Cutting Edge
Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

FAITH Magazine July-August 2009

Science and Religion News


A survey by 'ComRes' on behalf of the Theos' think-tank, whose results were released in February to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, has discovered that there is a high degree of confusion in Britain concerning the relationship of science and religion. The fascinating 116 page report makes clear that the strident atheistic use of science has not won hearts and minds, but also that agnosticism, with a certain apathy, rules the day.

People were asked to choose between four possible positions concerning the origins of life on our planet:

-Young Earth Creationism (YEC): "God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years."
-Theistic Evolution (TE) "evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth."
-Atheistic Evolution (AE): "evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd."
-Intelligent Design (ID): "evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages."

"When asked which position they considered most likely, 17\% chose the YEC position, 11 \% chose ID, 28\% chose TE and 37\% chose AE".

One of the most significant conclusions of the study is that it "clearly demonstrates that [...] there is a great deal of confusion, contradiction or uncertainty about these issues. People, in general, are more likely to be sceptical about positions regarding the origins of human life than they are to think that any one idea is true." One of the numerous contradictions in the results was that "11 \% say ID is the most likely explanation, yet 51 \% say [in a follow-up question] it is either definitely or probably true."

"11 \% of the total sample are convinced and very consistent in their opinions, 28\% are fairly convinced and consistent

... 31 \% are openly contradictory in their opinions". Of the 39\% who expressed

a clear preference, without contradicting this in a later question, those who specified theistic evolution were 12\% of the total sample, those who went for atheistic evolution were 16\%

The authors of the report suggest that "When issues are not very important to people they may show cognitive dissonance or even contradictory views since they have not necessarily taken the time to form well thought-out opinions." The report shows that "older people are more likely to hold consistent and certain views than younger people."

Allowing for the above significant rider other interesting results of the survey include the below beliefs:

AEs are more likely than the total sample to have a bachelor's degree or higher (41 \% compared to 31 \%),

-40\%: human beings are uniquely different from other living things and so have a unique value and significance.
-12\%: science positively supports religious belief
-26\%: science neither supports nor undermines religious belief.
-47\%: science challenges religious beliefs but they can co-exist.
-10\%: say that science totally undermines it.
-Two thirds of people (65\%) consider evolution (TE or AE) to be the most likely explanation for the origins of human life.
-A third (32\%) of all practising Christians (defined as regularly reading the Bible and going to services) are YECs.
-Significantly more of the Muslims questioned believe that evolution has been disproved by the evidence than the population as a whole (28\% compared with 9\%).
-23\% of Muslim respondents were YECs, 16\% IDs, 6\% TEs and 5\% AEs.


Carl Djerassi, an Austrian chemist now in his 80s, was one of the key contributors to the development of biochemical compounds that led to the oral contraceptive pill back in the 1950s. Back in December he published

a commentary in Austria's Der Standard regretting the "demographic catastrophe" which his original home country is now experiencing, and reminding the populace that they would need to produce about 3 children per family to reverse the trend towards a shrinking population. Contrary to many reports, he did not make any connection between 'the pill' and this population disaster, but the irony was not lost on many commentators, who began -perhaps unfairly - to brand his article a 'confession.' Djerassi subsequently argued his case in The Guardian on 27th January insisting that "Contraception, birth control, abortion, or the pill were nowhere mentioned in my article," and yet he did dwell on the "de facto separation of sex and reproduction." Clearly the imminent collapse ofmany countries' populations is a worry, for economic reasons, and yet is still not yet giving rise to any significant response amongst Western societies to move to a more pro-family and less contraceptive culture. Chesterton observed the relevant psychological denial: "They say birth control; what they mean is no birth, and no control."


In December a research team led by Professor Richard Schneider at Imperial College, London, announced much progress in a technique for taking a patient's own cells and adapting them for re-growing heart muscle after damage caused by heart disease or cardiac arrest.

In November the Lancet published the results of an international research project whereby a Colombian lady received a new trachea (windpipe) which had been grown from a donor trachea (as it were, a 'scaffold') repopulated with stem cells, for the very first time, from the patient's own body. It was carried out in June 2008, and was a complete success, with no hint of any rejection, and with the local blood vessels growing normally in the transplanted organ. This is a major step forward, proving the viability of adult-stem-cell procedures that do not thereby involve the destruction of human embryos.

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