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Faith and Science, Genesis and Darwin: Friends, not Foes…

Posted by dorian on February 10, 2009

 

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From 
February 9, 2009

In praise of Darwin and the spirit of inquiry

Science is a friend rather than an enemy of faith. The theory of evolution explains how, but not why, we are here

This week we will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, one of Britain’s most extraordinary scientists. His theory of evolution, one of the greatest discoveries of all time, gives us a way of understanding the connectedness of all life and the uniqueness of human life within it. Together with other branches of scientific exploration, evolution begins to unfold and illuminate the interplay of forces that make our universe such an extraordinary dynamic reality. In this sense, science is itself a journey of learning and exploration. This I find exciting and humbling.

Towards the end of his life Darwin wrote: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.” The science opens me not only to puzzles and to questions about the world I live in; it leads me to marvel at its complexity. Here, I find science is a good friend to my faith. It also calls me to a journey of learning and understanding. One of the things that mars our culture is the fracture between faith and science. It impoverishes our inquiry into the realities that make up our life and world. This is a false opposition.

If we see the two as fundamentally opposed – science endangering and undermining faith, or faith obstructing knowledge – then distortions are produced on both sides. For example, some Christians argue for “Young Earth Creationism” or Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolutionary theory. Creationism is the belief that the biblical stories of Creation as described in the Book of Genesis are literally true.

Is genuine Christianity obliged to adopt any of these positions? No, it is not. Belief in creation is not equivalent to any one of them. It is a mistake to treat the theology of creation in the Book of Genesis as a scientific textbook. It does unfold a profound and valid truth about the world in which we live, its order and purpose. The Book of Genesis speaks about the relationship between God and creation and especially about the place of humanity in that relationship. That wonderful narrative of creation offers us a first vision of an “ecology of holiness” in which every material and living thing has a place and its creativity is consecrated in goodness by God. The account of creation in Genesis is pointing us beyond the question “how?” to the question “why?” Ultimately, science as well as faith must come to that most fundamental of all questions: the question of meaning and purpose.

If there are ways of misusing Genesis and the Christian understanding of creation, there is also a danger of misusing Darwin. We should be worried when his theory is distorted into “the survival of the fittest” and becomes a way of legitimising policies that discriminate against the weak and vulnerable. I think the majority of us believe it is grossly wrong to use Darwin’s theory to justify social engineering or eugenics. There are also those who argue that, from an evolutionary perspective, moral attributes are merely the product of evolution and our moral sense is no more than a survival strategy. Yet the theory of evolution does not entail the denial of moral truth. It leaves the genuinely free agent confronted with moral choice and the question of how we ought to live.

Are humans only to be comprehended in purely materialist ways? Is there not something that exceeds this and makes it an inadequate description of human life? Is there not something in us that speaks of transcendence, that hints at being not only matter but also spirit? We are part of an evolutionary process; but we are also free agents; able to influence its future direction. Science gives us immense power, but we need to use all our material and spiritual resources to use that power for the good of all creation.believe_web

The anniversary of Darwin’s birth is an invitation to renew the conversation between science and faith. Christianity can contribute to the progress of science, not only by encouraging scientists in the search for truth, but by inviting them to consider these wider questions that go to the heart of our common and necessary search for understanding.

These are questions that push us beyond the desire for knowledge alone and direct us to the need for the gift of wisdom. Without it the deeper moral structure of truth is denied. Instead of serving humanity, science becomes an instrument of oppression and destruction. The past two centuries have seen such marvellous advances in science; they bear witness to its great benefits but also to dangers. This alerts us to the question that lies within all our other questions: the choice that humans alone have to make between good and evil. It is a question planted at the heart of Genesis’s account of creation. It is as much a question for the scientist as for the believer. It, too, is about our freedom.

Darwin’s theory does not take away the reality of that freedom and the moral responsibility it gives us. It also teaches us a certain humility before the wonderful complexity and process that life is. Yet because humanity is a free agent in this, we cannot ultimately predict the future. Christianity understands human freedom. It knows that all life, but especially human life, is summoned to a perfection that it cannot attain through natural processes or through human agency alone. That future is God’s gift and it summons us to a new spiritual and moral maturity. Could it be that this is the next stage in that evolutionary adventure? The discovery that God is the destiny of life; that Christ is not only the Alpha, the one in whose image we are made, but also the Omega, the one in whom we are completed.

Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. They are partners on the journey of a mystery that unfolds, a truth that is everywhere present in the very creativity and variety of life itself. As St Augustine wrote, “Let us seek with the desire to find, and find with the desire to seek still more.”

