The Selfless Gene: Living with God and Darwin

Overview

In recent years the proponents of two rival ideologies have battled for center stage. According to Neo-Darwinists, natural selection can explain everything we see in the natural world; according to Young Earth Creationists, the first two chapters of the book of Genesis are a literal account of how all life was created. The war has been disastrous for Christian credibility in the secular world and tremendously good for the bank balances of the virulent secular apologists (who are very grateful to the Creationists ...

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Overview

In recent years the proponents of two rival ideologies have battled for center stage. According to Neo-Darwinists, natural selection can explain everything we see in the natural world; according to Young Earth Creationists, the first two chapters of the book of Genesis are a literal account of how all life was created. The war has been disastrous for Christian credibility in the secular world and tremendously good for the bank balances of the virulent secular apologists (who are very grateful to the Creationists for the dollar value of all the publicity).

Is peace possible? Many Christian evolutionists say it is, adopting Augustine's maxim, "Nature is what God does." They say that Darwinian natural selection is the engine used by God to generate the dazzling biological complexity that we see. But there's a problem. If nature is what God does, God has chosen to use competition, pain, waste, and death. Would the God whose character is seen in Jesus behave like that? The problem is at least as great if you're a Creationist: God has then designed organisms specifically to kill, maim, and triumph by strength over weaker ones.

The consensus of modern biology is that natural selection is capable of explaining the form of the natural world. If that consensus is right, do we have to abandon belief in a compassionate creator God? Might other creative forces have been operating in tandem with natural selection? Do those other forces offer God a defense to the charges of brutality or nonexistence leveled against him?

Intelligent, provocative, and highly readable, The Selfless Gene offers the prospect of a reasoned dialogue between faith and scientific study, and a reconciliation ofwhat are popularly seen as two opposing worldviews.

Charles Foster is a writer and a tutor at the University of Oxford and an Associate Fellow of Green Templeton College, Oxford. He was educated at the University of Cambridge and has written, edited, or contributed to over thirty books. His most recent books include The Jesus Inquest (Thomas Nelson 2010), Wired for God: The biology of Spiritual Experience (Hodder, 2010), The Sacred Journey (Thomas Nelson, 2010), and Tracking the Ark of the Covenant (Lion Hudson, 2007).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780849946547
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Pages: 283
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The Selfless Gene

LIVING WITH GOD AND DARWIN
By Charles Foster

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2009 Charles Foster
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8499-4654-7


Chapter One

The Tangled Bank

It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gonecycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. -Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, chapter 14

Imagine, as Darwin did, a tangled bank. To magnify its beauty, brutality, and complexity, imagine that it is in the tropics.

It is covered in writhing plants. They wrestle and barge each other. Their roots probe the earth, seeking to take water and nutrients from their neighbors. They do not steal, because nothing holds any title that can be violated. Each organism has what it possesses for the moment. Generally things are taken, not given. There are no rights.

The plants trap sunlight in sugar, and that makes them prey. They are crushed and ground between the teeth of herbivores, and their cells are smashed up by enzymes and bacteria in big fermenting tanks. The sunlight therefore flows for a while into the bodies of the herbivores. How long it stays there depends on many things. It depends on the acuity of the herbivore's eyes; on the efficiency with which sodium and potassium gates open and shut in the membranes of its nose nerves; on the integrity of the wiring linking its ears to its legs; on the strength of the tendons; on how fearful it is; on how fearful its parents were; on whether or not the night wind has caused a branch to fall in the path along which it bolts.

If it is caught, it may die quickly, or it may die very slowly. If it is a mammal, its nervous system will go on screaming in (so far as we know) very much the way that ours does until the thing (whatever it is) that made it a live rather than a dead mammal has fled or been extinguished. Probably, if it is a mammal being eaten by another mammal, the death will be relatively quick, because the continued life of a victim is an inconvenience for a predator. It makes the victim flounder around, which gets in the way of the feed. But on the way to the death there are dislocations, breaks, and rips. The eyes roll. Death does not seem to be welcomed.

Sometimes the death is prolonged. In the stream running by the side of the tangled bank, a fish has been caught by a lamprey. Two weeks ago the lamprey attached itself to the side of the fish, like a large leech. Its grinding jaws eroded the fish's body wall, and the head of the lamprey, and most of its body, is now inside the body cavity, still grinding away, but destroying nothing vital. To kill would be to change desirably fresh fish to carrion. Only the lamprey's tail now waves in the water. The waving tail attracts a larger predatory fish. Both the lamprey and its victim are swallowed whole. They will be marinated in digestive enzymes and dissolved into the body of the larger fish.

