Colegiul National "Moise Nicoara" Arad

Darwin’s gift to science and religion


How can evolutionism and creationism coexist?



9 th GRADE


            Darwin, just like Marx and Freud, was one of the important characters who greatly influenced the scientific world, and the evolution of both human society and human thinking decisively. After being rejected vehemently, Darwin’s theory of evolution was finally accepted by the great church leaders. And today, the idea according to which evolutionism and creationism do not rule out each other is beginning to affirm itself more and more often, gaining more and more meaning. A multitude of works, among which this book, try to merge the two notions.

            Francisco Ayala, author of the famous book ’Darwin’s Gift: To Science and Religion’, states that evolution through natural selection is ‘more consistent than the creationism and the belief in a personal god. If God created the organisms, then he must be brought to account for numerous failures.’  The idea, which Ayala tries to convey through his book, is that science and religion do not exclude each other, because each of them has a different domain through which it defines itself. This is the idea that brought this book to our attention and interest. How can evolutionism and creationism coexist?

            Natural selection, as a means of evolution and as the principle which Darwin built his theory on, seems to rule out the Holy Bible in the search of humankind’s origin. Because of this, numerous representatives of the Church manifested their hostility towards Darwin’s work. However, if we interpret the biblical sayings differently than word-for-word, we will uncover something else. This conflict, between science and religion – a pseudo-conflict, as a matter of fact – is generated by the extremists’ claim of owning the absolute truth, the ultimate and most complex explanations of the human evolution.

            This book gave a serious impulse towards meditation to extremist evolutionists and creationists, and not only to them but to anybody. On one hand, the book is written in such a manner that it is accessible to everybody; on the other hand, it is based on thorough arguments. Also, the author mentions great scientists and religious people throughout the book, such as Blaise Pascal or Pope Pius II, Louis Pasteur or William Paley, who he quotes very often.

            For those who still claim that there are missing links in the chain of Darwin’s theory and it is, hence, incomplete to be considered adequate, Ayala has prepared a well-based documentation. As years went by, and science made light over some controversial aspects of evolution, we cannot take for granted the reasoning and negative conclusions from Darwin’s time any longer. In this respect, by giving arguments that equal his inventiveness, Ayala proves that natural selection shouldn’t be regarded as a fantastic concept. He presents, for the skeptical minds, numerous evidence in its favour, exact numbers and data from different research domains, such as biology or genetics, which prove the inexistence of the missing links. From an uncritical point of view, Ayala’s chapters dedicated to this demonstration would seem dull, but they are exactly what both the scientific and the religious world need to put out the disbelievers’ voices. ‘The Intelligent Design’, an idea often explained thoroughly throughout the book, implies the existence of a Creator, and Ayala doesn’t fear to bring extensive reasons in favour of this idea.

            Still, how can evolutionism and creationism coexist? Even though the explanation is complex, it can be resumed by this: God created the world and its laws of evolution and existence; ‘natural selection’ and ‘evolution’ are nothing else than universal rules, created by the creator God. God is not to be blamed for genetic or evolutionary accidents, as they are not designed ‘failures’. However, why do both evolutionism and creationism hurt many people’s feelings so deeply? Where does this sensitivity regarding the kinship with monkeys or the relationship with a superior entity come from?

            Ayala’s work attempts ‘conciliation’. With considerable information and competence both in theology and biology, Ayala obtains through his book, la pièce de résistance, as the French call it, a consistent landmark in the attempt of conciliating religion and science. It makes room for a necessary, honest and fertile dialogue between the two branches of knowledge. If we tried to eliminate the barriers in the human mind, that is the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ belief,  and if we made an intellectual, spiritual and creative effort, we could understand and accept both divine creation and the evolution of the living matter through natural selection.

            After all, there remain unanswered questions: what are we?, where do we come from? And where are we heading to?, what is the meaning of our existence? . But to answer that, we must give up   our radical, absolute, and sometimes purely selfish concepts, and initiate an open dialogue between science and religion: without any prejudice, hard feelings or vanity upon possessing an absolute truth.

            It is the lesson that we have learned from Ayala, and for which we are forever indebted to him. He offered us a different starting point in approaching and understanding the world… It is up to you to discover it yourselves.

NOTE: Everyone interested in reading the book ( in Romanian) can borrow it from the library of the Center of‘ Transdisciplinary Applications in Education from “Moise Nicoară” National College, Arad.