties, and fundamentalists of all stripes. But for those willing to examine their own convictions, The Evolution-Creation Struggle offers a new perspective on an important contemporary debate. (Alan Batten Globe and Mail 2005-11-26)

This well-written and accessible book is aimed at anyone who is puzzled, as the author was, by the extreme polarization between evolutionists and creationists. How did it arise, and are the two positions as irreconcilable as most of their adherents (and many others) seem to believe? (Athena Ogden Discovery 2006-05-01)

I found this book enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone interested in the history of the evolution-creation debate...Ruse's arguments are both persuasive and enlightening. He highlights how evolution is historically intertwined with religion, literature, wars, socioeconomic theory, philosophy, and politics. Is it any wonder that evolution is such a controversial topic to this day? (Meghan A. Guinne American Biology Teacher)

Ruse argues compellingly that 'evolutionism and evangelicalism were, both, new answers to a new problem: the threatened loss of faith.' His thesis is that the struggle is not one between science and religion, but between two religions, 'siblings' born of the 19th-century loss of faith. This wonderfully readable book is full of insights drawn from many years on the frontline of this bitter ideological conflict. (P. D. Smith The Guardian 2006-12-23)

In view of all that has been written, one might wonder what more there is to be said. Michael Ruse's The Evolution-Creation Struggle represents a genuinely fresh perspective. Ruse, an eminent and well-respected historian and philosopher of biology, has over the course of several decades established himself as a vocal advocate for evolution...The task of Ruse's book is to figure out why the evolution/creation debate is so hotly disputed in the American context, why so many otherwise intelligent people are in such complete disagreement about the scientific status of evolution and creation science. Ruse's answer, in short, is that the debate reflects two fundamentally different reactions to a crisis of faith that started at least 150 years before the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species. After reviewing the history of evolutionary theory against the backdrop of this larger crisis, Ruse draws several lessons he suggests may provide a way beyond the impasse that currently exists between advocates on the two sides...It is certainly true that greater insight into the reasons why some Christians feel threatened by evolutionary theory is a necessary step to any reconciliation between these two opposing camps, and Ruse's treatment is particularly useful in clarifying why the issues have become so heated in the American context. For science educators, Ruse's analysis is insightful and entertaining. It is one of a very few books that is accessible to an introductory student while nevertheless providing a sophisticated perspective of value to scholars in this area. (David Rudge Science Education)

The Evolution-Creation Struggle is not a manual providing resolutions to deeply held positions nor a pastoral guide for nurturing bruised evolutionists or seething creationists; rather it is a series of excavations of inadequate and confusing assumptions by a philosopher who professes no religious commitment but who has thought and read deeply about the issues involved. I recommend it as a valuable account of how we have got to where we are and as a possible signpost for going forward. (R. J. (Sam) Berry Science and Christian Belief 2007-10-01)

Should be required reading for anyone seeking better to understand one dimension of the culture wars that have preoccupied American society. (Michael G. Loudin and Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. The Thomist 2007-07-21)

About the Author

Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, Florida State University. He is the founder and editor of the journal Biology and Philosophy, and has appeared on “Quirks and Quarks” and the Discovery Channel.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (June 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016873
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,960,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

His writing style is also one of the most readable and engaging you are likely to find.
hallucigenia
Ruse tries and tries but doesn't make any convincing case that one does not have to choose between genesis and evolution.
Kevin Currie-Knight
The point is clear in figures such as Gould who try to reinvent the second level, but can't let go of selectionism.
John C. Landon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on August 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "The Evolution - Creation Struggle" well known philosopher and evolutionary commentator Michael Ruse discusses the development of evolutionary science. I offer the following thoughts to potential readers.

First, it should be noted that this is not a book for readers seeking a rigorous examination of current evolutionary theory. This work is largely a survey of the historic developments in evolutionary thought and the corresponding responses to these developments. Ruse's overview of pre-Darwinian evolutionary thought is well done and commendable. Darwin like many other great thinkers did not work in a vacuum, but instead benefited from the work and effort of his predecessors and contemporaries. It is useful to recognise the contiguous nature of intellectual progress in an era where the contributions of an individual (no matter how insightful) can often be overstated.

