New Scientist on evolution and religion

New Scientist on evolution and religion April 17, 2008

The New Scientist has a nice round-up of perspectives on the implications of evolution for religion, and whether science and religion are compatible. An excerpt:

So are religion and evolution incompatible? It depends who’s judging. The idea that many religious people find most satisfactory – that a deity intervened in and directed the evolutionary process – cannot be disproved but is not supported by any evidence. The interpretations that are most compatible with what we know – that God did not intervene in evolution after creating the universe, or God is nature – are ones that many believers find unpalatable.

One of the links is to this thoughtful article in The Christian Century on the problems that evolution presents for Christians (and, by implication, Muslims and Jews) in particular:

On questions about evolution, the origin of life and the future of the planet, I look into the science box. On questions about God, salvation, theology and ethics, I turn to the religion box. While I think that the contents of the two boxes are compatible, I rarely try to work out the terms of their relationship.

Perhaps that’s because the contents of the two boxes are, when mixed, still combustible. When theology faces off against the account of the world set forth by evolutionary biology, God’s goodness and power and God’s plans for the future seem to be called into question with new force.

For instance, knowledge of evolutionary history raises questions of theodicy in an especially disconcerting way. Evolution reveals a vast history of unfathomable waste, loss, extinction, suffering and death in the natural world. What has God been up to all these millennia? And what is God up to now? If we believe that God oversees creation, then God’s way of doing it through evolution seems strange and even appalling.

Surely ethics is also located in the scientific box – at least, in so far as science can tell us why people behave the way they do, and how their behaviour will change if we change their environment.

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