Evolutionary Theory: The Relationship Between Science and Religion

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Evolutionary Theory: The Relationship Between Science and Religion In "The Selfish Gene" (1), Dawkins introduced the concept of replicating units of information, called "memes". They compete for our minds and our hearts, replicating in society in the form of fairy tales, catchy tunes, moral codes and theories. One of the most prolific struggles today occurs between the titanic memes of Science and Religion. While their relationship is complex, its historical trajectory is one of co-evolution, mapping the gradual accumulation of adaptive responses to each other. As these stories change, so too do our networks of meaning. Uneasy bedfellows In considering the Christian faith (not more important than any other, but one that I am familiar with), the role of religion is typically perceived as one of moral guidance. Before science arrived on the scene in the West, however, religion also served an explanatory function, as through the Bible's story of creation. This role did not fade into the background when a fledgling science was first established. As a matter of fact, scientific endeavors were appropriated by natural theologians funded by the Church (for example, through the 19th century Bridgewater Treatises (2)) to prove the existence of God through the manifestations of intelligent design in nature. Gradually, science began to develop its own philosophy and methodologies. It even began to provide new answers to the "how" questions that religion had previously addressed. Then came evolution. In 1859, the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species" (3) held a magnifying glass to the fissure that had been growing. The two giants found themselves playing with different sets of rules. Revelation and faith, fundamental 'methodologies' in religion, were simply unacceptable to science. Lovers' spat Although religion relegated control of explanation and began to focus on spirituality and values, the conflict is far from resolved. Dawkins (4), like many other proponents of science, simply believes that religion is obsolete. Learning and knowledge, he argues, will clear the cobwebs in our minds that gave rise to religion in the first place. Others have proposed science as a new agnostic religion (5) and moral system (6), praising its commitment to evidence and philosophy of deduction. Those in agreement have raised their own Big Questions (7) from within the ranks of the natural and social sciences, as well as the humanities. Discussions in the World Question Centre (8), for example, range from democracy and complexity to sustainability and fear.

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