Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution

Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution

Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution

Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution

Synopsis

This book provides a distinctive, radical way beyond the quarrels between evolutionary science and Christian belief. Leading scientists, philosophers, and theologians critically discuss the metaphysical assumptions of neo-Darwinism and offer concrete ways of broadening mainstream evolutionary theory. Their open exchange, moderated by veteran process theologian John B. Cobb, presents a holistic case for evolution that both theists and nontheists can accept.

Contributors:

Francisco J. Ayala
Ian G. Barbour
Charles Birch
Philip Clayton
John B. Cobb Jr.
John Greene
David Ray Griffin
A. Y. Gunter
John F. Haught
Lynn Margulis
Reg Morrison
Dorion Sagan
Jeffrey Schloss
Robert J. Valenza
Howard J. Van Till

Excerpt

The title Back to Darwin was not on the mind of any contributor to this volume, including me as editor, as we worked on this volume. Nevertheless, in reading through the proofs, it occurred to me as an appropriately suggestive, if not a rigorously precise, characterization of the thesis of the book. Perhaps, given that the editor is a theologian, I should stress that no one is proposing a return to Darwin’s theological views. It is his demonstration of the fact of biological evolution that we all affirm.

There are occasional criticisms of Darwin’s scientific formulations in the book, and no one would agree with everything he said. For example, he shared with the scientific community of his time a deterministic view of nature, whereas some contributors reject this metaphysics. He insisted that evolutionary changes are all very gradual, and we do not all agree.

Nevertheless, none of us questions Darwin’s major, distinctive ideas. All of us accept and admire his immense achievement in showing that all living forms, certainly including human beings, evolved from common ancestors in a process in which natural selection has played a central role. the problems highlighted in this book are with certain assumptions and overstatements in the post-Darwin development of evolutionary theory. the book implicitly proposes that we go behind those developments—back to Darwin—and evaluate the later evolutionary theories more critically.

Not all contributors are committed to “going back.” Some would be satisfied to go forward, enriching mainstream theories with new research. Indeed, the one who has contributed most to this volume, Francisco Ayala, does not see a need to go “back.” the role he has so generously played has been to present the actual course of mainstream development in evolutionary thinking in a way that suggests that what is required is to keep moving forward. What others see as missing in the mainstream development, he believes is being responsibly as-

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