Dawkins' GODGenes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life
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).
Encountering Dawkins: A Personal Account. 1. The Selfish Gene: A Darwinian View of the World. Introducing Dawkins. The new approach: Charles Darwin. The mechanics of inheritance: Mendel and genetics. The discovery of the gene. The role of DNA in genetics. Dawkins’ approach: the selfish gene. River out of Eden: Exploring a Darwinian world. 2. The Blind Watchmaker: Evolution and the Elimination of God?. Natural science leads to neither atheism nor Christianity. God as an explanatory hypothesis. The case of William Paley. The religious views of Charles Darwin. The Christian reaction to Darwin. 3. Proof and Faith: The Place of Evidence in Science and Religion. Faith as blind trust?. Is atheism itself a faith?. Christian faith as irrational?. The problem of radical theory change in science. The rhetorical amplification of the case for atheism. 4. Cultural Darwinism? The Curious “Science” of Memetics. The origins of the meme. Is cultural development Darwinian?. Do memes actually exist?. The flawed analogy between meme and gene. The redundancy of the meme. God as a virus?. 5. Science and Religion: Dialogue or Intellectual Appeasement?. The “warfare” of science and religion. The poky little medieval universe of religion. The concept of awe. The mind of God. Mystery, insanity and nonsense. Conclusion. Acknowledgements. Notes. Works Consulted. Index
“In this book McGrath does a good job of condemning aspects of Dawkins’ zealotry but in the process does much to condemn his own arguments as well.” (Journal of Religious History, 20 January 2014) "The book is important for a number of reasons ... Dawkins' God ends with a valuable and more general chapter on science and religion, emphasising the limitations of the human mind." (The Journal of SJT, 2012) "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 "Dawkins is disposed of with panache, and with McGrath's ususal clarity and conciseness." Theology "Lucid and brief, without being perfunctory or dismissive, and fulfils the role of guide to the educated layperson without eliciting boredom from the academic familiar with the field ... The end result of this effort by McGrath is that, once again, I would have no hesitation in recommending the book as a basic text for A-level or first-year undergraduate students looking for their appetite to be whetted for a number of connected fields of scholarship, or indeed for the 'educated layperson' seeking a grasp of the issues without having to wade through hundreds of pages of science and theology ... A very finely judged piece of writing." Kaleidoscope "With clear and incisive argumentation, McGrath takes Dawkins on and exposes many of the weaknesses in his case for atheism." Reformed Theological Journal "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, Cambridge
Alister McGrath is Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. He is a world-renowned theologian, with a strong research background in molecular biophysics, making him uniquely qualified to write this book. He is acclaimed as a highly lucid writer, capable of explaining difficult ideas to lay audiences, and is the author of numerous titles available through Blackwell Publishing including Theology: The Basics, A Brief History of Heaven, Christian Theology: An Introduction 3rd edition, The Christian Theology Reader 2nd edition, and Science and Religion: An Introduction. He is also the author of In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible, and The Re-enchantment of Nature.
This is the first book-length response to Richard Dawkins, author of some of the most popular scientific works, such as The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins has become perhaps the world’s best-known atheist, noted for his hostile and controversial views on religion. This wonderfully argued book explains and examines Dawkins’ scientific ideas and their religious implications. Head-to-head, it takes on some of Dawkins’ central assumptions, like the conflict between science and religion, the “selfish gene” theory of evolution, the role of science in explaining the world, and brilliantly exposes their unsustainability. Moreover, this controversial debate is carried on in a style which can be enjoyed by anyone without a scientific or religious background.
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