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Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (Philosophy in Action) Hardcover – January 5, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"[Contains] useful contributions to the critique of creationism and the defense of science and evolution." --International Socialist Review

About the Author

Philip Kitcher is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University. An eminent philosopher, he is the author of many books on science, literature, and music, including Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism; The Lives to Come: The Genetic Revolution and Human Possibilities; Vaulting Ambition: Sociobiology and the Quest for Human Knowledge; Science, Truth, and Democracy; and In Mendel's Mirror.

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Product Details

  • Series: Philosophy in Action
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (January 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195314441
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195314441
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 1 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,869,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David R. Cook on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am a thoroughly faithful 21st Century Christian with no problem with evolution or science in general. My faith is life long and I let go of any of the supernatural problems with religion over many years. This book interested me because the author endeavored to address "faith" as an integral part of the arguments over Darwinian theory. As well, the book is valuable because it is a great primer on the theory of evolution and natural selection on the one hand and a fine and sympathetic, but devastating, critique of the "non-religious" alternative of Intelligent design. All this written by a self described "secular humanist." Kitcher, as such, is remarkably empathetic toward the faithful who are threatened by Darwinian theory. And finally, he asks the faithful a key question as to just what would differentiate them from secular humanism if they gave up supernaturalism as essential to that faith. I am in this category and am satisfied that my understanding of life as essentially sacred and living as a sacramental act is a difference between Kitcher and myself that makes a difference. This is a thoughtful little book well worth reading if any of the issues it addresses bother you or which you are curious about.
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Format: Hardcover
It's a bit depressing, seeing a man of global outlook having to produce a book of such limited audience. Kitcher's philosophical study is an excellent summation of the false ideas forwarded by anti-Darwin forces in the US. His approach is a needed one, that "creationists" of various stripes there must be addressed in rational terms, and on their own ground. He accomplishes the task with extraordinary skill and reserve. It's a badly-needed book, but it's a pity is that this is so. It's to be hoped Kitcher's well-reasoned techniques applied here will reach a significant portion of that targeted readership.

His approach is to categorise the themes of creationist writers as regards the value of the "science" they purport to espouse. He puts creationists in three basic forms: "Genesis" - the biblical "literalists"; "novelty" - special acts of creation by some supernatural interference; and the "anti-selectionists" - composed of the newer "Intelligent Design" advocates. "Anti-selectionism" has found a niche by contesting the concept of the Tree of Life, the graphic representation of gradual change in organisms over time to produce new forms. It isn't evolution itself these writers contest, but the details not readily explained by what we know now. Aimless mutations aren't enough to explain the complexity of some elements in certain organisms, they argue. Some undetectable "force" must be involved. The first two forms are adhered to by sincere, if dogmatic followers. The third is one that must be considered on the evidence under study. That consideration must adhere to the rules of scientific investigation to be valid.

Kitcher understands that the challenge of the anti-selectionists isn't based on scientific, but on cultural, values.
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I just finished this book last evening. It is an easy read being a synoptic treatment of the evidence supporting darwinism and the modern intelligent design criticisms. Kitcher takes us through the historical discoveries that undermined the biblical creation stories. For example, the earth is clearly much older than the bible indicates. There is no evidence for a worldwide Noah's flood. The evidence was so overwhelming that christian scholars, such as the Reverend Adam Sedgewick whom Kitcher quotes, had to admit that the biblical view was wrong. Biblical literalism was untenable after this point.

Kitcher takes ID seriously but ultimately finds that it is just the argument from design. ID has much to say against natural selection, but nothing positive to say about an alternative process. It is dead science having been buried long ago.

I was suprised by some other reviewers mentioning the 'Jesus Seminar'. Kitcher does not base anything on this group. In fact, they are not even in the index. They are only mentioned in two places. One, were he quotes their opinion on the effect of Mark's Ecce Homo scene where Pilate presents jesus to the mob. Let me quote it. "That scene, although the product of Mark's vivid imagination, has wrought untold and untellable tragedy in the history of the relation of Christians to Jews. There is no black deep enough to symbolize the black mark this fiction has etched in Christian history."( page 100 ). He quotes this where he is discussing the 'sitz im leben' of the gospels' composition. The other place is when Kitcher refers back to this quote on page 162. Kitcher makes no use of them for anything. He relies instead on older scholars such as Wellhausen and others who did the early work on figuring out how the bible was written.
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Philip Kitcher's Living with Darwin is one of the better discussions of the current battle between creationism and evolutionary theory. Much like the on-going feud about sexuality in Christian denominations, the creationism/evolution tussle is about much more than just the front line issues. It involves a bona fide worldview clash between naturalists and supernaturalists.

To Kitcher's credit, he seems to recognize the narrow and comprehensive levels of the debate. He addresses the former in the first four chapters of this book. Arguing that creationism/ID has several varieties, he focuses on what he calls "Genesis creationism," which denies the ancient age of the earth; "novelty creationism," which claims that at least certain species are acts of special creation, thereby denying the one tree of life foundation of standard evolutionary theory; and "anti-selectionism," which argues that selection isn't a sufficient explanation for certain transitions, either from one species to the next in the development of "irreducibly complex" organs or organisms. Patiently and logically, these positions are addressed, respectively, in chapters 2-4.

What I found most intriguing in Kitcher's book is his effort in the final chapter to reflect on the more comprehensive worldview clash that fuels the more specific ones between ID and evolution. Kitcher argues that evolution destroys the possibility of divine design in the universe, and that textual analysis and comparative religion studies destroys faith in the literal truth of sacred scripture. Supernatural religion, then, is as dead as ID. But the "music of faith" (p. 158) is still something we yearn for.
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