CTI Scientists Issue Darwin Day Statement

by William Storrar

To mark Darwin Day on February 12th, 2013, the resident scientists taking part in our current Inquiry on Evolution & Human Nature have issued a joint statement on the value of their dialogue with theology for their work on the evolutionary study of religion. Their statement has been posted on a leading website on evolution, This View of Life: Anything and Everything from an Evolutionary Perspective. Here are the opening paragraphs of their article, with a link to the full text:

Darwin Day: Evolving Perspectives on God

Rarely do scientists and theologians have the opportunity to work together over a sustained period of time. But sustained effort is essential if we are to move beyond re-runs of decades old points of disagreement. At CTI, we have been given precisely this opportunity, and though it has been hard we have begun to identify questions of mutual interest as well as some areas of consensus. The next task is to work out how to share the fruits of this enterprise beyond our own group. Darwin Day offered an ideal opportunity for our team of scientists to co-author a statement on the benefits of this sustained, cross-disciplinary dialogue. We have found that we are not just talking anymore, but our research is changing in novel and unexpected ways.

- Dominic Johnson, Senior Research Fellow, CTI Inquiry on Evolution & Human Nature

One of the greatest challenges of our time is reconciling the seemingly opposing worldviews of religion and science. The “science-religion” debate has, however, become one of animosity, misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Darwin Day, on February 12, offers an opportunity to move beyond polarized debate to a more constructive dialogue. Charles Darwin himself recognized that religiosity is part of human nature. More than 150 years after he published his theory of evolution, an explosion of research has begun to advance Darwin’s initial observations, in order to develop accounts of how not just humans, but religion, evolved.

We are a group of evolutionary scientists who have contributed to this research. Yet as the evolutionary study of religion has taken off, we have come to believe that a dialogue with theology is increasingly necessary. We have joined a group of theologians on a year-long residential research project on evolution and human nature at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, NJ. This conversation moves beyond the stale discourse of New Atheists versus Creationists in order to generate hypotheses-based understandings of religion—one of the last great puzzles of evolutionary biology. Religion, even God, is no longer a taboo subject of study among evolutionary scientists, and evolutionary theory is becoming a part of the toolkit for modern theologians.

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