There is, of course, a middle ground -- Religion offers why answers, science offers how -- but that no longer seems enough for many in the room. And so the death match goes on.
Philip Clayton, a theologian with strong interests in science, wants us to think in another way about this issue. He has written a piece for Religion Dispatches entitled: "Evolution and Creation Fight to the Death: What Emerges from the Ashes." In it, he suggests that we go beyond the why/how middle ground, and begin a conversation between the two parties, but one that will require us to live and let live. Then we can start asking some intriguing questions.
When evolutionary and religious explanations are construed as fighting for the same territory, they will unleash their weapons upon each other—as today’s religion wars show. When we recognize and acknowledge their different strengths, a far more interesting discussion emerges.And what will that discussion look like?
This new debate is challenging because it requires both sides to give up certain hegemonic claims: scientists, the claim that science provides the answer to all metaphysical questions; and religionists, the claim that they know better than science how nature works. Yet a whole series of fascinating questions arises when hegemony is off the table: is there a directionality to evolution or is it, as Stephen Jay Gould thought, a “drunkard's walk”? Do the emergent worlds of culture, ideas, philosophy, art, and even religion make any irreducible contributions to explaining what it is to be human? How (if at all) could a divine influence on cosmic history be compatible with the scientific study of the cosmos? What kind of influence would it have it be? Will humans respond more appropriately to the global climate crisis when scientific data are combined with religious values and motivations for action?
Of course, the question will remain, especially from the religion side -- where does God fit? On these questions Clayton stirs our imagination -- oh, and he points us to an upcoming book by John Haught entitled: Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life (WJK, 2010).