From the start, Charles Darwin’s theory of unguided evolution sparked debate among scientists, philosophers, clergy, and laypeople about whether evolution eroded belief in God. In the following essays, you can explore the debate over evolution’s impact on theistic beliefs from the writings of leading supporters and critics of Darwin’s theory.
Biologist Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, argues that Darwinian evolution makes belief in God highly improbable by refuting the idea that nature was intelligently designed.
In his book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett praises Darwinian evolution as a “universal acid” that dissolves traditional religious and moral beliefs.
Phillip E. Johnson
Darwin’s idea may well be dangerous, according to retired University of California (Berkeley) law professor Phillip Johnson, but the scientific evidence for Darwin’s denial of design is far less persuasive than supporters of theory like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins seem to think.
Acknowledging that Darwin’s theory “threatened some conventional religious beliefs,” science journalist Rick Weiss argues that Darwin never conclusively ruled out the existence of God and that he “knew there is plenty of room for God at the top, upstream of the business of biology.”
Geologist Steven Schafersman, head of Texas Citizens for Science, accuses journalist Rick Weiss of “trying to make Darwin into something he was not, and then using that misrepresentation to make a case against New Atheist activists.” According to Schafersman, “Darwin… did not believe in a god, and most importantly, Darwin rejected the Christian God.”
Political theorist Larry Arnhart at the University of Northern Illinois argues that Darwinian evolution is compatible with Biblical theism, contending that “[t]he God of the Bible is not presented as concerned with designing everything down to the last detail.”
Agreeing that Darwinian evolution is incompatible with “supernaturalist” religion, Columbia University philosopher Philip Kitcher nonetheless argues that the tension between faith and Darwin can be reduced by convincing religious believers to replace their acceptance of supernaturalism with “spiritual religion.”
John G. West
John West, Asssociate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, argues that Darwinian evolution and traditional theism can be made compatible only by either redefining evolution or by watering down traditional theism.