Alister E. McGrath is one of the world s leading theologians, with a doctorate in the sciences. Richard Dawkins is one of the bestselling popular science writers, with outspoken and controversial views on religion. This fascinating and provoking work is the first book–length response to Dawkins ideas, and offers an ideal introduction to the topical issues of science and religion. Addresses fundamental questions about Dawkins approach to science and religion: Is the gene actually selfish? Is the blind watchmaker a suitable analogy? Are there other ways of looking at things? Tackles Dawkins hostile and controversial views on religion, and examines the religious implications of his scientific ideas, making for a fascinating and provoking debate Written in a very engaging and accessible style, ideal to those approaching scientific and religious issues for the first time Alister McGrath is uniquely qualified to write this book. He is one of the world s best known and most respected theologians, with a strong research background in molecular biophysics A superb book by one of the world s leading theologians, which will attract wide interest in the growing popular science market, similar to Susan Blackmore s The Meme Machine (1999).
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" In Dawkins′ God , McGrath has written a brilliant book, and it is difficult to think that the exposition of Dawkins′ writings and their religious implications, will ever be better stated, explored and criticised... at once dispassionate, robust and readable." Richard Harries, Times Higher Education Supplement "Alister McGrath′s book Dawkins′ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life does a fair and sophisticated job of summarising my position ." Richard Dawkins, Times Higher Education Supplement "Wielding evolutionary arguments and carefully chosen metaphors like sharp swords, Richard Dawkins has emerged over three decades as this generation′s most aggressive promoter of atheism. In his view, science, and science alone, provides the only rock worth standing on. In this remarkable book, Alister McGrath challenges Dawkins on the very ground he holds most sacred – rational argument – and McGrath disarms the master. It becomes readily apparent that Dawkins has aimed his attack at a naive version of faith that most serious believers would not recognize. After reading this carefully constructed and eloquently written book, Dawkins′ choice of atheism emerges as the most irrational of the available choices about God′s existence." Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project In this tour–de–force Alister McGrath approaches the edifice of self–confident, breezy atheism so effectively promoted by Richard Dawkins, and by deft dissection and argument reveals the shallowness, special–pleading and inconsistencies of his world–picture. Here is a book which helps to rejoin the magnificence of science to the magnificence of God s good Creation. Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology, Cambridge University This is a wonderful book. One of the world s leading Christian contributors to the science/religion dialogue takes on Richard Dawkins, Darwinism s arch–atheist, and wrestles him to the ground! This is scholarship as it should be informed, feisty, and terrific fun. I cannot wait to see Dawkins s review of Alister McGrath s critique. Michael Ruse, Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University A timely and accessible contribution to the debate over Richard Dawkins s cosmology which exposes philosophical naivety, the abuse of metaphor, and sheer bluster, left, right and centre. Here Alister McGrath announces what every Darwinian Fundamentalist needs to hear: that science is and always has been a cultural practice that is provisional, fallible, and socially shaped an enterprise to be cultivated and fostered, but hardly worshipped or idolised. A devastating critique. David N. Livingstone, Professor of Geography and Intellectual History, Queen s University, Belfast Alister McGrath critically examines the places where Richard Dawkins well–established biological science changes into the speculations which undergird Dawkins own anti–religious faith. In his appreciative examination and ruthless analysis of Dawkins writings and the polemics associated with them, McGrath has done a marvellous apologetic job, as well as providing a particular service for those daunted by scientific authoritarianism. We are all in his debt for rigorously identifying and exposing the weaknesses of some of the commonly used arguments against the Christian faith. R. J. Berry, formerly Professor of Genetics, University College, London and President of the Linnean Society Alister McGrath subjects the atheistic world–view of Richard Dawkins to critical analysis and finds it severely lacking in intellectual rigour. As a former atheist himself, and a biochemist turned theologian and philosopher, the author is well placed to appreciate Dawkins well–deserved reputation as a populariser of evolutionary theory, but equally well qualified to assess his stratagem of using a biological theory for ideological purposes. This book is essential reading for those interested in the traffic of ideas between science, philosophy and religion. Dr Denis Alexander, Chairman, Molecular Immunology Programme, The Babraham Institute and Fellow of St. Edmund s College, CambridgeFrom the Author:
Extract from the opening chapter of Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life.
So why write such a book? Three reasons may be given. First, Dawkins is a fascinating writer, both in terms of the quality of ideas he develops, and the verbal dexterity with which he defends them. Anyone who is remotely interested in ideas will find Dawkins and important sparring partner. Augustine of Hippo once wrote of the "eros of the mind," referring to a deep longing within the human mind to make sense of things – a passion for understanding and knowledge. Anyone sharing that passion will want to enter into the debate that Dawkins has begun.
And that thought underlies my second reason for writing this book. Yes, Dawkins seems to many to be immensely provocative and aggressive, dismissing alternative positions with indecent haste, or treating criticism of his personal views as an attack on the entire scientific enterprise. Yet this kind of overheated rhetoric is found in any popular debate, whether religious, philosophical, or scientific. Indeed, it is what makes popular debates interesting, and raises them above the tedious drone of normal scholarly discussion, which seems invariably to be accompanied by endless footnotes, citing of weighty but dull authorities, and cautious understatement heavily laced with qualifications. How much more exciting to have a pugnacious, no holds barred debate, without having to have the stifling conventions of rigorous evidence-based scholarship! Dawkins clearly wants to provoke such a debate and discussion, and it would be churlish not to accept such an invitation.
I have a third reason, however. I write as a Christian theologian who believes it is essential to listen seriously and carefully to criticism of my discipline, and respond appropriately to it. One of my reasons for taking Dawkins so seriously is that I want to ask what may be learned from him. As any serious historian of Christian thought knows, Christianity is committed to a constant review if its ideas in the light of their moorings in scripture and tradition, always asking whether any contemporary interpretation of a doctrine is adequate or acceptable. As we shall see, Dawkins offers a powerful, and in my view, credible, challenge to one way of thinking about the doctrine of creation, which gained influence in England during the eighteenth century, and lingers on in some quarters today. He is a critic who needs to be heard, and taken seriously.
But enough of such preliminaries. Let’s get on with it, and start delving into the Darwinian worldview which Dawkins has done so much to explore and commend.
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