Back on the bank, a vole is eating seeds made partly from the body of a weasel which had thrived five years ago on the vole's great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. The bank is a graveyard, seething with life. Everything is a cannibal. The whole place is profoundly and vitally septic. Take away the bacteria that coat everything, and the bank would weigh a lot less and would soon be a desert.

The bank is a culture of intimate interdependence. The vole needs the owl that kills it no less than the owl needs the vole. One of the hawk moth species on the bank has acquired transparent wings to pretend to be a bumblebee and, unlike most moths, has changed its schedule to fly alongside the bees during the day. Some of the orchids have fashioned cups that fill with nectar to entice insects. When an insect lands, it depresses the landing stage. As the insect crawls towards the cup, the stage springs back up, trapping the insect. The only way out is past hanging baskets of pollen. The insect flies away full of sugar and dusty with sperm.

There is someone watching all this, and describing it. He is a man. What he makes of it all will depend on what he believes about himself. But whatever he makes of it, he thinks that it is interesting and terrible. And something in him dislikes the idea of being eaten by worms.

If he is a typical creationist, he believes that the species on the tangled bank are broadly as they were when they were created by God six to ten thousand years ago (depending on how you read the biblical chronologies). There has been some speciation since, but only in the direction of degeneration-as the genome sheds information like confetti. Man himself has no familial relationship with any of the creatures on the bank, and the different species on the bank are themselves related only by the fact that they spill, rather than share, one another's blood. The horrors of the bank are the fault of primordial man, whose arrogant usurping of the divine prerogative corrupted, by an obscure spiritual mechanism, the whole of creation. All species were originally vegetarian, and lived in happy coexistence-a proposition that of course assumes that plants are happy being eaten. Before Eve plucked the forbidden fruit, there was no death, no pain, and no predation. The water creatures, the birds, and humans (but not, apparently, the plants or the land animals) were commanded to multiply. The strategy for ensuring that there was not catastrophic overpopulation is not clear.

Depending on whether the creationist believes Genesis 1 or Genesis 2, he should believe either that man was spoken into existence after the animals, and set over them as ruler; or that man was formed from the dust of the earth, before the creation of the animals, the plants, or even the first rainfall, and that the animals were thought of originally as company for him. Probably, though, in a way mysterious to most of us, he will believe both.

If the observer is a mainstream evolutionist, he is in many ways more mystical than the creationist. He believes, like Genesis 2, that he was fashioned from dust, but believes that it was stardust. He describes, and if he is that way inclined, senses, an intimate familial communion with all the animals and plants on the bank. His wondering fascination with the biochemistry of the bacteria means that he sees no slight in being called their cousin. His sense of the immense age of the world gives him an exhilarating chronological vertigo when he looks at the bank. He thinks that the universe was formed about 15 billion years ago, and the earth about 4.5 billion years ago. If he thinks that there is a God, his God must be very big and very old.

He thinks that conditions on the earth were for a long time incompatible with life, but probably thinks that life sprang into existence about as soon as it could-about 3.8 billion years ago. Life is not only tenacious and fecund once it exists, but also seems to loathe nonexistence.

If the evolutionist is honest, he has no idea how life began, and points out that evolution itself does not pretend to have anything to say on the subject. He acknowledges that the promise shown by the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment that we all learned about at school (in which amino acids were formed by discharging lightning-simulating voltages through an atmosphere of water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen) has evaporated: most think that the experiment made unsustainable assumptions about the chemistry of the early earth. He thinks that early forms of life were unicellular. The genesis of the cell is again, if he is candid, a complete mystery, although there are some elegant hypotheses. He notes that the general direction of evolution has been toward increased size and increased complexity. Cells initially got together in loose conglomerations. The conglomerations then became organized, centrally directed, and so transmuted into multicellular organisms.

