Common ground on evolution?

Robert Wright, in a fascinating essay in today’s New York Times,

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

channels his inner Barack Obama and looks for common ground on the conflict between believers in Creationism/ Intelligent Design and the mainstream scientific community.

Like many thoughtful writers before him, Wright lays out a reasonable argument for why believing in Darwinian evolution does not exclude Christian faith.  Indeed, Darwin himself was no atheist, although he certainly foresaw the impact his work would have on the church.

Here at “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” we’re fascinated by culture- and class-warfare that ravages this country.  Pastor Terry Fox of Immanuel Baptist, and later Summit Church in Wichita, knows how to fire up his audience, and the many times we visited his church, the “I’m sure I wasn’t descended from monkeys” line always gets a laugh.

So we can’t imagine that Wright is aiming for the hearts and minds of Fox’s congregation when he offers up cooly reasoned passages like this:

And what about the chances of a species with a moral sense? Well, a moral sense seems to emerge when you take a smart, articulate species and throw in reciprocal altruism. And evolution has proved creative enough to harness the logic of reciprocal altruism again and again.

Vampire bats share blood with one another, and dolphins swap favors, and so do monkeys. Is it all that unlikely that, even if humans had been wiped out a few million years ago, eventually a species with reciprocal altruism would reach an intellectual and linguistic level at which reciprocal altruism fostered moral intuitions and moral discourse?

There’s already a good candidate for this role — the chimpanzee.

Fox’s heat will always beat Wright’s cool in the pulpit.  The key to winning over the public, which is still strikingly skeptical of evolutionary theory, is to make sure children are learning science in the classroom, not the pulpit.

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