Is Evolution Compatible With Religion?


Every major scientific society has affirmed that all our knowledge of biological science convincingly supports evolution by natural selection and cannot be understood without it. At the same time, these societies have carefully avoided offending religious groups by assuring that evolution does not conflict with religious beliefs. (See, for example, National Academy of Sciences. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1998, p. 58).

In fact, this attempt by scientists to convince the American public that evolution poses no threat to faith has largely fallen on deaf ears, perhaps because it is simply untrue, and believers can see this clearly enough.

2010 Gallup Poll found that only 16 percent of Americans believe in “Naturalist Evolution,” defined as the view that “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process.” This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion. It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.

Of 34 developed nations surveyed for their acceptance of evolution, defined as humans and apes sharing the same ancestor, only Turkey was lower than the U.S.

So, what is it that the Americans who do participate in organized religion believe? The Gallup Poll found that 30 percent of all Americans agree with “Theistic Evolution” defined as “Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man’s creation.” And, an amazing 40 percent adopt the “Creationist View” in which “God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” This is despite the fact that only 26.3 percent of all Americans belong to Evangelical churches where the Bible is taken literally. This suggests that almost half of the churchgoers who reject evolution do so not because it disagrees with the Bible, but because it disagrees with their personal view of humanity’s place in the scheme of things — that humans are special.

Darwin is remembered as a great thinker because he saw that pure random variation was enough to allow natural selection to work. If he had said that supernaturally guided variation created the biological world, nobody would know his name today because that theory has no explanatory power. It just pushes the puzzle off into the never-never-land of the supernatural.

Written By: Victor Stenger
continue to source article at


  1. This is eloquent and persuasive.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if Stenger poses the wrong question in the title of this article. It seems a bit like asking “Is germ theory compatible with God?” One can certainly fuse natural and supernatural “theories” without any logical inconsistency (e.g. “God used evolution to create everything,” “God uses germs to make us sick and test our faith,” etc.). The problem, it seems to me, is simply the lack of evidence for supernatural claims–not their incompatibility with natural claims.

  2. Religion is mind altering “substance” that proved fatal so many times in history, for example, Spanish inquisition, 9/11 trade centre, etc.

    Should it not be illegal??  Or at best be controlled like all our other drugs??

  3. * The universe is estimated at being 15 billion years old. * The number of galaxies in the universe is estimated between 10^11 and 10^12. * The number of stars is estimated between 10^22 and 10^24. * Humans are estimated to have been on Earth for approximately 100,000 years. Some researchers say it could have been as much as 250,000 years. So after “creating” the universe, with an incomprehensively huge number of uninhabited galaxies, God took about 14,999,900,000 years to create humans. This was after millions upon millions upon millions of years of horrible evolution, where 99% of all species that ever existed died out on Earth. Hundreds of millions of years of dinosaurs roaming the planet, before a  random meteorite smashes near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula, sending them into extinction. (A new study suggests that the Earth may have been bombarded by a whole shower of space rocks) So here we have humans without any divine intervention and living a very harsh existence on Earth for at least 97,000 years… (short lifespan; inter-tribal fighting; death during childbirth or surviving but killing their mothers; dying of bad dentition and other horrible diseases; extreme weather and earthquakes, sitting in the cold and the dark and being terrified of anything and everything that they didn’t understand etc.) before we became ‘civilized’. Then God decided that he would speak to his beloved creation, by revealing himself to a tiny group of people in the Middle East, giving them some ambiguous messages in Hebrew, of which would take hundreds of years to reach other parts of the world. Shouldn’t these central facts about our history make the theists question whether there really is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God who created the  universe and Earth just for us, and has a personal relationship with us?

  4. “Should it not be illegal?? Or at best be controlled like all our other drugs??” Yes it very definitely should. The only small thing is HOW.

