The selections below are excerpted from Darwin and Design: Does Evolution Have a Purpose? with permission of Harvard University Press.

[Biologist and skeptic Richard] Dawkins has a number of back-up arguments ready to keep Darwinism and Christianity apart. Most powerful to him as a counter-argument against God is the traditional problem of pain and evil, which the Darwinian approach exacerbated.

Natural selection presupposes a struggle for existence, and the struggle on many, many occasions is downright nasty. Using the notion of a "utility function" for the end purpose being intended, Dawkins drew attention to the interactions between cheetahs and antelopes, and asks: "What was God's utility function?" Cheetahs seem wonderfully designed to kill antelopes. "The teeth, claws, eyes, nose, leg muscles, backbone and brain of a cheetah are all precisely what we should expect if God's purpose in designing cheetahs was to maximize deaths among antelopes." But conversely, "we find equally impressive evidence of design for precisely the opposite end: the survival of antelopes and starvation among cheetahs." It is almost as though two warring gods were at work, making different animals and then setting them to compete with one another. If there is only one god who made the two animals, then what kind of god could it be? "Is he a sadist who enjoys spectator blood sports? Is He trying to avoid overpopulation in the mammals of Africa? Is He maneuvering to maximize David Attenborough's television ratings?" The whole thing is ludicrous (Dawkins 1995, 105). Truly, concludes Dawkins, there are no ultimate purposes to life, no deep religious meanings. There is nothing. At this point spokespersons in the science/religion community simply retreat. On their way out the door, most agree that Dawkins has a good point--Darwin does show that life is mean and nasty, without any purpose. But the best way to avoid so unpleasant a conclusion is to abandon Darwinism, rather than give up on religion or even evolution per se. They scramble to find an evolutionism with a warmer, friendlier face. After all, there must be some way to get what you want--adaptation possibly, humans definitely--with a fairly firm guarantee of desired direction. ...
This will not do. Whether or not Darwinism--adaptation brought about by natural selection--taken as a whole is both true and in basic outlines essentially complete, it is an active and forward-looking science. Whether we like it or not, we are stuck with it. The Darwinian revolution is over, and Darwin won. Hence, any satisfactory response to Dawkins must be on his terms--adaptation, selection, blind variation, pain, and all. It must be on terms that recognize that Dawkins is right, that Darwinism is a major challenge to religious belief, and that you cannot simply pretend that nothing very much has happened. But once this is accepted, things start to fall into place.Dawkins is absolutely right that total separation of religion and science is no response. Darwinism does talk about origins, and the theologically inclined must take note of what it teaches. ... The only possible response to Dawkins is that, Darwin or not, you feel compelled to accept that our understanding of nature, of living things, is changed and illuminated and made complete by your acceptance of the existence and creative power and sustaining nature of God....

What I am arguing for is a theology of nature-for let us agree that natural theology is now gone-where the focus is back on adaptation. A theology of nature that sees and appreciates the complex, adaptive glory of the living world, rejoices in it, and trembles before it. I argue for this even though the people who reveal it to us today in its fullest majesty may be people for whom Christianity evokes emotions ranging from bored indifference to outright hostility. This is irrelevant, especially to those of us who know professional Darwinian evolutionists. As Ernst Mayr once said to me: "People forget that it is possible to be intensely religious in the entire absence of theological belief" (Interview, March 30, 1988). Theologians working on the science/religion relationship, few of whom have actually had hands-on experience with nature, let the hostility of atheists like Dawkins, or their embarrassment with the Intelligent Design enthusiasts, blind them to the genuine love and joy with which today's professional evolutionists respond to their subjects. We should strip away the pseudo-arguments in the way of a full appreciation of the argument to complexity and start sharing what moved the natural theologians of old and what still moves the evolutionists of today.

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