Darwin and Christianity

In the Times of London this week, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, explores how Christianity is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution. The scientist’s 200th birthday is today.

“If we see the two [science and faith] as fundamentally opposed - science endangering and undermining faith, or faith obstructing knowledge - then distortions are produced on both sides.” The Cardinal notes that Catholicism does not treat the Genesis account of creation as scientific truth, like some Evangelicals do, and he goes on to argue that Darwin’s theory can be misused as well, leading to a survival-of-the-fittest mentality being applied to human beings. He concludes that, “Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. They are partners on the journey of a mystery that unfolds, a truth that is everywhere present in the very creativity and variety of life itself."

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It is important for voices like Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s to be heard in the debate surrounding science and religion, if only to highlight that intelligent design and creationism are not the only Christian responses to evolution. The Cardinal’s assertion that faith and science can work together with intellectual rigor and mutual respect is refreshing.

For more on Christian views on evolution, see “Teaching Evolution” from the September 15 America.

Michael O’Loughlin

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9 years 10 months ago
Whether Christianity and Darwin's theory are compatible or not, it is the case that Darwin's observations were at odds with the religious worldview of his time, which was basically the same as that of the fundamentalist Christians of today. In other words, Darwin would have had to entertain atheism in order to get to the point of postulating his theory. He should be admired for his courage and honesty.
9 years 10 months ago
I am surprised by the hatred and arrogance expressed by many commentators who appear to have adopted Darwin and evolution as the new pagan god. Cosmologists indicate that there is a lot we do not know about the origins of the universe and its future. Evolution theory is acceptable for what it is, but it does not address the ultimate questions of origin and life after death. And of course, Genesis I is on its face not a factual account. Scripture is not wholly factual nor was it intended so. The contemporaneous accounts of Paul and his companions, among quite a few other things, convince me that there is something to belief in God and in an all loving God. William Huth
9 years 10 months ago
I believe some aspects of the theory of evolution are science; Darwinism is not science; otherwise it wouldn't be called Darwinism. Darwinism is a belief system. Being such, it includes much belief outside any science such as oughts of behavior and necessity of events which sometimes leads to prescribing of activities which clash with what true religion teaches. In some respects it is used like a club to hit on the head parents who don't want their children to be taught these certain prescriptions. This is of course a misuse of a belief system just as much as those misguided religious minded persons who reject all aspects of the science of investigating the orgins of what is.
9 years 10 months ago
Assuming that ''it is the case that Darwin's observations were at odds with the religious worldview of his time, which was basically the same as that of the fundamentalist Christians of today. In other words, Darwin would have had to entertain atheism in order to get to the point of postulating his theory'' one would also have to assume that Darwin shared the religious worldview of his time and that, unlike St. Anselm's belief that ''theology is faith seeking understanding,'' theological beliefs equal faith. As John Wesley wisely observed,''Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions, yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is a proof of this.''
9 years 9 months ago
Two thoughts before this entry passes into the archives and electronic oblivion: Some have problems with the nature of random chance in the occurrance of mutation and natural selection. I do not have such problems, as Chaos Theory has shown that there is order, even in randomness. The full implications of Darwin's theories can therefore be adopted by faithful Christians. As to intelligent design, it is philosophic concept rather than a legitimate scientific theory and should be treated as such. To treat it as something it isn't diminishes it. Likewise, I doubt that many fundamentalists would like Creationism to come under serious scientific scrutiny - as biblical scholarship now seems to show how the Genesis myth evolved from the Sumeric and Babylonian politheistic creation myths. Academic inquiry into this question by scientists would likely have the fundamentalists running to the courthouse to stop it - as it challenges their entire world view. This applies to some Catholic fundamentalists as well (especially those who consider homosexuality an abomination).

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