Several forces drove this magnificent white-knuckle ride toward complexity. The evolutionist will not agree with all his fellows about the relative contribution of the various forces, but there will be a fair degree of agreement. He will subscribe, along with almost all of the scientific world, to the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

In The Origin of Species, published in 1859, Darwin set out the idea of evolution (which everyone acknowledged had happened) by natural selection (which was the real novelty). The idea was outrageously simple. Thomas Huxley, when he heard of it, is said to have slapped his forehead and said, "How stupid of me not to have thought of that." Darwin, through his round-the-world trip on the Beagle, his readings of Malthus, his afternoon perambulations around the Sandwalk at Downe House, and his obsessive observations of worms, finches, rocks, beetles, men, and everything else, had been compelled to the conclusion that since

many more individuals of each species are born than can possibly survive, and as consequently there is a frequently recurring struggle for existence, it follows that any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of survival and thus be naturally selected. From the strong principle of inheritance, any selected variety will tend to propagate its new and modified form.

Darwin had no idea about the mechanism of "the strong principle of inheritance." It was supplied just seven years after the publication of The Origin of Species by the Austrian Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel and his pea plants. The peas indicated that the units of inheritance were physically discrete. They would later be called "genes" and identified as the sequences of nucleotides on the DNA molecule that determine the amino acid sequences of, and therefore the characteristics of, proteins. Biology starts from the presumption that I am the sum of my proteins, and then gets interesting.

Mendel's 1866 paper was forgotten during his own lifetime, but was rediscovered and dusted down at the start of the twentieth century. Darwinism, languishing for want of an explanation of heredity, acquired new energy and confidence. The fusion of Darwin's original thesis with the new science of genetics is what is described as the "neo-Darwinian synthesis." The synthesis reformulated Darwin's thesis by defining selective advantage. A characteristic coded for by gene X was advantageous in evolutionary terms if it increased the incidence of gene X in subsequent generations.

The ratios in Mendel's pea paper allowed some exciting and intimidating mathematics to perfuse evolutionary biology. If you knew the mechanism of inheritance, you could determine the expected incidence of inherited traits. If you then compared this expected incidence with the observed incidence in populations, you were looking at more or less dim reflections of the forces of change themselves. You could begin to make mathematically informed guesses about the power, and possibly the nature, of the forces.

All evolutionists agree that classic natural selection is one of the forces. Genetic change occurs in various ways: mutations (most of which are harmful, but some of which will be beneficial); genetic recombination through the normal process of sexual reproduction; gene duplication (particularly in plants and bacteria); regulator genes, which switch on and off and otherwise determine the function of other genes; the introduction of new genes from other populations, and so on. There is bitter and highly technical disagreement about which of these mechanisms of change is predominant. The disagreements are irrelevant for the purposes of our look at the bank. Everyone agrees that genetic change occurs, and that at least some changes are detected by natural selection, which then gets to work, altering the gene frequency in subsequent generations. The really interesting disputes relate to the sensitivity of natural selection in picking up the change, and its efficacy in turning its detection into a final verdict on the relevant gene. We have noted that Darwin wrote, "Any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself ... will have a better chance of survival and thus be naturally selected." Much of modern evolutionary biology is concerned with how slight a variation can be before it attracts the approving or disapproving attention of natural selection, with the role of contingency, and with the ability of natural selection to fashion new species rather than merely altering existing ones.

It has to be said that natural selection, whether or not it is the sole or principal engine of evolutionary change, is surprisingly sensitive and powerful. A tiny change (for instance in the number of stripes on a snail shell) can result in a dramatic change in the chance of the snail being smashed and eaten by a thrush.

If natural selection is not the only thing producing change, what else might be? Various candidates have been put forward by orthodox science, but when their credentials are examined carefully, they all turn out to be chance, dressed up in various more or less exotic ways. This book will suggest another possibility. But there is nothing necessarily disreputable about chance. Our own anecdotal experience might lead us to prefer its candidacy. Genuine accidents, unavoidable by the most refined nervous system or most beautifully toned muscle, do happen. If you are at the pinnacle of the natural selective tree, your rigorously selected genes will not help you much if you are also at the pinnacle of an erupting volcano which smothers you in boiling lava. If the volcano has not erupted for a few million years, it can hardly be said that you were stupid to live there, and that the lava has sought out and dealt sternly with the genes making you stupid. Natural selection is very good at picking up the pieces; it is often pretty dismal at stopping the destruction in the first place.

The mammals were tiny, unimpressive creatures in the age of the dinosaurs. The extinction of the dinosaurs gave mammals their chance, and natural selection vigorously promoted the mammals. But natural selection did not direct the asteroid that may well have ushered the dinosaurs into the museums. If the asteroid had not landed, would mammals ever have had the chance to rule the earth?

