Skip to main content

Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology



Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology

Alister E. McGrath

ISBN: 978-1-118-69777-1 May 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 320 Pages

Out of stock
Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer

Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description. Download Product Flyer is to download PDF in new tab. This is a dummy description.


Darwinism and the Divine examines the implications of evolutionary thought for natural theology, from the time of publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species to current debates on creationism and intelligent design.
  • Questions whether Darwin's theory of natural selection really shook our fundamental beliefs, or whether they served to transform and illuminate our views on the origins and meaning of life
  • Identifies the forms of natural theology that emerged in 19th-century England and how they were affected by Darwinism
  • The most detailed study yet of the intellectual background to William Paley's famous and influential approach to natural theology, set out in 1802
  • Brings together material from a variety of disciplines, including the history of ideas, historical and systematic theology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, sociology, and the cognitive science of religion
  • Considers how Christian belief has adapted to Darwinism, and asks whether there is a place for design both in the world of science and the world of theology
  • A thought-provoking exploration of 21st-century views on evolutionary thought and natural theology, written by the world-renowned theologian and bestselling author
List of Figures x

Preface xii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Part I Conceptual Clarifications: On the meaning of terms 9

1 Natural Theology: A Deeper Structure to the Natural World 11

Natural Theology in the Classical Tradition 13

The Conceptual Fluidity of Natural Theology 15

The Eternal Return of Natural Theology 18

2 Darwinism: A Narrative of Evolution 27

Darwinism: A Defensible Term? 28

Darwinism as an Ideology 32

The Metaphysical Inflation of Evolutionary Thought 36

Conclusion to Part I 40

Part II Historical Exposition: Darwin and the English natural theology tradition 47

3 English Natural Theology of the Augustan Age, 1690–1745 49

The Emergence of English Natural Theology 50

Newtonian Physics and Natural Theology 53

The Protestant Assumptions of English Natural Theology 56

A Foundation for Consensus: The Doctrine of Creation 61

Physico-theology: The Appeal to Contrivance 63

Natural Theology and the Beauty of Nature 72

The Problem of Development within Nature 74

Assessing Evidence: Changing Public Perceptions 75

4 A Popular Classic: William Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) 85

Introducing Paley's Natural Theology 85

Paley's Source: Bernard Nieuwentyt's Religious Philosopher (1718) 88

The Watch Analogy: The Concept of Contrivance 91

Paley on Intermediary Causes within Nature 97

The Vulnerability of Paley's Approach 99

5 Beyond Paley: Shifts in English Natural Theology, 1802–52 108

The Impact of Geology upon Paley's Natural Theology 110

Henry Brougham: A Natural Theology of the Mind 112

Evidence, Testimony, and Proof: A Shifting Context 115

A New Approach: The Bridgewater Treatises 119

John Henry Newman: The Theological Deficiencies of Paley 127

Robert Browning’s "Caliban Upon Setebos": A Literary Critique of Paley 130

English Natural Theology on the Eve of the Darwinian Revolution 133

6 Charles Darwin, Natural Selection, and Natural Theology 143

The Development of Darwin's Views on Natural Selection 146

Problems, Prediction, and Proof: The Challenge of Natural Selection 150

Natural Selection and Natural Theology: An Assessment of Darwin’s Impact 155

Conclusion to Part II 171

Part III Contemporary Discussion: Darwinism and natural theology 183

7 A Wider Teleology: Design, Evolution, and Natural Theology 185

Directionality within the Natural World 187

Teleology: Introducing an Idea 188

Chance, Contingency, and Evolutionary Goals 191

The “Wider Teleology” of Evolution 194

The Inference of Design and Natural Theology 197

Suffering, Evolution, and Natural Theology 202

8 The Concept of Creation: Reflections and Reconsiderations 217

The Seventeenth Century: The Regnant Theology of Creation 218

Creation as Event and Process: Augustine of Hippo 222

Evolution and an Emergent Creation 230

God's Action within the Evolutionary Process 233

9 Universal Darwinism: Natural Theology as an Evolutionary Outcome? 247

The Darwinian Paradigm and Cultural Development 249

The God-Meme: Natural Theology and Cultural Replicators 254

Religion: Evolutionary Adaptation or Spandrel? 262

Natural Theology and Evolutionary Theories of the Origins of Religion 265

Conclusion to Part III 267

Part IV Conclusion 277

10 The Prospects for Natural Theology 279

Natural Theology and the Human Evolutionary Past 281

Natural Theology, Observational Traction, and the Best Explanation 283

A Community of Discernment: The Church and Natural Theology 285

In Quest of Meaning 288

Index 294

“McGrath is a masterful teacher and this volume is as brimming with knowledge and insight as his many others.”  (Modern Believing, 1 January 2014)

“The writing in Darwinism and the Divine is clear, elegant, and well informed throughout, is distinguished by a balanced and nonpolemical style, and is a pleasure to read. Every chapter in this rich volume includes extensive endnotes guiding the reader to further study." (Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 16 January 2014)

“These criticisms notwithstanding, McGrath’s Darwinism and the Divineis a well-written, lucid work that will occupy a prominent place as an apologetic for Christian theism in its dialogue with the larger scientific community.”  (International Journal of Public Theology, 1 May 2013)

“Furthermore, this work is a rare pleasure to read for its clarity and remarkable level of scholarship across multiple disciplines.  Consequently, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone interested in how the debates over Darwinism relate to the ongoing and evolving goals and methods of natural theology.”  (The Way, 1 October 2012)

“These features, together with the author’s accessible writing style, mean that this book can not only be read cover-to-cover in a straightforward and engaging way, but can also be used as a text book to enable more detailed study of the various aspects of this important and relevant subject.”  (Evangelical Quarterly, 4 October 2012) 

“Whether these arguments are effective is a matter for more philosophic minds, but if this book brings new ideas into a science–religion conversation that often consists of repetition of the same essential themes, then all scholars of science–religion are beneficiaries.”  (Journal of the History of Biology, 2011)

"But I think that the chief merit of both of these books lies in their parallel analyses of natural theology, specifically the significance of scientific knowledge for resolving theological issues." (The Quarterly Review of Biology, 1 December 2011)

"McGrath (King's College London) offers an excellent examination of Darwin's theory of evolution vs. Creationism/intelligent design within the context of natural theology. . . The writing is clear and readable with a wealth of documentation. Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above; interested general readers." (Choice, 1 October 2011)

"But if one had to choose between them, I would recommend the book under review. It presents a synthesis of much of his thinking, supported by richly informative documentation that, in range and volume, is little short of astonishing." (Science & Education, 2011)

"This is a book anyone with an intelligent interest in the subjects discussed can read with interest and profit". (Church of England Newspaper , 15 April 2011)

"The prolific theologian argues that Darwin's own faith and worldview allowed for complexities and intricacies in the intersection of faith and science." (Publishers Weekly, 8 March 2011)

Please click on the link to visit the Wiley website for Alister E. McGrath, Professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King�s College London, UK, and head of its Centre for Theology, Religion, and Culture. This innovative website brings together information about McGrath�s numerous Wiley books, including textbooks and scholarly research.

You will also find links to our companion websites for key textbooks, such as Christian History, and a host of additional resources such as podcasts, images, and videos, all designed to enhance your experience of using his books � whether you are a student or a teacher.