Mater Dei Institute of Education:
A college of Dublin City University
Does Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Co-exist with Theology?
I would like to dedicate my research paper to my father Paul Courtney for all of his help, especially for enabling my time in college.
I would also like to thank Ian Leask for his help in constructing my arguments.
And finally; to thank the friends I made in Mater Dei who read through and aided me with this paper.
The reason I chose this topic for my paper is to get the opportunity to further study the work of Charles Darwin to examine some of the main response to his work. The topic of evolution has raised various provocative and stimulating ideas regarding religions place in society. That being said On the Origin of Species was not published with the intention of eliminating religion nor was it intended to provoke any negative attitudes toward the church in England at the time. Although evolution was a ground-breaking discovery when released it is only in the 20th century when the actual idea became into full spotlight and came under fire from leaders of strong responses.
The topic appeals to me as a future teacher and how I will portray Darwin throughout and how it is important to emphasise that his work did not undermine the purpose of religion in society regardless of how some to Darwinian supporters.
Over the past few years, I have followed in the controversies and counter responses between Ultra-Darwinists and creationists. The debates and arguments have provoked heated exchanges and theories. I intend to explore some of these alternate views throughout this paper along with the original theories published by Charles Darwin.
I think it is first important to state that it is not my intention to prove or disprove the truths surrounding the existence of God. I hope to follow the news stories in relation to these topics.
Before we can even look at these responses, we should first examine the history and work of Charles Darwin and his work from his book On the Origins of Species. My first chapter will consist of information regarding the work of Charles Darwin and his accomplishments. From my research on Darwin, I intend to examine how his work has affected society and the various responses, both positive and negative that he did and still does receive. Darwin did not publish his work the intention of offending; ‘I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious views of anyone.’
Furthermore, for my second chapter, it is my intention to prove that a theist can indeed follow evolution without categorising themselves as an atheist regardless of what Ultra-Darwinist like Richard Dawkins and Creationists such as Ken Ham believe. In my second chapter, it is not my intention to establish that some Ultra-Darwinists are right and the Creationists are wrong. Instead it is my intention to establish that some people within these communities have come to conclusive postions regarding the theory of Evolution and ultimately share the idea that belief in Evolution equates to Atheism. My main intention from this research paper is to highlight the distinctive view of Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists in Response to Charles Darwin.
Strong views in response to Charles Darwin have in some cases hijacked the debate of what Darwinism truly means and how it contributes to our modern understanding of science. The Catholic Church is not at odds with the theory of evolution. Pope John Paul II often encouraged the study of evolution and natural selection, believing that science deepened our understanding of life on earth. However, the creation versus evolution controversy, involves a recurring political, theological and cultural debate regarding the origins of life on Earth and the universe itself. The debate rages most publicly in the United States. Other parts of Europe also have taken up the debate too but to a much lesser extent. Therefore, through my second chapter I plan to examine these beliefs.
However the bedrock of Creationist views is their literal interpretation of the bible, especially the book of Genesis where God created the Earth along with Adam and Eve. Arguably, studying a literal interpretation of the bible primarily as against allegorical and metaphorical interpretation is considered myopic. The emphasis would be placed instead on exemplifying the bible as a scientific textbook over a moral compass. This ‘textbook’ would be used to combat against Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species.
For this chapter, it is my intention to look at the work contributed by Charles Darwin in regarding the theory of evolution and natural selection most notably through On the Origin of Species. I will look at Darwin’s own response to his discoveries, and, the impact it had on his faith throughout his life.
An English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin was born in February 1809 and died in April 1882. He was one of six children born to a wealthy doctor and financier Robert Darwin and his wife Susannah. In his childhood Darwin’s family were members of the Church of England who regularly attending parish ceremonies. Darwin himself went onto to study Medicine in Edinburgh and later joining the Plinian society studying Natural History and examining the variation in creatures in wildlife. His early life was therefore surrounded by aspects of biology and even with his father’s hopes for him to continue studying medicine, Darwin travelled on voyages throughout the world to further pursuing and studying his love for nature.