  5. I can think of two religions that are compatible with evolutionary theory, because they make no pronouncements of their own on the matter: Buddhism and CCism.  CCism is a religion I founded that attempted to avoid the usual drawbacks of religion while offering some of the benefits. I talk about it on my website. It has no converts that I am aware of.  You need outrageous lies to sell a religion. As far as I know CCism has none. I used to think these implausible religious stories would frighten people way, but they are necessary. They are like J.P. Barnum and his fake mermaids that draw in the crowds.

    Any religion that incorporates as unchanging dogma some view on evolution is bound to get in trouble sooner or later as scientific thinking refines. It has to change to match.  Any religion that makes claims to know things it has no evidence for is bound eventually to get in trouble when we find out the truth. The odds of guessing the final truth by chance or fevered trance are microscopic.

    Christianity and Islam have tied their stars to iron age science. That was a stupid thing to do. By analogy imagine two tectonic plates refusing to slip past each other.  Eventually the discrepancy gets too large and you have a earthquake. But instead of of gently slipping thereafter,  they freeze again, waiting for the next cataclysmic change.

    Some Christians have abandoned parts of the fundamentalist canon, overwhelmed by the scientific evidence.  You can’t be a Christian geologist and assert strata are fake, or that there is no better explanation for where to look for oil than “guess where the god Jehovah hid the easter eggs”.

    The people most likely to eschew science are those who have not even an elementary school level understanding of what they don’t believe.

  6. This game of separate non-competing magisteria was adopted early by the Catholics and later by other churches as reason prevailed and the evidence and soundness of “The Origin of Species by Natural Selection” became clear. It acted as a sort of fire wall between reason and faith.  The game works along as facts prevail and myth keeps reinventing itself in to increasingly less meaningful nonsense.
    It also creates a challenge:  we’ll build our house from straw and you can build yours from bricks, and we’ll see which one crumbles. It never occurred to them at the time that straw is vulnerable to rot. This turns the game into an invitation to cheat and in some parts of the US, the game was never adopted to begin with.
    Some of the fundamentalists have seen the rot and realize it will destroy their ediface if they don’t pile on more straw and eliminate the rot. In this case the cause of the rot is reason itself and it just oozes from Science.
    So these fundamentalists are no longer content to play the game. They’ve got sledge hammers in hand and they are swinging away.
    Why are they so busy in this way, the mere exercise of reason and logical thinking verifiably reduces religious faith. Historically, at the time of the Apollo program there was hope for a bright future science bringing great benefit to society and fewer people in pews. And so started the whining “why are  we spending sooo much money on the moon there are so many poor on earth?” At the time 500,000 had jobs directly because of the Apollo program, not just scientists and engineers, but road builders, seamstresses, commissary workers to name a few. Imagine all of that, for 0.6% of the federal budget, and it lifted the hearts of billions more. To this day Church attendance in the US is lowest it has ever been recorded.
    If there is one thing these evangelical churches cannot stand it’s not their own moral hypocrisy, it’s not paedophilia, racism, sexism, financial irregularities or witch persecution. No, the one thing they cannot stand is COMPETITION.

  7.  Well roared, lion. I’m going to use your tirade (and I mean that as a complement) on Facebook

  8. Religion is not true. So what? Everyone has contradictions. Most people believe contradictory things. Catholics, Anglicans, various other Christians, and I don’t know how many other religions accept evolution (of both the human race and the universe). There are even Christians who don’t believe abortion is murder. Religion is not the root of all evil. Some atheists believe that the U.S. has the right to invade any country that’s sitting on top of an oil well. There are all kinds of lies and false beliefs. Some atheists believe that capitalism and liberal democracy are the pinnacle of human social achievement. Some don’t. Some, like myself, believe that there is a link between capitalism (and the misery and enforced backwardness it produces) and religion, and that the “heart of a heartless world” (as Marx and Engels termed it) will not disappear until the world is made less heartless.

  9. Hi David,

    I am trying to understand your point.

    If religion is not true, we should simply shrug our shoulders?

    If people can hold to two contradictory ideas – and manage or ignore the resulting cognitive dissonance – we should all just roll over and go back to sleep?

    That doesn’t seem to be a very healthy way to run society … that each citizen is entitled to live a life bound by incoherent, vacuous, lies.

