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[4] Responses from theology

From reading the accounts of the challenges set out in the first section it would be easy to conclude that evolutionary science is intrinsically destructive for religious beliefs. This is the impression gained from reading respected commentators such as Dennett, Wilson, Monod and Dawkins, but I hope to have cast doubt on such single-dimensional assessments. Members of the scientific and theological communities do the public a great disservice when they characterise evolution as a simple and monolithic idea which can easily be refuted or accepted and then deemed compatible or incompatible with religion. The basic algorithmic abstraction of natural selection is indeed simple, but this tells us little about the history and development of actual biological history. Moving from abstraction to evolutionary history requires perseverance with an immensely difficult and as yet incomplete scientific research programme. By varying the ‘parameters in the algorithm’ and the ‘contours of the fitness landscape’ very different kinds of histories can emerge. Some of these possible histories appear to be congruent with traditional theistic conceptions of creation, while others do not. Importantly, regardless of which histories our own Earth has undergone, the raw data discovered by the evolutionary sciences will not immediately entail the scientific blessing of any particular theological or philosophical position, pace Monod, Dawkins, et al.

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[4] Responses from theology

[1] Does Evolution ‘do the work of a friend’ for the Christian Religion?
Setting the scene - why focus on providence?
[2] Supposed challenges from the evolutionary sciences to theology
Intellectually fulfilled atheists?
A challenge to human uniqueness and status?
A challenge to purpose in creation?
A threat to the veracity of scripture?
Evolution ‘explains away’ theology?
A challenge to Christian morality?
The challenges in wider context - Darwin as a scapegoat?
[3] The current state of the evolutionary sciences
Different ways of conceptualising Darwinian evolution
Evolution as chance and necessity
Evolution as an algorithm
Evolution as movement within a ‘fitness landscape’
Ongoing debates: contingency versus convergence
Ongoing debates: what are the key causal factors in biological history?
Ongoing debates: the environment as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: convergence as the principle cause?
Ongoing debates: ‘Universal biology’ as the principle cause?
The importance of moving from evolution as abstraction to particular history
Ongoing debates: directionality and progress
Ongoing debates: the origin of life
Different levels and kinds of selection?
Evolution, probabilities and providence
Responses from contemporary theologians
Holmes Rolston III
Keith Ward
John Haught
Arthur Peacocke
An increased role for general providence?
Theology of Creation in the light of evolution: three scenarios
[5] Concluding remarks


Adrian Wyard
Adrian M Wyard MSt

See also:

The Relation of Science & Religion
Purpose and Design
The Argument From Design
The Anthropic Principle
Charles Darwin
DNA Double-Helix