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Academic & Professional Books  History & Other Humanities  Literary & Media Studies

Darwinism as Religion What Literature Tells Us about Evolution

By: Michael Ruse(Author)
328 pages
Darwinism as Religion
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  • Darwinism as Religion ISBN: 9780190241025 Hardback Nov 2016 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 months
Price: £40.49
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The Darwinian Revolution – the change in thinking sparked by Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, which argued that all organisms including humans are the end product of a long, slow, natural process of evolution rather than the miraculous creation of an all-powerful God – is one of the truly momentous cultural events in Western Civilization. Darwinism as Religion is an innovative and exciting approach to this revolution through creative writing, showing how the theory of evolution as expressed by Darwin has, from the first, functioned as a secular religion.

Drawing on a deep understanding of both the science and the history, Michael Ruse surveys the naturalistic thinking about the origins of organisms, including the origins of humankind, as portrayed in novels and in poetry, taking the story from its beginnings in the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century right up to the present. He shows that, contrary to the opinion of many historians of the era, there was indeed a revolution in thought and that the English naturalist Charles Darwin was at the heart of it. However, contrary also to what many think, this revolution was not primarily scientific as such, but more religious or metaphysical, as people were taken from the secure world of the Christian faith into a darker, more hostile world of evolutionism.

In a fashion unusual for the history of ideas, Ruse turns to the novelists and poets of the period for inspiration and information. His book covers a wide range of creative writers – from novelists like Voltaire and poets like Erasmus Darwin in the eighteenth century, through the nineteenth century with novelists including Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Henry James and H. G. Wells and poets including Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins, and on to the twentieth century with novelists including Edith Wharton, D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, William Golding, Graham Greene, Ian McEwan and Marilynne Robinson, and poets including Robert Frost, Edna St Vincent Millay and Philip Appleman. Covering such topics as God, origins, humans, race and class, morality, sexuality, and sin and redemption, and written in an engaging manner and spiced with wry humor, Darwinism as Religion gives us an entirely fresh, engaging and provocative view of one of the cultural highpoints of Western thought.



Chapter One: The Eighteenth Century
Chapter Two: Before Darwin
Chapter Three: The Darwinian Theory
Chapter Four: Reception
Chapter Five: God
Chapter Six: Origins
Chapter Seven: Humans
Chapter Eight: Race and Class
Chapter Nine: Morality
Chapter Ten: Sex
Chapter Eleven: Sin and Redemption
Chapter Twelve: The Future
Chapter Thirteen: Three Nobel Laureates
Chapter Fourteen: Towards the Present
Chapter Fifteen: The Conflict Continues
Chapter Sixteen: After Twin Towers


Customer Reviews


Michael Ruse was born in England in 1940. In 1962 he moved to Canada and taught philosophy for thirty-five years at the University of Guelph in Ontario, before taking his present position at Florida State University in 2000. He is a philosopher and historian of science, with a particular interest in Darwin and evolutionary biology. The author or editor of over fifty books and the founding editor of the journal Biology and Philosophy, he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a former Guggenheim Fellow and Gifford Lecturer, and the recipient of four honorary degrees.

By: Michael Ruse(Author)
328 pages
Media reviews

"Very few workers in the Darwin industry have been as industrious as Michael Ruse. Author or editor of some 50 books in as many years, he has introduced countless students and colleagues to the history and philosophy of science, to evolutionary biology and its history and to almost every aspect of Darwins science and its development [...] In her endorsement, Dame Gillian Beer refers to Darwinism as Religion as a book that 'comes bubbling up out of a deep well of enjoyment'. It may not be a book for the science classroom, but the enjoyment is highly infectious."
– John Hedley Brooke, Science and Education

"Ruse's book is an absolute joy to read and to ponder. It is a witty and, at times, polemical work that pursues a provocative and thought-provoking thesis that is by definition almost impossible to prove. To put it another way, it is a book that could have been written only by Michael Ruse. And that is indeed a good thing."
– Ian Hesketh, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"This is certainly not conventionally an academic book: it's copious, opinionated, sweeping. It is also wonderfully impassioned. The book comes bubbling up out of a deep well of enjoyment. Professor Ruse has read an immense array of Victorian and later anglophone literature and shares his surprise and pleasure in it. He has read it all with eyes that have also focused intensely on Charles Darwin's ideas and their influence. His pursuit in this study is inclusiveness: he is absorbed in close-grained appreciation of particular cases and curious instances [...] the pleasure of the work is its intensely personal reading of deep questions that have preoccupied writers, and people at large, over the last hundred and fifty years."
– Dame Gillian Beer, DBE, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature Emeritus, University of Cambridge, and author of Darwin's Plots

"Michael Ruse traces various notions of progress and of natural religion that came to offer a comfortable nest for the fledgling evolutionary theory in the mid-Nineteenth Century, and he follows its flight into celestial realms, showing how Darwinism became transformed into a kind of religion. He detects the path of this new theology especially as it was manifested in the novels and poetry of the period. Ruse reveals a dimension to the works of Eliot, London, Dreiser, Hardy, Sinclair, and Steinbeck that lay in the shadows. Even social patterns displayed by Henry James's characters are refracted differently through Ruse's scholarship. Ruse's touch is light and his insights multiple."
– Robert J. Richards, Morris Fishbein Distinguished Service Professor of History of Science, University of Chicago

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