At Home in the Cosmos

David Toolan, Author
David Toolan, Author Orbis Books $25 (257p) ISBN 978-1-57075-341-1
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
Paperback - 257 pages - 978-1-57075-478-4
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Toolan, associate editor of America magazine, surveys the rapprochement between religion and science, not for its own sake but to illuminate questions of environmental responsibility: How should we understand humanity's place in the world and our role in valuing and protecting the natural order? In assembling his sources, Toolan draws from an ""arcadian tradition"" of scientists, theologians and environmental writers for whom science ""can only enhance and deepen our understanding and appreciation of the environment."" The book's most original material is Toolan's retelling of how religion and science have shaped Western attitudes toward the environment; he gives a more sophisticated account of biblical and classical Christian theologies of nature than is usually reflected in environmentalist rhetoric. Other sections of the book have a recycled flavor, especially those describing ""the state of the earth"" and the cultural implications of ""the new physics,"" in which everything post-Einsteinian or postmodern is assumed to be on the side of ecovirtue. Toolan speaks as if science itself could serve as a moral compass: ""Will we choose to honor the laws of physics or not? That's the moral question of the twenty-first century."" Although the book has some appeal as an introductory text in environmental ethics from a religious perspective, introductory students may not be well served by Toolan's quirkily teleological interpretation of Darwinism or sufficiently challenged by his polarized treatment of ecological issues. (Feb.)
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