On the Origin of Species was published in November 1859 by Charles Darwin. It is often considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology overcoming previous proposals of transmutation of species. The book introduced the process of natural selection, as an answer for the development of life throughout the history of the universe, ‘It both facilitates and encourages the development and diversification.’ It presents a body of evidence that the diversity of life came about as a result of common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered from his research and experimentation. Written for non-specialist readers, it attracted widespread interest upon its publication. His work and findings generated scientific, philosophical and huge religious debates. Although many argue On the Origin of Species killed the necessity for both God and religion, Darwin countered any religious criticism that he received in his book by stating ‘I see no good reasons why the views given in this volume should shock the religious views of anyone.’ This quote highlights how Darwin respected his faith despite of his discoveries up to the release of his book and was careful with his publication, knowing that his work would upset many people and their religious traditions. He was reluctant to publish his findings as a result of this. His work did not kill the traditional belief in a Christian God that most theists still believe in. Darwin did have his struggles with religion, but he saw God as the Ultimate Lawgiver. The fact that it was written for non-specialists indicates how Darwin simply wanted to make known of his findings. Just like Thomas Paine’s Pamphlet of Common Sense, it was written for all people, in order for him to have a wide audience for his work.
Throughout his book Darwin places strong emphasis on the importance of Natural Selection. ‘It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good.’ Natural selection is at the heart of the theory of evolution, without it, the theory would not be plausible. It was from his Voyage where he gained most of his understanding of Natural Selection.
Darwin spent almost 5 years on the Beagle expedition travelling the world and examining the lives of various organisms in different countries. Prior to his expedition, and for a time during, Darwin was quite Orthodox regarding his creationist and moral views. Darwin would quote the bible when it came to how we should live our lives. He looked for centres of Creation to explain distribution and variation. Upon his return from his voyage Darwin was far more critical of the bible as a history. It made him to reflect on why all religions were not equally valid. He began thinking far more about the validity of religion. He openly discussed this with his wife his thoughts and concerns, he furthermore focused on the study of geology and transmutation of species. From this speculation, Darwin came to the realisation that the purpose of natural selection crossed out the need for design. He found it difficult to support any ideal of God and religion when he saw all of the suffering in the world, not just that of humanity, but also the suffering of animals through disease and predation and hunger. Essentially what was it that made humans so bad in comparison to how other animals behave e.g. how a wasp paralysis’s a caterpillar before killing it? ‘Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be.’ He presented these theories throughout his work, but it is important to note, that although this is where his struggle with faith initially arose he still saw God as the natural lawgiver necessary for society. Like many philosophers who preceded him, he saw the flaws in human and animal society and was deeply troubled by the power of evil in the world.
Many scholars have debated what Darwin’s exact views on Religion were. It is evident that he struggled greatly with his faith and it changed throughout his life which he exemplifies in his autobiography; ‘I was unwilling to give up my belief….thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate.’ He was not out to denounce religion but he saw the flaws in dedicating himself entirely to God when his presence within nature was unclear, he was careful how he phrased this and often reassured he meant no offence to other naturalists who may oppose him. ‘Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume under the form of an abstract, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are stocked with a multitude of facts all viewed.’ In fact the majority of his publications had no mention of religion or God in society. It was in his personal letters where we get the best idea of where he stood regarding faith. Like many people, he showed a tendency to alter his faith throughout different time periods in his life. ‘The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain agnostic.’ The most noteworthy was when he appeared to denounce his own faith after the death of his daughter Annie in 1851. Darwin deeply reflected on his loyalty to his faith. There was a period where we cannot ignore that Darwin was agnostic for most of his life after his voyage. The death of Annie left Darwin distraught. The death of a loved one would make any human to question their faith and Darwin was no different. It was also church teachings on the afterlife that made Darwin sceptical about his devotion to God.
Darwin came from a non-conformist Unitarian family. Influenced much by both his father and grandfather’s freethinking, Darwin originally planned to study to become an Anglican clergyman at Cambridge where he originally did not question the literal truth of the bible. Instead he studied the natural science and laws of nature searching for explanations for miracles presented in the bible and saw adaptation of species as evidence of evolution. ‘Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.’
