An ambitious book offers a critique of evolutionary theory along with a reconsideration of the relation between faith and reason.
Many accounts depict the contentious public debate concerning creationism and evolution as a tug of war between blinkered superstition and enlightened reason. This debut volume, however, contends that evolutionary theory, and modern science in general, hasn’t cornered the market on rationality and remains riddled with its own assumptions, hypotheses, and conjectures. First, O’Keefe provides a brief history of the development of modern science, demonstrating the ways in which it often embraced supernatural forces. The author revises the familiar narrative that pits a heroic Galileo against the dark forces of irrational theocrats to furnish a much fuller picture of his achievements. Over time, science narrowed its horizon of acceptable explanations. O’Keefe surveys several scientific disciplines to show that each embraces its own unproven assumptions. The nature of human consciousness, the origins of the world, and the very “mystery of existence,” O’Keefe writes, have all eluded scientific description. Furthermore, he argues that faith has been unfairly pitted against reason, draining it of any philosophical value. The Bible, according to O’Keefe, never presents faith as the antagonist of reason but rather as its partner: “Nothing is said or implied about any partitioning of faith from reason. The scriptures take the capacity for reason for granted.” The crux of the author’s argument seems to be that the absolute compartmentalization of science and religion has been to the detriment of both and a barrier to a richer understanding of the cosmos. While O’Keefe delves into some complex subject matter, his writing remains crisp and mercifully free of academic jargon. Moreover, he maintains an impressive composure wading into waters too typically stirred by emotion and ideology. Some readers will be disappointed that the author didn’t devote more time to culturally explosive issues like homosexuality, which he insightfully remarks upon. Also, the work’s brevity makes the historical sketches of science and theology too incomplete to be fully convincing; this is scholarly work without much scholarly apparatus attached to it. Even if the reader finds his account of the relation between faith and reason dubious, the perspective O’Keefe provides on biblical interpretations alone makes the book worthwhile. This is a balanced, accessible, and rigorous introduction to an important topic.
A philosophically measured contribution to a debate involving science and religion that too often attracts fanatics.