August 05, 2005

Priests in lab coats

Interesting interview with Michael Ruse, evolutionary biologist and defender of high school science classes.

Ruse is drawing a crucial distinction between evolutionary science, narrowly considered -- which need not have any religious or spiritual consequences -- and evolutionism, the secular, atheistic religion he says often accompanies and enfolds Darwinism. [...]

You might say that, in this new book, Ruse is calling for a Reformation within the church of evolutionism. He himself honors the truth claims of science and is "a hell of a lot closer" to atheism than to religious belief. But he thinks evolutionists must purge themselves of reflexive anti-religious fervor, and acknowledge at least the potential validity of the classic Augustinian position that science and theology can never directly contradict one another, since science can only consider nature and God, by definition, is outside nature. Without this consciousness, Ruse suggests, evolutionism is in fact a secular religion, a church without Christ. And if that's what it is, what is it doing in biology class?

I haven't read anything Ruse has written on this within the past fifteen years, but this was a major point of contention between Stephen Jay Gould and the evolutionary psychologists of the '80s and '90s, including Richard Dawkins. One of the major reasons Gould's death a few years back was such a tragedy is that he was just about the only public intellectual writing on evolution and evolutionary psychology that didn't have open contempt for religious belief or feminism. Hopefully Michael Ruse is starting to step into Gould's shoes.

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