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Darwinism and its Discontents

Michael Ruse (Cambridge University Press: Jul 31, 2006), 326 pages.

Ruse, a well-known evolutionary historian and philosopher, defends Darwin from all comers, whether religious critics; those who, like Gertrude Himmelfarb, have accused Darwin of being a second-rate scientist; or postmodernist critics who say science is a social construction and not objective truth. Ruse (Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?) expounds on why he accepts evolution as fact. Though he doesn’t buy the argument that all science is merely a social construct, he acknowledges that Darwinism holds a mirror up to the times and reflects contemporary thinking, and he looks at the forms Darwinism has taken in philosophy, literature and popular culture. Some readers may think that Ruse, who freely and frequently admits that he isn’t a Christian, doesn’t quite provide a level playing field on which to confront some of his intellectual opponents, in particular the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga and the atheist scientist Richard Dawkins. Still, Ruse’s agnosticism keeps him from being doctrinaire ("Perhaps there is a God on the other side… I do not know"). Some readers will struggle with Ruse’s occasional philosophic density. Nevertheless, this should interest fans of the philosophy of science and readers caught up in the contemporary debate about evolution.

Table of Contents

    • Ch. 1    Charles Darwin and his revolution    5
    • Ch. 2    The fact of evolution    25
    • Ch. 3    The origin of life    52
    • Ch. 4    The path of evolution    72
    • Ch. 5    The cause of evolution    103
    • Ch. 6    Limitations and restrictions    134
    • Ch. 7    Humans    166
    • Ch. 8    Fact or fiction?    194
    • Ch. 9    Dishonest science?    214
    • Ch. 10    Philosophy    236
    • Ch. 11    Literature    258
    • Ch. 12    Religion    275