If our bank-gazing evolutionist has been brought up conventionally in biology (and particularly if he has been brought up in the United Kingdom), he will tend to look at all the attributes of the bank-dwellers through an adaptationist lens. He will assume that everything about the hawk moth is precisely the way it is because natural selection has decreed it that way. He will credit natural selection with a superb eye for detail and the sculpting hand of a Michelangelo. He will credit little to chance, and nothing to God. God is a hypothesis of which he has no need, and indeed he will happily quote Laplace's dictum when given any opportunity. Chance produces the entirely random mutations which give natural selection something to get to work on, but natural selection is so assiduous at sifting the phenotypic nuances thrown up by mutation that it refuses to delegate to chance any of the sifting.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster Copyright © 2009 by Charles Foster. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Chapter 1 The Tangled Bank 1

Chapter 2 A Tale of Two Cities and Two Bigotries 15

Chapter 3 Who's Right? Evidence and the Lack of It 31

Chapter 4 Caring and Sharing: The Evolution of Altruism and community 97

Chapter 5 The Biology of Awe: The Evolution of Religion 117

Chapter 6 The Tangled Book: The creation Accounts in Genesis 124

Chapter 7 The Ethical problem: " …And It was Very Good" 148

Chapter 8 Vegetarian Lions and Fallen Angles: Solutions to the Ethical Problem 166

Chapter 9 The Ape in the Image: Human Evolution and the Book of Genesis 201

Chapter 10 Living with God and Darwin 233

Notes 239

Select Bibliography 269

Index 275

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2011

    Could be a good read, for the right reader

    To be quite honest I got this book to review and then got so utterly lost in what the author was trying to say that I didn't read the whole thing. I put it down intending to pick it back up later when I thought I would have more time to digest it. And then we moved, and it got lost in the jumble. And then I found it, but, then our basement flooded and the book was utterly drowned, and rendered unreadable. Ultimately, though I didn't understand a word of what I did manage to get through. Despite the fact that I found the idea of the book really intriguing, I just couldn't force myself to get past the first few chapters, it was like reading a mash up of biology meets philosophy meets theology and my brain just doesn't absorb and retain all three of those at once. At one point during the middle of the first chapter I actually stopped reading to ask, "what?" It was a really rather painful experience for me, since I LOVE to read and I HATE not finishing a book once I've started it. I'm fairly certain that for the right person this would be a great read, that person is not me

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 4, 2010

    The Selfless Gene Living with God and Darwin

    The Selfless Gene LIVING WITH GOD AND DARWIN, by Charles Foster, is a very thought provoking book. The blurb on the back of the cover says "Intelligent, provocative, and highly readable..... a reconciliation of what are popularly seen as two opposing worldviews." I must agree with this, although the "highly readable" part I might beg to differ. I have always, since childhood, had a tug of war in my head and heart concerning how to reconcile what I was learning in Sunday School with what I was learning in science classes 5 days of the week. For those of us, like me, who have a deep interest in the natural world around us, and an innate curiosity with a leaning toward scientific process and inquisitiveness, The Selfless Gene provides a wealth of information that may help us integrate two different views, and perhaps somewhat resolve the inner conflict.
    The technical writing aspect of the book is very readable; "plain English", so to speak. The wealth of information offered though, and the intense amount of research (with almost 40 pages of notes and bibliography) put into the author's discussions throughout the book made it a gargantuan project for me. I frequently put it down after reading only 4 or 5 pages to ponder and mentally chew on what Mr. Foster was offering up. This made for rather slow going in getting through the book. It is a book that I feel I will refer back to and re-read to see what parts I have "missed". I appreciated the fairly neutral position of the author. I have shied away over the years from some treatments of the subject of Darwin versus Creation due to the sometimes hysterical nature of each side. It was refreshing to read a calm, academic discussion. It provides the possibility of accepting aspects of both beliefs into a personal ideology that I can live with. The book will not be satisfying to those who are extremely diametrically opposed, but for those of us who see a world that includes both natural evolution/selection (a "wholly self-centered process") and God, it provides some promise of peace.

