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Doing Without Adam and Eve: Sociobiology and Original Sin (Theology & the Sciences) Paperback – April 11, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

(From the Preface)

Who are Adam and Eve? Christians everywhere know them as the primordial pair who ate the forbidden fruit and caused the corruption of human nature from which we all suffer, even though Jesus redeemed us. Adam and Eve brought evil into the world.

But suppose, as many Christians now do, that Adam and Eve are irrelevant symbolic figures in an imaginary garden rather than the cause of all our woe. Suppose further that the idea of "the fall" from grace is not in Scripture? Does this destroy Christian theology? This book says no. This book says that doing without Adam and Eve while drawing on sociobiology improves Christian theology and helps us understand the origin and persistence of our own sinfulness.

My curiosity about Christianity and sin began early. By the age of five, I had reached the confused conclusion that the members of the church I attended hated people, and I was afraid of them. Why I thought so is a mystery, although my fears probably had something to do with my parents’ unhappiness with the church. Soon, my religious life brightened, for my parents joined the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is filled with human humility and joy and God’s forgiveness and charity. The church also has a lot of music and pageantry. I fell in love.

I entered high school at eighth grade, with a new library to explore. Almost immediately, I read up on world religions. Right then I decided I would never know which religion was the true one, if there were a true one. Conservatively I decided to remain an Episcopalian unless I saw reason to change. I continued as an Episcopalian for another thirty years.

Two or three years after my decision, I became convinced that, because plants, animals, and people have evolved, the Genesis creation narratives are myths. My religious faith was unmoved by my new insight. My earlier skepticism about true religion served me well. Later, as a graduate student in philosophy, I fell in love with the theory of evolution and became a philosopher of science, specializing in philosophy of biology. That is, I became an expert on the theory of evolution. I concentrated on evolutionary ethics and sociobiology. I published academic articles on sociobiology and ethics and coedited a book with Robert Wesson entitled Evolution and Human Values (1995).

Before entering graduate school in philosophy, I had explored everything the Episcopal Church offers. I participated in its services; read its history, poetry, and mystical traditions; studied its liturgy, theology, and creeds; engaged in critical examination of the Bible; attended Episcopal seminary; and investigated joining an Episcopal convent. At one time, I thought I had lost my belief in God. Later, I discovered I had not lost what was central: my experience of God’s continuing presence and my belief in God’s goodness and forgiveness.

Shortly before Evolution and Human Values appeared, the academic quarterly Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science published an article by Michael Ruse entitled "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics" (Ruse 1994). Various essays accompanied his, mostly supporting his position. His claim was that Christianity and evolutionary ethics are irreconcilable. His article and those accompanying it seemed so wrongheaded I had to respond. Two years later Zygon published my reply as "Christianity and Evolutionary Ethics: Sketch toward a Reconciliation" (Williams 1996a). I considered turning my article into a book uniting Christianity and science, and I developed a proposal. Just as I completed it, I received a letter from Rem B. Edwards, Lindsay Young Professor of Philosophy at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with whom I was unacquainted, praising my article, saying his graduate students found it fruitful, and encouraging me to write a book. This is the book.

About the Author

Williams taught philosophy in universitites in the United States, Canada, and Australia.
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Product Details

  • Series: Theology & the Sciences
  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Augsburg Fortress Publishing; 1St Edition edition (April 11, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800632850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800632854
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This book was well-reviewed by our Science & Faith book club. It's not easy to generate solid and rewarding discussion on two controversial subjects as sociobiology and original sin, but Williams' book facilitated that in a group from multiple disciplines, religions and views. Also kudos to Fortress Press for having the courage to publish books that challenge our discussions with positive results--we don't have to agree with the author or each other to enjoy.
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Format: Paperback
I won't pretend to analyze William's argument, but I do appreciate her attempt to provide a sociobiological explanation of redemption.

I did find myself unable to claim it as a reliable reference for my graduate theology paper due to some blatant and fundamental misunderstandings of Catholic teaching. I am grateful, at least, that these errors emerged within the first chapter, so I didn't waste valuable research time.

This book may well prove helpful if you are looking for an expert on sociobiology in light of a Christian account of human origins. If your paper relies on accurate portrayal of Roman Catholic theology, however (as mine does), then you are best off to inquire elsewhere.
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By Pithy Commentz on January 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
I disagree with the book and the whole concept of sociobiology but God bless her for maintaining her faith.
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