Phi Beta Cons

Re: Evolution, Religion, and Academic Scientists

I think it’s worth noting that the degree of tension between “evolution” and “religion” depends heavily on which claims of which religion you’re talking about, and on how you interpret said claims. If you believe the stories of Genesis literally, obviously the Darwinian notion of common descent doesn’t jibe with that.

But if you believe simply that, way back when, some higher power set off a massive chain of events that culminated in the emergence of humanity — and even that this higher power cares how you behave, and will judge you in the afterlife — that’s perfectly consistent with evolution. Through science we’ve been able to trace the lineage of humanity back quite far, and we’ve been able to show how processes like natural selection and genetic mutation explain many of the developments between early and modern life forms. Science is good at doing this — showing how processes of causation unfold.

However, science has a tough time explaining how things got started in the very beginning; you can either trace causation infinitely, or you can end up at an “uncaused cause.” Does matter just exist? Did something create it? You can feel free to choose the latter, and to assign God the role of creator, without contesting any scientifically ascertained truths. (Though, contra the “scientific creationist” crowd, this act is not scientific in itself.)

Later today I’ll go through the TNR essay more carefully, and maybe offer some more thoughts.


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