Religion and evolution have never been happy bedfellows. While certain Christian denominations and Christian apologetics would have you believe that evolution is just an unproven theory and unlikely to be representative of how nature works in reality, scientists have universally embraced evolution as the best explanation for how organisms change through geological time. There is little doubt that selective environmental forces, together with genetic variation, are responsible for the vast array of life forms we see today. The evidence is overwhelming, has been for a long time, and has been garnered from many quarters of the natural sciences. When Darwin’s, ‘Origin of the Species’ was published in 1859, it was rapidly absorbed and accepted by the Victorian scientific community and equally reviled by the religious hierarchy. Religious leaders were right to be alarmed: the indisputable reality of the evolutionary process challenges firmly held and cherished Christian beliefs and tenets. Over the past 170 years, the way the church has reacted or evolved to evolutionary theory has been interesting. At one extreme we see fundamental bible literalists denying evolution outright, while at the other extreme we see liberal Christians embracing evolution wholeheartedly. The latter tread a dangerous path. On the one hand, they are concerned about losing their intellectual integrity if they deny evolution, on the other, they are in peril of losing their faith as the two belief systems are fundamentally incompatible. This hasn’t stopped savvy Christian thinkers from forcing some form of reconciliation.
Christians should be afraid of evolution. Christian dogma and theology are primitive, pre-scientific beliefs. While it is true that Catholicism, and by extension some forms of Protestantism, has accrued a patina of Greek philosophy, lavishly applied, over the past two thousand years- a philosophy totally alien to its Judaic roots, by the way. It is also true, that the Neo-Platonism and Aristotelean foundation on which it rests has been thoroughly debunked. If you scratch the surface of Christianity you will reveal its atavistic and primal true self.
Here is a question for thoughtful Christians who seek to embrace evolution in all its manifestations and with all of its implications: how do they square a god of sublime mercy and love (have you read the Old Testament?) with a system that is based on wasteful misery? Evolution gets the job done, but at what cost? It is certainly not merciful. For every successful organism, there is a heap of dead compatriots extending out into the distant Eons. Evolution was not designed by a caring and loving deity, or a deity concerned with garnering resources. Perhaps god devolved this bit of reality to his adversary, Satan? According to Christianity, ‘Man’ is the pinnacle of ‘God’s Work’. Everything was put forth for us to thrive- humankind is at the centre of All. But to accept evolution is for the Christian, an abrogation/negation of our specialness in this world. Evolution demands/commands that we are but one in a teeming mound of organisms, a little smarter, perhaps, but not particularly special. Our dominance is a product of accidental not providential events. There is also the uncomfortable truth that in the past three billion, or so, years that life has existed on this planet, humankind only made its appearance 100,000 years ago. God took a while to get round to forming his favourite child. And if we are just another animal, what are the implications for the soul? Do amoebas have souls? And if not, why not?
To accept evolutionary theory as true, the Christian must be prepared to ditch the underpinning tenets of Christianity to such an extent that the term ‘Christian’ is an insubstantial vessel; hollow and devoid of content. To remain a ‘Good Christian’ there is a need to deny evolution as true. But here is the rub: evolution is true. The evidence supporting, the so-called theory, is implacable and scientifically impeccable. To deny evolution is akin to denying gravitational force.
Thus, what are we to make of this abomination? Can we make the supernatural edicts of Christianity mesh in harmonious accord with the intellectual rigour and the inevitability of evolution? You can try. There have been quite a few attempts by folk who are of the opinion that there is no problem in trying to form some accord between these two realms. And while they freely admit that religion and science exist as separate ‘Majestria’, they contend that they sometimes come into contact, and interact, on occasion. Imagine a Venn diagram, if you will, consisting of two circles with a portion of overlap. On reading Christian apologists who dare to tread/dread, into this territory, it is apparent that there is a woeful misunderstanding of the scientific method. The scientific method is a self-correcting process based on empirical data gathering and induction. It has no truck with the supernatural. By definition, science can only concern itself with the natural world. The supernatural, if it deigns to exist, is, by definition, beyond our ken and we can only speak of it in metaphor. In terms of reality, the concept does not resonate or can be considered compatible, with our reality.
Let us be clear: religion, regardless of stripe, is predicated on the supernatural. In this way, theologians can appeal to the hiddenness of God and the lack of solid evidence for ‘His’ existence. But the serious theologian craves serious intellectual recognition. This paves the way for the introduction of faith. O wondrous faith! We are expected to take on board religious beliefs on the supposed epistemological process of faith. Beware, this is but a beguiling charade. On the basis of faith, you can believe in anything. Here is a worthwhile exercise: whenever a theologian argues for a belief in god, on the basis of faith, simply substitute the word ‘god’ with ‘fairy’. At the end of the argument are you convinced in the existence of fairies- of course not? That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Nuff said, for now…….