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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2023
Print publication year:
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Book description

The relationship between science and religion is a topic that runs rife with misconceptions, misunderstandings and debates. Are science and religion always in conflict? Is Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection atheistic? How does history shape current debates around science and religion? This book explores these questions in a neutral and balanced way, focusing on the Christianity-evolution relationship. It shows that two paradigms – the world as an organism and the world as a machine – have critically informed and guided the discussions. The author uses his deep understanding of the history and philosophy of science, particularly Darwinian evolutionary theory and its controversies through the past 150 years, to bring fresh ideas to the debate and to wider discussions such as environmental issues and hate. Understanding the Christianity-Evolution Relationship provides a lively and informative analysis and lays out multiple views so that readers can make their own judgements to increase their understanding.


‘The indefatigable Michael Ruse has produced a fascinating and most distinctive book in his Understanding the Christianity–Evolution Relationship. Eschewing a conventional approach to exploring this aspect of the science and religion question, Ruse uses his exceptional knowledge of the history and philosophy of biology to look at a very wide range of aspects of the Christianity–evolution relationship. These he illuminates with his inimitable turns of phrase and frequent deep insights.'

Revd Professor Michael J. Reiss - University College London and the International Society for Science and Religion

‘As a prolific and insightful commentator on Darwin and all things ‘Darwinian, Michael Ruse has few, if any, equals. Devotee of modern Darwinian science, but no hater of Christianity, he offers refreshing balance by showing how both Christianity and science have been influenced, though differently, by the same rival paradigms of mechanism and organicism. Readers should not expect a deep theological treatise, but they will find a lively introduction to discourse about science and religion, written with striking informality and providing plenty of stimulus to polish their own thinking.'

John Hedley Brooke - University of Oxford

‘The compatibility, or not, of science and religion (specifically Christianity) is a centuries-old issue, which intensified in 1859 with Darwin's extension of the mechanistic explanation of the structure and behavior of the world around us to living things, including humans. Ruse offers, not an answer, as such, to this debate, but a skillful examination of the intellectual chess-match: moves and countermoves. The template of his narrative centres on the mechanistic and organismic views of nature. This thread is brilliantly embellished with clear expositions of all the perspectives advanced over the last two or so centuries.'

R. Paul Thompson - Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

‘In this little book, Michael Ruse reaps a huge harvest from decades of writing on the relationship between evolutionary science and Christianity. Displaying an admirable breadth of learning in both Christian theology and evolutionary biology, Ruse shows that in their best formulations, neither human enterprise needs to wage war against the other. Ongoing hostilities originate either from bad articulations of Christianity (Creationism), bellicose banishment of final causes from science (New Atheism), or (as often) both together … Ruse writes in a lively, readable, often humorous style, and with a gift for making difficult concepts in science and theology accessible to non-experts. Above all, the book should make us consider, at least, that contrary to common opinion, an intellectually honorable peace between Darwinism and Christianity is not only possible but is advantageous to science, to Christianity, and to society as a whole.'

John R. Schneider - Professor Emeritus, Theology, Calvin University

‘Michael Ruse has gifted us with a masterful treatment of the relationship between Christianity and evolutionary biology. Ruse insightfully frames the book around the historically and philosophically great differences (as well as interactions) between explanatory approaches that see the world as operating, at rock bottom, according to intelligent purpose or by physical causality. This guiding motif allows Ruse to apply insights gained in his distinguished career to major issues in the ongoing and growing Christianity-science discussion. The attentive reader will learn much about science, the history of science, and the varieties of Christian positions involved, and additionally receive a privileged glimpse into how one person, an expert who has pondered these important issues for a lifetime, conscientiously navigates them.’

Michael L. Peterson - Professor of Philosophy, Asbury Theological Seminary

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