At least since Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859, it has increasingly become accepted that the existence of God is, intellectually, a lost cause, and that religious faith is an entirely non-rational matter--the province of those who willingly refuse to accept the dramatic advances of modern cosmology. Are belief in God and belief in science really mutually exclusive? Or, as noted philosopher of science and religion Richard Swinburne puts forth, can the very same criteria which scientists use to (...) reach theories about everything from DNA to the Big Bang be used to argue for the existence of God? In Is There a God? Swinburne presents a powerful and approachable case for the existence of God. Using the methods of scientific reasoning, Swinburne rigorously argues that science, far from replacing God, provides good grounds for belief in God. With each new discovery and advance, from black holes to quarks, superstrings to continuing evolution, science brings us closer to a complete understanding of how things work--but science can only go so far. Though it can explain much of how the universe works, science doesn't tell us why there is a universe at all. We can understand much of how life evolved, but why is there any life on earth? We can name and explicate scientific laws, but how is it that they operate in the universe? The Darwinian theory holds that the complex animal and human bodies that are here today exist because, ages ago, there were certain chemicals on earth, and given the laws of evolution, it was probable that complex organisms would emerge. But why those laws rather than any other? Why those chemicals? In Swinburne's view, the ultimate grand unifying theory is possible only by a belief in what he calls theism, acknowledging the existence of God: it was God who brought about the natural laws so that humans and animals would evolve. The watch may have been made, Swinburne asserts in reference to Richard Dawkins, with the aid of some blind screwdrivers (or even a blind watchmaking machine), but they were guided by a watchmaker with some very clear sight. At the heart of his argument is Swinburne's belief that the very success of science in showing us how deeply ordered the natural world is provides strong grounds for believing there is an even deeper cause of that order. By embracing a belief in God that acknowledges the truth in science, Swinburne's elegant argument supplies an essential spiritual element to our understanding of order and beauty, the structure beneath the chaos of the natural world. This informed and provocative volume will be essential reading for all readers of popular science, philosophy, and religion. (shrink)
This is a study of the central questions of explanation in the social sciences, and a defence of 'holism' against 'individualism'. In the first half of the book Susan James sets out very clearly the philosophical background to this controversy. She locates its source not at the analytical level at which most of the debate is usually conducted but at a more fundamental, moral level, in different conceptions of the human individual. In the second half of the book she examines (...) critically three case studies of holistic approaches - Althusser, Poulantzas and the Annales historians - and progressively refines our sense of the strengths and deficiencies of their programmes. She ends by arguing for a form of concessive holism, which offers some accommodation to liberal conceptions of individual autonomy but continues to emphasise the explanatory importance of social regularities and environments. (shrink)
In a tour de force of scholarship and vision, Ken Wilber traces the course of evolution from matter to life to mind. In each case evolution has a "direction," a tendency to produce more highly organized patterns. The "spirit of evolution" lies in its directionality: order out of chaos. After arriving at the emergence of mind, Wilber traces the evolution of human consciousness through its major stages of development, pointing out that at each stage there is the "dialectic of progress"--every (...) increase in consciousness is bought at a price: new freedom also means new license to choose destruction. He particularly focuses on the rise of modernity and post-modernity--what they mean, how they relate to gender issues, to psychotherapy, to ecological concerns, and to various liberation movements. Most important, he asks: Can spiritual concerns be integrated with massive developments of the modern world? This edition is updated and includes a new introduction placing it in the context of the Collected Works. (shrink)
Recent debates about Intelligent Design have brought into high relief the huge schism between those who believe in Darwin and the power of science to understand the world, and those who look through the prism of religious faith. Why, asks eminent philosopher Philip Kitcher, does this debate continue to rage given that the scientific consensus in favor of Darwin is overwhelming? This accessible and elegant essay attempts to answer this question. Kitcher first presents the compelling evidence on behalf of Darwin's (...) evolutionary theory, bringing out with unprecedented clarity the structure of the reasoning that has convinced almost all educated people of its merits during the past century and a half. He then sets the current debate about Intelligent Design in historical context, showing that ID theory is really dead science. Explaining the scientific issues in an elegant and accessible way, Kitcher shows how crucial discoveries successively undermined the Creationist views about life on earth that were once considered scientific orthodoxy. Finally, Kitcher goes on to analyze the recurrent opposition to Darwinian ideas, arguing that they do present a genuine threat to those forms of religion that invoke divine providence. A Darwinian understanding of the history of life makes popular forms of religious faith, including most versions of Christianity and Judaism, hard to sustain. The dispute about Intelligent Design emerges as a symptom of a much deeper problem - the clash between the deep impulses to religion and the discoveries of the natural and human sciences. Kitcher contends that we cannot resolve that clash either by denying these discoveries or by brusquely overriding the underlying impulses. Somehow, we must develop a version of secular humanism that will prove genuinely satisfying. (shrink)
The hatchet and the seed -- A tree with deep roots -- The critical tools -- A field crystallizes -- Destruction of nature -- Construction of nature -- Degradation and marginalization -- Conservation and control -- Environmental conflict -- Environmental identity and social movement -- Where to now?
