Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology / Edition 1

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Darwinism and the Divine examines the implications of evolutionary thought for natural theology, from the time of publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species to current debates on creationism and intelligent design.

  • Questions whether Darwin's theory of natural selection really shook our fundamental beliefs, or whether they served to transform and illuminate our views on the origins and meaning of life
  • Identifies the forms of natural theology that emerged in 19th-century England and how they were affected by Darwinism
  • The most detailed study yet of the intellectual background to William Paley's famous and influential approach to natural theology, set out in 1802
  • Brings together material from a variety of disciplines, including the history of ideas, historical and systematic theology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, sociology, and the cognitive science of religion
  • Considers how Christian belief has adapted to Darwinism, and asks whether there is a place for design both in the world of science and the world of theology
  • A thought-provoking exploration of 21st-century views on evolutionary thought and natural theology, written by the world-renowned theologian and bestselling author
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“McGrath is a masterful teacher and this volume is as brimming with knowledge and insight as his many others.”  (Modern Believing, 1 January 2014)

“The writing in Darwinism and the Divine is clear, elegant, and well informed throughout, is distinguished by a balanced and nonpolemical style, and is a pleasure to read. Every chapter in this rich volume includes extensive endnotes guiding the reader to further study." (Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 16 January 2014)

“These criticisms notwithstanding, McGrath’s Darwinism and the Divineis a well-written, lucid work that will occupy a prominent place as an apologetic for Christian theism in its dialogue with the larger scientific community.”  (International Journal of Public Theology, 1 May 2013)

“Furthermore, this work is a rare pleasure to read for its clarity and remarkable level of scholarship across multiple disciplines.  Consequently, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone interested in how the debates over Darwinism relate to the ongoing and evolving goals and methods of natural theology.”  (The Way, 1 October 2012)

“These features, together with the author’s accessible writing style, mean that this book can not only be read cover-to-cover in a straightforward and engaging way, but can also be used as a text book to enable more detailed study of the various aspects of this important and relevant subject.”  (Evangelical Quarterly, 4 October 2012) 

“Whether these arguments are effective is a matter for more philosophic minds, but if this book brings new ideas into a science–religion conversation that often consists of repetition of the same essential themes, then all scholars of science–religion are beneficiaries.”  (Journal of the History of Biology, 2011)

"But I think that the chief merit of both of these books lies in their parallel analyses of natural theology, specifically the significance of scientific knowledge for resolving theological issues." (The Quarterly Review of Biology, 1 December 2011)

"McGrath (King's College London) offers an excellent examination of Darwin's theory of evolution vs. Creationism/intelligent design within the context of natural theology. . . The writing is clear and readable with a wealth of documentation. Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; interested general readers." (Choice, 1 October 2011)

"While readers familiar with the subject will find few new ideas in these sections, the material is presented in McGrath's usual readable style and so will be helpful in providing an introduction to the reader new to the subject and in providing a helpfully focused summary for the person who has already begun to explore these ideas. " (Methodist Recorder, 22 September 2011)

"But if one had to choose between them, I would recommend the book under review. It presents a synthesis of much of his thinking, supported by richly informative documentation that, in range and volume, is little short of astonishing." (Science & Education, 2011)

"The prolific theologian argues that Darwin's own faith and worldview allowed for complexities and intricacies in the intersection of faith and science." (Publishers Weekly, 8 March 2011)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781444333435
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alister E. McGrath is Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion & Culture, and Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College, London. A world-acclaimed theologian, he is the author of numerous books including Christian Theology, 5th edition (2011), The Christian Theology Reader, 4th edition (2011), Science and Religion, 2nd edition (2010), Theology: The Basics, 2nd edition (2007), and Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life (2004).
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Table of Contents




Part One: Conceptual Clarifications.

On the meaning of terms.

1. Natural Theology: A Deeper Structure to the World.

Natural theology in the classic tradition.

The conceptual fluidity of natural theology.

The eternal return of natural theology.

2. Darwinism: A Narrative of Evolution.

Darwinism: A Defensible Term?

Darwinism as an Ideology.

The metaphysical inflation of evolutionary thought.

Conclusion to Part One.

Part Two: Historical Exposition.

Darwin and the English natural theology tradition.

3. English Natural Theology of the Augustan Age, 1690-1745.

The Emergence of English Natural Theology.

Newtonian Physics and Natural Theology.

The Protestant Assumptions of English Natural Theology.

The “Disenchantment” of Nature.

The Cessation of Miracles in Nature.

The Providential Guidance of Nature.

A Foundation for Consensus: The Doctrine of Creation.

Physico-Theology: The Appeal to Contrivance.

Natural Theology and the Beauty of Nature.

The problem of development within nature.

Assessing evidence: changing public perceptions.

4. A Popular Classic: William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802).

Introducing Paley’s Natural Theology.

Paley’s Source: Bernard Nieuwentyt’s Religious Philosopher (1718).

The Watch Analogy: The Concept of Contrivance.

Paley on Intermediary Causes within Nature.

The Vulnerability of Paley’s Approach.

5. Beyond Paley: English Natural Theology, 1802-52.

The impact of geology upon Paley’s natural theology.

Henry Brougham: A Natural Theology of the Mind.

Evidence, Testimony, and Proof: A Shifting Context.

A New Approach: The Bridgewater Treatises.

John Henry Newman: The theological deficiencies of Paley.

Robert Browning’s “Caliban Upon Setebos”: A Literary Critique of Paley.

English Natural Theology on the Eve of the Darwinian Revolution.

6. Charles Darwin, Natural Selection, and Natural Theology.

The Development of Darwin’s Views on Natural Selection.

Problems, Prediction and Proof: The Challenge of Natural Selection.

Natural Selection and Natural Theology: An Assessment of Darwin’s impact.

Darwin’s relation to Paley.

Darwin on Religion.

Design and Purpose: The Question of Teleology.

The Benevolence of God: Providence and Animal Pain.

Conclusion to Part Two.

Part Three: Contemporary Discussion.

Darwinism and natural theology.

7. A Wider Teleology: Design, Evolution, and Natural Theology.

Directionality within the natural world.

Teleology: Introducing an Idea.

Chance, contingency, and evolutionary goals.

The “Wider Teleology” of Evolution.

The Inference of Design and Natural Theology.

Suffering, Evolution, and Natural Theology.

8. The concept of Creation: reflections and reconsiderations.

The Seventeenth Century: The regnant theology of creation.

Creation as Event and Process: Augustine of Hippo.

Evolution and an Emergent Creation.

God’s action within the evolutionary process.

9. Universal Darwinism: Natural Theology as an Evolutionary Outcome?

The Darwinian Paradigm and Cultural Development.

The God-Meme: Natural Theology and Cultural Replicators.

Religion: Evolutionary Adaptation or Spandrel?

Natural Theology and Evolutionary Theories of the Origins of Religion.

Conclusion to Part Three.

Part Four.


10. The Prospects for Natural Theology.

Natural theology and the human evolutionary past.

Natural Theology, Observational Traction, and the Best Explanation.

A community of discernment: The church and natural theology.

In Quest of Meaning.


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