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In Defence of the Soul Paperback – May 1, 1998
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About the Author
Keith Ward is Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and a Canon of Christ Church. Among his influential books are 'God,Chance and Necessity', his exploration of the compatibility of a Scientific worldview and the existence of a creator God, which was published to widespread critical acclaim in 1996. Also published by Oneoworld are Ward's 'God, Faith and the New Millennium.' and 'Concepts of God'.
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The book is excellent. Philosophic, religious with lots of history and science used to illustrate points. Well organized, very well argued, simply a joy to read. Forms, i believe the best introduction to the problems presented by a materialist naturalist science to the issues of the human soul. These issues revolve around what it means to be a person, to have a personality, to be rational, to love, to strive for justice. He takes several of these issues and wraps the arguments for their destruction by scientism in the ideas of particular people.
His theme is found near the end, pg 167. "For science has a fundamental faith, a faith in the rationality of the world, and in the capacity of human reason to discover the truth about the world by a combination of disciplined attention and thought. ... How can that resolute pursuit of truth, which has marked the natural sciences, have lead to the apparent rejection of purpose in the world, of objective value and of God?"
He answers the question in several pieces, each one associated with a particular individual who represents the attack from a different discipline and perspective.
Nietzsche is first, "The Gospel of False Freedom". Where Ward has him killing a particular distorted view of God in order to free humanity from bondage to an arbitary Judge and Ruler. This gospel of freedom from God ends up as slavery to passions. It undermines the importance and dignity of human life by taking away all objective value and purpose from our lives. pg 30 Thus leaving us with nothing more than an empty shell devoid of meaning and significance thus individual purpose and energy for living.
Next is Charles Darwin and "The Elimination of Purpose from the Universe". The denial that our consciousness or moral activity is of a higher value, that it is the result of purposeful evolution towards great complexity. This is tied together with the sense of value, that human life and human thought is valuable. Purpose towards is effectively elimination by finding that evolution has as mechanism only randomness and "the drunkard's walk".
E.O.Wilson and _Sociobiology_ are discussed in the chapter on "The Reduction of Morals to Biology". It is in morality, where as thinking, acting, human beings we can transcend our animals natures and do something simply because it is rational and right to do so.
"The Attack on Conscious" is the chapter associated with Freud. His desire to bracket consciousness between the strict overlord of the superego and the animal nature of the id, leads modern science to deny the transcendent nature of consciousness. The rational understanding of value with the apprehension of moral claims are denied by this kind of thinking. pg 95 Thus making what ought to be a responsible and reflective self the object of nothing more than base instincts and sexual/power plays.
With "the Materialist Denial of the Soul" Ward takes on Marx and his reduction of ideology to no more than a superstructure of economic rationalization. What begins as a optimistic desire to free the subjugated classes ends up with nothing left but the will to power and control all with technic and manipulation.
"The Attack on Moral Obligation" and "The Soul and the Brain" round out the various fields that he sees are important to a "scientific objectivist" attack on traditional Christian notions of the ascepts of the soul.
This is perhaps the 4th book by Ward i have read of late, it confirms my early suspicions that he will one of the important authors to me in my understanding of the issues in the Creation-Evolution-Design debate. In particular, to understand where modern science has lost its bearings as it is extended into the philosophic realms of materialism, naturalism, physicalism by people with a anti-revealed religion agenda. This book is a excellent intro to the topic, broken up naturally by the various types of science and the deeply contradictory nature of their claims.
I hope this review encourages you to pick up this book and avail yourself of a most excellent encounter with a deeply thoughtful and likewise deeply religious man who is concerned to uphold a rational realist full-body personality of human beings.
There is a soul, therefore there is a soul. What do
you mean you don't believe in a soul, I don't think
you're really being serious.
The straw men that are taken to task in this rather
sad and comic (unintentionally, of course) little
screed can only impress people whose understanding of
science is limited to watching re-runs of Star Trek.
Anyone with even a competent undergraduate education
in science will find the descriptions in this book
rather embarrassing. And of course, the "logic" of
the arguments is something any competent junior
high school student should be able to dismantle on
a pop quiz.
If you believe in the supernatural, fine. But let's
not pretend there are reasons to do so.