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Darwin Day, Christianity and evolution


The Rev’d Andrew Schmidt of Good Shepherd Anglican Church discusses different approaches to ‘evolution’, with ‘Darwin Day’ this month commemorating one of the ‘most influential thinkers and writers of modern times’

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The 12th of February is known as ‘Darwin Day’, named for the author of On the Origin of Species. It commemorates the birth of one of the most influential thinkers and writers of modern times. Darwin proposed the idea that species change over time, and that the drivers for that change are survival of the fittest and sexual selection.

At the time of publication, many people opposed his ideas – some on religious grounds, and others because they favoured alternative views. The most controversial part of his thinking at the time of publication, in the eyes of the religious communities, was the understanding that human beings are themselves animals, with a universal common ancestor. Later, other religious communities that were committed to a reading of Genesis as a document that described an historical event objected on the grounds that Darwin’s views contradicted that understanding of scripture.

Evolution is, of course, the accepted view of the scientific community in this day and age, with any scientific arguments being in regards to the minutia of the outworking of the evolutionary forces in life.

As a person of faith who accepts evolution, I believe there are broadly two approaches that we can take. The first approach, which recognises that human beings are a part of the natural order, is to devalue what it means to be human. That is that we reduce human beings to animals, which we value only because they happen to be of the same species as us. Of course, this is a rather reductive approach.

The second approach, which also recognises that human beings are a part of the natural order, is to revalue what it means to be a part of the natural order. That is that we think of all creation as being of value, and treat it as such. This second approach would be in accord with scripture that describes God as affirming the goodness of the world. This approach is a more integrative approach, seeing in faith and scripture a Godly direction, which can be guided by the best scientific thinking of the day.

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