    In his closing paragraphs Mr. Foster asks the reader to consider that "consistently, another force has been at work molding the shape of the biological world--the force of community, of altruism, of selflessness. Sometimes this force might have been the tool of natural selection--there is no problem at all with that. Sometimes it might have been a self-energizing force." It is a book that I will read again, and recommend to anyone needing answers to the ongoing debate.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 4, 2010

    The Selfless Gene Living with God and Darwin

    The Selfless Gene LIVING WITH GOD AND DARWIN, by Charles Foster. The blurb on the back of the cover says "Intelligent, provocative, and highly readable..... a reconciliation of what are popularly seen as two opposing worldviews." I must agree with this, although the "highly readable" part I might beg to differ. I have always, since childhood, had a tug of war in my head and heart concerning how to reconcile what I was learning in Sunday School with what I was learning in science classes the other 5 days of the week. For those of us, like me, who have a deep interest in the natural world around us, and an innate curiosity with a leaning toward scientific process and inquisitiveness, The Selfless Gene provides a wealth of information that may help us integrate two different views, and perhaps somewhat resolve the inner conflict.

    The technical writing aspect of the book is very readable; "plain English", so to speak. The wealth of information offered though, and the intense amount of research (with almost 40 pages of notes and bibliography) put into the author's discussions throughout the book made it a gargantuan project for me. I frequently put it down after reading only 4 or 5 pages to ponder and mentally chew on what Mr. Foster was offering up. This made for rather slow going in getting through the book. It is a book that I feel I will refer back to and re-read to see what parts I have "missed". I appreciated the fairly neutral position of the author. I have shied away over the years from some treatments of the subject of Darwin versus Creation due to the sometimes hysterical nature of each side. It was refreshing to read a calm, academic discussion. It provides the possibility of accepting aspects of both beliefs into a personal ideology that I can live with. The book will not be satisfying to those who are extremely diametrically opposed, but for those of us who see a world that includes both natural evolution/selection (a "wholly self-centered process") and God, it provides some promise of peace.

    In his closing paragraphs Mr. Foster asks the reader to consider that "consistently, another force has been at work molding the shape of the biological world--the force of community, of altruism, of selflessness. Sometimes this force might have been the tool of natural selection--there is no problem at all with that. Sometimes it might have been a self-energizing force." It is a book that I will read again, and recommend to anyone needing answers to the ongoing debate.

    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have put forth are my own.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review of The Selfless Gene

    The Selfless Gene Living with God and Darwin by Charles Foster is a very thought provoking book for God and Science. I am glad that he has tackled a subject like this because sometimes deep topics need to be broken down into smaller ones to understand them. He does a great job in balancing both sides in this book. I have always believed that the bible proves science and science proves the bible. Most of the time I feel that our brains cannot handle or figure just how it all was works.
    This is a great book to read. Do not go into this book expecting a fight with it if you do you will miss out on some great points. Books like these will stretch us in our beliefs and help us to understand God more.
    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 30, 2010

    Great Read.

    Why are there two apparently conflicting accounts of creation in the book of Genesis?
    Do evolutionists really believe that man came from ooze?
    Did the fall of man or natural selection cause all the suffering we see in the natural world?
    Where do dinosaurs and cavemen fit into the story?
    Is there a middle ground between the neo-Darwinists and the young earth creationists?

    I don't know about you, but these are things that cross my mind. Charles Foster's book, The Selfless Gene, seeks to answer these questions and explores the idea that evolutionary theory and Christianity are not mutually exclusive worldviews. Foster respectively analyzes this often dicey subject through the lens of both science and religion and convincingly asserts that the two can in fact be reconciled.
    I have to tell you that I really enjoyed this book although, I was a little weary at the onsite. In a review of the book, respected scientist, Simon Conway Morris, stated "If you are a creationist it is most unlikely you'll be one by the time you finish reading this thought-provoking book. But anyone who is, like myself, a Darwinian is equally at risk." I, like perhaps some of you, tend to get a little uncomfortable when someone starts challenging things I believe in. But, I would encourage anyone to read Foster's thorough review of the subject.
    Admittedly, the first few chapters are heavy on the science side. The reading got a little tedious at times, even for a molecular biologist that is at least somewhat familiar with evolutionary theory. However, this comprehensive analysis is completely necessary for the comparisons and contrasts presented in the rest of the book. I liken it to having to eat your brussels sprouts before getting to enjoy the dessert of the last half of the book. And let me tell you, that last half was well worth the wait. There, Foster took an in-depth analysis of the creation stories presented in Genesis. I've read those accounts many times before, but his take on them was like a breath of fresh air. Additionally, I enjoyed how Foster peppered the entire book with other aspects of Christianity (like Hebrew culture, prophesy, and environmentalism) that I wasn't expecting to encounter. All in all, I found this book very well written and somewhat reassuring to this Christ-following scientist.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    Great book!

