Faith in Evolution

As well as being the 500th Anniversary of the birth of John Calvin this year it is also the 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin, and the 150th Anniversary of his publication of his "On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection" (a snappy title if ever there was one!).

A Methodist studying Calvin's Institutes may be a strange phenomenon, but some would believe that an evangelical studying Behavioural and Evolutionary Genetics, which was the the subject of my honours dissertation in my primary degree, is even more bizarre. I am increasingly dismayed by the tendency within evangelicalism (particularly in America and Northern Ireland) to hold to literal belief in the Genesis creation stories (even though the accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 are "literally" contradictory) and "scientific" creationism, as a touchstone of "soundness". Add to that the tendency of evolutionists such as Dawkins (whose "selfish gene" theory was core to my undergraduate studies) to see faith as the enemy of science, and I sometimes feel that I am standing in a metaphysical no-man's land, often feeling myself to have more in common with faith's harshest critics than with fellow evangelicals.

With that in mind it was a real joy to come across a programme in BBC 4s "Beyond Belief" series, wherein 3 thinkers from the main monotheistic faiths (including Belfast born and avowed evangelical Alister McGrath) reiterated the fact that historically literal creationism has not been a major feature of any of their respective faiths. It is a modern phenomenon, which has become exacerbated by a reaction to secularism in general and secular science in particular. But, again, the fact that this was an exercise in inter-faith dialogue would lead to a lot of despairing head-shaking among some of my more conservative colleagues.

If you would like to listen to the programme, however, it is available on BBC's "this programme will self-destruct in 7 days" iPlayer, but thankfully is also available in the Beyond Belief archive.


whynotsmile said…
Yes, it was a good show. I was a bit dismayed to come across a letter in the Methodist Newsletter which seemed to be arguing for literal creationism... I'd compose a response, but it wasn't my copy so i don't have the full text of the original.
Yes... Peter Mercer replied, but the subsequent "dialogue" was less than edifying. My tendency with anything like that which appears in the letters column of that illustrious publication (inluding most letters about alcohol, sexuality, and recent goings on in a church not a million miles from me) is generally to shake my head in despair, then console myself with the belief that the majority of the readership will not be with us much longer... Letters published there will rarely change minds... All they can do is flag up the fact that there is an alternative point of view...

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