Wright is an evolutionary ecologist and has been very active in the American Scientific Affiliation. This book is mean to address the "central dogma" of biology head on:
Biological evolution is probably the most controversial and — in some circles — unpopular scientific theory ever advanced. It is also one of the most fruitful and foundational theories in its impact on the life sciences, and, indeed, has profoundly influenced modern thought (p 119).There is no getting around it: Evidence from every relevant scientific field supports the evolutionary model. The problem, Wright understands, is with "worldviews". His discussion here relies on Del Ratzsch's work (1996, 2000) — in particular, in the use of the notion of "shaping principles" — in itself a useful point of departure for those who really wish to understand some of the different ways in which Christians view the sciences and their relationship to faith.
Throughout the text there is lucid and well-informed discussion of matters that are recurring themes to those who follow the creation–evolution controversies. Wright understands these in a way that perhaps only comes from years of teaching at an evangelical college and helping students grapple with the various objections to and "evidences against" evolution that fill the anti-evolution literature. Wright faces these objections head-on and, though he is sympathetic to the need for believers to feel re-affirmed in their faith, tells his readers why these positions are really bad for their spiritual life. Relying too much on specific interpretations of data from nature (and supposed gaps and shortcomings in evolutionary theory) to support one's religious beliefs can be disastrous — especially if those interpretations turn out to be wrong!
If there is any criticism of the book, it is that it is sometimes difficult to know when Wright is speaking in his own voice or when he is speaking in the voice of the proponents of some of the positions he is trying to explain. This is a problem when he engages the views on astronomy and cosmology of Hugh Ross (p 101–2) and the nonstandard view of biological "information" from Stephen C Meyer (p 113). These, however, are relatively short passages in a book that illustrates a mature understanding of both the faith and the science that have contributed to Richard Wright's career as a scientist and a teacher.
Perhaps because of his career as an evolutionary ecologist, Wright proposes cooperation between members of religious and scientific bodies to preserve and conserve natural resources and a healthy environment.
[S]tewardship ... [is] the ethical and moral framework that should inform our private and public interactions with the environment. Recall that stewardship is a call to all people to care for creation. ...Niles Eldredge took a similar stance at The College of New Jersey a few years ago (see "Niles Eldredge welcomes biology honors students" in RNCSE 2000 May/Jun; 20 : 8–9) — that sound science and a strong moral framework are mutually reinforcing and together can be very productive in solving real-world problems of consequence to human survival.
Sound science is the basis for understanding how the natural world works and how our human systems interact with it and impact it. By sound science, I mean knowledge that is the outcome of painstaking scientific research using the best available methods (p 238, emphasis in the original).
The new edition of this book stands as a clear beacon amid the smoke and fog that often obscures books about science and faith. It is one of the few written by someone who understands both evolutionary biology and a Christian faith — because he has actively practiced both. This is a serious book that deserves serious attention.