Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith?

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9781932031720: Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith?

Arthur Peacocke, eminent priest-scientist, has collected thirteen of his essays for this volume. Previously published in various academic journals and edited books, the provocative essays expand upon the theme of the evolution of nature, humanity, and belief. They are grouped in three parts.

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About the Author:

Dr. Arthur Peacocke, physical biochemist, Anglican priest, and the 2001 Templeton Prize Laureate died on Saturday, October 21, 2006, at age 81.

Peacocke began his adult life, in his words, as a "mild" agnostic, but slowly became an adherent of Christianity. Seeking an alternative to automatic acceptance of scriptural authority of the church, however, he began a thorough study of theology, with the encouragement of a professor, Geoffrey Lampe. In 1960, he received a Diploma in Theology and in 1971, a Bachelor of Divinity from Birmingham University.

It was at this time that his scientific and theological pursuits tangibly merged with the publication of Science and the Christian Experiment, which he wrote while still a full-time scientist. In 1973, the book won the prestigious Lecomte du Noüy Prize, the first global recognition of Peacocke as a leader in the new discipline of science and religion. That same year, he became Dean of Clare College, Cambridge, allowing him to pursue more fully his interdisciplinary vocation. In 1982 he received a Doctor of Divinity from Oxford and in 1985 became the founder and director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religious Beliefs in Relation to the Sciences, including Medicine, at Oxford.

Among his major publications in this area are Creation and the World of Science (1979), which established further his international reputation, Intimations of Reality: Critical Realism in Science and Religion (1984), Theology for a Scientific Age (1990, 2nd edition 1993, including his 1993 Gifford Lectures), God and the New Biology (1994), From DNA to DEAN: Reflections and Explorations of a Priest-Scientist (1996), God and Science: A Quest for Christianity Credibility (1996), and Paths from Science Towards God: The End of All Our Exploring (2001).

Peacocke had an international reputation for his succinct, no-nonsense method of challenging dominant religious orthodoxies in writing and speech. In an interview with England’s Church Times, for example, he spoke of a large proportion of his countrymen who have good reason to be skeptical of traditional religious teachings and are wistful agnostics. "They are moral, idealistic people who just cannot believe some of the baggage we hear in church," he said. “The images have gone dead on them or are affirming things they don’t think are believable.”

Because of Dr. Peacocke’s extraordinary impact, he was selected as the winner of the 2001 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. At the Templeton Prize public ceremony at Guildhall, London, on May 9, 2001, Peacocke advised the scientific community to give religion its due. "The public image of the relation between science and religion has tended to be dominated by scientists who are not only gifted communicators of their respective sciences but who also, deeming science alone to be the source of knowledge and wisdom, seek to reduce human experience to purely scientific terms. This renders them antipathetic to the spiritual and religious experience of humanity and the name of the sport becomes science versus religion."

From Publishers Weekly:

Assembled from material representing four decades, this volume makes a distinguished but somewhat dated contribution to the theology-and-science field. Peacocke, long recognized as a major figure in this literature, rejects the metaphor of a "bridge" between the disciplines, opting for "a joint exploration into a common reality." At his best, Peacocke gives voice to the curiosity and wonder of science: "Somehow, biology has produced a being of infinite restlessness." Yet the volume also illustrates how Peacocke's metaphysical convictions—and, for the most part, his philosophy of science—remain firmly rooted in the early 1970s. Peacocke remains committed to an almost mechanistic version of scientific naturalism, "the monist concept that all concrete particulars in the world-System are composed only of basic physical entities... with the conviction that the world-System is causally closed." The resulting picture of the world rules out not only miracles but also "any other ontologies than those emerging from the natural world." Peacocke sees little need to acknowledge controversies troubling the Darwinian consensus since the late 1980s or to engage with "post-modern science," which he dismisses as "a vacuous concept." By separating theology, "the study of the intellectual content of religious beliefs," from religion, "which is about individual and communal experiences," Peacocke blunts the personal search for meaning that is otherwise one of the more winsome themes in his work.
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