A Grand Bargain Over Evolution


Appearing in the New York Times, an article by Robert Wright seeks to bring perspective to the debate between creation and evolution by claiming that both sides are both right and wrong.

Short of bring up an entirely different position he goes on to suggest that there is an amalgamation where both parties both give and take to form a coherent position:

I bring good news! These two warring groups have more in common than they realize. And, no, it isn’t just that they’re both wrong. It’s that they’re wrong for the same reason. Oddly, an underestimation of natural selection’s creative power clouds the vision not just of the intensely religious but also of the militantly atheistic.

If both groups were to truly accept that power, the landscape might look different. Believers could scale back their conception of God’s role in creation, and atheists could accept that some notions of “higher purpose” are compatible with scientific materialism. And the two might learn to get along.

Continued here…

He seems to bring up some interesting ideas about the attitudes of people on both sides of the debate, rather than issues within the debate itself.  He calls out both Christians and atheists, pointing out that in some ways there is animosity and white knuckling on both sides by some who are more extreme in their position. 

So perhaps this article is more about antipathy than it is about either creation or evolution?

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About Aaron Gardner

Aaron is a counselor and student of the Bible, passionate about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He lives in central Indiana with his wife, one-year-old son and their two dogs. View all posts by Aaron Gardner

15 responses to “A Grand Bargain Over Evolution

  • Sabio Lantz

    I have enjoyed much of Wright’s work — he is brilliant and thorough. I thrived on the “Moral Animal”, enjoyed “Non-Zero” and am now reading “The Evolution of God”. But what I disagreed with in both “Non-Zero” and “The Evolution of God” is this pet theme of Wright’s of seeing a higher purpose or directionality in evolution, economics and religion.
    It is this which you have latched onto. I think Wright is mistaken and that he misunderstands evolution. This argument is classic in evolution circles, though. And people much much brighter than I am hold positions on both sides. So I must humbly say I disagree with Wright.

    Yet, even if Wright is wrong (and he may not be), he certainly holds no ideas as destructive as the exclusivist, belief-ist notions of many conservative Christians. A compromise as you request would be nice, but I lie to myself and tell myself he is right. Nor will those conservative Christians agree that I am not going to hell.

    We would both need much more evidence and greater reasons to change our opinions. Humans are funny animals, eh?

  • Ted Powell

    “Compromise” can have interesting results.
    “… an open-minded approach to these conflicting theories can lead to the resolution of a major problem in each.”

  • Aaron

    LOL!! Point well-made!

  • Aaron

    Indeed… the harder we cling to something the more difficult it is to reach out for more adequate representations of the truth.

    I agree that I am not sure that Wright is right (heh), but I do appreciate his approach. As you said, Sabio, it is far less destructive a position!

  • Alan Kellogg

    The impression I get from your post is that not only does Wright have no experience with science, he avoids any experience with science the way a newly frocked priest avoids contact with a scabrous whore.

  • Aaron

    Not sure how to respond to that… I know nothing more than what is contained in the linked article. Sabio, can you field this one?

  • Sabio Lantz

    I am sure Wright is up on much science but there are differences in there about directionality of evolution — most disagree with it.

  • Renier

    Alan? From ATBC days? I miss Lenny and Tom.

  • Renier

    Aaron, you write: “pointing out that in some ways there is animosity and white knuckling on both sides by some who are more extreme in their position.”

    While I share an impression that both Christians and atheists can be “over the top”, the question for me remains science and the implications of the findings.

    Aaron writes about natural Selection: “If both groups were to truly accept that power, the landscape might look different.”

    While I understand that many Xians do not realize the power of NS and often fail to even acknowledge it in arguments for “How can randomness produce XYZ” I need to ask how atheists fail to realise the power of RM+NS? I cannot access the MY Times site here from good ‘ol Africa, for some unknown reason (My inet connection is crap). Could you perhaps condense the argument that you agree with for me? I would be most appreciative if it is not too much effort.

    The reason I ask this is because I have made major effort on my part to understand what evolution is capable of, especially in the days when I was investigating the old YEC position that I once held. I am honestly interested in the claim that atheists do not accept the power of Natural Selection. Or am I missing the point perhaps? Not impossible I suppose 🙂

  • Aaron

    I’ll do you one better. With your permission I can copy the entire article in an email to you.

  • Renier

    Thanks Aaron. That will be fine. You have my email.

  • action74

    “…God initiating natural selection with some confidence that it would lead to a morally rich and reflective species”

    If God has only “some confidence” about anything, I think that would make him not God, right? Isn’t part of the definition of God that he is all-knowing? I think that’s part of why Wright’s proposed compromise won’t work…it demands that Christians minimize their understanding of God…which would make them no longer Christians…which means we just end up all agreeing with the Darwinian theory…which means no real compromise. Am I wrong here? I’m curious whether atheistic Darwinists would feel the same about the compromise he asks them to make.

  • Aaron

    @ action74

    Interesting… so to compromise we have to bend in such a way as to make God no longer God… yeah, that sounds like the bend it a bit too far to do so without breaking, huh?

  • Terry

    Well, I’m atheist and I certainly “believe” in evolution. More precisely, I believe in the scientific method. That method has proven to be the single most powerful means of acquiring knowledge ever devised by humans. It is self-correcting, and endlessly re-checks itself. Evolution has been through the wringer that is the scientific method, and it has survived. So as a rational person who cannot ignore data I have no choice.

    But this does not preclude the existence of a deity. If you think about it, what is more remarkable…creating a static thing that never changes, or creating something that is designed to change as needed in a given environment? Who is to say your deity didn’t do exactly that?

  • action74

    Terry, I agree with a lot of what you say. The scientific method has been a potent revealer of truth and I’m all for it. I would suggest that the presuppositions that led to using the scientific method were distinctly Christian – that it is possible to “know” at all, that cause & effect are real, that there are laws of nature which will be consistent b/c they were set in place by the Creator. The current prevailing presuppositions ( postmodern relativism) don’t land us at the scientific method.

    But I have to disagree that evolution has been tested through the scientific method. An essential element of the scientific method is repeatability, right? Though certain parts of the evolutionary theory have been tested through SM, it seems to me that the theory as a whole simply can’t be tested in this way because it is historical. But maybe this is where you can educate me more. What studies would you say were conclusive regarding evolution?

    And I agree that the theory of evolution doesn’t have to preclude the existence of a deity – though I do think it precludes the existence of the Christian God. And not all Christians would agree with me on that. But as an atheist, would you be comfortable submitting to the compromise Wright suggests? I think that was more my curiosity. Thanks for sharing.

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