Though he is clearly within the pro-evolutionary camp, Ruse does not hesitate to highlight similarities between Darwinists and creationists. Similar to Religion, a "Darwinian" worldview involves faith and offers an ontological framework for adherents. In examining the current uproar about Darwinism Ruse rightfully acknowledges that many theists are not hostile to evolution (e.g. it could just be the means that God choose to create). Rather, it appears that it is the grandiose ontological and ethical extrapolations that some commentators draw from Darwinism that raises the ire of sceptics. Ruse's nuanced voice continues to be a positive force in a discussion that is sometimes characterised by excessive emotion and inflated epistemological claims. I appreciate the author's intellectual humility - his lack of doctrinal orthodoxy, however, may make his views anathema to some hard-core Darwinists.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Mitton on January 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I hope I won't be penalized here for just writing a couple of sentences. I found Ruse's book to be very interesting. His analysis of the philosophical history of evolutionary thought is worth the price of the book. I also like that he senses that the debate between proponents of evolution and creationism is really about a much bigger question. I see it as the same question raging in the Middle East right now: will we have a secular or religious based society.

I don't think Ruse's book will change any minds - just look at the length and depth of the other reviews and it's easy to see how passionate people feel about these questions. The real value of the book is its dispassionate look at everyone's assumptions and arguments. Should give both sides some firepower.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"My area of expertise is the clash between evolutionists and creationists, and my analysis is that we have no simple clash between science and religion but rather between two religions... Those of us who love science must do more than simply restate our positions or criticize our opposition. We must understand our own assumptions and, equally, find out why others have (often) legitimate concerns. This is not a plea for weak-kneed compromise but a more informed and self-aware approach to the issues. First understanding, and then some strategic moves. You now know why I wrote this book."

There it was; out of the blue. "You know now why I wrote this book." It is a good thing Ruse made that clear on the final page of his new book, for if he did not, I might have never known.

Michael Ruse has of late made a habit out of writing the same book over and over again. This is another "how we got there from here," book filled with much of the same history that he has given in past books (most notably, "Darwin and Design") with many of the same conclusions. I often caught myself wondering why he went through the trouble of writing this book when all he had to do was release an anthologized collection of excerpts from past ones.

This book, disjointed as it is, aims at showing us how the evolution/creation struggle developed from the pre-Darwin days to today. Ruse asserts that these two 'movements' stemmed from a 'crisis of faith' starting from the reformation. He tracks both how creationism became more and more fervent as a response to the growing evolutionary philosophy/science and how evolution became more fervent in response to that response.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By hallucigenia on July 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
With this book Michael Ruse brings some of the fruits of his less accessible scholarship to a popular audience, and it is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on the creation-evolution divide. Unlike the first reviewer on this page, Ruse is an internationally-reputed philosopher of science who knows most of the important living evolutionists personally, and is thus admirably well qualified to speak critically on these matters. His writing style is also one of the most readable and engaging you are likely to find.
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79 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Richard Einhorn on May 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ruse's basic point is that there is evolution - a genuine science of the origin of species that begins, for intents and purposes, with Darwin. There is also a kind of a secular religion -his term - based upon evolution that he terms "evolutionism." Evolutionism is used to advance a particular progressive worldview.

Ruse says that that while it would be nice if scientists were not evolutionists, that isn't the case. Contrary to the protestations of some -eg, Stephen Jay Gould - evolution like all science itself does imply certain cultural values. Furthermore, many important evolution scientists, including Edward O. Wilson, used evolution to advance evolutionist positions, eg to comment on biodiversity and the like.

While the cruder forms of evolutionism -such as eugenics- can be intellectually discredited easily, Ruse believes that it is probably neither possible nor desirable to pretend that evolution doesn't have implications that challenge the verities of a religious tradition, or that in some sense, the troubling notion of biological "progress" can be avoided. He urges his readers to learn more about the theological and cultural issues that surround the topic of evolution.

Good points. And Ruse writes as clear and as beautifully as a summer day on an Icelandic glacier. The problem is that, given the examples he chooses, he's less than compelling in establishing evolutionism as a full-blown "secular" religion. That scientists would "metaphorize" a subject like evolution and believe it has implications that go beyond their science comes as no surprise. But nowhere, in the Wilson that he quotes, for example, do I see evidence of the reliance on faith or the desire for supernatural, ecstatic transcendence that characterizes many religious traditions.
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