Darwin and God
I'll deliver a lecture at our (rather large!) church week away at the end of the month, celebrating Darwin's 200th birthday. During my research I've used some useful introductory books on Darwin, such as Jonathan Howard's contribution to the Very Short Introduction Series, and Jonathan Miller's Introducing Darwin.
Both were helpful, but when they turned to matters of religion they tended to be disastrously naive and inaccurate. For example, Howard writes that it has become 'hard, perhaps impossible for the orthodox Christian to come to terms with Darwin' (106)! Let's give him a bit of slack; he is a Geneticist after all, not a theologian, but this is nevertheless an absurd claim! Some key Christians, both in the UK and in USA, were the first to promote Darwin's theories in the 19th century, while some 'secular' scientists opposed it! As for the whole creationism debate, Darwinism poses a problem only for a very culturally specific and dubious reading of Genesis. Where it does get trickier is in the magnification of the theodicy problem, which did not appear on Howard's radar. Darwinism is actually exciting, for traditional Christian dogma, in the way it helps the Church rethink some of its anthropological and philosophical assumptions, and regain a closer approximation to the more relational biblical intuitions.
Nick Spencer's little book, Darwin and God thus comes as a real breath of fresh air, and deals with the nature and development of Darwin's religious beliefs. Thanks to my kind American friend, David Vinson, for the copy! My colleagues recently interviewed Nick for our college podcast here, which makes for interesting listening.