Mystery of Mysteries

by Michael Ruse
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. 320 pages.

Ruse tells us in his introduction, "This is a book about the nature of science using evolutionary theory as a case study ... intended for a general audience." This highly readable book isn't bogged down by footnotes, but it does have a glossary to make the going easier, an extensive bibliography, and lively profiles of the thinkers whose work it discusses. Ruse examines the history of evolutionary thinking, and the work of leading researchers and popularizers from Darwin to Dawkins, in order to shed light on the question behind the "science wars": do scientists offer objective information about an independent reality, or just one more set of culture-bound beliefs? Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, praises the book for "show[ing] us how to find an intelligent middle route." Ruse concludes that "in the key area of evolutionary biology we can resolve the debate", and urges others to study the physical and social sciences to learn how far his generalizations extend.