Book Review: Darwin’s gift to science and religion

  • post Type / Young Humanists International
  • Date / 3 March 2009

Book: Darwin’s gift to science and religion
Author: Ayala Francisco
Published by: Joseph Henry Press
Year: 2007

Dubbed the “Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology” by The New York Times, Prof. Francisco Ayala’s “Darwin’s gift to science and religion” is one book anyone interested in that borderline and relationship between evolutionism and creationism, nay science and religion, should read.

Unlike other supposed Darwinism authors, Ayala takes seriously the evidence for evolution, and the fact that, now that we have DNA evidence, there really is no more doubt about common ancestry and evolution than about the criminals we put away on the basis of the same sorts of forensic evidence.

The reason why Ayala is able to embrace not just the current state of scientific knowledge, but science as a way of knowing, is that he is able to regard statements about God and statements about the natural world as complementary. The danger here, of course, is that such language can become at best superfluous and at worst meaningless. All our language about God, according to him, is metaphorical.

But we still need at least some clarity if we wish to speak about events in the world, even or perhaps especially those that have natural explanations, as simultaneously ‘acts of God’. Does this mean that we really see them as willed expressions of a personal deity, or as sacramental events that, even without outside tinkering, disclose transcendent aspects of the nature of reality to us? These are some of the questions the book does not explicitly answer.

In all, Ayala points out that science and religion perform different roles in human understanding: science offers a way of knowing the material world, but matters of value and meaning—the cores of religion— are outside of the scope of scientific investigation.

(Editor’s note: In case you are willing to read a book with ‘hardcore’ secular humanists idea, get a copy of Science and Religion: Are They Compatible? Edited by Paul Kurtz, Barry Karr and Ranjit Sandhu and published by Prometheus Books in 2003)

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