Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
Stephen Jay Gould
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Writing with bracing intelligence and clarity, internationally renowned evolutionist and bestselling author Stephen Jay Gould sheds new light on a dilemma that has plagued thinking people since the Renaissance: the rift between science and religion. Instead of choosing them, Gould asks, why not opt for a golden mean that accords dignity and distinction to each realm?
In his distinctively elegant style, Gould offers a lucid, contemporary principle that allows science and religion to coexist peacefully in a position of respectful noninterference. Science defines the natural world; religion our moral world in recognition of their separate spheres of influence. In exploring this thought-provoking concept, Gould delves into the history of science, sketching affecting portraits of scientists and moral leaders wrestling with matters of faith and reason. Stories of seminal figures such as Galileo, Darwin, and Thomas Henry Huxley make vivid his argument that individuals and cultures must cultivate both a life of the spirit and a life of rational inquiry in order to experience the fullness of being human.
In Rocks of Ages, Gould’s passionate humanism, ethical discernment, and erudition are fused to create a dazzling gem of contemporary cultural philosophy.
problem, at any scale (hence the fractal claim above, meant more than metaphorically), must call upon the separate contributions of both magisteria for any adequate illumination. The logic of inquiry prevents true fusion, as stated above. The magisterium of science cannot proceed beyond the anthropology of morals—the documentation of what people believe, including such important information as the relative frequency of particular moral values among distinct cultures, the correlation of those
1993), represent “the clash between two incompatible worldviews,” and Urban did defend the traditional geocentric universe as established dogma. But when we begin to appreciate even the tip of the complex iceberg represented by seventeenth-century life at the court of Rome—a world so profoundly different from our own that modern categories and definitions can only plunge us into incomprehension—then we may understand why our current definitions of science and religion map so poorly upon Galileo’s
known as ‘the fall of the favorite.’ ” As a prod for questioning our misleading modern categories, ask yourself why a spiritual leader could compel Galileo at all. Why did the great physicist even consent to argue his case before a Church tribunal in Rome? Then remember that no country called Italy existed in the 1630s, and that the Pope held full secular authority over Rome and much surrounding territory. Galileo had to appear before the Inquisition because this body represented “the law of the
and the most cogent medieval writer on scientific subjects; to Nicholas Steno, who wrote the primary works of seventeenth-century geology and also became a bishop; to Lazzaro Spallanzani, the eighteenth-century Italian physiologist who disproved, by elegant experiments, the last serious arguments for spontaneous generation of life; to the Abbé Breuil, our own century’s most famous student of paleolithic cave art? In the conventional view of warfare between the magisteria, science began its
day job (as a clergyman in this example) defines a magisterium. We must look instead to the subject, the logic, and the particular arguments. Our goal of mutual respect requires mutual understanding most of all. But I must complete this intuitive and particular case for NOMA by telling another story—with a similar message, but from the moral side this time—before presenting the more formal argument in chapter 2. The Fate of Two Fathers I CAN HARDLY THINK OF a more common, or sillier,