Darwin remained close to the vicar of Downe, John Brodie Innes, and continued to play leading part in the parish work of the church. It was around 1849 where Darwin began to take walks around the church he was opposed to attending while his family attended the church ceremony. His conflict had begun between his science and his faith. ‘Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than those more complex organs.’ It was around this period that Darwin had come to a conclusion regarding the force of Natural Selection. He believed that the theory would not be well accepted with the church because it conflicted with the stories presented in the bible, especially the account of creation in Genesis. He considered it absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist; however Darwin never described himself as an atheist. His initial beliefs changed from his youth but he was never definitive in his religious views. If anything his religious views prior to the publication of On the Origin of Species resemble that of a creationist, one who cannot see any other reason for life on earth other than what came from the bible. It can be argued that it was this God, God as a watchmaker, that Darwin appeared to struggle with. (Watchmaker Analogy: a theological theory developed by William Paley in 1802 which depicts God as a watchmaker. This implied that creation applied to everything to work and to have a purpose in order to make a functional design.) If we look at how the Church of England was at the time, we can see that this may have well been that case, as the people followed the teachings from James Usher’s literal interpretation of the Bible. Therefore we can see why even Darwin himself found such difficulties accepting his own theories, ‘If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.’
Darwin, like many atheistic/agnostic philosophers before him saw the great power that religion had in society. Darwin’s work was not done with the intention of undermining or ridiculing people’s beliefs but as a son of the Age of Enlightenment he did highlight the ongoing change and further development of social society.
‘I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscience selves, arose through chance seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide. I am aware that if we admit a first cause, the mind still craves to know whence it came from and how it arose. Nor can I overlook the difficulty from the immense amount of suffering though the world. I am, also, induced to defer to a certain extent to the judgement of many able men who have fully believed in God; but here again I see how poor an argument this is. The safest conclusion seems to me to be that the whole subject is beyond the scope of man’s intellect; but man can do his duty.’ 
We cannot define Darwin as a theist. Darwin struggled with a definitive answer for the purpose of religion. In fairness Darwin did not set out to slam the idea of God, creation nor religion. It would however be unrealistic to say that Darwin did not kill the purpose of God nor does his work conflict with religion in society. In the second chapter I plan to look at some of the responses to Darwinism to the theory of evolution.
Although my purpose for the next chapter is to illuminate responses to Darwin, is not my goal to justify that Darwin was a theist at the end. His theological views were arguably troubled which is clear from his personal accounts, but again he still held great respect for the moral side that religion produced ‘The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognise that we ought to control our thoughts.’ Darwin as a scientist was merely writing of his own experience through sight, intelligence and faith.
In this chapter, I hope to examine reactions to Darwin, firstly the creationist Ken Ham who simply disagrees with the theory and secondly the Ultra Darwinist and how he uses Darwin’s theory to attack religion.
Also, I will look at Conor Cunningham, the Vatican and others who do not support the idea that a belief in Evolution implies Atheism.
What does one think when they hear the term creationist? According to the Oxford English Dictionary; Creationism is a belief that life originates from specific acts of divine creation. The most common aspect of these beliefs is that the Theory of Evolution is not compatible with Christianity; therefore a belief in Evolution means Atheism and furthermore, that the Bible is the only origin story to explain life on earth. For some, this implies a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis; the earth was created in six days and is only 6,000 years old. There are various reasons for this. Many out-spoken creationists such, as Ken Ham and members of the Young Earth Institute for Creationist Research, have lectured frequently around the world on this very topic issuing some controversial statements regarding the bible in relation to the origins of the universe. ‘No apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.’ For them the theory of evolution is irrelevant as the bible contains the only explanation for life on earth.
Most scientists and major religions in the Western World have long since incorporated the theories and concepts of biological evolution into their understanding of nature and humanity. However there are still many communities, most notably in the USA, who are adamant in keeping a strong stance against the theory of Evolution. Creation fundamentalists have taken a “dog in the manger” attitude to any evidence presented by evolutionists. In the United States there are a high percentage of people who still believe in the literal truth of the bible.
The following quote demonstrates how the term Darwinism is excluded by some people and even communities in parts of the world, most notably the United States.
‘In the United Sates, the term Darwinism is often used by creationists as a pejorative term in reference to beliefs such as atheistic naturalism, but in the United Kingdom the term has no negative connotations, being freely used as shorthand for the body of theory dealing with evolution, and in particular, evolution by natural selection.’
The teaching of evolution in schools has been one of the primary reasons why America has had numerous controversial cases and debates regarding Darwinism and Evolution. Arguably one of the main reasons for this is that there is a lack of comprehension of how evolution can be associated and justified through an understanding of both faith and fact.
