Evolution as a Religion - Strange Hopes and Stranger Fears
Midgley (Mary)
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. Can there be superstitions in science? Because many people today take religion to be essentially superstitious, it is often supposed that science should take the place of religion, by becoming its successor. This attitude exposes science itself to the very same dangers which infest religion.
  2. In this controversial study Mary Midgley takes issue with a number of bizarre scientific doctrines which are often mistakenly viewed as part of Darwin's theory and, in particular, draws attention to the dangers inherent in Lamarck's notion of evolution as an escalator designed to exalt the human race indefinitely to supernatural heights. Today, the belief in such a prospect, coupled with demands that genetic engineering and artificial intelligence1 be used to further it, causes a strangely unreal attitude to the future of the human race. Mary Midgley points out the irrelevance of such dreams and hopes that scientists will turn their skills rather to pressing ecological matters. She also raises important questions about the nature of both science and religion and their relation to each other.
  3. Mary Midgley's lively and readable book is not in any way an attack on science. She wants indeed to draw attention to what she considers to be a serious threat to real science - a distortion which can lead to its becoming discredited, just as western religion has, by becoming associated with arrogant and unjustified claims which form no proper part of it.
  4. 'This is a book from which one goes away to ponder without having to push back against philosophical bullying. In a genre in which polemics are the rule, the hallmark of Mary Midgley’s style is civility.... Evolution as a Religion is a graceful, refreshing and enlightening book, applied philosophy that is relevant, timely and metaphysical in the best sense.'
    → New York Times Book Review
  5. 'There is no doubt many will share her views, and will appreciate, as I do, the honesty of her declarations, and the unpretentious yet high moral tone of her prose.'
    → The Times Literary Supplement
  6. 'Such is her liveliness that she is never tedious, and the book held my attention to the end.... This is a book for anyone, lay or professional, with a lively mind.'
    → British Book News
  7. Mary Midgley was formerly Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Her earlier books include
    • Beast and Man (1978),
    • Heart and Mind (1981) and
    • Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay (1984).

  1. Evolutionary dramas – 1
  2. Do science and religion compete? – 10
  3. Demarcation disputes – 20
  4. The irresistible escalator – 30
  5. Choosing a world – 36
  6. The problem of direction – 48
  7. Scientist and superscientist – 56
  8. Dazzling prospects – 66
  9. Black holes: Jacques Monod and the isolation of ‘science’ – 75
  10. Freedom and the Monte Carlo drama – 83
  11. Scientific education and human transience – 91
  12. Mixed antitheses – 97
  13. Science, scepticism and awe – 105
  14. The service of self and the service of Kali – 115
  15. Who or what is selfish? – 122
  16. Dreaming and waking – 132
  17. The limits of individualism – 139
  18. The vulnerable world and its claims on us – 148


Methuen, 1995, paperback

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