Elliott Sober is one of the leading philosophers of science and is a former winner of the Lakatos Prize, the major award in the field. This new collection of essays will appeal to a readership that extends well beyond the frontiers of the philosophy of science. Sober shows how ideas in evolutionary biology bear in significant ways on traditional problems in philosophy of mind and language, epistemology, and metaphysics. Amongst the topics addressed are psychological egoism, solipsism, and the interpretation of (...) belief and utterance, empiricism, Ockham's razor, causality, essentialism, and scientific laws. The collection will prove invaluable to a wide range of philosophers, primarily those working in the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and epistemology. (shrink)
Does natural selection act primarily on individual organisms, on groups, on genes, or on whole species? The question of levels of selection - on which biologists and philosophers have long disagreed - is central to evolutionary theory and to the philosophy of biology. Samir Okasha's comprehensive analysis gives a clear account of the philosophical issues at stake in the current debate.
The formal systems of logic have ordinarily been regarded as independent of biology, but recent developments in evolutionary theory suggest that biology and logic may be intimately interrelated. In this book, Cooper outlines a theory of rationality in which logical law emerges as an intrinsic aspect of evolutionary biology. This biological perspective on logic, though at present unorthodox, could change traditional ideas about the reasoning process. Cooper examines the connections between logic and evolutionary biology and illustrates how logical rules are (...) derived directly from evolutionary principles, and therefore have no independent status of their own. Laws of decision theory, utility theory, induction, and deduction are reinterpreted as natural consequences of evolutionary processes. Cooper's connection of logical law to evolutionary theory results in a unified foundation for an evolutionary science of reason. (shrink)
Economist and evolutionary game theorist Daniel Friedman demonstrates that our moral codes and our market systems-while often in conflict-are really devices evolved to achieve similar ends, and that society functions best when morals and markets are in balance with each other.
For many of us, the great scientific discoveries of the modern age--the Big Bang, evolution, quantum physics, relativity--point to an existence that is bleak, devoid of meaning, pointless. But in The Sacred Depths of Nature, eminent biologist Ursula Goodenough shows us that the scientific world view need not be a source of despair. Indeed, it can be a wellspring of solace and hope. This eloquent volume reconciles the modern scientific understanding of reality with our timeless spiritual yearnings for reverence and (...) continuity. Looking at topics such as evolution, emotions, sexuality, and death, Goodenough writes with rich, uncluttered detail about the workings of nature in general and of living creatures in particular. Her luminous clarity makes it possible for even non-scientists to appreciate that the origins of life and the universe are no less meaningful because of our increasingly scientific understanding of them. At the end of each chapter, Goodenough's spiritual reflections respond to the complexity of nature with vibrant emotional intensity and a sense of reverent wonder. A beautifully written celebration of molecular biology with meditations on the spiritual and religious meaning that can be found at the heart of science, this volume makes an important contribution to the ongoing dialog between science and religion. This book will engage anyone who was ever mesmerized--or terrified--by the mysteries of existence. (shrink)
This important collection focuses on the nature and importance of biodiversity. Many controversies currently surround biodiversity and a few of them are examined here: What is worthy of protection or restoration, and what is the acceptable level of costs? Is it permissible to kill sentient animals to promote native populations? Can species be reintroduced if they have disappeared a long time ago? How should the responsibilities for biodiversity be shared?
