Scientists and religious leaders call for end to fighting over Darwin's legacy

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Prominent scientists and leading religious figures have joined forces to call for an end to the fighting over Charles Darwin's legacy.

Ahead of the 200th anniversary of the pioneering naturalist's birth on Thursday, they warn that militant atheists are turning people away from evolution by using it as a weapon with which to attack religion.

However, in a letter published in The Daily Telegraph, they also urge believers in creationism to acknowledge the overwhelming body of evidence that now exists to back up Darwin's theory of how life on Earth has developed.

It comes after a survey of 2,000 people conducted by Theos, the religion think tank, found that half believe the theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of the natural world. One in three said they thought God created the Earth within the past 10,000 years.

The influential signatories of the letter include two Church of England bishops, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain and a member of the Evangelical Alliance, as well as Professor Lord Winston, the fertility pioneer, and Professor Sir Martin Evans, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

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Randll Reese Besch - 2/13/2009

The fundamental aspect of religion is if their deity can do anything then it is untestable and science as a whole is reduced to marveling at the wonders of a whimsical omnipotent being's creation not the Natural following its normal course. Science would be rendered useless in toto over it. Becoming a mere adoration society for the Holy One. A new type of priesthood. Not to my liking.

If we are not careful the fundamentalists here would get their way just as Lysenko in Russia had under Stalin or Horbiger under Hitler in Germany where ideology and mysticism trumped empiricism.

Science must not give ground or it loses what it is. Dogmatism is the enemy of free inquiry and learning. If we can maintain that and a civil discourse we might have a chance at reconciliation.