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What Is the Connection between Evolution and Religion?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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The connection between evolution and religion is often a contentious one, in which some religious figures challenge the theory of evolution as an affront to their beliefs. For some, both the theory of evolution and religious beliefs are able to coexist easily and simply expand upon each other to create a broader view. To others, however, the ideas behind evolution and natural selection are too diametrically opposed to their religious views and the two ideas become mutually exclusive. Many scientists, however, argue that evolution and religion do not need to be exclusive ideas, and that evolution in no way makes a statement about any kind of deity.

Much of the conflict between evolution and religion stems from the fact that the theory of evolution challenges the creation stories of some religions. In Judeo-Christian belief systems, for example, the creation story comes from the Book of Genesis, found in both the Christian and Hebrew Bibles. In this story, it is said that the universe and everything in it were created by the Judeo-Christian God along with humanity and the various plants and animals in a specific way. A literal reading of this story creates conflict between evolution and religion.

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The theory of evolution is basically the idea that all life on the Earth stems from a shared hereditary source billions of years in the past. From this source, a multitude of different life forms, from fish and birds to mammals and reptiles, have developed and evolved over the millennia. A literal reading of the Genesis creation story, however, indicates that the universe and the Earth were created in only seven days, and that all modern life forms were created together at about the same time. This reading comes into conflict with evolution, and so this can often creates a clash between evolution and religion.

There are many scientists, however, who argue against this conflict and stress the idea that both evolution and religion can coexist within a single world view. Only a literal interpretation of these kinds of creation stories precludes the possibility of a larger view. For many people, it is easy to see these creation stories as metaphorical representations for how the universe was created, and to believe that the process of evolution was monitored or initially set in motion by a benevolent deity. There are also some religions and belief systems in which this conflict between evolution and religion is a non-issue, and which openly embrace the theory of evolution without conflict with various religious beliefs.

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