Gaining the High Ground over Evolutionism

A philosophically measured contribution to a debate involving science and religion that too often attracts fanatics.

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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.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4759-4964-3

Page Count: 212

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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