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Responses to 101 Questions on God and Evolution Paperback – September 4, 2001
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From Library Journal
Haught, author of several books on related subjects (e.g., The Promise of Nature, Science and Religion), has here taken up a daunting hotcake of a subject and treated it with an admirably calm deliberation. He is a respectful student not only of Darwin himself but also of the most respected Darwinist thinkers of our time, and his conclusion is deeply informed by the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead. He holds, and few would willingly argue, that our purpose in this world is "a labor of intensifying the reign of beauty." Highly recommended.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Beginning with simple, easily accessible explanations, Haught builds up a cumulative vision of great power and beauty. -- ST. ANTHONY MESSENGER
Haught has here taken up a daunting hotcake of a subject and treated it with an admirably calm deliberation. -- Library Journal
This book is recommended for anyone who wants to think about some of the key issues concerning religion and science. --The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly
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Prof. Haught, like the authors of the thirteen previous volumes of this series, responds to the questions most frequently asked of him by those to whom he's taught and lectured. So, these are the questions that readers of this book are most likely to ask. The book starts with Darwin and Evolution explaining it and affirming its validity. The author also gives a full-throated rejection of Creationism and as well as attempts to integrate a crestionist view with cherry-picked scientific data (e.g.: Intelligent Design).
Much of the book, though, is concern with the theological implications of Evoultion. The important thing to remember is that empirical evidence, upon which science relies, can answer a very limited set of questions; the existence of God is not one of them. Therefore, to reject the existence of God based on a lack of empirical evidence proving God's existence is just as illogical as rejecting the empirical evidence that proves Evolution. Thankfully, John Haught is here to help us deal with the clowns to left of us and the jokers to the right.
THIS book is published as part of the "Responses to 101 Questions" series from Paulist Press, a well-known Catholic publishing house. As such, it is written for INTERESTED, INQUIRING, LAY CATHOLICS (though Protestants should like it too), and so, for example, "proving the existence of God" is irreverent to the nature or goal of the book. Reviewer Haines is apparently UNAWARE of the series, and so, for some completely wacky reason becomes obsessed with Haught "writing his own 'softball' questions." The book was written for practicing Christians who are not scientists and who are wondering about things like, "Will Studying Darwin turn my son or daughter into an atheist?" "Is Darwinian Evolution compatible with Christian faith?" "What's wrong with 'Creationism' and Intelligent Design theory, and why is 'Whiteheadian Theistic Evolution' a BETTER option?" "How can contemporary Christians understand divine action in a world full of (what appears to be) random events and horrible animal suffering?" And so on. To this end, I personally found ALL the questions to be just the sort that the INTENDED audience would want answered. (And in this context, by the way, "citing Church Fathers as authorities" is a PERFECTLY acceptable move, not "a bad start," as Haines suggests.)
Haines (and, for that matter, most of the so-called "new atheists")also seems COMPLETELY oblivious to the goals of MOST 20th and 21st century theology, namely to keep theology CURRENT by reflecting,adapting, and revising TRADITIONAL theology in light of insights from our CONTEMPORARY understanding of the world, as revealed by the biological, physical and social sciences. This is NOT, as Haines suggests, Haught "trying desperately to find God 'somewhere'," but simply a realization of the "historicist" nature of theology (Ancient and Classical theology was based on Ancient and Classical worldviews; Contemporary theology is based on CONTEMPORARY worldviews.) For Haught, Arthur Peacocke, David Griffin, John Polkinghorne, Ian Barbour, Gordon Kaufman, Karl Peters, and others, this means developing a "Theology of Evolution," or an "Evolutionary Theology." Why keeping one's theology CURRENT should be thought of as an "act of desperation" is beyond me! Why practicing Catholics should think the vision of an ANTI-Religious, Atheistic Materialist biologist like Dawkins is BETTER than the "integrated" vision of a Science-loving Catholic Theologian like Haught is also beyond me!
Haines like to toss around the "S" word ("Supernaturalism"), but if reviewers like him ever BOTHERED to read any contemporary philosophy of religion (such as David Ray Griffin's "Re-enchantment Without Supernaturalism" -- note the title!), he would know that Haught's theology can IN NO WAY be considered "supernatural." In current Science and Theology dialogue circles, the term refers NOT to "ontology" (what "exists") but to "causation." A "supernatural" cause is one that "arbitrarily intervenes" in the world's "natural" causal processes. Since most forms of Theistic Evolution argue that God works THROUGH evolutionary processes, NOT over-against them, it's hard to consider these theologies causally "supernatural."
(The "ontological" question may be of "central" importance to Haines and Dawkins, but the ontological question RARELY comes up in these discussions, since, frankly, there is NO established science that studies WHETHER something exists "beyond" the universe, MUCH LESS what that "something" might be. Even the HIGHLY SPECULATIVE and much debated "Multiverse" or "Bubble Universe" theories cannot provide scientific "evidence" that there's nothing "outside of" or no higher-order reality that "envelopes" the universe/mulitverse. At THAT level, Theological explanation is EVERY BIT AS VALID as scientific speculation, and more so, since science really doesn't deal with ULTIMATE explanations in any community agreed-upon way). Thus, only those who are UNINFORMED about the CURRENT status of the discussion/debate would think that "believing in the existence of God" automatically makes one a "supernaturalist."
Finally, Haines (like other reviewers of Haught's other books) makes the mistake of suggesting that Haught "doesn't really know his science." He seems to be unaware that Haught is generally considered to be one of the "godfathers" of the Science and Religion dialogue for twenty-plus years, and has received ringing endorsements from world-class physicists like Paul Davies and George Ellis (who co-wrote one of the standard texts on the "Structure of Space-Time" with Stephen Hawking) and notable evolutionary theorists like Michael Ruse. I assume THOSE folks are better at accessing Haught's credentials than reviewers like Hanines is!
If one is going to write an intelligent review of a book, it might help to do a little homework first (like figuring out a book's INTENDED audience), and not just make a lot of assumptions based on one's pre-established agenda.