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Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew

Popular Science

By: Steve Stewart-Williams

Cambridge University Press

Hardback | Sep 2010 | #194968 | ISBN-13: 9780521762786
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $31/€28 approx

About this book

If you accept evolutionary theory, can you also believe in God? Are human beings superior to other animals, or is this just a human prejudice? Does Darwin have implications for heated issues like euthanasia and animal rights? Does evolution tell us the purpose of life, or does it imply that life has no ultimate purpose? Does evolution tell us what is morally right and wrong, or does it imply that ultimately 'nothing' is right or wrong?

In this fascinating and intriguing book, Steve Stewart-Williams addresses these and other fundamental philosophical questions raised by evolutionary theory and the exciting new field of evolutionary psychology. Drawing on biology, psychology and philosophy, he argues that Darwinian science supports a view of a godless universe devoid of ultimate purpose or moral structure, but that we can still live a good life and a happy life within the confines of this view.

Steve Stewart-Williams explains how evolutionary thought challenges many deep-seated assumptions about God, morality, and human superiority and raises significant questions about such things as euthanasia, suicide, and the way we treat non-human animals. While it has become commonplace for many to equate Darwin's legacy with the stripping away of the moral and the good and to replace it with unpalatable 'Darwinist' alternatives that advocate amorality, nihilism, and a world where 'might makes right', Stewart-Williams carefully and entertainingly shows that, on the contrary, the world after Darwin remains meaningful, wondrous, and intrinsically moral.
- Stephen Hill, Massey University

"This is an important, accessible, and timely book for anyone wishing to understand the implications of evolutionary theory for standard views of human nature, morality and religion."
Stephen Boulter, Oxford Brookes University


1. Darwin and the big questions

Part I. Darwin Gets Religion:
2. Clash of the Titans
3. Design after Darwin
4. Darwin's God
5. God as gap filler
6. Darwin and the problem of evil
7. Wrapping up religion

Part II. Life After Darwin:
8. Human beings and their place in the universe
9. The status of human beings among the animals
10. Meaning of life, RIP?

Part III. Morality Stripped of Superstition:
11. Evolving good
12. Remaking morality
13. Uprooting the doctrine of human dignity
14. Evolution and the death of right and wrong

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Steve Stewart-Williams is a lecturer in evolutionary psychology at Swansea University. Before taking this position, he did his PhD at Massey University in New Zealand, and then did a postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University in Canada. His research and writing covers a diverse range of topics, including the placebo effect, the philosophy of biology, and the evolution of altruism and mating behaviour.

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