    I really, fiercely hate the title of this book. While it is about religion and evolution, the book has nothing to do with the idea that there is a gene in our DNA that causes selflessness, which is what the title implies. However, The Selfless Gene is a good book despite its poorly-chosen title, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in science, religion, or both.

    The Selfless Gene discusses the relationship between evolution and religion, and whether either is actually true. It's divided into ten chapters and examines religious and scientific points of view both separately and in relation to one another. One of the great things about The Selfless Gene (at least as far as I'm concerned) is that Charles Foster is neither a scientist nor a theologian, a fact he clearly acknowledges early in the book. This enables him to write clearly and in a manner that everyone, not just those most well-versed in scientific or religious study, can appreciate and understand.

    On the front cover, a Cambridge professor is quoted as saying that The Selfless Gene is "difficult to put down." While I enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction, I didn't really expect to get hooked on this book to the same extent that I would get hooked on a novel. Surprisingly, however, I could hardly put the book down. I've been carrying it in my purse and reading it whenever I have at least five free minutes, and while I've done this more often than not with fiction, I very rarely have the same experience with nonfiction--I typically enjoy such books at a slower pace. I could really not be more glad that I requested The Selfless Gene.*


    *I got this book through BookSneeze, a program where publishers give books away in exchange for reviews. When I signed up for BookSneeze, The Selfless Gene was the most appealing book being offered, so I requested it. In hindsight, a very good choice.

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  • Posted April 7, 2010

    The Selfless Gene - A Review

    The premise of this book was to show how one can believe in God and believe in Darwin, however it fails miserably. The author confesses in his preface that he not a theologian and his sloppy handling of the Scriptures is proof of that. A few paragraphs later in his introduction he states that he is bothered by Genesis. Why write a book attempting to reconcile a belief in Scriptures and a belief in Darwin when you obviously have no commitment whatsoever to the veracity of the Scriptures?

    I found the book painful to read, not because the subject matter was difficult to understand, but because the author's message was so logically inconsistent with it's premise.

    I do not recommend this book to anyone as it is a complete waste of time.

    Disclaimer: I received this book as a part of Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program.

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster: Book Review

    In the book the conflict in the viewpoints of Darwinism, Neo-Darwinism, and creationism is talked about.

    To most of us, the questions like "Who created us?" or "How are we and all the diversity around got created?" or "if we evolved from Apes then why are apes still around?" or "Does God exist?" are pretty profound. And most of us find ourselves largely naive and uninformed when we try to come to a solution to any of these questions.

    The author too, thinks that the questions are quite profound and hence they need a patient debate rather than any of the parties (that I shared in the beginning) claiming their view to be the only reason for all the questions regarding our existence and our creation and the diversity. The book argues, how a rigid and unrelenting attitude towards one's viewpoint is making the search for a solution impossible (if not solution then our ever quest for knowledge). With some discreet reasoning the author tells how no viewpoint or belief can be treated flawless. Take for instance this one, "If one believes that Darwinism is the only reason for human presence and for all the diversity around;then he/she will also believe that every time there is a fight for survival, weak will perish and the strong will survive. But if one becomes too unrelenting in his/her belief on Darwinism, then he/she can't be able to accommodate God in the scheme of things(Creationists believe God created us and the diversity); as God for believers is considered to be benevolent to all, irrespective of them being strong or weak." Take another example, "if proponents of Neo-Darwinism, feel that Darwinism coupled with genetics is the only reason, then consider a situation where a very healthy and fit man, by chance happens to be staying in a house, which is atop a volcano, which though has not erupted in years, is going to erupt at night when the man is sleeping unawares. "

    The author has put numerous such arguments, which on careful thinking appear quite compelling. The book in itself is a nice collection of such arguments, many compelling, many not so; where an inquisitive reader always finds something or the other to oppose or support.

    What I liked about the book:

    All through the book, I noticed that the author wants various groups (that I shared with you in snippets) not become too unrelenting in their point of views and instead try to pay heed to other group's or individual's arguments. In addition, all through the book, the author tries to underline that simplifying things too much to the extent that one starts to see all diversity and happenings from the same viewpoint stagnates one's progress in learning and understanding new things.

    This is what I liked most about the book.

    What I didn't like about the book:

    If the reader has not read some of the theories (that are from school biology books), that the author has used in the book, then the reader will have to get a basic idea about them before moving ahead. Otherwise there are chances that the reader may lose the thought string.