    Such a philosophy would certainly explain your attachment to a communist dogma unsupported by evidence. Indeed you appear to believe this despite the many states that have attempted it and failed, that is; despite the existence of overwhelming evidence that falsifies the hypotheses of communism.

    That would make your position the very epitome of a deluded, or perhaps deceived, person.

    If I misunderstood, I will be more than happy to be put right.


  10. In fact, this attempt by scientists to convince the American public that
    evolution poses no threat to faith has largely fallen on deaf ears,
    perhaps because it is simply untrue, and believers can see this clearly

    That is the nub of the whole thing.
    Believers KNOW Evolutionary theory is the greatest threat to the delusion that religion has ever known.
    Afterall their leaders tell them that over and over again in terms  that poisons the theory but avoids any references to scientific  legitimacy.
    Trying to sugar coat it and pretend otherwise is seen for what it is by the legions of jeebus droolers, a lie and a demonstration of how science manipulates data.
    If science can lie about that aspect. then surely it is capable of lying about the theory itself.
    So by continuing that line of approach it just plays into their prejudices perfectly, thus increasing the distrust and antipathy in equal measure amongst the credulous.
    You are dealing with irrationality that is not balanced and not evidenced, it is after-all a figment of a ignorant imagination and paucity of knowledge pre-programmed to reject outright any alternative explanation from science to other religious POV’s.
    You are also dealing with a cult mentality with a collective IQ around the low 90’s.
    Just as the ju ju men want and ‘educated’ for, in their flocks of virtually brain dead sycophants.
    Mind you repeating over and over again that ‘hell ain’t no good place to be’  kindda focusses the angst and works rather like a metaphysical shepherds crook used to ‘guide’ the sheeples through the pearly gates and much like one man and his dog, points are awarded for  style and the inherent dumbness of the sheeples.

    The time is long past wrapping the little babies in swaddling cotton wool.
    And pretending they have no problem with science.

    The time is to be honest and frank…
    They are screwed we know it , their scam leaders know it…and really they know it as well deep down and that is what makes them nervous little bunnies when atheists are around, because they suspect that atheism has been correct all along, the ego would melt under that revelation.

    What about standing up for integrity for a change, seems that atheism is the only group that can, seeing as politicians, the media and all religious leaders along with most of the insanely rich are extremely content to ditch it at any and every opportunity.
    It is called a niche in the market…at least in occupying that corner of reality we can all claim to have lived on our feet for reality and not died on our knees for delusion!

  11. Exactly. I LOVE this–

    capitalism (and the misery and enforced backwardness it produces) What planet is he on? Try Islam, if you want the best example. And I see no link between it and capitalism. Fascicm, yes. 

  12. America has become a giant Disney theme park.

    Dr Becker put it so well to Margaret- “If I don’t tell them their idiots, how will they ever know?”

  13.  capitalism (and the misery and enforced backwardness it produces) What planet is he on? Try Islam, if you want the best example. And I see no link between it and capitalism. Fascicm, yes.

    Yes Islam produces misery and enforced backwardness.  Are you trying to argue that means that capitalism doesn’t ? 


  14.  There may be no “logical inconsistency”, but hypotheses about God such as you mention all beg the question. They work only on the prior assumption that God exists. Furthermore, the religious specify that god as a god who is benevolent (if only toward followers of their particular faith).

    The name of the game is probability.

  15. The title question of this article just makes me ask, “Huh?”  It’s like asking if math is compatible with mermaids.  I’m unsure I understand the intent of the question, but the short answer is “no”.  Religion retards knowledge and comprehension of reality, clearly indicated by the statistics revealed in the article.

  16. Some atheists believe that the U.S. has the right to invade any country that’s sitting on top of an oil well.

    Do they? Do they really? Doesn’t sound very rational to me. Atheists that think invading a country just because it has oil, I know Atheists hold a broad spectrum of ideologies and concepts…but c’mon.

    Are you suggesting that their Atheism has a relevance in this thought process, if not, why raise it? Nah, I’ll need something more than an assertion before accepting that comment, sorry.

