My goodness, Robert takes a week off and look at all the tangents this education blog gets into. And it’s only Tuesday.
It seems to me that the question of whether Darwinism is compatible with the existence of God is largely a matter of lexicography. If you define Darwinism to mean “a system of natural selection in which there is no god,” then they are incompatible by definition. But if you define Darwinism simply as a belief in evolution through random mutation, survival of the fittest, and all that stuff, then there’s no reason God can’t be involved.
It’s like brewing beer. Fermentation is a biological process that proceeds on its own, but the brewer can control it by selecting the ingredients, regulating the temperature, and so forth. Similarly, if you believe in evolution, there’s no reason God could not have used His infinite wisdom to set the initial conditions for that biological process; not even the strictest Darwinists think their theory explains how the universe was created.
It’s also possible that God may have controlled evolution by intervening from time to time, through non-biological events (adjusting the sun’s output, for example, or summoning a meteor strike when necessary) or even by giving a boost to a favored species. The assumption that no such controlling intelligence exists is just that, an assumption; it may be correct, but there’s no logical way to exclude the contrary.
In much the same fashion, an economist may assume (for purposes of various mathematical models) that people always act rationally, without believing that this assumption is actually true 100 percent of the time. The fact that the origin of species can be explained, up to a point, without need for a deity does not mean that no deity exists; it could just mean that He prefers to keep His role hidden.
P.S. Regarding William Jennings Bryan and the Scopes trial, while I do think Bryan was scientifically misguided, the seemingly unshakable notion that Clarence Darrow humiliated him and stopped creationism dead in its tracks is the opposite of what actually happened at Dayton. See my article here.