In The Boston Globe, Peter Dizikes reviews a book by Michael Ruse, The Evolution-Creation Struggle, coming out from Harvard University Press this month. (Thank you, thank you, AliBlog, for this wonderful link.)
Ruse, a philosopher of science at Florida State University . . . is both a staunch supporter of evolution and an ardent critic of scientists who he thinks have hurt the cause by habitually stepping outside the bounds of science into social theory. . . . Evolution is controversial in large part, he theorizes, because its supporters have often presented it as the basis for self-sufficient philosophies of progress and materialism, which invariably wind up in competition with religion.
While scientists and creationists often square off over the scientific evidence for evolution, the source of the ongoing dispute is deeper. ''This is not just a fight about dinosaurs or gaps in the fossil record,'' says Ruse . . . ''This is a fight about different worldviews.''[Emphasis added] . . .
Virtually every prominent Darwinian in recent decades has eschewed social Darwinism . . . But Ruse asserts that popular contemporary biologists like Edward O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins have . . . exacerbated the divisions between evolutionists and creationists by directly challenging the validity of religious belief - Dawkins by repeatedly declaring his atheism (''faith,'' he once wrote, ''is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate''), and Wilson by describing his ''search for objective reality'' as a replacement for religious seeking.
All told, Ruse claims, loading values onto the platform of evolutionary science constitutes ''evolutionism,'' an outlook that goes far beyond the scientific acceptance of evolution as a means of explaining the origins and development of species. Provocatively, Ruse argues that evolutionism has often constituted a ''religion'' itself by offering ''a world picture, a story of origins, and a special place for humans,'' while its proponents have been ''trying deliberately to do better than Christianity.''[Emphasis added]
Ruse, a Brit by birth who came to Florida via Canada, sounds like our kinda guy here at AmbivaBlog. (In fact, if I ever find time to read his new book, and like it, I might just dust off the idea of bestowing AmbivAwards.) He relishes raising orthodox hackles -- in this case, orthodox Darwinist hackles that you aren't even supposed to mention are telltale signs of an orthodoxy (why, evolution is a fact! not a faith!) -- and he's not afraid to engage the opposition: he co-edited the book Debating Design with ID leading light William Dembski, "leaving him open to charges that he was giving creationists credibility and a platform," according to the Globe. An engrossing discussion wraps up the article's reportage:
[T]he book . . . also raises critical questions. Given the inherent conflict between evolution and a literal reading of Genesis, does it really matter what evolution's advocates say? Or are creationists bound to attack evolutionary science regardless? And to what extent does Ruse's own approach, as the in-house critic of evolution's advocates, help or hinder his cause? . . .
While Ruse claims the writings of evolutionists have had unintended consequences, his own work has not been immune from that problem. Some creationists who cite his work to support their position have ignored his distinction between ''evolutionism'' and evolution. In 2000, for instance, Tom Willis, president of the Creation Science Association for Mid-America, claimed that ''Michael Ruse ... recently stated that evolution is a religion and always has been.''
Ruse accepts such incidents as an occupational hazard. . . . Colleagues do not entirely agree.
Ruse emphatically does not believe in Intelligent Design. He wants to keep it out of the science classroom. But by the same token, he emphatically doesn't want science to be turned into a religion, with its own dogmatically-held materialist origin myth and survivalist explanation of ethics. As noted in my previous post about Dr. Francis Collins, one way for science and religion to coexist peacefully is for each to stick to what it does best: for science to confine itself to investigating the material "how" (out of modesty, not a philosophical hidden agenda of proving that's all there is) and leave the metaphysical and moral "why" to faith.