- File Size: 1754 KB
- Print Length: 415 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 7, 2013)
- Publication Date: May 7, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00BOVIR3Q
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,438,006 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation Kindle Edition
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(Matthew Reisz Times Higher Education 2013-08-08)
Martin Nowak is undeniably a great artist, working in the medium of mathematical biology. (Sean Nee Nature 2006-11-01)
A good entry point into the controversial subject of the adequacy of biological explanations of human behavior. (A. C. Love Choice 2013-11-01)
Evolution, Games, and God is perhaps science and religion at its best: going further than the somewhat stale debate about whether such a discussion is possible by plunging into a specific topic that is in itself changing rapidly and at the cutting edge of scientific analysis. It also brings in, rather more extensively than some volumes, a philosophical perspective that chastens scientific and theological reflection, without compromising the insights that are possible in both fields of study. (Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame)
I have been anticipating this book for years and it has exceeded my high expectations. Nowak and Coakley combine the courage of applying a specific evolutionary theory to altruism with the prudence of recruiting sharp minds to explore and challenge their own thesis. The result is essential reading for anyone interested in carefully bringing science into conversation with moral and theological phenomena while avoiding the pitfalls of reductionism. (Ariel Glucklich, Professor of Theology, Georgetown University)
What makes Evolution, Games, and God so interesting and valuable is that the essays collected here, in addition to providing readable introductions to and discussions of the role of game theory in evolutionary explanation, also provide information and/or considerations relevant to the larger question of whether science is now at the point of providing an exclusively naturalist, and even physicalist, explanation of human tendencies that formerly seemed to require the realities of God and soul. The essays deal in an informed and sophisticated way with this and other related questions, and they do so without the venom that characterizes so many other popular treatments of the question of science, faith and morality. (John F. Haught, Ph.D., Senior Fellow in Science and Religion, Georgetown University)
This is an important volume because it completely subverts the idea that the evolutionary narrative is in some profound sense antithetical to theology. Not so. The ‘selfish gene’ as a metaphor makes no sense of biological realities. Co-operation is here to stay, as important at the level of interacting genes in genomic as it is at the level of interaction between organisms. (Denis Alexander Times Literary Supplement 2014-04-04)
About the Author
Sarah Coakley is Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity and Deputy Chair of Arts and Humanities at the University of Cambridge.
Heather D. Curtis is Associate Professor of Religion at Tufts University.
Dominic Johnson is Alistair Buchan Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.
Stephen M. Kosslyn is John Lindsley Professor of Psychology in Memory of William James, Emeritus, Harvard University, and Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.
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Sections of the book: evolutionary cooperation in historical perspective; mathematics, game theory and evolutionary biology; psychology, neuroscience and cooperation; philosophy of biology and mind; cooperation, ethics, and metaethics; cooperation, metaphysics, and God.
Key chapters for me: John Hedley Brooke (noting Darwin on nature, God, and cooperation); Martin Nowak (five approaches to explaining cooperation in evolutionary terms); Christopher Hauert (mathematical models of cooperation); Justin Fisher (game theory and human behavior); Sarah Coakley (evolution, cooperation, and religion).
I find this book to be exemplary, addressing issues that generate a lot of emotion and controversy in the larger public debate from a theoretical dimension. For those who wish to explore an interdisciplinary approach to cooperation, with evolutionary theory as the backdrop, this book will be valuable.
I found Evolution, Games, and God highly useful and was delighted to better understand the various, sometimes conflicting, positions presented.
As the editors say, this book "aims to provide a compact and thought-provoking account of the scholarly advances and disagreements in this intriguing field of study, and to serve as a platform for debate."
In that spirit, I would like to add some disagreements of my own about definitions and approaches. Perhaps some readers will find them useful.
We are told in the introduction that "Cooperation is a form of working together in which one individual pays a cost (in terms of fitness, whether genetic or cultural) and another gains a benefit as a result." Also, "Altruism is a form of (costly) cooperation in which an individual is motivated by good will or love for another (or others)." Both are problematic for evolution of morality discussions.
The cooperation definition is more accurately called "costly cooperation". Other forms of cooperation, such as mutualism and coordination in which no one necessarily pays a cost, may have nothing to do with morality and leaving them out of the definition of "cooperation" is confusing.
A definition like "Altruism is a form of costly cooperation in which an individual acts without consideration of future benefits" is much better tailored for science of morality discussions. It avoids nonsense conclusions such as: "It is impossible to act altruistically according to 'Do to others as you would have them do to you' if you expect consistently doing so will be in your best interests over your lifetime." Also, it is consistent with the common cultural meaning of altruism when applied to humans, and, conveniently, collapses to "biological altruism" (and is applicable to all organisms) when cooperation costs and benefits are only reproductive fitness.
Also, Evolution, Games, and God may leave the false impression that the `ultimate' sources of our moral intuitions and cultural moralities are found in species dependent biological evolution and game theory. These sometimes claimed `ultimate' sources are at least one causal level too low. Costly cooperation strategies solve a cross-species universal dilemma: how to obtain the often large benefits of cooperation in groups without being exploited. This dilemma is inherent in our physical reality, independent of any biology or mathematics, and therefore morality's actual ultimate source. Descriptively moral behaviors (such as those motivated by empathy and advocated by enforced cultural moral norms) are most revealingly understood as just different solutions to this universal dilemma.
I would have liked to have seen a good discussion of the necessary and central role of punishment in maintaining virtually all costly cooperation strategies (as the game theorist Herb Gintis likes to point out). Such a discussion would make it much easier to understand the common selection force (cooperation benefits) responsible for the evolution of the emotion guilt (which provides efficient internal punishment for moral violations), indignation (provides motivation to punish other's bad behavior), cultural moral codes (when internalized, violations trigger guilt and synchronized group indignation), religion (supernatural detection and punishment of bad behavior), and rule of law (formally organized and authorized community detection and punishment of standardized definitions of bad behavior).
The book's moral philosophy papers largely focus on how the science of morality enables us to better understand moral intuitions which are arguably the grounding basis for much of moral philosophy. The subject is explored essentially as "Do insights about moral intuitions from the science of morality strengthen a particular moral philosophy claim in terms of ultimate `ends' or duties?" Fine, but these subtle and debatable arguments about ultimate `ends' and duties (like all such arguments in moral philosophy to date) may have no ultimate resolution.
I found it curious that there was no discussion of the simplest and most obvious means of making the science of morality culturally useful. Perhaps it was considered too obvious to discuss how the science of morality can reveal the best strategies for increasing the benefits of cooperation in groups (the evolutionary function of morality). Then, regardless of what `moral' goals or ends groups have (which science is silent about), the science of morality can inform us what moral `means' in terms of enforced moral codes are most likely to achieve these `ends' by increasing the benefits of cooperation.
These comments focus on my disagreements with the text. But disagreements are fully consistent with the book's goals. Those goals were to coherently present well-informed positions in the field to prompt discussions and "to serve as a platform for debate." And this book does that very well.