Theology and Theory of Evolution: the Conflict which did not ExistKhramov Aleksandr
The present paper critically examines the conflict thesis, which can be traced to the authors of the second half of the 19th century, like Thomas Huxley, John Draper and Andrew White, and which was actively exploited during the Soviet time. This thesis, which states that there is an inevitable conflict between religion and science, is shown to be inapplicable to the history of biology and evolution theory in the 19th century. Instead of conflicting with contemporary science, in that time religious leaders often sought ways of reconciling scientific discoveries and the Christian faith, and sometimes they were even personally engaged in geological and paleontological researches. In this respect the case of William Backland, an Anglican priest and geologist, is of a special interest, because at the beginning of his career he followed the biblical deluge narrative in his geological pursuits, but later abandoned this idea in the face of new facts. Because of the professionalization of science the role, which clergy had played in performing researches, gradually diminished. Nevertheless, religious ideas continued to have a considerable influence on the scientific activity of professional paleontologists and evolutionary biologists. In particular, the concept of creation through evolution, aimed at reconciling scientific worldview and the Christian belief, had been formulated before Darwin published his evolutionary theory, and afterwards it was endorsed by determined Darwinists like American botanist Asa Gray and British naturalist Alfred Wallace. Therefore, it would be a mistake to draw a conclusion about the incompatibility of science and religion in general from the isolated cases of religiously motivated hostility toward the theory of evolution and other scientific ideas.