Thursday, April 24, 2008

Christianity and Darwinism

As readers of this blog have long known, I think that evolution and Christianity are reconcilable. You can be a Christian and still accept the latest strong scientific evidence for evolution by natural selection.

Noah Millman, however, offers a challenge to this view. He argues that while evolution is not really a challenging to a belief in a creating God, it is a challenge to Christianity, which makes claims about the nature of humans,and the nature of God. Here is what he has to say:

I continue to believe that both sides of the Darwin vs. Christianity battle are missing the most telling point. We should all agree that religious dogma has no bearing on the truth or falsity of a scientific theory. Heliocentrism is true; geocentrism is false. There is an enormous weight of evidence behind the theory of evolution by natural selection. There is going to be more and more evidence behind new theories about the workings of the human mind, and the interactions of the human genome and human personality. All religion can do is react to these discoveries and, as part of that reaction, caution us about drawing unwarranted conclusions (political, moral, what-have-you) from the evidence. But I don’t think that’s the end of the story, because I think science does have implications for the persuasiveness of specific religious doctrines, simply as a psychological matter. And I think evolution through natural selection is extremely uncongenial to the central Christian story about the nature of sin and evil in the world. Why? Because the Christian story has the entry of strife into the world come about as the result of human sin, whereas the core idea behind evolution by natural selection is that our existence – and the consciousness and ability to sin that comes with it – is a product of strife. Put bluntly: natural selection is not the mechanism that the Christian deity would use to create man in His image. Or, if it is, I’d like to see the explanation. I think that natural selection poses similar but less-acute problems for Judaism and Islam; it poses the fewest problems, I suspect, for Hinduism. Again: I’m not speaking of science refuting religion. I’m speaking of scientific results making certain core religious claims less persuasive. That should have implication for religious affiliation of the small group of people who have truly understood the scientific theories in question – which, in turn, will probably have some social implications. And those social implications should be of general interest, independent of the validity of either the science or the religion.


Read it all here.

Ross Douthat has a response here.

In my view Millman ignores the rich diversity of theological understandings of human nature within the Christian tradition. It is certainly not central to Christian teaching that humans, through sin, are the cause of strife in the world. And many Christian theologians have written a great deal about how acceptance of evolution may change our thinking about how God acted in his creating world. See my posts here and here.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Gary said...

Genesis is the foundation upon which Christianity and Judism are built. Prove that Genesis is fable, as evolution says, and you destroy Christianity.

I know that by now, having seen it so often, that I should not be perplexed when someone says they believe in some kind of god AND evolution. Evolution is atheistic to its core. Don't believe it? Try introducing God at any point in the evolutionary process and see how quickly you are rebuked.

Anyone who says they are a Christian and also an evolutionist is very confused. They have not thought through the implications of their beliefs.