Ecopolitics is a study of environmental awareness--or non-awareness--in contemporary French theory. Arguing that it is now impossible not to think in an ecological way, Verena Andermatt Conley traces the roots of today's concern for the environment back to the intellectual climate of the late '50s and '60s. Major thinkers of 1968, the author argues, changed the way we think the world; this owes much to an ecological awareness that remains at the heart of issues concerning cultural theory in general. The (...) book points to critiques of ecology in the work of Luc Ferry and Jean Baudrillard before turning to more complicated ecological awareness primarily in French thought. The author considers key texts by influential figures such as Michael Serres, Paul Virilio, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Michel de Certeau, Helene Cixous and Luce Irigaray. (shrink)
Why should any society take the decision to devote scarce resources, as a matter of public policy, to preserving natural objects? This is one of the questions considered in the field of environmental ethics, and the thinking that has taken place in this discipline has been dominated by the 'ecocentric-anthropocentric' distinction. Answers focus on either 'intrinsic values in nature', or on the human welfare benefits that will accrue from preservationist policies. These two answers are generally taken to be both mutually (...) exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Ecocentric writers believe that their preferred environmental ethic transcends anthropocentrism, whilst those who cleave to a more 'ecological humanist' position, view the turn to ecocentrism as at best an unnecessary diversion or at worst as a thinly disguised expression of misanthropy. -/- This book looks afresh at the question of justifying nature preservation as public policy and challenges the dominant ecocentric-anthropocentric dichotomy. It undertakes a detailed analysis of the ontology and ethics of ecocentrism, of social ecology - as a self-proclaimed new-humanist' form of ecological ethics - and of eco-Marxism - an example of an ecological philosophy that claims to 'transcend' the ecocentric-anthropocentric divide. This shows that there is an 'embedded humanism' within ecocentrism that provides the resources to move beyond the ecocentric-anthropocentric dichotomy. The analysis also shows, however, that this dichotomised framework distorts the understanding of substantive moral positions in the debate that has taken place between thinkers from different ecological schools. The failure of ecocentrism lies not in its substantive moral position, but in its attempt to render the justification for preservationism non-contingent. -/- The insights drawn from the analytical sections are pulled together in the final chapter in order to suggest a basis for justifying nature preservation as a public policy that escapes the sterile, distorting ecocentric-anthropocentric dichotomy. The author claims that an argument from 'strong irreplaceability', compatible with both human-centered and nature-centered concerns, provides the strongest grounds for the justification of a public policy of nature preservation. (shrink)
The most significant legacy of philosophical skepticism is the realization that our concepts, beliefs and theories are social constructs. This belief has led to epistemological relativism, or the thesis that since there is no ultimate truth about the world, theory preferences are only a matter of opinion. In this book, William Harms seeks to develop the conceptual foundations and tools for a science of knowledge through the application of evolutionary theory, thus allowing us to acknowledge the legacy of skepticism while (...) denying its relativistic offspring. This book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Drawing on the disciplines of Islamic and Christian Ethics, International Affairs, Environmental Science, History and Anthropology, Sustainable Diplomacy: Ecology, Religion and Ethics in Muslim-Christian Relations is a highly constructive work. Set in the context of modern Moroccan-Spanish relations, this text is a direct critique of realism as it is practiced in modern diplomacy. Proposing a new eco-centric approach to relations between nation-states and bioregions, Wellman presents the case for Ecological Realism, an undergirding philosophy for conducting a diplomacy that values the (...) role of popular religions, ecological histories, and the consumption and waste patterns of national populations. Sustainable Diplomacy is thus a means of building relations not only between elites but also between people on the ground, as they together face the real possibility of global ecological destruction. (shrink)
Political ecology has developed as an academic discipline in reaction to the increased concern of nations and individuals about humanity's adverse impact on the environment and the ways international bodies have moved to counter this impact. This new text draws together international experts at the cutting edge of this new field to focus on real world examples of problems and the tension between developed and developing states.
How have sociologists responded to the emergence of environmentalism? What has sociology to offer the study of environmental problems? This uniquely comprehensive guide traces the origins and development of environmental movements and environmental issues, providing a critical review of the most significant debates in the new field of environmental sociology. It covers environmental ideas, environmental movements, social constructionism, critical realism, "ecocentric" theory, environmental identities, risk society theory, sustainable development, Green consumerism, ecological modernization and debates around modernity and post- modernity. Philip (...) Sutton adopts a long-term view, which focuses on the relationship between ideas of nature and environment, ecological identities and social change, providing a framework for future research. Bringing environmental issues into contact with sociological theories, Nature, Environment and Society provides an up-to-date introduction to this important new field. It will be essential reading for all students of sociology, environmental studies and anyone interested in understanding environmental problems. (shrink)
The essays in this collection examine developments in three fundamental biological disciplines--embryology, evolutionary biology, and genetics--in conflict with each other for much of the twentieth century. They consider key methodological problems and the difficulty of overcoming them. Richard Burian interweaves historical appreciation of the settings within which scientists work, substantial knowledge of the biological problems at stake and the methodological and philosophical issues faced in integrating biological knowledge drawn from disparate sources.
