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Genes, Determinism and God

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  • Date Published: July 2017
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316506387

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About the Authors
  • Over the past centuries the pendulum has constantly swung between an emphasis on the role of either nature or nurture in shaping human destiny, a pendulum often energised by ideological considerations. In recent decades the flourishing of developmental biology, genomics, epigenetics and our increased understanding of neuronal plasticity have all helped to subvert such dichotomous notions. Nevertheless, the media still report the discovery of a gene 'for' this or that behaviour, and the field of behavioural genetics continues to extend its reach into the social sciences, reporting the heritability of such human traits as religiosity and political affiliation. There are many continuing challenges to notions of human freedom and moral responsibility, with consequent implications for social flourishing, the legal system and religious beliefs. In this book, Denis Alexander critically examines these challenges, concluding that genuine free will, often influenced by genetic variation, emerges from an integrated view of human personhood derived from contemporary biology.

    • Proposes an integrated approach to science that also draws history, philosophy, law and theology into the discussion for an interdisciplinary level appeal
    • Presents a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between science and theology that will be of interest to those in the science-religion field and, more generally, to philosophers and theologians, who feel the need to read up on other disciplines relevant to their own
    • Subverts fatalistic ideas about one's future life, highlighting the important role of free will in mapping one's course through life
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    • Honourable mention, 2018 PROSE Award, Theology and Religious Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Overall, Genes, Determinism and God is worth reading not just for the detail it provides on developments in genetics, but also for its thought-provoking pointers. Denis Alexander has achieved considerably more than his goal at the start of removing barriers to religious belief based on incorrect views of genetic determinism.' Celia Deane-Drummond, The Times Literary Supplement

    'The genetic book of life, it seems, does not in the end offer any shortcuts to the meaning of human existence. Rather, like most sacred texts, it demands careful, patient, sceptical exegesis, which is exactly what Denis Alexander has granted it.' Nick Spencer, The Tablet

    'All in all, this is a remarkable and highly informative overview.' David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer

    'Denis Alexander brings us a feast of the biology of genetics, layered with legal and philosophical implications and garnished with a dollop of theological considerations.' Barbara Pfeffer Billauer, Metascience

    'Anyone who wants to know the current state of scientific research in genetics, and its relevance to difficult issues about human development, including the vexed issue of sexual orientation, will find in this book a masterly and balanced survey. It comes from someone who is well aware of the enormous implications for theology of current research, and, in particular, its relevance to arguments about free will.' Roger Trigg, Theology

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2017
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316506387
    • length: 392 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.58kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Human personhood fragmented?: nature-nurture discourse from antiquity to Galton
    2. Reifying the fragments?: nature-nurture discourse from Galton to the twenty-first century
    3. The impact of the new genetics?: how contemporary biology is changing the landscape of ideas
    4. Reshaping the matrix: integrating the human in contemporary biology
    5. Is the worm determined?: gene variation and behaviour in animals
    6. Prisoners of the genes?: understanding quantitative behavioural genetics
    7. Behavioural molecules?: understanding molecular behavioural genetics
    8. Mensa, mediocrity or meritocracy?: the genetics of intelligence, religion and politics
    9. Gay genes?: genetics and sexual orientation
    10. Not my fault?: the use of genetics in the legal system
    11. Causality, emergence and freedom?: tackling some tough philosophical questions
    12. Made in the image of God?: a conversation between genetics and theology.

  • Author

    Denis Alexander, University of Cambridge
    Denis Alexander is Founding Director (Emeritus) of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at St Edmunds College, Cambridge, where he is an Emeritus Fellow. He previously spent fifteen years in the Middle East where he helped to establish the National Unit of Human Genetics at the American University Hospital in Beirut. More recently he has been involved in immunology, genetics and cancer research in the UK, latterly at the Babraham Institute, Cambridge. Dr Alexander was previously Editor of the journal Science and Christian Belief, and writes and broadcasts widely in the field of science and religion. He gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of St Andrews, Scotland in 2012.


    • Honourable mention, 2018 PROSE Award, Theology and Religious Studies

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