Over the past three decades schools in Denver, Colorado USA have had a huge controversy surrounding the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design as a scientific theory in schools. Intelligent Design was a scientific form of creationism put forward in response to evolution. Its definition is similar to that of the Watchmaker Analogy; belief that everything was created by a deity. The case arose over parents’ concerns regarding what their children were being regarding the origins of life. Many were in support of evolution as a scientific theory presented in a science class. Many were infuriated that intelligent design was not being thought by some teachers in the science classroom. This all originated from a creationist textbook (Of Pandas and People) produced in the 1980s which promoted the Intelligent Design theory. The legal battle that followed in 2005 sparked nationwide attention. The plaintiffs were in favour of the ID theory, attempting to promote the topic as an important feature that needed to be taught it schools. The defendants consisted of board members from the school, were against the teaching of ID as a scientific theory. The case favoured toward the plaintiffs who successfully argued that Intelligent Design was a form of creationism. It was a very controversial case that represented the religious and scientific principles that people in America held. In Telligent Design is still a part of the religious syllabus in US states but not alongside evolution in science.
Creationism has been seen as a dangerous topic to teach in the UK. In fact, very recently they decided to ban the teaching of the topic in both religion and science in schools. The new ruling made it illegal to promote or teach creationism in any state funded school in the UK. Although the speculation and flexibility of the origins of life on earth is permitted, creationism is not to be present as an alternate theory for existence. There are many different reasons behind this banning. Along with many scientific communities, most mainstream church leaders and religions too reject the concept and ideologies accompanied with creationism. The Church of England and Catholic single academy model supplemental agreement reads that ‘the requirement on every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, in any case prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.’
The fact that creationism is banned in an influential country like the UK illustrates the dangers devoting faith beliefs to creationist theories. One could argue this banning supports the theories of Richard Dawkins instead; as we cannot teach parts of the bible from a literal and scientific perspective as a result of its flaws in that area. Instead, this banning actually neither supports the fact that the bible is not a scientific text nor is it meant to be a historical timeline. Instead a book of various stories each with its own significant meaning.
Ken Ham is a well-known Young Earth Creationist from Queensland Australia. (Young Earth Creationist: people who believe that God created the Earth in a short period of time i.e. what is illustrated in Genesis.) He has been at the heart of many debates supporting the idea of a literal interpretation of Genesis and other creationist theories. Ham strongly supports the idea that Genesis holds numerous truths that society needs to obey, ‘In fact Genesis has the answer to many of the problems facing compromising church and questioning world today.’ In his teaching, Ham emphasises the significance of the average Christian life and how a compromise on Genesis from the Christian church has opened a dangerous route in relation to biblical authority and how it influences our ethical motivations.
From Ham’s point of view, the age of the universe is about 6,000 years old. In addition to that he states that Noah’s flood occurred about 4,500 years ago in the year 2348 BC. Believing that the animals are carried on Noah’s ark produced the biological diversity observed on Earth. Perhaps his most controversial theory is that both genetically modern human beings and dinosaurs co-existed on Earth and that Dinosaurs were eliminated by the great flood during the time of Noah’s Ark. It is important to note that Ham does not condemn all the aspects presented in Darwin’s theory of evolution, supporting the concept that Natural Selection can give rise to a number of species from an original population. With regard to his opinion on the church, Ham has gone as a far as stating in his book Why won’t they listen? The power of creation evangelisation, ‘Much of the church throughout the world is missing out on using what I know to be one of the most successful means of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ There is no denying that the world has seen a huge decline for support toward religion in the past few decades. However in many of his debates, and lectures Ham has arguably misused the bible as a weapon against Evolution. Stating that, as we were not there to witness the origins of life, how can we prove otherwise that Genesis is not a sufficient account. Therefore could we argue that Ham is going about the wrong way of ‘reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.’
Ham has also preached about his concerns with an allegorical interpretation of Genesis. ‘If you look only as Genesis as an allegory, you have a major problem, if it’s an allegory, then tell me who our ancestor was?’ To use the bible for historical accuracy can be considered irrational. It is the religious and moral views that make the bible as strong and significant as it is. The stories presented can be appreciated by both atheist and religious people as they are not informing us on how to appease God, but how to be better individuals. That is one of the key messages that it shares, that it relates to all life.