In this study, Clare Palmer challenges the popular conception that process thinking offers an unambiguously positive contribution to the philosophical debate on environmental ethics. She critically examines the approach to ethics which may be derived from the work of process thinkers such as A. N. Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, pointing out questions about justice and respect for individual integrity which are raised. With these questions in mind, she compares process ethics to a variety of other forms of environmental ethics, as (...) well as deep ecology. This comparative study reveals a number of difficulties associated with process thinking about the environment. Although some reformulations of process philosophy in the light of these difficulties are offered, the author suggests that a question mark should remain over the contribution which process philosophy can make to environmental ethics. (shrink)
Reductionism--understanding complex processes by breaking them into simpler elements--dominates scientific thinking around the world and has certainly proved a powerful tool, leading to major discoveries in every field of science. But reductionism can be taken too far, especially in the life sciences, where sociobiological thinking has bordered on biological determinism. Thus popular science writers such as Richard Dawkins, author of the highly influential The Selfish Gene, can write that human beings are just "robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish (...) molecules known as genes." Indeed, for many in science, genes have become the fundamental unit for understanding human existence: genes determine every aspect of our lives, from personal success to existential despair: genes for health and illness, genes for criminality, violence, and sexual orientation. Others would say that this is reductionism with a vengeance. In Lifelines, biologist Steven Rose offers a powerful alternative to the ultradarwinist claims of Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Daniel Dennett and others. Rose argues against an extreme reductionist approach that would make the gene the key to understanding human nature, in favor of a more complex and richer vision of life. He urges instead that we focus on the organism and in particular on the organism's lifeline: the trajectory it takes through time and space. Our personal lifeline, Rose points out, is unique--even identical twins, with identical genes at birth, will differ over time. These differences are obviously not embedded in our genes, but come about through our developmental trajectory in which genes, as part of the biochemical orchestra of trillions of cells in each human body, have an important part--but only a part--to play. To illustrate this idea, Rose examines recent research in modern biology, and especially two disciplines--genetics (which looks at the impact of genes on form) and developmental biology (which examines the interaction between the organism and the environment)--and he explores new ideas on biological complexity proposed by scientists such as Stuart Kauffman. He shows how our lifelines are constructed through the interplay of physical forces--such as the intrinsic chemistry of lipids and proteins, and the self-organizing and stabilizing properties of complex metabolic webs--and he reaches a startling conclusion: that organisms are active players in their own fate, not simply the playthings of the gods, nature, or the inevitable workings out of gene-driven natural selection. The organism is both the weaver and the pattern it weaves. Lifelines will be a rallying point for all who seek an alternative to the currently fashionable, deeply determinist accounts which dominate popular science writing and, in fact, crowd the pages of some of the major scientific journals. Based on solid, state-of-the-art research, it not only makes important contributions to our understanding of Darwin and natural selection, but will swing the pendulum back to a richer, more complex view of human nature and of life. (shrink)
This collection of revised and new essays argues that biology is an autonomous science rather than a branch of the physical sciences. Ernst Mayr, widely considered the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, offers insights on the history of evolutionary thought, critiques the conditions of philosophy to the science of biology, and comments on several of the major developments in evolutionary theory. Notably, Mayr explains that Darwin's theory of evolution is actually five separate theories, each with its own (...) history, trajectory and impact. Ernst Mayr, commonly referred to as the "Darwin of the 20th century" and listed as one of the top 100 scientists of all-time, is Professor Emeritus at Harvard University. What Makes Biology Unique is the 25th book he has written during his long and prolific career. His recent books include This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (Belknap Press, 1997) and What Evolution Is (Basic Books, 2002). (shrink)
Darwin the writer -- Learning to see : Darwin's prophetic apprenticeship on the Beagle voyage -- The prose of On the origin of species -- Surprise and paradox : Darwin's artful legacy -- Darwinian mind and Wildean paradox -- Hardy's Woodlanders and the Darwinian grotesque -- Coda : the comic Darwin.