Reviews of Darwin's Cathedral

Date: Tue Mar 11 2003 - 23:17:53 EST

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    There have been several recent postings extolling the virtues of David Sloan
    Wilson's book "Darwin's Cathedral". I haven't had the opportunity to read
    it, but I wanted to point out two recent reviews by people whose opinion I
    respect. (My apologies if someone else has mentioned these already; I've
    been too busy to read all the postings recently. Time constraints forced me
    to delete some unread.)

    In a recent American Scientist (2003, v. 91, no. 2, p. 174-6) historian Ron
    Numbers and zoologist Karen Steudel Numbers offer comments under the title
    "Religion Red in Tooth and Claw". Among other things, they said:

    "As far as we can tell, Wilson's "scientific" theoy possesses no predictive
    value beyond the tautology that all religious "organisms" will be culturally
    adaptive. Historians of religion have beeen saying the same thing, in
    different words, for generations."


    "It should be obvious by now that we find Darwin's Cathedral unconvincing,
    both biologically and historically. It is not so much that it's offensive or
    wrong as that it is irrelevant to a useful understanding of religion."

    And in the journal Evolution (2003, v. 57, no.1, p. 200-202), H. Allen Orr
    notes three kinds of problems and a number of errors of fact in the book and
    concludes with:

    "In the end, you are, I suppose, free to believe that religion is a mere
    byproduct of multilevel selection. But intellectual honesty demands that you
    ask why science isn't too."

    Karl V. Evans

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