On the other end of the spectrum lie Ultra-Darwinists. Ultra-Darwinists take the theory of evolution and simply believe that it is the only explanation needed for life on earth. ‘Fundamentalist Christians are passionately opposed to evolution and I am passionately in favour of it.’ Richard Dawkins the Flag-bearer for Ultra-Darwinist has come out with some very provocative and controversial statements that religion no longer has a place in society since the introduction of Darwinism.
Richard Dawkins, a world famous biologist, is well-known for speaking out against religion and has strong atheist beliefs. A flag bearer for Ultra-Darwinism, Dawkins has himself speculated that support of evolution has led both him and others to atheism. He has written numerous books and articles, given many lectures and has had several media appearances on the topic of evolution. He has also been very outspoken on why religion does not belong in our modern society and that evolution is the only philosophy we need for our comprehension of life. ‘one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teachers us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.’ Dawkins has been very provocative in his works and has even gone as far as saying that to believe in God makes us deluded as well as to say that to teach a child about God should be considered child abuse. His strong Ultra-Darwinist outlook has inspired many, both positively and negatively, to respond to his work with thought provoking and engaging theories of their own. Although Dawkins raises some valid arguments, he comes to dogmatic conclusions, ‘Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.’ Taking too much of an academic approach toward the bible and religion itself, believing that it does not do justice to the grandeur of the universe. Dawkins often avoids discussing the moral benefits of religion and instead focuses on the negative impact that it has played. ‘There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point.’ Richard Dawkins almost makes some of these provocative statements in order to simply gain media attention. From some of his previous quotes, he at times shows much disregard for people’s cultures and traditions, supporting phrases such as ‘science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.’ Again to reiterate, Darwin did not have the intention to dismantle and criticise religious traditions, even with all of the evil in the world in his time.
Dawkins has written numerous books regarding his views against religion and to his support of Darwinism. Most Notably The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Selfish Gene. In each he provides interesting arguments to support his views, however I found in The God Delusion he was correct only insofar as when it came to the creationist belief in God, not the mainstream Christian view. He even seems to misinterpret the relevance of Jesus’ sacrifice; ‘If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment- thereby incidentally, condemning remote future generations of Jews to programs and persecutions as ‘Christ-killers’: did that hereditary sins pass down in the semen too?’ In one aspect, it was from Jesus’ martyrdom and his later resurrection that are probably the most vital and inspirational part of the bible, it summed up how he dedicated his life to what he believed in, not just a simple arrive, forgive sins, leave that Dawkins seems to interpret. When it comes to the bible being a mythological lore he argues that, ‘most of us happily disavow fairies, astrology and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, without first immersing ourselves in books of Pastafarian theology etc.’ Yes this is true but does that mean we should then follow Dawkins so enthusiastically because the book he wrote seems so plausible. To add to that, surely this argument completely contradicts his theory of memes essentially because we are therefore in control of these parasitic memes, which brings me to my next point, the theory of Memes.
In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins plays on the Theory of Memes. The term meme is defined as a unit of human cultural evolution analogues to the gene. Therefore, this suggests that the ‘selfish’ replication may also model human. The theory of Memes is a form of evolution according to Dawkins, a strand that determines our associations with trends and fashions in modern culture. Therefore, Memes colonise us through the social aspect of popularisation. Essentially from my perspective, the Theory of Memes only equates to the creationist idea of filling missing or unexplained gaps with a divine creator. ‘When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell.’ The idea of memes is not straight forward; it puts our entire understanding livelihood, personality and individuality into questions. If we are colonised by meme, then our very existence, our human traits, our personal interests and achievements are subjugated as a result of Memes. This theory puts forward many inconsistencies and not so appealing theories for many. The main flaw is that it categorises everything under its own theory and ergo simply implies that everything is a false illusion, including both religion and science.
To be fair Dawkins does say in The God Delusion that he cannot certainly disprove God, instead he is suggesting more preferable situations. However this is not the tone that the book displays. ‘The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing, while at the same time never being tainted with self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feels that life owes them something.’ Dawkins, like most researchers often changes his opinion throughout his research, but still remains so outspoken and in support of Atheism. However, he previously admitting that we cannot be sure that there is no God, and then still using social media to promote his strand of Ultra-Darwinism and to promote other atheist speakers to ridicule religious cultures. To further counter act, Dawkins once stated regarding biology that ‘you can’t even begin to understand biology, you can’t understand life, unless you understand what it’s all there for, how it arose and that means evolution.’ If this is Darwin’s outlook on biology, then surely one can respond by saying how can one understand any form of religion without studying them in great detail and not just focusing on the extreme fundamentalists side. One of my main arguments against the likes of Dawkins is his factual approach the idea and concept of religion. Galileo often taught that an adequate interpretation of Scripture requires ‘careful attention to literary genres, in order to get to the true sense of the biblical text.’
