Commendable effort

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Commendable effort
Commendable effort

Commendable Effort

Can evolutionary biologists and theologians talk rationally to each other? A series of lectures in the General Studies at the Technical University of Dresden, from which this anthology emerged, was devoted to this question. Joachim Klose from the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and Jochen Oehler from the Association of Biologists (VBIO) had given their speakers the goal of reconciling theological and biological perspectives, "to check the interaction between scientific knowledge and the beliefs of religions in order to shape the future together with responsibility can" (foreword).

First of all, the theologians have the floor. They are clearly aware of how immense the "imposition of faith" has become today as a result of the findings of the empirical sciences. They reply that in reality it is by no means an impertinence. Rather, belief, for example in questions of meaning, is an independent source of certainty. The central questions of religion would not be touched upon by the natural sciences.

Natural scientists usually have a naïve and false image of God; the creation texts should not be read as outdated attempts at explaining the world. Rather, they are representations of the archetypes of human existence. Incidentally, the idea of creation out of nothing first emerged in the second century AD.

In the second part of the book, aspects of evolution are described primarily by biologists. Here it becomes clear through all the contributions that Darwin's theory generates no small amount of emotional upheaval: people's self-image changes in fundamental respects, as does their world view. That's not all. Ethics can now also be viewed functionally, since the "philosophical blinders" can be removed. So it is not surprising that even the most disillusioned biologists notice an emotional resistance to this "disenchantment" of the world - which does not prevent them from admiring the elegance of evolutionary explanations and from further deepening them through their work.

Some contributions are representative of the variety of topics covered: Josef Reichholf makes an interesting connection between the overabundant supply of protein in the savannah and our two-legged nature. Franz Wuketits and Hans Mohr deal with the consequences of a Darwinian worldview for morality and knowledge. Wolfgang Nentwig clears up the myth of the "noble savage" and outlines a pessimistic view of us humans as "a threat to creation" who threatens to exhaust the carrying capacity of the earth through rapid reproduction and today's excessive consumption of resources. Other authors take a detailed look at brain and language development, and finally look at politics, literature and technology.

But back to the common thread of the book. The third, connecting part deals with the essence of man: Is he the famous "defective being", a "gypsy on the edge of the universe", an expression of his "selfish genes" or does he think fairly altruist in small groups? The full range of responses is found here, allowing for interesting comparisons.

Another key question is the causes of the conflict between religious ideas about creation and the theory of evolution. Two points in particular are worked out: On the one hand, religion cannot and does not want to do without explanations of nature. Compatibility" can be cut out. On the other hand, the keyword "stories" refers to a second point of contention, because the paths to the truth could not be more different. On the one hand there are belief and revelation, on the other hand observation and experiment.

Conclusion: The reader can expect an impressively wide range of contributions. 25 well-known authors provide a view of a wide panorama of scientific knowledge. This breadth is the book's greatest strength - even though with some contributions it is not clear to what extent the authors are contributing to a constructive dialogue between religion and science, which is after all the declared goal of the editors.

The goal of a genuine interaction between biology and religion is not achieved. The sources from which both sides gain their certainty are too different. The editors rightly call their book "God or Darwin", because for a "God and Darwin", the time has probably not yet come for biologists and theologians to work together at the intersections of their research areas.

Nevertheless, this serious attempt at dialogue can be considered rare enough to be worth noting. We recommend this volume to all readers who want to find out more about the tension between evolution and religion in a factual, scientifically sound and broad-based discussion.

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