Reconciling Evolution and God


In this issue:
1. Miscellaneous Newsbits
2. February Editorial: “Reconciling Evolution and God”
3. Preview: Next Month’s Editorial
4. Quote of the Month: Joseph Campbell
5. Hot Link of the Month

Join Me Online: Three Opportunities
1. I’m the featured author for an online conversation at Susan Doherty’s Virtual Chautauqua, from February 15-28. I look forward to any of you subscribers who choose to join us and participate.
2. The Simple Society Alliance for Human Empowerment is hosting an online seven-day forum starting on January 27. The forum is entitled “Immoral Consumption: A New Perspective” and I am one of six panelists. Here’s the link for more.
3. You can join me in the blog sponsored by The Club of Amsterdam; read the article and contribute your thoughts online.

Listen to Heartland Interview
If you missed the live “Teleconversation” on January 10 where Heartland’s Craig Neal interviewed me and I responded to questions from participants, you can click and listen to the one-hour interview by going to my homepage and clicking on the play arrow. There’s no loading time…instant voices!

(based on an excerpt from John’s book-in-progress, The New Human: Beyond the Naked Ape)

When most of us think of human evolution the name Charles Darwin comes to mind. Ask people on the street about Darwin and most will tell you he’s the father of evolution theory. When 1920s high school teacher John Scopes defied Tennessee’s anti-evolution statute by mentioning evolution theory in his class he was charged with a crime and tried. Darwin’s writings played a major part in the trial, which attracted much publicity. The result of the trial and the subsequent appeal process overturned the statute and was a severe setback for the religious fundamentalists.

In the eighty years since the so-called “Monkey Trial,” most people conclude that teachings based upon science prevailed over religious dogma in the curriculum of our primary schools.

Scopes Monkey Trial, 1920s Opposing Attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan Photo Credit: CORBIS/Bettmann

The current campaign of the U.S. Christian Right to start teaching the theory of Intelligent Design (a new label for Creationism) in our schools is bringing Darwin’s theories under public scrutiny once again. It seems to be shaping up as a battle between those who believe in God, specifically a conservative brand of Christianity, and those who think only rational science should be taught to children. The Christian fundamentalists want to have children taught an alternative theory which they consider just as plausible as evolution. Even our nation’s President has become a public advocate of this campaign!

But there is a fundamental myth here. Darwin did not invent the theory of evolution. Evolution was commonly accepted as a theory before Darwin started making headlines. Many mid-19th Century scientists were evolutionists and believed that human beings were not created in their final form. They believed that we evolved over the millennia but allowed for an initial Creator.

Darwin’s 1859 classic On the Origin of Species hardly mentions the word “evolution.” In fact, it never appears in the first edition of Origin. Darwin’s theory could be better described as making a case for there being no God, no Intelligent Designer involved in the creation of human beings whatsoever. Darwin argued for pure materialism at the exclusion of spirituality or Divine influence.

In his 2001 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Metaphysical Club, intellectual historian Louis Menand writes, “The purpose of On the Origin of Species was not to introduce the concept of evolution; it was to debunk the concept of supernatural intelligence… What was radical…was not its evolutionism, but its materialism.”

Evolutionists were never universally anti-God. Many of them saw Nature, evolution and life as part of a Divine plan. Pre-Darwinian evolution theory was a compliment to, not a displacement of, the Divine. Darwin’s Origin treatise drew a line in the sand which showed his propensity for his own style of scientific or materialistic fundamentalism, strict adherence to evolution being 100% explainable through science and materialism.

So where does this leave us in the current debate over what to teach in our schools? I suspect that if evolutionary theory, as it was widely held by 19th Century scientists, were to be taught all the parties would be content. The only ones left discontent would be the fundamentalists on both sides, those who take Darwin or the Bible quite literally and refuse to allow for commonality or flexibility in their positions.


“Worthy Purpose: An Inspiring Mission From Pachamama Alliance”


“The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life–live with unremitting alertness.” – Joseph Campbell

Collective Wisdom Initiative came into being in 2002 with support of the Fetzer Institute and is attempting to call into awareness the field of collective consciousness; a group of self-selected individual writers, thinkers and practitioners working to build this discipline of collective wisdom, its study and practice; membership is open to anyone interested in this discipline.


John delivers keynotes talks to corporations, associations and conferences. A list of his topics can be viewed at Keynotes That Make You Think! For references check: What people have said about John as a speaker.

John is a San Francisco writer and businessman-futurist. His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. More about John can be found at About.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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