THE EVOLUTION-CREATION STRUGGLE, by Michael Ruse. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005. 288 pages, notes, bibliography, index. Hardcover; $25.95. ISBN 0-674-01687-4.
Michael Ruse is a Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University, a prolific and well respected writer of books on evolution. He takes on the philosophic struggles between the scientific establishment, the creationists of our modern times, and the "religious evolutionists" (such as Richard Dawkins) who preach incessantly the message that science is the only path to realistic thinking and that all religious thinking is a sham. He argues that both evolutionism (the religion) and creationism have common roots in the Enlightenment, when the "crisis of faith" emerged so strongly. He points out what should be obvious (but are not, at least until he discusses them) similarities in creationist and evolutionist arguments.
Ruse positions his arguments in an eschatological framework, arguing that evolutionists think in terms of postmillennial thought, creationists in terms of premillenial. But it is not so much biblical issues being argued, as much as moral ones; the two sides expect their adherents to behave quite differently. Ruse treats the subject historically, from early 18th century days, spending much time on late 20th century thinkers, Wilson, Dawkins, Gould, Henry Morris, Conway Morris, Plantinga, Behe and Dembski. He treats with gentle sarcasm the underlying religious commitments of evolutionists, arguing that those most hostile to religion are actually fundamentalists of another kind. He also criticized the ID movement (page 280) by writing: “. . . even if Plantinga is right, and even if ID theory does give us 'an important part of a serious and profound knowledge of the universe,' that knowledge is not scientific knowledge. It cannot replace the understanding of life gained through contemporary evolutionary theory.”
One example from the book (page 202) will illustrate the above. Ruse writes: "As we would expect, academic evolutionists deny any religious associations in their field -- after all, they are scientists who have only recently dragged themselves up to full professional status, and would just as soon forget evolution's checkered past." He then quotes Dawkins from The Humanist, 57, 1 (1997), who wrote that faith is one of the world's great evils, that science has many of religion's virtues and none of its vices; that religious faith "not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy . . . .." Ruse then skewers Dawkins, Wilson (and others) as he shows (convincingly IMHO) the innate religiosity of many evolutionists. On pages 212-3 he writes, "The real issue is whether some evolutionists use the supposed progressiveness of evolutionary theory to promote social and ethical programs. And indeed they do . . . . [evolutionism] continues to function as a kind of secular religion."
The book, while written "sharply," is not at all polemical. Ruse writes clearly, to the point, and in a manner which is understandable to the informed non-scientist. Highly recommended, it has "keeper" status in my own library. It should be read along with Eugenie C. Scott's recent book, EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM. Neither author is a Christian, but unlike many non-Christian writers, both appear to understand Christianity reasonably well and treat it with respect.
Reviewed by John W. Burgeson Clergy spouse Rico, Colorado 8-26-2005 www.burgy.50megs.com