Charles Darwin by Michael Ruse

I am currently reading Charles Darwin (Blackwell Great Minds), and so far I mainly like it.
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Ruse, as you may know, is a philosopher, something of a science historian, and a science writer who has criticized what he calls “strident” atheism for being too fundamentalist. So that is as annoying as hell. The volume at hand has a large chapter on this issue, and if you read it not knowing about this earlier debate, I think you would come away not being too annoyed, and might even enjoy it, if you consider yourself a .. ahem … ‘strident’ atheist. It is annoying, however, that Ruse places “atheism” not on it’s own line in the Index, but rather, as an item under Religion.

In any event, this is not what the book is about. It is about Charles Darwin and his impact in the broader (including religious) world. I find this book to have two traits that are very positive: One is that it is fairly accessible. Much written in philosophy and history of science comes from a tradition in those areas of speaking over the head … or trying to anyway …. of the “average intelligent” reader. Ruse does not do that. At the same time, this book seems reasonably rigorous and carefully done.

This is not a review, just a notice that I’ve got it in my hands and I’m looking at it. I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, by the way, in my Category List for this blog, I have Religion as a subcategory of Atheism. Just thought you’d find that funny.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt Penfold
    August 25, 2008

    In fairness to Ruse, authors seldom compile their own indices. Of course that does not absolve them from checking the work of the indexers.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2008

    Matt: Right, I thought about that. But would an indexer do this automatically? This seems like a situation where one would ask about it… But I’m not sure.

  3. #3 Matt Penfold
    August 25, 2008

    Matt: Right, I thought about that. But would an indexer do this automatically? This seems like a situation where one would ask about it… But I’m not sure.

    A lot of the “grunt” work of indexing is done using software these days. It could be something as mundane as the software used categorising atheism in with religion, and things like printing deadlines preventing adequate checking.

    I quite often take issue with Ruse over his views on atheism, but I do not think he actually regards atheism as a religion.

    I also normally subscribe to the cock-up theory of history, rather than conspiracy.

  4. #4 Sven DiMilo
    August 25, 2008

    This is not a review, just a notice that I’ve got it in my hands and I’m looking at it.

    Please try to resist posting futher “Here’s what’s in my hand right now!” notices.
    Thanks!

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2008

    Sven,

    You are banned permanently from this site. Next time you try to read it, it won’t be there. And, I’ve infected your network at Hofstra with what I call the “Sven” virus. The IT people are coming to get you. And I killed your pet snake. Oh, and I called the narcs. I know you are holding. Better flush it NOW.

    You are doomed.

    Any one else want to tell me what to blog (or not blog)? Anyone?

    G

  6. #6 AnnieT
    August 25, 2008

    Sven, if you actually were to read this post, it is not a “I just got this book” post at all. GL raises some interesting questions and asks for input. You should read and comprehend the entire post before you talk trash like this. Your new snake will be counting on it.

  7. #7 Michael Ruse
    August 25, 2008

    As it happens, I did have the book professionally indexed, so I did not classify atheism as a religion. Of course, it is still my responsibility — if I think about it, I probably would not classify atheism as a religion, although I think that atheists (myself for instance) can be very religious people, in the sense of caring about the issues that religious people care about. But I don’t think it a matter of great moment. More controversially, I think that evolution functions as a religion for some people — Julian Huxley and Edward O Wilson for instance — the interesting question is whether it functions as a religion for someone like Dawkins — he says not; I am inclined to think it is a bit of a muddy area, but an interesting question worth asking if only to try to understand someone like him better.

  8. #8 Stephanie Z
    August 25, 2008

    Well, I was going to ask whether we’d ever get a guest post from Betsy talking about the research you’re writing up from her perspective, but I guess that’s not exactly telling you what to blog.

    I may not forgive you for the snake, though.

  9. #9 Paul Robinson
    August 25, 2008

    And there was me thinking that Sven was just making a dirty joke. Titus 1:15!

  10. #10 Sven DiMilo
    August 25, 2008

    As the evil brainwasher sez in Manchurian Candidate, always with a little humor!
    I’m happy to know what books Greg has received. I just don’t care to know what’s in his hand all the time. See? A (admittedly vanishingly small) bit of humor there.
    And the last pet snake I had died in about 1987. But if you could be so kind as to call off those narcs…