Tuesday, January 3, 2012

America's leading biologist and a Christian

No, the post is not about Francis Collins!
I just picked up from a second hand bookstore a copy of the definitive biography Asa Gray: American Botanist, Friend of Darwin by A. Hunter Dupree. It was first published in 1959 and was described by Thomas Kuhn as "Among the finest scientific biographies I have read. It has a particularly interesting chapter, A Theist in the Age of Darwin. It is striking to me how many of the issues, personality types, arguments, and tactics in the science-theology debate/war/dialogue have not changed in 150 years! One central issue is the failure to make a distinction between
1. Darwin's science
2. The weaknesses of William Paley's argument from design
3. Orthodox Christian faith

The life and views of Asa Gray is an interesting and important story. He was the pre-eminent American biologist of the nineteenth century, a confidante of Charles Darwin, and one of the most prominent and effective promoters in the USA of Darwin's new theory of biological evolution. But he saw no conflict between the science of Darwin and orthodox Christian faith.

Darwiniana, an influential collection of Gray's essays and reviews, many of which had been earlier been published anonymously (as was the custom of the time) was published in 1878. It was edited by George Frederick Wright, a conservative Congregationalist minister and amateur geologist. (It can be read online).

Below is the end of the Preface which clearly states Gray's commitment to both Darwin's science and to the Nicene Creed.

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