  17. I partly agree with you on the fact that “world powers” are at times responsible for the misery and enforced backwardness it produces, and you don’t have to look far beyond Ireland (a developed country) to see how the British Empire (United Kingdom) used a tool called religion to start a fire that will continue to burn for years to come.

    Same strategy is being deployed in Iraq and Syria today!!

    I agree that humans have all kinds of contradictions… but when these start hurting people, then it ceases to be OK to have them!!

  18. … you don’t have to look far beyond Ireland (a developed country) to see how the British Empire (United Kingdom) used a tool called religion to start a fire that will continue to burn for years to come.

    A point of order… Ireland’s problems started when an Irish chieftain requested the help of a Norman king in order to usurp the other Irish chieftains in a power struggle to become the ultimate leader of all Ireland. The Norman king requested permission from the Vatican and as the Pope deemed the church in Ireland getting above its station, he duly issued a papal bull granting the Norman king authority to invade. The task was handed to a Norman lord in control of Wales and as payment, the lord was granted the hand of the Irish chieftains daughter in marriage. The chieftain having no sons when he died, the control of Ireland was handed to the Norman lord and 800 years of conflict for control of Ireland began. Nothing to do with the British Empire starting a fire.

  19. I think the last paragraph is urgently true; scientists need to become streets wise and get stuck in to putting forward the facts about evolution. After all they’re not that complicated; indeed, the beauty lies in the simplicity of it. 

    I think Stenger’s article says exactly what all biologists should be saying, as clearly ansd succinctly as he does here. 

  20. Brilliantly stated , unfortunately most people don’t sit and ponder these ideas. I however, do.

  21. A very well thought out article, with a concise understanding of the issues we face with the public perception about evolution.

  22. Are you saying “world powers” don’t use a tool called “religion” to control people??

  23. Nope…I was challenging your assertion…

    … you don’t have to look far beyond Ireland (a developed country) to see how the British Empire (United Kingdom) used a tool called religion to start a fire that will continue to burn for years to come.

    …as factually inaccurate and I posted some links in support of my contention. The British Empire (United Kingdom) did not use a tool called religion to start a fire that will continue to burn for years to come.

    Incidentally, which world powers use a tool called religion to control the people? What, in your opinion, constitutes a world power?

  24. I never really thought of it this way.

    16%  are actually sane? That means 84% of the people in the US have an electrical fire burning in their brains! The only variance among these people is the size of the fire!

    (16% accept actual evolutionary processes while 84% are fudging, or bat shit crazy )

  25. Most religion isn’t compatible with it’s own dogma… One chapter and verse will tell you one thing, the next will tell you the exact opposite. The most important thing is taking on and absorbing facts – oh hang on – that’s what science does…

  26. World Power = any country or group of countries that can control and influence which direction the world take (for example, the UK and the club it belonged to had a big say on the Iraq War!)

    I was not disputing how Ireland or Scotland was ransacked…  if we go back enough in history, I am positive we will find reasons beyond the Normans.  I am merely pointing out the world powers uses whatever tool they have to increase their grip on the world (for example, let us send few people to Australia and then call it ours!)

    My point is:  Religion is used by world powers to control people.  USA is the best example of how countries control their people using religion.  Example, world powers used Sadam Hussain (Sunni – Muslims) to fight Iran (Shia’a – Muslims), when it really was about world dominance.  Another example is using Osama Bin Ladin (crazy – Muslims) to fight Soviet Union (mixture of nations and religions) just for world dominance.

    Religion is a weapon that’s being deployed in warfare… so, why is it not controlled?? like nuclear

  27. A reminder, please, that our Terms of Use require discussions to remain on the topic of the OP. In this case, that is the compatibility – or otherwise – of evolution with religion.

