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Rocks of Ages - Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life (Library of Contemporary Thought) Hardcover – International Edition, March 9, 1999

3.0 out of 5 stars 88 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Revered and eminently readable essayist Stephen Jay Gould has once again rendered the complex simple, this time mending the seeming split between the two "Rocks of Ages," science and religion. He quickly, and rightfully, admits that his thesis is not new, but one broadly accepted by many scientists and theologians. Gould begins by suggesting that Darwin has been misconstrued--that while some religious thinkers have used divinity to prove the impossibility of evolution, Darwin would have never done the reverse.

Gould eloquently lays out not "a merely diplomatic solution" to rectify the physical and metaphysical, but "a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds," central to which is the elegant concept of "non-overlapping magisteria." (Gould defines magisteria as a "four-bit" word meaning domain of authority in teaching.) Essentially, science and religion can't be unified, but neither should they be in conflict; each has its own discrete magisteria, the natural world belonging exclusively to science and the moral to religion.

Gould's argument is both lucid and convincing as he cites past religious and scientific greats (including a particularly touching section on Darwin himself). Regardless of your persuasions, religious or scientific, Gould holds up his end of the conversation with characteristic respect and intelligence. --Paul Hughes


"Gould is at his brilliant best... A truly convincing performance"

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (March 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345430093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345430090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,273,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. Gould reconciles the separate and equally important domains of religion and science using the life, times and perspectives of some of science's great thinkers. His message of tolerance and understanding is made from an open, yet skeptical, perspective. His thumbnail biography of Charles Darwin is so touching that it can bring almost anyone to tears. As one who does not yet know enough to know the truth with respect to belief systems, I found much harmony with Gould, Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley. It is a compact book (222 5" by 8" pages of large type with large margins) and easily read in a day. It is a satisfying read that, by its very nature, leaves you ready for more.
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Format: Paperback
Gould (I admit) is probably my favorite writer of science. His breadth and scope and odd comparisons combined with a witty, erudite literary style make for excellent reads. But here we are tackling the great Bugaboo - science and religion. Considering all that could have been said and has been said about the subject, SJG admirably rises to the occasion.

Gould points out that despite his own theological doubts, Darwin never used evolution to to crusade for atheism or the non-existence of God or, I should add, a political agenda. He, like Gould, was a liberal who thought coexistence was possible between the two spheres. Gould defines something called Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) - that provides for separate arenas of activity. As long as they do not venture into each others fields they can not only exist but flourish. His own views tended toward the agnostic/atheist but he shows a wise appreciation for not only the strenght but role of religion in society.

This idea is naturally rejected by what Gould calls the Fundamentalist Darwinians - Dawkins, Dennet, Smith, et al, who see no need for any kind of spiritual sphere in human existence. Indeed Dawkins calls on readers not to respect religious ideas - the very opposite of the tolerance Gould (and Darwin) preach. The "Fundamentalists" view morality, emotions and psychology in deterministic terms, as nothing more than mechanical outcomes of the interaction of genes guided by natural selection. The fact that Gould is a non-believer and frequently uses religious terms and imagery is all the more galling to this group.

Inside, we have the usual essays wherein he dispenses with creationists, literalists and fundamentalists.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Gould treats the long-standing problem of the relation between science and religion in this book. The author explores the contemporary principle he calls NOMA, which is an acronym of Non-Overlapping Magisteria. A magisterium represents a domain of authority in teaching. The NOMA principle is that the magisterium of science and that of religion do not overlap, because the two magisteria cover different realms of empirical facts and moral value. This might seem to some readers almost self-evident. Describing the historical and psychological bases extensively, however, Gould elaborates the above concept so deeply and persuasively that even such readers will find the reading of this book rewarding. Especially this is a must read for those who are on either side of the debate of evolution versus creation in education.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) wrote many other important books, such as Ever Since Darwin, The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, The Flamingo's Smile, Bully for Brontosaurus, Eight Little Piggies, Dinosaur in a Haystack, Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms, The Lying Stones Of Marrakech, etc.

He wrote in the Preamble to this 1999 book (which expands greatly on his NOMA essay reprinted in his "Leonardo" book), "I write this little book to present a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to an issue so laden with emotion and the burden of history that a clear path usually become overgrown by a tangle of contention and confusion.
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