Sunday, February 15, 2009

Let's hear it for BBC Radio 4 (again): Religion and Darwin


Thought for the Day, 12 February 2009
Revd Dr David Wilkinson

Listen here or read on:

Good morning. The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin has led not only to celebration of his life but also extensive discussion concerning the religious consequences of his work. Atheism and six day creationism have given the impression that the legacy of Darwin is that God is a delusion, fulfilling George Bernard Shaw's comment that 'Darwin had the luck to please everybody who had an axe to grind' . Meanwhile, other religious commentators have been queuing up to say that Darwin and the Bible can walk hand in hand in celebrating the grandeur of this world.

As a physicist, a theologian and an evangelical Christian, I'm not in the camp of either atheism or six day creationism. I am immensely grateful for Darwin. I take seriously the weight of evidence for evolution and am filled with wonder at the world it so successfully describes. He doesn't undermine my belief in a Creator God, but I do find he asks difficult questions for faith.

In that I'm not alone. The response to Darwin in the 19th century was complex and varied, contrary to the popular myth that evolution undermined the church which believed that the Universe was 6000 years old. From the earliest Jewish and Christian thinkers through to church leaders in the 1860s, few were biblical literalists and most didn't see Genesis 1 as a scientific textbook. Indeed, some of the early supporters of evolution were evangelical Christians, 'Darwin's Forgotten Defenders' as they have been called.

Darwin did however undermine two popular religious arguments. Natural selection gave a powerful alternative to the attempt of proving God from intelligent design. It also questioned the assertion that human beings were unique by virtue of being created separately from other species. In fact, I find neither argument at the core of my Christian faith. For Christians, the evidence for the existence and nature of God isn't seen primarily in the natural world, but in the claim that God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Further, human beings, even though we are made out of the same stuff as the rest of creation, are special because of the divine gift of intimate relationship with God

Yet one serious question remains. Darwin shows me a God creating a world which is dynamic and awe-inspiring in its complexity. But I don't fully understand why this creativity involves such violence and waste. Perhaps it's because it is the only way that such a world can be created. Would God work like that? If I see God redeeming through the violence and waste of a man dying on a cross, I can accept that he can work through evolution too.

ALSO: Listen here
Charles Darwin
Sunday 15 February 2009, Morning Service

Marking the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, Simon Conway-Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at Cambridge University, reflects on the compatibility of faith and science. From St John's College Chapel, Cambridge.

With The Revd Duncan Dormor and the choir of St John's College. Director of Music: Andrew Nethsingha.


Comment: It's worth a reflective half hour's of anyone's time. If you are one of those people who don't understand why other Christians have no problem with evolution, my challenge to you is to give it a listen.