I established in the first chapter that Darwin was far from Atheist. Although he at times distanced himself from the church, Darwin saw the benefits of religion in Society. Like many philosophers that preceded him, Darwin acknowledged the benefit of religion as a Law giver in society.
Conor Cunningham’s award winning Documentary on this very topic established why both Ultra Darwinist and Creationists have hijacked the debate regarding whether Evolution means Atheism. Cunningham claimed in his documentary that like many atheists, our knowledge and concept of God goes beyond the theory of evolution, but that is not the case for Dawkins or Ham, ‘Both Ultra-Darwinians and creationists believe that any existent deity is a designer ‘God.”’ Throughout his documentary Cunningham examines the reasoning behind much of this animosity toward the theory of evolution. He encounters many different philosophers, scientists and theologians discussing with them their response to evolution. Michael Ruse and Francis Collins are the two most notable scientists who refute the belief the Evolution implies atheism.
Michael Ruse is well known for balancing the benefits and negatives of religion and science. Ruse, a lecturer at Florida State University, is a philosopher of science who specialises in philosophy of biology. He is well known for his work for the relationship between science and religion, the creation evolution controversy and the demarcation problem in science. Ruse emphasises that although he himself is an atheist, he claims there is no reason why Darwinism should imply Ultra Darwinism. Francis Collins discusses how to illustrate a flaw in Dawkins theory of the Theory of Memes, ‘Science is committing a category error to claim dominion over the existence of God.’ Collins dedicated over fifteen years studying the role of DNA in organisms and it has only come to recent light that all living things link to each other in some shape or form through our DNA.
The Vatican’s was originally sceptical in their response to Darwinian science. However, it has been highly praised and encouraged by the modern church. Most recently Pope John Paul II who stated that the ‘Church has benefited from scientific progress, not least from the fact that the sciences constitute a critical a critical instance which purifies religion from magical conception of the world and remnants of superstition.’ John Paul II arguably brought the church into the 20th century after the ending of Vatican II and his support and love for science was inspiring to many to appreciate how far the church has come. Pope Francis stated in October 2014 that Evolution and the Big Bang are not at odds with Catholicism, stating that ‘God is not a magician with a magic wand.’ Pope Benedict also emphasises how we need to know the distinction between science and religion, just as John Paul II often preached, ‘Science, cannot, therefore, presume to provide a complete, deterministic representation of our future and of the development of every phenomenon that it studies.’ In response to creationism, he proclaimed ‘Creation should be thought of, not according to the model of a craftsman who makes all sorts of objects, but rather in the manner in which thought is creative.’
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Roman Catholic priest and a scientist. He was highly respected for his work in physics, geology, palaeontology and theology. Teilhard de Chardin spent a great deal of his life in scientific research. Teilhard de Chardin believed scientific work gave him greater understanding of God as moral compass. The more he discovered about the world of nature the more he saw the creative hand of God at work. For this man, science and scientific research were ways of getting closer to God. He wrote his insights in his two books The Phenomenon of Man and The Hymn of the Universe. I think that Teilhard is a key example and role model with regard to our outlook on God. Instead of ignoring any scientific data previously presented by the likes of Darwin or Galileo, he instead embraced these theories and went on to discover the truth for self him and came to his own conclusions.
From all of these pre-Darwinian works, surely one can acknowledge that the question and existence of God dates back further than both Darwin and the scriptures of Christianity. However the scientific work done in dedication to a deity throughout the past millennia does neither prove, disprove or tarnish the reason to believe in God for any man of faith dedicated to the original scriptures and their metaphorical and allegorical teachings.
A further response that we can examine when it comes to dismantling creationist and Ultra-Darwinian views against Darwinism would to look at philosophers that pre-date Darwin’s Evolutionary theory. Philo of Alexandria was a Jewish philosopher from the first century A.D. he noticed an inconsistent message in Genesis and ultimately came to the conclusion that the Hebrew contained both a metaphorical and allegorical meaning. Furthermore he believed that the Hebrew Bible was far too marvellous and complex to be taken literally. Therefore, I am again referring back to my point that the bible is not a scientific textbook conflicted by Darwin’s theories in On the Origin of the Species.