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Times Archive, 1925: Darwinism in Tennessee: anti-evolution trial opens

The trial to test the validity of the anti-evolution law in the state of Tennessee began today with prayer

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    22 Responses to “Faith and Science, Genesis and Darwin: Friends, not Foes…”

    1. dorian9 said

      i’m a fan of darwin and a few other men of wisdom with facial hair who for some reason were born on my birth month, february.
      here are others: copernicus, galileo galilei, francis bacon, charles dickens, abraham lincoln…

      Like

    2. lawman2 said

      damn good post dorian!enjoyed the read!feb men do it for ya huh? hehehe

      Like

    3. dorian9 said

      glad ya liked it. kinda thought you would, caveman atheist!

      Like

    4. kay~ms said

      Great post Dorian!

      Lawman.. that’s all you have to say? Your ‘god’, the discoverer of the theory of evolution, even acknowledged that a Supreme Being IS logical!…

      Towards the end of his life Darwin wrote: “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist.”

      Like

    5. lawman2 said

      what would you like to read from me kay?you wanting me to say i believe in the tooth fairy too?yeah magic is real logical…hehehe

      Like

    6. lawman2 said

      here is a game we played with my mother as a child.you have to write a poem in less than 1 min. it has to rhyme no time for spell check… go!

      went and read from my friend kay,
      she had something interesting to say.

      pours her heart into her crusade,
      to save the world,even if they are made.

      gotta love the image of her and her great big bat,
      leaving those liberals shakin and sayin “what was that?”

      49 seconds

      Like

    7. lawman2 said

      play by the rules it makes it pretty fun!

      Like

    8. dorian9 said

      great catch, kay! darwin, father of evolutionists, did have faith. the message of this article was that everybody should have an open mind when it comes to the subject of God or no God and that is equally hard for atheists and believers alike.both sides insist they are open minded but not. but I knew you got my back on this one. lawman I totally agree kay’s got the biggest bat.gotta love her for that one. what an image!

      Like

    9. dorian9 said

      i know a caveman he thinks he’s most wise
      mighty with the pen
      flies a steelbird in the skies
      deep down inside
      just a regular guy
      when kay’s got the bat
      he hides
      behind the wife

      hehehe i did this in nine

      okay the last line was a lie i couldn’t rhyme 46 seconds

      Like

    10. […] Faith and Science, Genesis and Darwin: Friends, not Foes… « A … […]

      Like

    11. lawman2 said

      @ dorain lovin’ it! excuse me while i step behind my wife…hehehe

      Like

    12. kay~ms said

      you guys are good!… I already said I can’t write! I couldn’t come up with somethng in 46 minutes!

      Dorian, I do feel like I have an open mind… that’s why I say that God’s existence makes the most sense… I’ve looked at both sides…

      My ‘bat’ is made of foam… it’s for hitting the dome ..

      of the head that thinks

      there is no link…

      between earth and sky

      and our Creator up high..

      There.. that’s the best I can do… I did just come up with that in about 15 seconds… that’s kind of fun…

      Like

    13. kay~ms said

      Now I have to go back and capitalize Creator!

      Like

    14. tothewire said

      Great job Kay!

      Lawman is a nerd,
      Or so we have all heard.

      Dorian shares world peace
      Another scoop of ice cream please!

      Kay can rhyme better than me,
      As now all the world can see!

      We don’t know if O.T.A. can rhyme,
      We haven’t read him in quite some time!

      E_E oops ran out of time!
      Now I can’t finish my rhyme.

      1 min 5 sec… guess I lose!

      Like

    15. tothewire said

      Lawman was timing me! BUT who timed him???

      Like

    16. tothewire said

      It is fun! Good idea Lawman!

      Like

    17. lawman2 said

      @tothewire you used rhyme and time twice…can’t do that.

      kay great job! kay wins! she is a conservative so all the conservatives get the world peace ice cream to shove in all you liberals faces! hehehe

      Like

    18. lawman2 said

      unless you think e will come and save your ass’ the conservative team wins!

      i could kiss you kay!

      Like

    19. lawman2 said

      come on kay come over here and get a kiss from the ol’ caveman! SMOOCH

      Like

    20. tothewire said

      You’re such a nerd! But you’re lucky we all love you brat!

      Like

    21. kay~ms said

      Awe… now I’m blushing!! Thanks.. but hey it wasn’t that good and by far not the best… TTW’s and Dorian’s were the longest… mine was the shortest… Lawman.. yours rhymed the best! Maybe EE will show up with something tomorrow…

      Like

    22. dorian9 said

      hey i didn’t think this was a sprint race! no fair! anyway what a sweet surprise – a talented group! kay your poem is pure. nice! cute game lawman. great for kids of all ages.

      Like

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