    Thank you.
    The Mods

  28.  It seems to be fairly well known that children up to the age of 5  or 6  are very easy to indoctrinate.  I don’t think many people, having been indoctrinated with religious mumbo jumbo  at an early age,  realise  what has been done to them.   They repeat and defend the  nonsense that is almost hard coded  into their brains…so strongly in fact that a few ‘ reputable’ scientists are unable to free themselves from it however strongly the scientific evidence contradicts the nonsense.   I think faith schools and other religious institutions that ‘teach ‘  children  are nothing but formalised  psychological child abuse institutions. They establish linkages in the young brains that can  cause life long confusion and misunderstanding and  that can only be neutralised by intense and sometimes traumatic  ‘soul searching’  ….to someone who has not been brainwashed,  the  mention of  religion and evolution in the same sentence is like including childrens fairy stories in a mathematics discussion!    

  29. Stenger:

     It also implies that the specific outcome of the human species, or any species for that matter, came about by chance. Humans evolved due to luck, not divine purpose. This fact is fundamentally destructive to what every religion teaches about humanity.

    Part of human nature is to find who gets blamed when something bad happens, and who gets praised for leadership when something good happens. That is because we expect to find agency behind actions, and are disturbed by the idea that for some amount of the time, stuff just happens. The mounting scientific evidence that we “just happened” is emotionally repellent. The religious leaders know that, and the pressure to use that to make people feel better about rejecting science and hugging their Bibles closer, is too hard to resist. After all, “science doesn’t know everything.”

  30. Sorry….am biting too much these days… must be something to do with my foray into academic learning….this site is to blame for it at the end of the day.

  31. I enjoyed reading your post because you have the religious temperament but not the believe!!! 🙂

  32. Fundamentalist Christians assert the silliest crap. What if they too knew it was nonsense, but pretended to believe it because that is what their social group claimed to believe? If you debate them, they are completely incapable of defending their beliefs. They must know they are proclaiming nonsense. The problem is then not delusion or defective reasoning, but conformity and fear of offending the group. There are probably some too stupid to notice what they purport to believe makes no sense, but surely the ones with IQ over 100 are aware. What they need is encouragement to find new people to hang out with not bashing them with still more logic to debunk their purported ideology.

  33. You make perfect sense.  Logic seems to threaten them and make them shut down….

  34. There is another kind of Christian, a person who professionally writes creationist textbooks debunking evolution. To do this it seems likely they have have actually done some study of what evolutionists have to say, then construct clever straw man arguments. This requires cunning and malice. I think it is most likely they believe creationism is bogus, but for various motives, financial, social, political see it as necessary to promote the creationist lie possibly because they imagine everyone will rape and plunder if they don’t believe it.

    Martin Luther thought along those lines:

    What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church… a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.
    ~ Martin Luther 1483-11-10 1546-02-18

    One of the Greek philosophers suggested making up an elaborate lie and telling it to children who would repeat it to their children as true. The lie would be constructed so as to make people behave better. Christianity itself could have been just such a lie.

    To our generation this attitude is extremely patronising. How dare they imagine they are wise and can handle the truth, but not subsequent generations. They feel they have the right to send us off on a wild goose chase confused by this earnestly told lie at mother’s knee. As time goes by, the value of unvarnished truth, regardless of how it might make people behave has higher and higher value.

    The equivalent temptation today would be to suppress information that would increase discrimination against, women, gays and blacks, even if the information itself were not valid grounds, but merely because it could be misused in the hands of bigots.

  35.  “Is Evolution Compatible With Religion?”  After 50 years of study, observation, consideration & contemplation, my extended response – that completely answers all aspects of this complex question – is as follows:


  36. By analogy I should not do the dishes because the floor needs cleaning too.  Untrue doctrines are like dirt.  You have to keep cleaning them up, no matter what their source, or you will live in a pigsty like the dark ages.

  37. One of the key attractions of Christianity is that it tells you the lie that you are special, a member of the most important species in the entire universe. In fact the entire universe was all created purely for your delectation. Everything living and unliving on earth is yours, purely for your pleasure, even if your pleasure is to eat, smash, waste or torture it. You are the ultimate spoiled child. Galileo gave that notion a major kick in the pants by pointing out the earth is not the center of the universe. Darwin gave it an even bigger kick by pointing out that man is just another primate.

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