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Download Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design (New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine) epub

by Peter J. Bowler




From the beginning, Darwin’s dangerous idea has been a snake in the garden, denounced from pulpits then and now as incompatible with the central tenets of Christian faith. Recovered here is the less well-known but equally long history of thoughtful engagement and compromise on the part of liberal theologians. Peter J. Bowler doesn’t minimize the hostility of many of the faithful toward evolution, but he reveals the existence of a long tradition within the churches that sought to reconcile Christian beliefs with evolution by finding reflections of the divine in scientific explanations for the origin of life. By tracing the historical forerunners of these rival Christian responses, Bowler provides a valuable alternative to accounts that stress only the escalating confrontation.

Our polarized society, Bowler says, has all too often projected its rivalries onto the past, concealing the efforts by both scientists and theologians to find common ground. Our perception of past confrontations has been shaped by an oversimplified model of a “war” between science and religion. By uncovering the complexity of the debates sparked by Darwin’s theory, we might discover ways to depolarize our own debates about where we came from and why we are here.

Download Monkey Trials and Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design (New Histories of Science, Technology, and Medicine) epub
ISBN: 0674026152
ISBN13: 978-0674026155
Category: History
Subcategory: World
Author: Peter J. Bowler
Language: English
Publisher: Harvard University Press (September 30, 2007)
Pages: 272 pages
ePUB size: 1398 kb
FB2 size: 1210 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 120
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Grokinos
Impressive survey of debates between Darwinists and religious fundamentalists. I always knew about the controversy, but had no idea of the depth, breadth, and variety of positions taken along the entire spectrum.
The Apotheoses of Lacspor
Peter Bowler is one of the authorities on the history of evolution. Professor of the History of Science at Queens University, Belfast, he has written extensively on the history of the science of the "Darwinian Revolution" as well as on the moral and political responses it has provoked. _Monkey Trials_ is a short and easy read that is almost deceptively packed with a vast survey of scholarship, while at the same time providing real insight into the history of the present relationship between evolution and religion in America. Bowler justifies this work as his own contribution to the American phenomenon of the apparent "debate" between the science of Darwinian evolution and the Creationist "Intelligent Design" movement that has made such headway among the religious right, and which continues to threaten science standards in schools in many southern states despite recent rulings against teaching religion as science by the courts.

Bowler is open about his own religious skepticism, but much like Michael Ruse, does not think it productive to go down the path of strident atheist advocacy pursued by Daniel Dennett and the Richard Dawkins. As a European, Bowler claims to offer an outsider's perspective, but it is Bowler's perspective as an historian that really allows him to see the wood as well as the trees. Bowler's book sheds much needed light.

The opening chapters of _Monkey Trials_ give a brief but comprehensive overview of the history of the development of Darwin's thought, of earlier evolutionary ideas, and the range of Victorian moral reactions to the idea that humanity might share a common ancestor with apes. Bowler shows that despite the efforts of many to portray this as a "God or Darwin" black or white choice, history shows that this is at best a caricature of the much more complex and multiple responses to contemporary developments in biology. Bowler provides a deftly written history of those developments, that lead through the "eclipse of Darwinism" - the preference of many biologists for alternative mechanisms of evolution to Darwin's "natural selection", to the evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s and 40s. The main thrust of Bowler's story, however, is to recount the many efforts by liberal "Modernist" theologians to accommodate evolution into their religious understanding, a move that was met by many scientists in the early 1900s, (amongst them even Julian Huxley, one of the key authors of the synthesis), who accepted that the apparent purpose they saw in evolution might also provide a ready compromise. This oft uncomfortable middle ground was not shared by religious conservatives, however, and similarly became increasingly untenable to scientists in light of the advances in genetics that laid the groundwork of the synthesis of Darwinian selection with Mendelian genetics. Indeed, the synthesis increasingly undermined any basis for seeing purpose or direction in nature at all. If God was the divine architect at work, (as the geneticist R.A. Fischer continued to believe), He was very much an unmoved mover - a view that was - and remains - an unsatisfactory conception of God for a great many believers.

Nevertheless, Bowler does show that, despite the apparent polarization of science and religion that gets the headlines, there remains a number of significant liberal theologians, such as John Polkinghorne and John F. Haught, who are willing to do the hard work of seriously thinking through a modern synthesis of their own: that of bringing together the apparently non-directed and purposeless character of modern evolutionary biology with a belief in a compassionate and caring Creator.

In short, Bowler's work is an important synthetic work in the history of religious responses to the changing nature of Darwinism from the publication of Darwin's _Origin of Species_ in 1859 to the present, but it is also more than this. Hopefully, _Monkey Trials_ will underline the fact that the debate need not be as polarized as the present American episode in debating the moral implications of evolutionary biology suggests