Making Peace Between Darwinism and Christianity

Are science and religion fated to mutual enmity? Every schoolchild learns how Galileo was forced to his knees to recant his belief that the earth revolves around the sun, or how the Church was up in arms again in 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species , arguing that all living organisms, including humans, result from a long, slow process of evolution. Today, especially in America, many Christians, so-called Creationists, still argue that mankind's origins are to be found in the early chapters of Genesis, not in any scientific discovery.

But the interplay of evolution and religion is more complex than opposition and conflict. Evolutionary ideas are born of religion. The ancient Greeks had no idea of progress, directional time, and linear history, culminating in humankind. This concept is a legacy of Judeo-Christianity, and in the 18 th century the earliest evolutionists--people like Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus--framed their ideas within the context of this religious account of origins.

Darwin himself was much influenced by Christian ideas, especially where we least expect it: in his belief in natural selection--the bane of the Church--as evolution's motive force. Darwin argued that more organisms are born than can survive and reproduce; that this leads to a struggle for existence; and that success in this struggle partly reflects the physical and behavioral differences between the winners and the losers. The winners are those that are well adapted to their environment--that is, they develop features that help them to survive and reproduce.

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