Tuesday, March 13, 2007



During the course of his life, Charles Darwin evolved from a devout Christian -- the sort of young believer who was teased for his expressions of piety by his shipmates on the H.M.S. Beagle -- to a self-described agnostic.

Near the end of his life, Darwin wrote in his autobiography:
....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine...."

Despite his doubt, Darwin lived quite contentedly with his wife, Emma, a devout Christian. Although quite distressed by her husband's disbelief, which she feared would separate them in the afterlife, she remained his devoted partner in life as they raised their 10 children together.

Interestingly, the current issue of Newsweek whose lead article, the "Evolution Revolution," is on the cover, is taking a non-scientific poll of readers on whether the theory of evolution can coexist with religion.

When we voted yes, they can coexist, a little while ago, 85,226 readers had responded. Of those, 55 percent responded that they can, 39 percent say they can't, and 6 percent aren't sure.

Whatever the results of the poll, the simple fact of the matter is that evolution and religion quite often do coexist. Sometimes it's within a marriage, as with the Darwin's, many times the two are captured within a single individual, as with scientists such as Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

Those who place themselves at opposite poles in this debate deny that coexistence is possible. The evidence, on the other hand, demonstrates that many people live quite comfortably in the joint embrace of science and religion.

Isn't it funny how life seems always to overflow the neat categories of ideology.


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