To conclude, Darwin’s theory is not a tool for atheism, his theory is one of the greatest contributions to science ever, and it is generally accepted worldwide. Could we argue that Dawkins mistakes the failures of religion for the failure of humanity, whilst Ken Ham falls to the opposite presumption, Humanity is to blame for the fault of religion. To respond to both ideas, we could look at Galileo. He once made statement that the bible teaches us how to go to heaven and not how the heavens move. Therefore once again going back to the sense that neither Darwin’s On the Origins of Species and the Holy Bible are not at odds, primarily because they do not fall under the same category; a book of scientific facts against a moral guide for a religion? ‘Echoing the words of W.B. Yeats, the centre cannot hold for reductive naturalism, likewise for a universalized Darwinism.’
To conclude, Darwin undoubtedly provided one of the best contributions to science in the world. It solidified our understanding of how life on earth exists the way it does. Having said that, both science and religion are cannot answer all of the questions but don’t areas do not come under the same category; fact informs us, faith reassures us. The exact origins of the Earth are still a mystery and no religious or scientific group hold a monopoly of the truth.
- Caruana, Louis; Darwin and Catholicism The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter ( EW York, T&T Clark, 2009)
- Cunningham Conor, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong (William B. Erdmans, London; 2010).
- Darwin, Charles, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (London; Bibliolis Books ltd. 1887 (reissued 2010))
- Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species (London, Penguin Classics, First published 1859, re-issued 1968).
- Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion (London: Black Swan, 2007).
- Dawkins, Richard; The Selfish Gene (New York; Oxford University Press, 1976)
- Dawkins, Richards, The Greatest Show on Earth (London, Black Swan, 2009).
- Ham, Ken, Why Won’t They Listen? The power of Creation Evangelisation (Master Books, Green Forest Arizona, 2002).
- Fowler, Thomas, The Evolutionary Controversy (Baker Academic, 2007; USA).
- Haught John, God after Darwin, A Theology of Evolution (UK: Westview Press 2008).
- McCarthy, Fachtna & McCann, Joseph, ‘Religion and Science’. (Veritas, Dublin 2003)
- Ruse, Michael, ‘The Evolution-Creation Struggle’. (London: Harvard University Press 2005)
- Scott, Eugene; Don’t Call it Darwinism (Springer Science, 2009)
- Stott, Ian; The God Solution: Are you ready? (USA, Xilbris LLC; 2013)
- Pope Benedict quoted in Stephen O. Horn and Siegfried Wiedenhofer, eds.,Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, trans. Michael Miller, foreword Christoph Cardinal Schönborn (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2008).
- http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/12793.Charles_Darwin?page=1 Last Received 6/11/14
- http://www.christianpost.com/news/interview-creation-museum-founder-on-evolution-clash-27550/ By Jeremiah Gregier, Interview: Creation Museum Foundation on Evolution Clash. Last Received 5/11/14.
- http://www.intelligentdesign.org/ 9/4/2013 Discovery Institute, Centre for Science and culture 208 Columbia Street, Seattle Washington.
- http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/06/dawkins-evolution-is-not-a-controversial-issue/ Dawkins: Evolution is not a Controversial Issue; Last Received 5/11/14. Posted by Elizabeth landau September 2012.
- http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/pope-francis-declares-evolution-and-big-bang-theory-are-right-and-god-isnt-a-magician-with-a-magic-wand-30699960.html. Last received 5/11/14. Published 28/10/14 Irish Independent.
Did Darwin Kill God? No, but Dawkins killed Evolution. Last Visited 19/9/14. By Conor Cunningham.
- http://creation.com/ken-ham Creation Ministries International; Last Visited 19/9/14.
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/25/creationism-banned-uk-schools_n_5529693.html Creationism Banned in the UK; Last Visited 19/9/14, Posted 06/25/14 by Yasmine Hazif.
- http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/06/18/secular-triumph-as-government-bans-creationism-from-free-sch by Ian Dunt; Last Received 3/11/14 Politic.co.uk.
Film & Documentaries
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9x3JJILFmU4 Last Visited 19/9/14. Did Darwin Kill God?