    Do I recommend the book: Yes I do.

    The book is for those readers who are inquisitive, want to see things from different perspectives, and are open to any thought which passes their scrutiny. This book is also for people who post think a book they read.

    Thanks to Thomas Nelson publishing for providing a review copy through their BookSneeze program.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    Frustrating Read

    The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster raises the question "Is peace possible?" between Darwinists/Neo-Darwinists and Creationists. A mix of science and religion, this book raises many more questions.
    As a follower of Christ, I cannot stand this book. Before I opened to the first page, I knew I was coming into it very biased. It was a book I couldn't put down, not because I was dazzled by it, but because I couldn't believe how heretical and blasphemous it really was. Mr. Foster denies the sovereignty of God and His providence, not directly from what I remember, but indirectly and many times. It attacks the authority of scripture and is really presumptuous. Phrases such as "[t]he Bible has to condescend to be useful" and "the whole point of the Bible is accessibility" (pgs. 130-131) offend me and my Creator. Another one that ruffled me up was " [God] gets the results he wanted but not intended" (pg. 139). The author seems to present a lot of arguments for both sides but really doesn't firmly stand anywhere. Seems a lot like a argumentative book just for the sake of having an argument.
    I do NOT recommend this book to anyone and am praying that a new believer, without firm foundation, doesn't get his/her hands on this book.
    A scripture that comes to my mind a lot when I encounter things of this nature is 2 Timothy 6:3-5 (ESV):
    "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound works of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, his is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain."

    I'm praying for Mr. Foster and that the gospel raptures his heart.
    The Selfless Gene -> 1/5 stars
    *Book Review Blogger for BookSneeze.com

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster

    The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster was not my favorite book of the ones that I've read this year. It does have an intriguing balance between creationism, God, and evolution. If you are someone who enjoys science and the study of how the world began, I do recommend that you read this book, as it is well-written and seems to be sound in content. That said, I found myself struggling to pick it up...it did not grab my attention or keep me coming back for more. It was a little dry...a little like a textbook. So, if you are looking for something to use as a resource for a personal study on the beginning of the world, this could be a book well worth picking up. But if you are not someone who enjoys science and theories, you'll probably want to skip this one.
    NOTE: I received these books free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  • Posted January 22, 2010

    The Selfless Gene Review

    The Book The Selfless Gene by Charles Foster shouldn't need to be written in a world as modern as ours. Foster took on quite a bit in this book on evolution, creationism, and how they might interact on the world stage. This is no small task as many books written by Strobel and others make it seem like an "either/or" picture.

    Foster does a great job of showing that things are not so black and white in the realm of creationism and evolution. In the preface, Foster speaks of the numerous and well funded campaigns that fundamentalist Christians have undertaken to try and disprove evolution and the relative success of Richard Dawkins as the crusader against these these war cries. The book does an excellent job of showing that these ploys are, more or less, designed to make money on expensive books, videos, and other merchandise.

    I would highly recommend this book as an beginners guide when studying evolution and creationism. If you have already studied a bit of theology or know a bit about evolution, this book is basically rehashing of the basic points of theology and science. It is intended for the general public who may not already have this basic knowledge.

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  • Posted January 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review: The Selfless Gene

    Charles Darwins' The Origin of Species has been mentioned by me in a previous review. I've been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I've never been faced with having any doubt in God or the Gospel of Jesus. Yet I've never felt that God and Darwin were in conflict with each other. As I grew up I started to discover that there are muliple camps of beliefs and somewhere along the line I realized that there was a God vs. Darwin line that in the minds of many can't be crossed.
    I applaud Charles Foster for his dedication and research regarding this issue. The two most influential books I've ever read are The Origin of Species and the Bible. This book bridges the gap, allows readers to open their minds to the wonders of the creation and purpose of our amazing world. Although the author takes a lot of liberties, I realize they must be taken to explore this subject. For example, he asserts that if Adam and Eve had not eaten the fruit of the tree of life, that Adam and Eve would have died just like any other human. He also goes on to give a very plausible, sensible reason for the increase in the pain of childbirth.
    This book is full of fascinating logic, and might be especially helpful for those questioning their faith, or agnostics searching for a plausible explanation of our world.
    That's why I like this book. I certainly don't take it as the gospel, but it's thought provoking and might just help open the communication corridors between Darwinists and Christians.

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