A week or so ago, John West pimped a new Disco. Inst. website on faith and religion in the Washington Post’s On Faith blog. His claims were as mendacious as you would expect from looking at the site, most bizarrely inventing a movement of “new theistic evolutionists,” when the folks he names are simply repeating a position on the compatibility of faith and science which has been part of Christian theology since the time of Augustine of Hippo. You don’t need to know more about West’s piece.
NCSE Faith Project Director Peter Hess responded in On Faith today. His brief reaction to West: “He is wrong.” In particular:
West’s question [“Is evolution compatible with God?”] is valid, his dichotomy is a sham. Consider the humble grapefruit. You can say it’s yellow and it’s roughly spherical. Asking, “Is this fruit yellow or spherical?” has no meaning. Yellowness and sphericity are not contradictory; likewise, “religion” and “evolution” can be complementary ways of looking at the same universe.
West’s views are a skewed Cliff Notes version of the serious academic work surrounding faith and evolution–mostly wrong, mostly missing the important points, a repackaging of old ideas and a parroting of discredited arguments. I have taught graduate classes in theology, and if a student turned in something like West’s essay on the issue of faith and evolution, it would merit him a D-.
But Hess doesn’t focus only on West.
Too often, debates over the public perception of evolution are dominated by the fringes, by fundamentalist Christians and others who reject basic science due to their literal reading of the Bible and by ardent atheists who reject religion because they’ve embraced metaphysical naturalism ? that nature is all that exists. But the silent majority ? that spans the spectrum from theism to atheism ? have no problem reconciling their religious beliefs with established sciences such as evolution, or with new sciences such as stem cell research. My work at the National Center for Science Education brings me into contact with voices across that spectrum and I’ve found that honest, open, and inclusive dialog is not only possible, but vital for our children’s education, for the credibility of religious traditions, and for the continued role of the United States as a scientific and moral leader in our increasingly interconnected world.
Anyway, the whole piece is worth reading. Enjoy.