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roundtable:science and faith Watch Show 7:
"What About God?"
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For many people of various faiths, support for the scientific theory of evolution has not supplanted their religious belief. And throughout the modern Judeo-Christian tradition, leaders have asserted that evolutionary science offers a valid perspective on the natural world. They say that evolution is consistent with religious doctrine and complements, rather than conflicts with, religion.

There are, however, some Christians -- in particular, fundamentalists and some evangelicals -- who perceive a conflict between evolution and their literal interpretation of the Bible.

In this panel, we hear personal perspectives from scientists and a historian of science -- religious people who represent a range of faiths.

  Panelist Statements:
Francisco Ayala
  Mark Noll
  Arthur Peacocke
  Robert Pollack
  Question submittal is now closed. Please go to the forums to read our panelists' answers to the user questions.
Francisco J. AyalaFrancisco J. Ayala is professor of biological sciences and of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. His scientific research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics; he also writes about the interface between religion and science. He is the author of several books, including Genetics and The Origin of Species (1997).

Well-informed Catholics do not see conflict between their religious beliefs and the Darwinian theory of biological evolution. In 1996, Pope John Paul II stated that the conclusions reached by scientific disciplines cannot be in contradiction with divine Revelation, then proceeded to accept the scientific conclusion that evolution is a well-established theory.

The Pope went on to point out that science deals with material reality, while questions of "moral conscience, freedom, or … of aesthetic and religious experience, fall within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology brings out [their] ultimate meaning according to the Creator's plans."
For more than a decade, I have taught the theory of evolution to freshmen. During the early part of the course students come to me, year after year, to express their reservations based on their perceived contradiction between Christian beliefs and the theory of evolution. I treat these students with the great respect they deserve, but respond to them with two considerations very similar to the points made by John Paul II. One is that the evolution of organisms is beyond reasonable doubt, so that the theory of evolution is accepted in this respect with the same certainty that we attribute to Copernicus's heliocentric theory or the molecular composition of matter. The second consideration is that science is a very successful way of knowing, but not the only way. We acquire knowledge in many other ways, such as through literature, the arts, philosophical reflection, and religious experience. A scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete. Science seeks material explanations for material processes, but it has nothing definitive to say about realities beyond its scope. Once science has had its say, there remain questions of value, purpose, and meaning that are forever beyond science's domain, but belong in the realm of philosophical reflection and religious experience.
(Boldface added.)
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