- Director: Vaughn, Matthew, X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox, 25/05/11).
Darwin’s theory has not only changed the scientific world but has also greatly influenced the pop culture world. The most notable example from my own personal reading is the X–Men franchise. From this franchise the main characters are a result of human evolution and mutations and as a result the theme of Natural Selection plays a prominent role in numerous storylines. The conflict put in place between humans and mutated or further evolved humans regardless of the fictional traits at hand emphasises the development of competition in communities, and how Natural Selection can come down to supremacy. To add to that, in one of the films X-Men; First Class there is a quote that provides a more than a fitting depiction of how the concept of survival of the fittest and Natural selection has also impacted on human civilisation; ‘To Homo neanderthalensis, his mutant cousin, Homo sapiens, was an aberration. Peaceful cohabitation, if it ever existed, was short-lived. Records show, without exception, that the arrival of the mutated human species in any region was followed by the immediate extinction of their lesser evolved kin.’ It highlights how Darwin’s work is without question widely accepted by most mainstream communities today. It paraphrases with Darwin’s own terminology, ‘in the long history of humankind (and animal kind too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.’
Along with that, many other writers and directors have greatly utilised different aspects of evolution in their works. Other film franchises have toyed with the idea of humans behaving like apes franchises such as Planet of the Apes and King Kong. Some of these comes have come from the discovery of common ancestry between apes and humans as to an extent we share aspects of DNA, learning capabilities, bone structure and even blood types with the apes.
How is this relevant to Dawkins or Ham? Darwin’s theory was never at odds with the mainstream Christian belief in God, nor has it ever been in conflict with how we live our lives regardless of our faith.
 Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (London, Penguin Classics, First published 1859, re-issued 1968) p.455
 Conor Cunningham, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong (William B. Erdmans, London; 2010) p.12
 Darwin, The Origin of Species. p.455
 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (London, Penguin Classics, First published 1859, re-issued 1968) p.82
 Darwin, The Origin of Species p.80
 Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (London; Bibliolis Books ltd. 1887 (reissued 2010)) p.32
 Darwin, The Origin of Species p.453
 Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (New York; Appleton and Company, 1872) p.94
 Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (London; Bibliolis Books ltd. 1887) p.87
 Darwin, The Origin of Species p.435
 Darwin, The Origin of Species p.178
 Darwin, The Descent of Man p.97
 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/08/1/l_081_04.html Last Received: 4/11/14
 Eugene, Scott, Ranch, Glenn; Don’t Call it Darwinism (Springer Science, 2009) p.2
 http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2014/06/18/secular-triumph-as-government-bans-creationism-from-free-sch by Ian Dunt; Last Received 3/11/14 Politic.co.uk
 Ham, Ken, Why Won’t They Listen? The Power of Creation Evangelisation (Master Books, Green Forest Arizona, 2002). p.21
 Ken Ham, Why won’t they listen? The Power of creation evangelisation. p. 21
 Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion (London: Black Swan, 2007) p.18-19.
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.126
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.308
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.360
 Ian Stott, The God Solution: Are you ready? (USA, Xilbris LLC; 2013) p.105
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.253
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.15
 Richard Dawkins; The Selfish Gene (New York; Oxford University Press, 1976) P.192.
 Dawkins, The God Delusion p.361
 http://lightyears.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/06/dawkins-evolution-is-not-a-controversial-issue/ Last Received: 5/11/14
 Louis Caruana, Darwin and Catholicism The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter ( EW York, T&T Clark, 2009) p.33
 Cunningham Conor, Darwin’s Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get it Wrong (William B. Erdmans, London; 2010) p.151.
 Louis Caruana, Darwin and Catholicism The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter ( EW York, T&T Clark, 2009) p.33
 Louis Caruana, Darwin and Catholicism The Past and Present Dynamics of a Cultural Encounter ( EW York, T&T Clark, 2009) p. 35
 Pope Benedict quoted in Stephen O. Horn and Siegfried Wiedenhofer, eds., Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo, trans. Michael Miller, foreword Christoph Cardinal Schönborn (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2008), p.13.
 http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/11/16/3634452.htm Last Retrieved 5/11/14
 Director: Vaughn, Matthew, X-Men: First Class (20th Century Fox, 25/05/11).
 Darwin, The Origin of Species