To a lot of liberal Christians, evolution has become, dare I say, almost a point of identity. Even the Catholic Church has reaffirmed it’s view that evolution is totally compatible with faith and that Intelligent Design is a cruel sham of a belief. A lot of Atheists are keen to encourage this because anything that gets liberal Christians on our side and away from the Fundamentalists is a good thing. Unfortunately, I’m about to take a massive piss into this font of goodwill by stating that I think the belief that evolution is compatible with faith is based on a misunderstanding of evolution that is so prevalent even Atheists are guilty of perpetuating it.
The easy part of evolution to understand is the mechanistic aspect, the “how” of evolution. Mutation happens and features get evolved and some things become more popular because they lead to increased survival and this is how we have the natural world we see around us. Based on an understanding of this how, it’s perfectly plausible to then believe the why comes from God. God works through evolution and gives it a nudge once in a while at the right points. Evolution is just a cog in God’s plan. Of course, this is an unfalsifiable assertion so it falls outside of the domain of science. The scientists are happy, the liberal Christians are happy, why make so much fuss?
But to understand why evolution had the profoundly explosive effect it did on the scientific world and why Darwin was named the most influential scientist of the past millennium by Scientific American, one must move past the mechanistic understanding of evolution and understand the teleological aspect of evolution: the why of evolution.
Imagine for a second that you rolled a pair of dice a million times and noticed that they added up to 7 roughly 1/6th of the time. Why did the dice land the way it did? Why 1/6th and not some other number like 1/3rd or 1/12th? If you were wholly ignorant about probability, then you could believe that God decreed that all dice rolls should fall to his accord and the reason for 1/6th was because it was pleasing to his eye. But what probability does is it not only explains how it is 1/6th, but also to boil the why down to *shrug*, that’s just the way it is. Fundamentally, the why of it is that there is no why, not only is the why not God, it’s not anything. What probability does is explain away the why.
The real impact of evolution was not that it explained the natural world, it was that it provided science with a path to explain it away. Why do birds fly and beasts walk? Why are we the most intelligent of all the animals? Why do we love and war and yearn for the stars? *shrug*, that’s just how the world is. Evolution showed how complex forms and intelligent beings could have arisen following the same natural laws that govern how dice roll and planets move and by doing so, it not only removed the need for an intelligent creator, it removed the need for anything. Even 200 years after Darwin this is the basic point of evolution that is still misunderstood and this is why evolution is far more of a dilemma to faith than most people will admit.
It’s important to note though that this process is far from complete. Darwin only put humanity on the first step towards this understanding and in the last 200 years, scientists have been steadily working away towards this goal. Our understanding of how is still gradually improving every year but none of this could have happened unless Darwin had the stroke of insight that there could be no why.
Is it possible to believe in evolution and still in God? Sure, but It would be akin to showing how you could bend a spoon via sleight of hand and still believing that Uri Geller is bending them with his mind. If that’s the way it’s done, then he’s doing it the hard way.