Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science

Cambridge University Press
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Michael Ruse offers a new analysis of the often troubled relationship between science and religion. Arguing against both extremes - in one corner, the New Atheists; in the other, the Creationists and their offspring the Intelligent Designers - he asserts that science is the highest source of human inquiry. Yet, by its very nature and its deep reliance on metaphor, science restricts itself and is unable to answer basic, significant questions about the meaning of the universe and humankind's place within it: why is there something rather than nothing? What is the meaning of it all? Ruse shows that one can legitimately be a skeptic about these questions, and yet why it is open for a Christian, or member of any faith, to offer answers. Scientists, he concludes, should be proud of their achievements but modest about their scope. Christians should be confident of their mission but respectful of the successes of science.
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About the author

Michael Ruse is the Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science at Florida State University. Author and editor of numerous books, most recently Darwinism and its Discontents and The Cambridge Companion to the 'Origin of Species' (with Robert Richards), he has been a Herbert Spencer Lecturer at Oxford University, a Gifford Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, and Reynolds Lecturer at Baylor University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the recipient of three honorary degrees.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Mar 8, 2010
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Pages
273
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ISBN
9781139486545
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
Religion / General
Science / History
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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This content is DRM protected.
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The word “biology” was first used to describe the scientific study of life in 1802, and as Davide Tarizzo demonstrates in his reconstruction of the genealogy of the concept of life, our understanding of what being alive means is an equally recent invention. Focusing on the histories of philosophy, science, and biopolitics, he contends that biological life is a metaphysical concept, not a scientific one, and that this notion has gradually permeated both European and Anglophone traditions of thought over the past two centuries.

Building on the work undertaken by Foucault in the 1960s and ‘70s, Tarizzo analyzes the slow transformation of eighteenth-century naturalism into a nineteenth-century science of life, exploring the philosophical landscape that engendered biology and precipitated the work of such foundational figures as Georges Cuvier and Charles Darwin. 

Tarizzo tracks three interrelated themes: first, that the metaphysics of biological life is an extension of the Kantian concept of human will in the field of philosophy; second, that biology and philosophy share the same metaphysical assumptions about life originally advanced by F. W. J. Schelling and adopted by Darwin and his intellectual heirs; and third, that modern biopolitics is dependent on this particularly totalizing view of biological life. 

Circumventing tired debates about the validity of science and the truth of Darwinian evolution, this book instead envisions and promotes a profound paradigm shift in philosophical and scientific concepts of biological life.

"The belief that Aristotle’s philosophy is incompatible with Christianity is hardly controversial today," writes Craig Martin. Yet "for centuries, Christian culture embraced Aristotelian thought as its own, reconciling his philosophy with theology and church doctrine. The image of Aristotle as source of religious truth withered in the seventeenth century, the same century in which he ceased being an authority for natural philosophy."

In this fresh study of the complicated origins of revolutionary science in the age of Bacon, Hobbes, and Boyle, Martin traces one of the most important developments in Western European history: the rise and fall of Aristotelianism from the eleventh to the eighteenth century.

Medieval theologians reconciled Aristotelian natural philosophy with Christian dogma in a synthesis that dominated religious thought for centuries. This synthesis unraveled in the seventeenth century contemporaneously with the emergence of the new natural philosophies of the scientific revolution. Important figures of seventeenth-century thought strove to show that the medieval appropriation of Aristotle defied the historical record that pointed to an impious figure of dubious morality.

While numerous scholars have written on the seventeenth-century downfall of Aristotelianism, almost all of those works have examined how the conceptual content of the new sciences—such as the heliocentric cosmology, atomism, mechanical and mathematical models, and experimentalism—were used to dismiss the views of Aristotle. Subverting Aristotle is the first to focus on the religious polemics accompanying the scientific controversies that led to the eventual demise of Aristotelian natural philosophy.

Martin’s thesis draws extensively on primary source material from England, France, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. It alters present perceptions not only of the scientific revolution but also of the role of Renaissance humanism in the forging of modernity.

-- John Monfasani, University at Albany, The State University of New York
In 1965 English scientist James Lovelock had a flash of insight: the Earth is not just teeming with life; the Earth, in some sense, is life. He mulled this revolutionary idea over for several years, first with his close friend the novelist William Golding, and then in an extensive collaboration with the American scientist Lynn Margulis. In the early 1970s, he finally went public with the Gaia hypothesis, the idea that everything happens for an end: the good of planet Earth. Lovelock and Margulis were scorned by professional scientists, but the general public enthusiastically embraced Lovelock and his hypothesis. People joined Gaia groups; churches had Gaia services, sometimes with new music written especially for the occasion. There was a Gaia atlas, Gaia gardening, Gaia herbs, Gaia retreats, Gaia networking, and much more. And the range of enthusiasts was—and still is—broad. In The Gaia Hypothesis, philosopher Michael Ruse, with his characteristic clarity and wit, uses Gaia and its history, its supporters and detractors, to illuminate the nature of science itself. Gaia emerged in the 1960s, a decade when authority was questioned and status and dignity stood for nothing, but its story is much older. Ruse traces Gaia’s connection to Plato and a long history of goal-directed and holistic—or organicist—thinking and explains why Lovelock and Margulis’s peers rejected it as pseudoscience. But Ruse also shows why the project was a success. He argues that Lovelock and Margulis should be commended for giving philosophy firm scientific basis and for provoking important scientific discussion about the world as a whole, its homeostasis or—in this age of global environmental uncertainty—its lack thereof. Melding the world of science and technology with the world of feeling, mysticism, and religion, The Gaia Hypothesis will appeal to a broad range of readers, from students and scholars of the history and philosophy of science to anyone interested in New Age culture.
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