J. L. Schellenberg: Evolutionary Religion

Rarely have I begun a book with such keen enthusiasm only later to cool to a deep but respectful ambivalence. In this clearly written and thoughtful monograph, Canadian analytic philosopher J. L. Schellenberg spurs readers to think about religion in evolutionary terms analogous to how Darwin and others have taught us to think about nature. As I will outline, I think he has mixed success in this engaging endeavor.Schellenberg’s valuable insight, and the source of my initial enthusiasm, is his emphasis on the full spectrum of what he calls “deep time” (pp. 1–7). Evolutionary thinking has rightly taught us to take the long view, but it is difficult for us to fully grasp the immensity of what this means. “Evolutionary time,” he notes, “is of an extent almost beyond fathoming—that’s why scientists call it ‘deep.”’ Quoting Stephen Jay Gould, he continues: “‘[A]n abstract, intellectual understanding of deep time comes easily enough—I know how many zeroes to place after 10 when I mean billions ..
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DOI 10.1007/s11153-014-9454-5
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