01 July 2008

Evolution and God

Today's edition of Salon has an interesting interview with Karl Giberson, author of "Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution" Giberson's ideas, a lot like those of John Haught, are the kind that I think I'm going to get behind when I read the abstract of an article or interview, but I always end up frustratingly shaking my head at what seem to me to be hand waving, suspicious leaps in logic, or following something down a crazy path to an illogical conclusion.

But today's article struck me for two reasons in particular.

The first reason is that I happen to be reading The Metaphysical Club and I am fascinated about how so much of early modern science and philosophy was based on the end goal of reconciling God with Science. So it's fascinating to see what has changed in a century... and what hasn't.

The second is the question for which Giberson has no answer: "Evolution is taught in American high schools and yet many still don't believe in it. How can that be counteracted?" I've actually been mulling this quite a bit, as I have been reading about the various tides of acceptance and rejection of Darwin at the turn of the century. I think for American schools, the problem is that it gets dumbed down. I'm not sure if this is a tentativeness related to the strong fundamentalist Christian presence in our society, or just a misguided idea that 10th graders wouldn't understand.
I remember being a little uneasy with the idea of evolution when I first learned about it. Not because I believed in God or an Intelligent Designer (I still don't), but because it seemed so fuzzy and to have so many holes. And I also got the distinct impression that evolution implies directionality of progress. I saw that Natural Selection was the best explanation so far, but I already understood that science itself is evolving and that models don't necessarily reflect reality beyond being able to make accurate predictions.
Since then, I have been introduced to both the concept of the Selfish Gene and of the true randomness implied in Natural Selection. This allowed everything to fit into place. So, ironically, I think a more sophisticated and complex teaching of evolution will help make it more easy to understand for a 15 year old. And if it makes more sense, it will be more easily incorporated into a young person's world view.