A common assertion by both OrthoFundies and Uber-Skeptics is that one must choose between Darwin or God. How many have lost their faith because of this false dilemma?
Ayala thinks that scientists who attack religion and ridicule the faithful — most notably, Richard Dawkins of the University of Oxford — are making a mistake. It is destructive and gives fodder to the preachers who insist followers must choose either Darwin or God. Often students in Ayala’s introductory biology class tell him that they will answer test questions as he wishes, but in truth they reject evolution because of their Christian beliefs. Then, a couple of years later, when they have learned more science, they decide to abandon their religion. The two, students seem to think, are incompatible.One suggestion of Ayala's that I find particular fascinating is how Darwin solved the problem of evil in the world by introducing the concept of (undirected) natural selection!
Ayala... would like believers to reconcile their faith with science. Drawing on five years of study in preparation for ordination as a Dominican priest, Ayala uses evolution to help answer a central paradox of Christianity — namely, how can a loving, all-knowing God allow evil and suffering?I took some liberties with the title (the original is called "The Christian Man's Evolution: How Darwinism and Faith Can Coexist") based on one of Ayala's favorite shock tactics:
Nature is poorly designed—with oddities such as blind spots built into the human eye and an excess of teeth jammed into our jaws. Parasites are sadists. Predators are cruel. Natural selection can explain the ruthlessness of nature, Ayala argues, and remove the "evil" — requiring an intentional act of free will — from the living world. "Darwin solved the problem," Ayala concludes. He refers to science-savvy Christian theologians who present a God that is continuously engaged in the creative process through undirected natural selection. By addressing religious people on their own terms, Ayala aims to offer a better answer than intelligent design or creationism.
One out of five pregnancies ends in spontaneous miscarriage, he often reminds audiences. Next he will pointedly ask, as in an interview with U.S. Catholic magazine last year, "If God explicitly designed the human reproductive system, is God the biggest abortionist of them all?" Through such examples, he explains, "I want to turn around their arguments."The full article from the October 2008 issue of Scientific American (written by Sally Lehrman) can be found here.