Is the Theory of Natural Selection compatible with religious belief within the context of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam)?
Before I get into this I have to point out that natural selection is the accepted mechanism of evolution. The two terms are related, but not exactly synonymous. I am not going to dive into the science behind this because it isn’t my thesis here nor do I care to synthesize a huge topic just to segue into another. If you don’t accept evolution or the Theory of Natural Selection, prove otherwise and become famous. And by proving otherwise I do not mean
flinging poo at people using the Bible.
It is never surprising when traditional (i.e. conservative/orthodox/fundamentalist) believers of the three Abrahamic religions do not accept evolution in any capacity as it does not jive with their faith that the Tanakh, Bible or Quran are the inerrant Word of God and that ultimately “god did it" by creating the universe in 6 days. We can ignore this as pure fantasy and delusion, because it is. I have lost my patience with such ignorance and no longer desire to expend energy on debunking nonsense.
Once again my aim is at the moderate (i.e. liberal/“progressive”) religious believers who generally accept evolution as fact albeit with the essential caveat that, yup you guessed it, "god did it!"
The idea that the Theory of Natural Selection is not inherently atheistic is a commonly held and propagated perception. I think this is for many reasons not the least of which is political. It is better, so the logic goes, to not “turn people off” that might otherwise accept evolution and natural selection by looking too deeply at the theological implications. This is for public relations and financial benefits.
It is true that the Theory (big “T”) says nothing about religion and god(s). It is, after all, about 'natural' selection. This by definition excludes any notion of the supernatural. The Theory of Natural Selection as it is currently accepted and as all evidence suggests does not indicate any conscious design. Within the framework of this theory there is no need for a designer. Traditionalists get this correct even if it's for the wrong or shallow reasons. They reject it wholesale with nary a thought regarding its scientific validity because it simply does not conform to their faith. Also, because science is of the devil. THE DEVIL!
Conversely, many moderate believers accept evolution with the belief that their god put evolution in motion and guided it. This is simply another faith claim. There is no evidence for this. This belief, for all intents and purposes, is a new breed of Intelligent Design. The claim conflates scientific fact and religious faith. What liberal believers are doing is accepting evolution and rejecting natural selection. It is never framed that way, but that’s what it is.
This is just more doublethink from moderate believers. Most moderate believers support the concept of Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) where the spheres of science and religion are never to meet in order to preserve the peace (actually to preserve faith) and prevent a catastrophic tear in the fabric of space and time (no, really…it’s just to prevent confronting cognitive dissonance, thereby preserving faith). This concept, however, is just another compartmentalization that doesn’t work. By accepting evolution but believing that their “god did it!” they betray the notion of a “non-overlapping” between science and religion; which is ridiculous to begin with since we can test many religious assertions. As with claiming to accept evolution and the process of natural selection, one cannot then claim that “god did it.” It would no longer be natural selection. This seems droll, but it would then be “supernatural selection” which isn’t a theory because it has no basis and it is not testable. That is not science. It doesn’t even allow the preservation of the non-overlapping of science and religion. What it does allow, however, is confirmation bias to be preserved and cognitive dissonance can be smoothed once again. HUZZAH!
So, back the original question: is the Theory of Natural Selection compatible with the Abrahamic religions? No. Natural Selection only works within the confines of nature and natural processes and requires no external forces to guide it. That is not to say it couldn’t or hasn’t, but that it is not necessary and indeed there is no evidence for that claim. Within the context of the God of Abraham, why would the evolution of life be able to occur on its own? This is the all-powerful, all-knowing God that exists everywhere at once and is integral to how everything in existence works….except—apparently—how life operates on planet Earth.
I know fundamentalists believers will jump at the chance to say, yet again, “BUT GOD DID IT!” and yet that is simply just a claim with no validation. Nothing of their account adds up…at all. Scriptural literalism is nonsense and can be dismissed as such. The liberal believers will also smile with their new age smiles and say “but God did it. Why couldn’t He have done it?”, but again…they don’t get it. It is unnecessary for “Him” to have done it. It is unnecessary for “Him” to have done just about anything. The premise is flawed.
"Je n'avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là." —Pierre-Simon Laplace