Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion

Francisco J. Ayala, Author
Francisco J. Ayala, Author . Joseph Henry $24.95 (237p) ISBN 978-0-309-10231-5
Reviewed on: 04/02/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
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Taking a more pacific tone than Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett in this marvelous little book, Ayala, a UC-Irvine biologist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a way to reconcile religion and science on the issue of evolution. He is uniquely well suited to address this: before becoming an evolutionary biologist, he trained for the Catholic priesthood. According to Ayala, Darwin provides both a clear understanding of the nature of the physical world and an explanation for its flaws that takes the onus for them off of God. Natural selection gives scientists an eminently plausible and verifiable explanation of the shape species and members of those species have taken over millions of years. For religious believers, evolution offers an explanation for the flawed designs—such as the too narrow human birth canal and our badly designed jawbone—that might call into question the work of a benevolent designer. Ayala points out that science and religion perform different roles in human understanding: science offers a way of knowing the material world, but matters of value and meaning—the core of religion—are outside of the scope of scientific investigation. This elegant book provides the single best introduction to Darwin and the development of evolutionary biology now available. Illus. (June)

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