- An atheist perspective on the incompatibility of evolution/science and religion. Richard Dawkins or Jerry Coyne would be good choices.
- An atheist perspective on the compatibility of science and religion (the accommodationist view). Michael Ruse or Nick Matzke are obvious choices.
- A theist view of the incompatibility of evolution and religion. Phillip Johnson could have explained this view but so could a number of other creationists.
- A theist explanation of the compatibility of evolution/science as long as they stick to their proper magisteria. Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and several other religious scientists could present their case.
- The editors could have published four articles representing the main viewpoints or commissioned a single article that would have covered all the angles.
Before reading any further, take a minute to decide what you would do if you were the editors of The Princeton Guide to Evolution.
The editors decided to ask Franciso Ayala, an evolutionary biologist and former Dominican priest, to write an article tilted "Evolution and Religion." Ayala is a former Templeton Prize winner. They didn't ask anybody else, not even Richard Dawkins.
Evolution and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. Indeed, if science and religion are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction, because they concern different matters. Science and religion are like two different windows for looking at the world. The two windows look at the same world, but they show different aspects of that world. Science concerns the processes that account for the natural world: the movement of planets, the composition of matter and the atmosphere, the origin and adaptations of organisms. Religion concerns the meaning and purpose of the world and of human life, the proper relation of people to the Creator and to one another, the moral values that inspire and govern people's lives. Apparent contradictions emerge only when either the science or the beliefs, or often both, trespass on their own boundaries and wrongfully encroach on other's subject matter.The question is not whether religion concerns things that are nonscientific. Of course it does. So does astrology and magic. Astrology and magic are quite capable of "explaining" meaning and purpose and inspiring people.
The real question is whether astrology and magic (and religion) are capable of providing true knowledge. According to the scientific way of knowing, you don't believe in something unless you have evidence. There is no evidence that astrology, magic, and religion supply correct answers to any of the important questions. Therefore they conflict with science in the search for truth.
The scope of science is the world of nature, the reality that is observed, directly or indirectly, by the senses. Science advances explanations concerning the natural world, explanations that are subject to the possibility of corroboration or rejection by observation and experiment. Outside that world, science has no authority, no statements to make, no business whatsoever taking one position or another. Science has nothing decisive to say about values, whether economic, aesthetic, or moral; nothing to say about the meaning of life or its purpose; nothing to say about religious beliefs (except in the case of beliefs that transcend the proper scope of religion and make assertions about the natural world that contradict scientific knowledge; such statements cannot be true).We don't know whether there's something outside the world or naturalism. That's the important question. In the absence of evidence for this other world, it is perfectly legitimate to say that you should not believe in it. If you cannot detect this other world using your senses then its existence conflicts with the scientific way of knowing.
It's all very well to say that the scientific way of knowing doesn't apply to values (economic, aestetic, or moral) but saying it isn't enough. What we want to know is whether these values are justified in the real world and relying on astrology, magic, or religion doesn't make sense. Most of us want evidence that certain values are real if we are going to adhere to them.
Science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way. Knowledge also derives from other sources. Common experience, imaginative literature, art, and history provide valid knowledge about the world; and so revelation and religion for people of faith. The significance of the world and human life, as well as matters concerning moral or religious values, transcends science. Yet these matters are important; for most of us, they are at least as important as scientific knowledge per se.We have plenty of evidence that the scientific way of knowing produces "truth" or universally accepted knowledge that stands up to skeptical challenges. We have no evidence that religion is capable of producing such knowledge and plenty of evidence that whatever it produces is usually false. Thus, we are forced to tentatively conclude that science is the only valid way of knowing. There are no others.
The proper relationship between science and religion can be, for people of faith, mutually motivating and inspiring. Science may inspire religious beliefs and religious behavior as we respond with awe to the immensity of the universe, the glorious diversity and wondrous adaptations of organisms, and the marvel of the human brain and the human mind. Religion promotes reverence for the creation, for humankind as well as the world of life and the environment. Religion often is, for scientists and others, a motivating force and source of inspiration for investigating the marvelous world of the creation and solving the puzzles with which it confronts us.Lot of things are motivating and inspiring. That does not make them true. Just because something makes you feel good is not evidence that it doesn't conflict with science. Scientists should not think like that.